Saturday, October 31, 2009
Happy Halloween everybody!
To help get you into the spirit of things, I offer our family's ghost story. If it sounds sort of familiar, I apologize, but I've never claimed we were a unique bunch.
The following is purported to have actually happened.
The year was 1990. My aunt and one of her sons were driving from the Detroit area to my grandmother's house, which was located in Missouri about an hour or so outside of St. Louis. After a long day's driving they were nearing Missouri as the sun was beginning to set.
They crossed the Mississippi river via the Jefferson Barracks bridge south of St. Louis proper. Jefferson Barracks was the name of the first permanent U.S. military post in the Louisiana Territory, and it is also the site of a national military cemetery. This is where my grandfather was buried after his death in 1980.
As my aunt was crossing the bridge she was thinking about her father. She had actually lived with her elderly parents for a time in the 1970's and her dad had acted as a surrogate father for her own young sons. She felt the need to stop and visit the graveside, but it had been a long day and she was expected.
"Sorry Dad," she said to herself, "I know I haven't visited lately, but I will come soon."
At this point they had crossed the bridge and were nearing the first exit at Koch Road. My aunt noticed there was a man standing on the side of the road near the EXIT sign. The man was looking down at first, but he lifted his head and with a sorrowful gaze looked directly at my aunt.
"Oh my God. Is that dad?" my Aunt said, again to herself. The man had looked exactly like her late father.
As she blew past the exit at 55 MPH, she looked back via her rear view mirror, but she saw nothing. The man was no longer there.
At that point she began to talk to herself again, "You know, I was just thinking about dad, so this must be a case of my mind playing tricks on me. I was feeling a little guilty about not visiting, so my brain invented a vision of him that I could 'see'. That's all it was."
At least that was what my aunt was beginning to say to herself... except right after she began her inner dialogue, her son, who she thought was asleep in the passenger seat, spoke in an excited voice.
"Mom, did you see that guy on the side of the road? He looked exactly like grandpa!"
This is the kind of political minutia I gave up long ago. I don't miss it.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Honduras' de facto government has accepted a U.S.-driven deal that opens the door for the return to power of President Manuel Zelaya, toppled in a military coup four months ago...
Roberto Micheletti, who took over the country within hours of Zelaya's ouster, had repeatedly refused to step aside to let the leftist return, but he softened his position on Thursday.
"I have authorized my negotiating team to sign a deal that marks the beginning of the end of the country's political situation," Micheletti told reporters on Thursday night.
He said Zelaya could return to office after a vote in Congress that would be authorized by the country's Supreme Court. The deal would also require both sides to recognize the result of a November 29 presidential election and would transfer control of the army to the top electoral court.
So, yes, Zelaya can come back, but only if the Honduran Congress says he can and only if he is reduced to a neutered whelp.
What a pathetic "victory" for the Obama administration.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
‘‘(2) ACCEPTABLE COVERAGE.—For purposes of this section, the term ‘acceptable coverage’ means any of the following:
‘‘(A) QUALIFIED HEALTH BENEFITS PLAN COVERAGE.—Coverage under a qualified health
benefits plan (as defined in section 100(c) of the ).
Section 100(c) of WHAT? Obviously they forgot to say of this act.
O.K., so I go to 100(c) of this act and is acceptable coverage defined there? Nope, gotta go to 302(d)(2).
(2) ACCEPTABLE COVERAGE.—For purposes of
4 this division, the term ‘‘acceptable coverage’’ means
5 any of the following:
6 (A) QUALIFIED HEALTH BENEFITS PLAN
7 COVERAGE.—Coverage under a qualified health
8 benefits plan.
That's it? How do we define a "qualified health benefits plan"? Turns out we don't. Instead, the "Commissioner" along with the Treasury gets to decide who gets taxed.
12 The Commissioner shall make determinations under
13 this paragraph in coordination with the Secretary of
14 the Treasury.
There are no statutory guidelines given in this. It seems to be entirely at the discretion of the Executive Branch. How is this allowable under the Constitution? How is this not Congress ceding the power to tax to the President?
All I can say is, ugh.
"Until the institutions crash and burn and can be rebuilt, there will be a vicious circle of declining revenues, cuts, declining quality, declining audiences in response which will lead to further declines in revenue, and so on."
That isn't exactly how I remember the "circle" beginning. I'm pretty sure the quality declined before the revenue. Not all of this can be attributed to a bad business environment, much of the damage was of the self-inflicted variety. But, hey, the balance sheets sure looked good for a little while. (Offered as proof, take a look at this article from the halcyon days of 1994 Why are newspaper profits so high?)
In effect, it looks like the papers (via their parent companies) plundered themselves in a fit of suicidal profit taking.
From that fact I do not learn the lesson that newspapers can no longer provide a quality product along the lines of their former selves.
Sadly I seem to be in a distinct minority here.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
There have been a lot of bad days recently for what’s come to be known as the mainstream media — or MSM — but Monday was one of the worst.
New circulation figures showed that big city papers had lost as much as a quarter of their circulation in the past six months. And new TV ratings showed that CNN, the cable network that prides itself on news coverage down the middle, finished dead last in prime time against more partisan rivals like Fox News and MSNBC.
Are the two connected?
Eric Alterman, a media columnist for The Nation, and a frequent critic of the MSM, thinks they are. "Nonpartisan news, and news aimed at a broad audience, doesn't have the cachet, and therefore the consumer base, it once had,” Alterman said. “The whole notion of citizenship has been declining for decades now.”
This is missing, almost entirely, the reasons why papers are ailing. The partisan/non-partisan question is almost irrelevant to whether or not people feel like buying and reading a paper. The real problem with papers are varied, but they can be distilled down to one central truth; newspapers today are no fun.
Now, I'm not saying newspapers have to stop covering hard news in favor of soft crapola for the masses, but you cannot ignore the need to be entertaining. Papers used to accomplish this in the hard news sections by having their own reporters covering items of national import. People reading those stories could get the feeling that this was their home town take on things, which could be distinctly different from the take of an AP or a NYT. Now, that type of coverage is simply non-existent, and you could do just as well reading USA Today and having done with it.
However, it isn't only in national news coverage that newspapers have been de-emphasizing the local angle, all of the other local news coverage, from sports and the arts to night life/dinning and human interest stories, have also been scaled back. (Sports coverage less then others, but even there resources have been removed and the content is less.) The result is papers that are often too boring to be enjoyed.
I was reminded of this over the past weekend when I read a great article in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press about a group of guys who built a trebuchet in their backyard: Have trebuchet, will fling
"This is kind of chancy. We've never done anything this wide and big," warned Roger Bacon. "OK. Let's do it."
There was a countdown, a whoosh, and suddenly a wheelchair was soaring hundreds of feet in the air, hurtling through the skies above Hugo at an alarming rate of speed.
That's what happens when four 30-something guys decide to build a trebuchet, a siege engine resembling a catapult originally designed in the Middle Ages to pummel castle walls with projectiles.
There are no castles in Hugo, so the builders of this trebuchet are content with seeing how far they can fling a bowling ball. They're at about 700 feet so far. They're hoping to reach 1,000.
They're also testing the flight and crash-landing characteristics of obsolete consumer electronics by launching old television sets, a VCR and a computer. Thanks to the Hugo trebuchet, mankind now knows that a flying microwave oven will bounce about five feet into the air after hitting the ground.
Is this of earth shattering import? Not really. Will the author win a Pulitzer for his efforts? Unlikely. But who gives a crap? It's a damn fun thing to read.
At one point, Modert's mother asked where they were going to move the trebuchet when they were done.
But the machine, situated only a few yards from the house, is anchored with lengths of pipe driven several feet into the ground.
"This one is permanent. It's too big to move," Modert said.
The builders are not sure how the $2,500 project will affect the home value.
"The tax assessor did come out earlier this year, and we're waiting to see what he says," Bacon said.
Bacon said when asked if any changes had been made to the house, Modert's mother told the assessor, "Well, there's less shed and more trebuchet."
Reading this story was a highlight of my weekend.
This saddens me as newspapers so rarely have that effect on me anymore. But, the important thing is it can be done.
If they would only do it.
(Gleaned from Memeorandum)
“J’accuse! A statistician may prove anything with his nefarious methods. He may even say a negative number is positive! You cannot trust anything he says.”
Sigh. Unfortunately, this oft-hurled charge is all too true. I and my fellow statisticians must bear its sad burden, knowing it is caused by our more zealous brethren (and sisthren). But, you know, it really isn’t their fault, for they are victims of loving not wisely but too well their own creations.
First, a fact. It is true that, based on the observed satellite data, average global temperatures since about 1998 have not continued the rough year-by-year increase that had been noticed in the decade or so before that date. The temperatures since about 1998 have increased in some years, but more often have they decreased. For example, last year was cooler than the year before last. These statements, barring unknown errors in the measurement of that data, are taken as true by everybody, even statisticians.
Th AP gave this data—concealing its source—to “several independent statisticians” who said they “found no true temperature declines over time” (link)
How can this be? Why would a statistician say that the observed cooling is not “scientifically legitimate”; and why would another state that noticing the cooling “is a case of ‘people coming at the data with preconceived notions’”?
Are these statisticians, since they are concluding the opposite of what has been observed, insane?
Let me teach you to be a classical statistician. Go to your favorite climate site and download a time series picture of the satellite-derived temperature (so that we have no complications from mixing of different data sources); any will do. Here’s one from our pal Anthony Watts.
Now fetch a ruler—a straight edge—preferably one with which you have an emotional attachment. Perhaps the one your daughter used in kindergarten. The only proviso is that you must love the ruler.
Place the ruler on the temperature plot and orient it along the data so that it most pleases your eye. Grab a pencil and draw a line along its edge. Then, if you can, erase all the original temperature points so that all you are left with is the line you drew.
If a reporter calls and asks if the temperature was warmer or colder last year, do not use the original data, which of course you cannot since you erased it, but use instead your line. According to that very objective line the temperature has obviously increased. Insist on the scientificity of that line—say that according to its sophisticated inner-methodology, the pronouncement must be that the temperature has gone up! Even though, in fact, it has gone down.
Don’t laugh yet, dear ones. That analogy is too close to the truth.
Reading the whole thing would be a good idea.
...Fiery GOP lawmaker
...known for his sharp mind and sharp partisanship.
...known for strident partisanship that often irritated his opponents
...he called a program that temporarily allowed Iowans to skip penalties and half of their unpaid interest on delinquent taxes as "tax breaks for tax cheats."
... "the most intense individual I've ever met."
..."He loves the fight...I think he thrives on the battle. He's one of the most effective partisan debaters I've ever met."
..."intense, focused and studious."
His name? Christopher Rants.
Well, of course he does.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Tackling just five health and moral factors could prevent millions of premature deaths and increase global life expectancy by almost 5 years, the Vatican said on Tuesday.
Poor childhood nutrition, sex, alcohol, bad sanitation and hygiene, and high blood pressure are to blame for around a quarter of the 60 million premature deaths.
The Vatican listed the world's top mortality risks as high blood pressure (responsible for 13 percent of deaths globally), tobacco use (9 percent), high blood glucose (6 percent), physical inactivity (6 percent), and obesity or being overweight (5 percent). They also proclaimed them to be an "abomination before God."
These factors raised the risk of chronic diseases and some of the biggest killers such as heart disease, diabetes and cancers, and affected "countries across all income groups -- high, middle and low," it said. "Our Lord Jesus must be weeping in heaven."
O.K. I'm kidding. The Vatican never said this. The World Health Organization did:
Tackling just five health factors could prevent millions of premature deaths and increase global life expectancy by almost 5 years, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
Poor childhood nutrition, unsafe sex, alcohol, bad sanitation and hygiene, and high blood pressure are to blame for around a quarter of the 60 million premature deaths around the world each year, the WHO said in a report.
But while not having enough nutritious food is a big health risk for those in poorer countries, obesity and being overweight pose yet bigger risks in richer nations -- leading to a situation in which obesity and being overweight causes more deaths worldwide than being underweight.
The WHO added that if the risks in its report had not existed, life expectancy would have been on average almost a decade longer in 2004 for the entire global population.
The totalitarian overtures inherent in such thinking are mind-boggling. How are you going to "tackle" such issues? We already have countless education programs in the United States that have had little or no effect on obesity, so presumably they are speaking about something else here. (The story doesn't even mention education.)
Who needs bible thumping "you'll live your life the way we say you'll live your life" Puritans when you have the W.H.O.?
Research conducted by Hellmann and Shannon Pelini, one of Hellmann's doctoral students, indicates that global warming may affect a single insect species differently throughout its various life stages, and that global warming affects different insect species in different ways.
Most importantly, as climate change progresses, some insects may become trapped--like fish out of water--in habitats that can no longer support them. The insects may therefore go extinct or lose genetically important segments of their populations. But other species, and no one knows which ones yet, may be able to reach cooler climates by moving north on their own.
Oh, give me a break. There are an estimated 8 million species of insect on this planet. Why so many? Well, in part it is because bugs are so adaptive. They have been around and survived dramatic changes in climate before, many of the catastrophic variety like the event(s) that killed off the dinosaurs. In the course of this evolutionary process hundreds of thousands if not millions of insect species have gone extinct, and yet, last time I checked, bugs remain. Yet, now we are going to be asked to airlift bugs because climate will change, which is simply what climate does whether we like it or not????????
Monday, October 26, 2009
Last month two men and their teenage sons tackled one of the world’s most unforgiving summertime hikes: the Grand Canyon’s parched and searing Royal Arch Loop. Along with bedrolls and freeze-dried food, the inexperienced backpackers carried a personal locator beacon — just in case.
In the span of three days, the group pushed the panic button three times, mobilizing helicopters for dangerous, lifesaving rescues inside the steep canyon walls.
What was that emergency? The water they had found to quench their thirst “tasted salty.”
Oh God, please tell me they were bitch slapped. I beg of you...
No such luck.
If they had not been toting the device that works like Onstar for hikers, “we would have never attempted this hike,” one of them said after the third rescue crew forced them to board their chopper. It’s a growing problem facing the men and women who risk their lives when they believe others are in danger of losing theirs. [emphasis added]
Why are people, who obviously have an inflated self-regard and a lack of survival skill one would normally associate with Thurston Howell III, doing wilderness hiking in the first place? Is the problem really that they are "yuppies"? Well, the article gives us a different interpretation although it may not realize it.
Rescue officials are deciding whether to start keeping statistics on the problem, but the incidents have become so frequent that the head of California’s Search and Rescue operation has a name for the devices: Yuppie 911.
“Now you can go into the back country and take a risk you might not normally have taken,” says Matt Scharper, who coordinates a rescue every day in a state with wilderness so rugged even crashed planes can take decades to find. “With the Yuppie 911, you send a message to a satellite and the government pulls your butt out of something you shouldn’t have been in in the first place.” [emphasis added]
Hmmm...risky behavior being encouraged by the knowledge the government will bail your ass out when things go ass-over-tea-kettle. Where have we seen that before? Here is the moral hazard being transported to our National Parks in all its glory, and all of us are paying for the extraction of these nitwits who can't find Evian on the trail, or those morons who, every damn year, go climbing mountains as bad weather is closing in. The attitude obviously is something along the lines of "I'll do what I wan't. Daddy big government will take care of me."
I'm sorry but we ought to stop this completely, by not saving their sorry asses. The advantages (for us non-nitwits) would be numerous:
1) We could dramatically lower the number of nitwits in the country as they succumb to exposure as a direct result of their own stupidity;
2) We would save all the money spent trying to save these morons, which could be used for real conservation purposes;
3) We wouldn't have to worry about responders being killed in rescue attempts;
4) As the nitwits die off or are finally scared off from such adventures, those people who enjoy the outdoors (and can take care of themselves as they know what they are doing) can revel in the solitude of their pursuits for a change;
5) Those same people would also benefit financially as I'd let them freely plunder any nitwit corpses they find out in the wild.
Looks like a win-win solution to me.
2008 was still the ninth hottest in 130 years of NOAA records.
Of the 10 hottest years recorded by NOAA, eight have occurred since 2000, and after this year it will be nine because this year is on track to be the sixth-warmest on record.
This is an outright falsehood. There is no way to compare the numbers NOAA uses now, which incorporate land and sea temps completely unavailable for most of the 130 period, with all of the historical record. (It simply is not an apples to apples comparison, and idiots who don't understand what that means shouldn't be writing about science in the press.)
This is the data the AP is using:
(I know this is the data because this NOAA states "For the year to date, the global combined land and ocean surface temperature of 14.7°C (58.5°F) was the sixth-warmest January-through-September period on record.") If you really think we have data from all of the places marked on the above graphic for 130 years, well, then you are smoking something.
Now, if one wanted to just to look at a more homogeneous data set, like the US temps one could make a comparison for 115 years. Let us see what that looks like:
Turns out this ranks as only the 29th warmest Jan-Sep in the last 115 years.
This was the 37th warmest.
NOAA doesn't have the reports for 2001 and 2000 online at the moment, of the years we have 2009 (trend only) to 2002 only two of them (2006-07) have been in the Top 10 warmest years in the last 115, not 8 of them.
Additionally, I've notice the time period 1961-1990 being used to provide a "base line mean" to measure anomalies (as it is in the blended land/sea graphic I showed earlier.)
So, how representative is that 1961-1990 period? Well, not very it seems.
So, 21 years of that 30 year period (or 70%) were below the long term average. It was a pretty cold period. Therefore it isn't surprising that we find most other temps hotter then that, and that is a good part of the reason the blended land/sea graphs are misleading (to put it mildly.)
Compare the US Temps on this graph for 2008 (using the 61-90 baseline):
...with the US Temps using the 115 yer averages:
So, according to the long (115 year averages) 61 regions in the US had "much cooler" or "record cool". Only one region (Long Island) was "much warmer". But according to the other graphic, 25 regions were warmer then "average" and only 15 were cooler.
As I said, it's misleading.
Roger Pielke Sr. looks at this as well:
This article, however, (which is not a true independent assessment if the study was completed by NOAA scientists) is not based on the much more robust metric assessment of global warming as diagnosed by upper ocean heat content. Nor does it consider the warm bias issues with respect to surface land temperatures that we have raised in our peer reviewed papers....to state that the “[t]he Earth is still warming” is in error. The warming has, at least temporarily halted.
Charges have been dropped against a southeast Missouri man accused of flag desecration.
Misdemeanor charges were filed Friday against 30-year-old Frank Snider III of Cape Girardeau. But prosecutor Morley Swingle told the Southeast Missourian newspaper that he later dropped the charges because of a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared flag-burning protected under the First Amendment.
Swingle told the newspaper he had been unaware that the case invalidated state flag desecration laws like the one passed in Missouri in 1980. [emphasis added]
Hell, I'm no lawyer and I knew this. If this is a representative example of our public servants....
Be very afraid.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Here is what I wrote:
I was reading over this: Emanuel, K. A., 2005: Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature, 436, 686-688. and more specifically this: Online supplement to this paper.
In the supplement Emanuel says the following:For the first decade or so of airborne reconnaissance, surface winds were estimated mostly by visual inspection of the sea surface. Beginning in the early 1950s, radar altimeters aboard the aircraft made possible an accurate determination of the aircraft’s absolute altitude. When combined with direct pressure measurements, this gives a good estimate of geopotential height at flight level. Surface pressure can then be estimated using empirical relationships between surface and flight level pressure. This technique, developed during the 1950s, was used without significant modification through the end of aircraft reconnaissance in the western North Pacific and until the advent of accurate dropwindsondes in the North Atlantic. Minimum surface pressure estimates were converted to maximum sustained surface wind using semi-empirical wind-pressure relations which, however, have evolved with time. For the North Atlantic, Landsea 3 has documented a change in that took place in 1970, leading to lower wind speed estimates.
Now, as I read this, Emanuel is taking umbrage with the pre-1970 wind speed estimates, and not with the pressure measurements. But if that is so his adjusted wind speed results are a little strange, to say the least.
If you look at the pre-1973 storms with the lowest pressure, say those lower than
911 hPa, Emanuel gives adjusted wind speeds as follows:
Now for the post 1973 storms (which are OK with Emanuel) you get the following:
So are we supposed to believe that prior to 1973 half of the ten Atlantic hurricanes with the lowest pressures (under 911 hPa) had top wind speeds less than 145 knots, while after 1973 none of the seven lowest pressure storms had a top wind speed under 145 knots? We are also asked to believe that none of the pre-1973 storms had top winds over 150 knots, while 71% of post-1973 storms were greater than 150 knots.
In fact, if Emanuel's scheme were adopted than a full 40% of the pre-1973 storms under 911 hPa should really be categorized as Category 4 storms.
This strikes me as absurd. It amounts to arguing that the physics of storms have changed.
That is where I left off. Possibly I meant to check something else and never got back to it. Who knows?
Still, when I re-read this stuff, I'm pretty sure I was on to something.
In the course of giving my argument I came up with the following suggestion:
[T]he real complaint about Fox is not HOW they are covering stories, but THAT they were covering stories other MSM editors deemed to be non-stories. I'd like to be shown HOW Fox's coverage of Van Jones signing a truther petition was egregious. I would argue the complaint was really that they were covering it at all. (And never mind that a large group of news watching people were interested in the story. What do those bozos know! They probably all eat mayonnaise sandwiches!)
And really that is the rub of it. What we really have here is a battle between two ideological visions - not left vs. right really - but elitist vs. democratic. The editorial board of the NYT operates as if it is their God given right to set the agenda for whats "important" in this country, and they get pissed off when there are party crashers. "What's THAT? A concern of the right leaning blogosphere? oooh how gauche. It simply is NOT what the right sort of people are discussing at the correct sort of cocktail party in Manhattan or Washington. Someone please tell them to go away."
Once the elite has decided (in Kaus' terms "been convinced") well then that obviates the need to present another side of the story. This is why ABC felt perfectly comfortable to give a WH an hour long infomercial on their health care plans without allowing for any dissenting opinion to be presented. The elite had been "convinced" and this was simply an extension of their new found conviction.
The truth of this can be seen in the differences in the way "right of center" memes are travelling compared to "left of center" memes. I'd argue that ROC memes, if you traced their origin, do not often start on O'Reilly or Hannity or Beck, let alone on the Fox news programs. I've found, from reading the blogosphere that I've known about certain issues long before they ever make it onto the airwaves of Fox. (For example, the Van Jones truther story was dug up by Gateway Pundit originally.)
LOC memes, on the other hand, tend to be "top down" affairs. This explains why, as you have noticed, the MSM is highly "selective" about how they cover things like protests. By definition those are rarely examples of elite driven action, so of course they don't care about them...unless they can highlight them for other purposes. (Like those vile and hateful "Christians" who "protest" funerals for gays and what not - Why is it that that handful of imbeciles and lunatics get covered so often by the MSM? And I don't think this will be covered by "it bleeds it leads.")
I'm not surprised you haven't found my work [this and this] "conclusive" - is this your way of telling me you wont be funding my content analysis project?? :-) - it couldn't be conclusive. It was meant to show there was another way of looking at things that is coherent and at least worth considering. Which, come to think about it, is exactly what I find so lacking in Kaus' vision of the world. He looks at Fox and sees nothing he ever needs to consider. Instead he rails against the loss of elite prerogative.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
BTW I'm officially sick and tired of writing the nonsensical term "climate change." Climate always changes. Always has, always will. That's just what it does. Please get used to it.
Today I read from Roger Pielke Sr. answering a question:
6. Do you see any specific technologies that can come into play in this time horizon that can speed up, slow down or stop the climate change? Are there any breakthroughs on the horizon?
The term “climate change” itself is redundant. Climate is always changing.
All I can say is "Thank You."
Unquestionably, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed to build the scientific case for humanity being the primary cause of global warming. Such a goal is fundamentally unscientific, as it is hostile to alternative hypotheses for the causes of climate change.
The most glaring example of this bias has been the lack of interest on the IPCC’s part in figuring out to what extent climate change is simply the result of natural, internal cycles in the climate system. In Chapter 9 of the latest (4th) IPCC report, entitled “Understanding and Attributing Climate Change”, you would think the issue of external versus internal forcing would be thoroughly addressed. But you would be wrong.
The IPCC is totally obsessed with external forcing, that is, energy imbalances imposed upon the climate system that are NOT the result of the natural, internal workings of the system. For instance, a search through Chapter 9 for the phrase “external forcing” yields a total of 91 uses of that term. A search for the phrase “internal forcing” yields…(wait for it)…zero uses. Can we really believe that the IPCC has ruled out natural sources of global warming when such a glaring blind spot exists?
...The IPCC’s pundits like to claim that the published evidence for humanity causing warming greatly outweighs any published evidence against it. This appeal to majority opinion on their part is pretty selective, though. They had no trouble discarding hundreds of research papers supporting evidence for the Medieval Warm Period or the Little Ice Age when they so uncritically embraced the infamous “Hockey Stick” reconstructions of past temperature change.
Despite a wide variety of previous temperature proxies gathered from around the world that so clearly showed that centuries with global warming and cooling are the rule, not the exception, the Hockey Stick was mostly based upon some cherry-picked tree rings combined with the assumption that significant warming is a uniquely modern phenomenon.
As such, they rejected the prevailing “scientific consensus” in favor of a minority view that supported their desired outcome. I suspect that they do not even recognize their own hypocrisy.
I must admit I've always been uncomfortable with the way the proxies (tree rings or bristlecones) were used to make claims about the last 50 years of temperatures. I understand that proxies are useful when we want to talk about time periods before the advent of scientific methods of measuring temperatures, but we have had thermometers since the 18th Century. Why are we basing arguments about modern temperatures using tree rings?
Yes, I realize technically the argument is that the proxies allow us to make evaluations about temperature change over time, but that is not how the Hockey Stick graphs are being used. They are being used as the primary evidence of unprecedented warming period. After all, you don't find Hockey Sticks when you look at thermometer temperatures over the last 50-100 years.
Example 1: Australia
Example 2: USA
Yet, we are being asked to ignore this data in favor of looking at tree rings and bristlecones. What's next? Goat entrails?
Oh, for no other reason but its a cool graphic, here is the US for the last 6 months:
Above I said:
After all, you don't find Hockey Sticks when you look at thermometer temperatures over the last 50-100 years.
Turns out you don't even find the Hockey Stick when you look at the thermometers around the Yamal site:
Look, I like trees as much as the next guy, but I think I trust thermometers more.
Monday, October 19, 2009
McIntyre's latest effort, though technical is some aspects, is as thorough a take down as I've seen in awhile:
Reader Tom P observed:If Steve really wants to invalidate the Yamal chronology [ed. i.e. the "Son of Hoickey Stick"] , he would have to find another set of cores that also gave good correlation with the instrument record, but indicated a previous climate comparable or warmer than that seen today.
As bender observed, Tom P's question here is a bit of a slow pitch, since the Polar Urals (the unreported but well-known update) is precisely such a series and since the "Yamal Substitution" (where Briffa 2000 quietly replaced the Polar Urals site with its very pronounced MWP with the HS-shaped Yamal) has been a longstanding concern and issue at Climate Audit.
Just so folks who don't read this stuff normally can follow along, I'll point out that "HS" stands for "Hockey Stick" and MWP stands for "Medieval Warm Period." Since the AGW craze got going in the late 1980's the existence of the MWP, which was quite a bit warmer than anything we have experienced in the last 100 years, was a bit of a problem. For the last 10-15 years or so an effort has been launched to remove the MWP from the books. Furthermore, after serious questions were raised about the original "Hockey Stick" graph purporting to shows current temperatures to be all out of proportion with any known readings in the last few thousand years, there was a desire to find a new "Hockey Stick" which would somehow validate the old "Hockey Stick." The Yamal data seemed to offer the best of both worlds, as it seemed to show both the HS and no MWP. So, it was "bye bye old data" (a data set which showed the MWP and no HS called Polar Urals) and "hello new data"! There was much rejoicing.
Right away, questions were raised about this substitution, and scores of scientists demanded this new data, which was provided quickly, investigated, and found to be robust.
Here is what actually happened:
Briffa et al (Nature 1995), a paper discussed on many occasions here, used the Polar Urals site (Schweingruber dataset russ021) to argue that the 11th century was cold and, in particular, 1032 was the coldest year of the millennium. A few years later, more material from Polar Urals was crossdated (Schweingruber dataset russ176) and, when this crossdated material is combined with the previous material, a combined RCS [ed. Radar Cross Section] ring width chronology yields an entirely different picture - a warm MWP. Such calculations were done both by Esper (in connection with Esper et al 2002) and for D'Arrigo et al 2006, but the resulting RCS reconstruction was never published nor, as noted previously, has the resulting RCS reconstruction ever appeared in print nor were the resulting RCS reconstructions placed in a digital archive in connection with either publication.
Instead of using and publishing the updated information from Polar Urals, the Yamal chronology was introduced in Briffa 2000 url, a survey article on worldwide dendro activities, in whichBriffa's RCS Yamal chronology replaced the Polar Urals in his Figure 1. Rudimentary information like core counts was not provided. Briffa placed digital versions of these chronologies, including Yamal, online at his own website (not ITRDB). A composite of three Briffa chronologies (Yamal, Taimyr and Tornetrask) had been introduced in Osborn and Briffa (Science 1999), a less than one page letter. Despite the lack of any technical presentation and lack of any information on core counts, as noted elsewhere, this chronology was used in multiproxy study after another and was even separately illustrated in the IPCC AR4 Box 6.4 spaghetti graph.
Authors frequently purport to excuse the re-use of stereotyped proxies on the grounds that there are few millennium-length chronologies, a point made on occasion by Briffa himself. Thus, an updated millennium-length Polar Urals chronology should have been a welcome addition to the literature. But it never happened. Briffa's failure to publish the updated Polar Urals RCS reconstruction has itself added to the bias within the archived information. Subsequent multiproxy collectors could claim that they had examined the "available" data and used what was "available". And because Briffa never published the updated Polar Urals series, it was never "available".
Sure this looks a little odd, but maybe this was really OK because the Yamal series was simply obviously better. That could work, right?
Well, the trouble with that is the Yamal data was also not originally published.
Not that that stopped "scientists" from praising it.
Some claimed Yamal was superior because it was more highly replicated:
The D'Arrigo et al authors believed that Briffa's Yamal chronology was more "highly replicated" than the Polar Urals chronology, a belief that they held even though they did not actually obtain the Yamal data set from Briffa. CA reader Willis Eschenbach at the time asked the obvious question how they knew that this was the "optimal data-set" if they didn't have the data.First, if you couldn't get the raw data … couldn't that be construed as a clue as to whether you should include the processed results of that mystery data in a scientific paper? It makes the study unreplicable … Second, why was the Yamal data-set "optimal"? You mention it is for "clear statistical reasons" … but since as you say, you could not get the raw data, how on earth did you obtain the clear statistics?
Pretty reasonable questions. The Phil Trans B archive thoroughly refuted the belief that the Yamal data set was more highly replicated than the Polar Urals data set. The graphic below shows the core counts since 800 for the three Briffa et al 2008 data sets (Tornetrask-Finland; Avam-Taimyr and Yamal) plus Polar Urals. Obviously, the replication of the Yamal data set (10 cores in 1990) is far less than the replication of the other two Briffa et al 2008 data sets (both well over 100 in 1990) and also less than Polar Urals since approximately AD1200 and far below Polar Urals in the modern period (an abysmally low 10 cores in 1990 versus 57 cores for Polar Urals. The modern Yamal replication is far below Briffa's own stated protocols for RCS chronologies (see here for example.) This low replication was unknown even to specialists until a couple of weeks ago.
It's strange isn't it?
McIntyre looks at other potential statistical reasons for preferring Yamal to the Polar Ural data.
The Polar Urals chronology has a statistically significant relationship to annual temperature of the corresponding HadCRU/CRUTEM gridcell, while Yamal does not (Polar Urals t-statistic - 3.37; Yamal 0.92). For reference the correlation of the Polar Urals chronology to annual temperature is 0.31 (Yamal: 0.14). Both chronologies have statistically significant relationships to June-July temperature, but the t-statistic for Polar Urals is a bit higher (Polar Urals t-statistic - 5.90; Yamal 4.29; correlations are Polar Urals 0.50; Yamal 0.55). Any practising statistician would take the position that the t-statistic, which takes into consideration the number of measurements, is the relevant measure of statistical significance, a point known since the early 20th century. [emphasis added]
Only in AGW science is less and incomplete data preferred over more complete data.
McIntyre sums it up thusly:
At this point, in the absence of any other explanation holding up, perhaps even critics can look squarely at the possibility that Yamal was preferred over Polar Urals because of its obvious exterior attributes. After all, Rosanne D'Arrigo told an astonished NAS panel: "you need to pick cherries if you want to make cherry pie". Is that what happened here?
...there is no compelling "inner beauty" that would require or even entitle an analyst to select Yamal over Polar Urals. Further, given the known sensitivity of important reconstructions to this decision, the choice should have been clearly articulated for third parties so that they could judge for themselves. Had this been done, IPCC reviewers would have been able to point to these caveats in their Review Comments; because it wasn't done, IPCC Authors rejected valid Review Comments because, in effect, the IPCC Authors themselves had failed to disclose relevant information in their publications.
It is posts like these, with their logical precision and sure footed understanding of the statistics involved, that drive the AGW crowd insane.
And it should. Climate Audit is making them look foolish. No, that is wrong. Climate Audit is merely pointing out that the AGW crowd has made themselves look foolish.
This is all about some chapter on climate in some pop economics book (which I will never read as I have a life), that has the wannabe fascists calling for a virtual book burning. Why is that? Are these guys rabid "deniers," and so the moral equivalent of Charles Manson? No, they are firm believers that "...rising global temperatures are a man-made phenomenon." They just do not care for the case as it has been presented by the propaganda arm of the new Reich, and for that they are being trashed (and most likely libelled.)
I'm not even going to throw out more than my two cents on this replay of the "Night of the Long Knives," but it is simply too good (and stupid) to pass by entirely.
Really, these people have no shame, and, as I said earlier, not a lot of smarts (as Roger Pielke discovered.)
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The United States must live within its means once its economy recovers if it is to preserve global confidence in the U.S. dollar's status, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Friday.
How come when I read this all I hear in my head is a gambler telling his loved ones...
I'll quit, just as soon as I make one last big score.
I must be cynical or something.
Here you have little Honduras, standing up to the heinously immoral hectoring and threats of the United States and the United Nations in defense of their Constitution and in defense of all small countries to remain independent of the behemoths who would crush them for whatever reason moves them, getting rewarded by the fates with an improbable sporting victory. It is the irony of ironies that it would be a team from the United States, whose government has seen fit to declare itself, not the Honduran Supreme Court, the supreme legal authority in Honduras, that would secure passage to South Africa for Los Catrachos, capping a come back from a two goal deficit to do so in the dying seconds of the game.
It is an irony, but a delicious one.
Here is Bornstein doing his job:
Here is the celebration in Honduras:
Good luck to Honduras in the World Cup, and good luck hanging onto the independence of your nation.
And, if you remember it, send Jonathan Bornstein a little something special.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The University of Arizona has reversed course and permitted the College Republicans to screen the film Not Evil, Just Wrong as originally scheduled, just days after telling the group that its reservation was being cancelled due to a scheduling mistake. The "mix-up" was discovered only 11 days before the event, making it difficult to reschedule. After a joint investigation by FIRE and a UA College Republicans (UACR) leader showed that the scheduling conflict might not have been a mistake, the screening was placed back on the schedule for October 18.
According to UACR Director of Communications Katie Pavlich, on September 23, 2009, she requested use of the university's Gallagher Theater for an October 8, 5:00 pm, showing of Not Evil, Just Wrong, a documentary about "the true cost of global warming hysteria." The date and time were important to the group because of the stated goal of the Not Evil producers to earn a "World Record for the largest ever simultaneous film premiere." The request was granted by Hollyanne Fricke, Manager of the Gallagher Theater and Graduate Assistant for Social Justice Programs for The Center for Student Involvement & Leadership (CSIL).
A Google cache of the Theater's schedule as of September 17 shows that the time was wide open. A Google cache of the same schedule as of October 7, however, shows that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which was already being shown on both of the previous two nights, had now been scheduled for the 5:00 pm time slot on October 18....
The strange thing about this... other than its interesting timing, is that Family Weekend (a program of CSIL) is scheduled to end after a send-off brunch on October 18. Participants in Family Weekend apparently were never told that they should make plans to stay around for yet a third showing of the Transformers film the same weekend.
Typical, but still unreal.
In the freezing foothills of Montana, a distinctly bitter blast of revolution hangs in the air.
And while the residents of the icy city of Missoula can stave off the -10C chill with thermals and fires, there may be no easy remedy for the wintry snap's repercussions.
The temperature has shattered a 36-year record. Further into the heartlands of America, the city of Billings registered -12C on Sunday, breaking the 1959 barrier of -5C.
Closer to home, Austria is today seeing its earliest snowfall in history with 30 to 40 centimetres already predicted in the mountains.
Such dramatic falls in temperatures provide superficial evidence for those who doubt that the world is threatened by climate change.
Well, I don't know about that, but it is becoming harder to argue all of the extreme winter weather we've been seeing the last few years (all time record cold in Argentina and Brazil last year, earliest snow fall in recorded history in Austria, etc.) is "consistent" with Global Warming.
Of course, if this continues for a few more years we will get the chicken littles merely reversing direction (again) and they will issue dramatic calls to reverse Anthropogenic Global Cooling.
I'll think that is just as stupid.
(Oh, and here in western Wisconsin we had some snow for four days straight, Oct. 8-11. Weird.)
Monday, October 12, 2009
I get a feeling we are going to be under the gun this winter. Considering we didn't have a summer to speak of either, I may just have to pony up for a Caribbean vacation this winter.
My wife probably wouldn't divorce me for it.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
That being said, I do enjoy myself quite often. Over at Patterico he posted this plea the other day:
Do you know any “professors of social sciences, history, philosophy, law and theology” with a conservative bent and a sense of humor?
If so, I need to speak with them — so they can nominate me for a Nobel Peace Prize. Those are the people who qualify to make a nomination.
I responded thusly:
Well, I’m also an adjunct Poli. Sci. prof, but if that isn’t good enough there is another class of nominators:
directors of peace research institutes
I could found and become the director of the….
Obama Peace Institute
Our Motto: Pacis per Lentus (Peace through Inaction)
Our research would be dedicated to the study of how just sitting around on your ass, thinking peaceful thoughts, and occasionally giving voice to them, leads to global contentment. This could give rise to a wide range of scholarly studies including:I) Stoning People: Peace through Cannabis
II) Siestas & Snuggies: Warmly Nap Your Way To Peace
III) The Monsters of Peace Tour: A Proposal to send Obama, Gore and Carter on a speaking tour where peace is brought about by mass suicides caused by a 7 hour long Power Point presentation.
Father Eicher, my high school Latin teacher, would be proud.
A group of independent U.N. experts expressed concern Friday over the increased use of mercenaries in Honduras, where a de facto president has been in power since a military-led coup in June.
OMG! I'll be there are roving bands of hired goon on the streets! Raping! Pillaging! Littering!!
Well, not so much.
The U.N. panel said it received reports that 40 former Colombian paramilitaries had been hired to protect properties and individuals in Honduras
What? The U.N. is raising a stink about 40 guys? 40 security guards?
I'll tell you what. Let's remove all the security guards... I mean mercenaries protecting the U.N. delegation in New York. After all, fair is fair.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.
But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.
And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.
So what on Earth is going on?
What's going on is exactly what all of us "deniers" said was going on in the first place; that the models being used to sell this "crisis" were faulty, offering a simplistic forcing mechanism that ran rough-shod over not only the scientific process, but reality itself. In positing CO2 as the primary driver of climate, the AGW crowd was always more or less insane. (It isn't even the most important of the greenhouse gases. Water vapor is.) They were basically telling us that the only important difference taking place in the world in the last half of the 20th Century was man-made CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Every other factor (solar variability, cloud cover, ocean temperature, increased urbanization, etc.), we were told, was a complete wash. We, of course, had temperature variations in the historical record on the order of the one we experienced in the decade 1988-1998, including a substantial number that were more pronounced. Could we in fact, the "lunatic deniers" asked, be experiencing something quite precedented?
The answer was yes.
What is really interesting at the moment is what is happening to our oceans. They are the Earth's great heat stores.
According to research conducted by Professor Don Easterbrook from Western Washington University last November, the oceans and global temperatures are correlated.
The oceans, he says, have a cycle in which they warm and cool cyclically. The most important one is the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO).
For much of the 1980s and 1990s, it was in a positive cycle, that means warmer than average. And observations have revealed that global temperatures were warm too.
But in the last few years it has been losing its warmth and has recently started to cool down.
These cycles in the past have lasted for nearly 30 years.
So could global temperatures follow? The global cooling from 1945 to 1977 coincided with one of these cold Pacific cycles.
The interesting part here, of course, is not so much the prospect of future cooling but the idea that the warming we did experience up to 1998 can be linked to a natural climate feature we would associate with warming trends. The whole point of "CO2 rah-rahism" is that it alone was "driving" climate. It was, we were assured, an "overwhelming" force. Turns out it wasn't "overwhelming overwhelming."
Mojib Latif, a member of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says that we may indeed be in a period of cooling worldwide temperatures that could last another 10-20 years.
Professor Latif is based at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University in Germany and is one of the world's top climate modellers.
But he makes it clear that he has not become a sceptic; he believes that this cooling will be temporary, before the overwhelming force of man-made global warming reasserts itself.
How is this in any way the theory they have been peddling for the last 20 years? Either CO2 "overwhelms" the natural rhythms of climate, or it does not. An "overwhelming" force does not get to take a smoke break for 20-30 years while it allows other forces to rule the day until it feels like reasserting itself in the future.
It's nonsense. It's always been nonsense.
I'm intrigued by this nugget on solar variation from the BBC piece:
[O]ne solar scientist Piers Corbyn from Weatheraction, a company specialising in long range weather forecasting... claims that solar charged particles impact us far more than is currently accepted, so much so he says that they are almost entirely responsible for what happens to global temperatures.
He is so excited by what he has discovered that he plans to tell the international scientific community at a conference in London at the end of the month.
Well, I'll be interested in seeing what he has to present, although I'd be wary of simply exchanging CO2 solipsism for a solar variation solipsism. That being said, because of the general importance of the sun to our climate (duh!), it already has the benefit of being at least plausible.
Friday, October 09, 2009
There is, [Charles Krauthammer] argues, an intimate connection between the foreign policy being pursued by the Obama administration and its domestic policy. The work undertaken in the domestic sphere by what I have called "Obama's wrecking crew" will, he points out, put a stop to the pattern of dynamic economic growth that made it possible for the United States to defeat Japan, contribute decisively to the defeat of Nazi Germany, contain communism, and ultimately defeat and prepare the way for the dismemberment of the Soviet Union.
It will produce economic stagnation of the sort that the Europeans have suffered from for decades, and it will eventuate in a collapse of the American dollar
This, as Krauthammer shows, Obama and his minions understand, and this they want -- the elimination of the foundations for American hegemony and the crippling of this country. They regard the role that we have thus far played in the world as shameful; they are intent on dismembering the alliances that gave us our heft in the world; and they are not only appeasing our sworn enemies but openly, publicly embracing them and their agenda.
This explains the praise showered on President Obama by Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez, and Fidel Castro. This is the meaning of our attempt to install a dictator in the Honduras on the model of Castro and Chavez; it is the meaning of our recent betrayal of Poland -- on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of that country.
It explains why Obama initially responded to the open theft of an election in Iran by professing his confidence in the Iranian government and why the State Department recently cut off funds for the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center in New Haven, Connecticut, which was collecting information on the imprisonment, torture, and murder of those in Iran who protested against the theft of that election (for the details see this post).
It explains the deliberate insults offered Gordon Brown of Great Britain and Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, which I catalogued here and here. And, of course, this explains the speeches given abroad again and again by President Obama, apologizing for American behavior in the past. and signaling a radical shift in American policy.
It is for this change of posture that our President has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. And if you think that the United States is the principal source of evil in the world, you should vigorously applaud. My bet is that in his acceptance speech Obama will confirm Charles Krauthammer's worst fears and my own.
Now, all of the actions of Obama and his administration listed above are true. That does not mean the interpretation of those actions given by Rahe is true. That being said, can you come up with an alternative explanation that encompasses all of the facts listed above and exonerates the President and his motives?
Maybe it is possible, but it doesn't seem likely to me.
You have got to be kidding me:
President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said
What a joke. The man has done nothing but given a couple speeches.
Oddly enough, this leaves me speechless.
I can hear the Nobel committee deliberations now:
So, you've worked your whole life trying to bring people together? Living with them, sharing their hopes, joys, and fears?
Well, step aside chumps! The Americans have elected a black guy!
Granted, I've never had much respect for the work of this body, but this is astonishingly shallow.
I'm not the only one asking, Am I awake?
Then there is this from the Times of London: Absurd decision on Obama makes a mockery of the Nobel peace prize
The award of this year’s Nobel peace prize to President Obama will be met with widespread incredulity, consternation in many capitals and probably deep embarrassment by the President himself.
Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent. It was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing European gratitude for an end to the Bush Administration, approval for the election of America’s first black president and hope that Washington will honour its promise to re-engage with the world.
Instead, the prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace....
Mr Obama becomes the third sitting US President to receive the prize. The committee said today that he had “captured the world’s attention”. It is certainly true that his energy and aspirations have dazzled many of his supporters. Sadly, it seems they have so bedazzled the Norwegians that they can no longer separate hopes from achievement. The achievements of all previous winners have been diminished.
UPDATE x2: Great Minds Thinking Alike Edition
I can only hope this is Obamamania cresting – the man has accomplished nothing in the 9 months he’s been in office and he’s given a Nobel Peace Prize for a fantasy project? If you think his narcissism is dangerous now, just wait. At first I thought this was an Onion headline....
I wonder what the over-under is for the number of times he mentions himself in the acceptance speech?
Even liberals are aghast:
I like Barack Obama as much as the next liberal, but this is a farce. He’s done nothing to deserve the prize. Sure, he’s given some lovely speeches and launched some initiatives—on Iran, Israeli-Palestinian peace, climate change and nuclear disarmament—that might, if he’s really lucky and really good, make the world a more safe, more just, more peaceful world. But there’s absolutely no way to know if he’ll succeed, and by giving him the Nobel Prize as a kind of “atta boy,” the Nobel Committee is actually just highlighting the gap that conservatives have long highlighted: between Obamamania as global hype and Obama’s actual accomplishments.
He's right. The truth is this is so piss poor it invites, hell, it begs for a pretty strong backlash. A backlash, I have to add, that will be entirely justified.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Here is how PolitFact dodges the question:
As we've gained new readers since the election, every now and then we get e-mails that ask, "Who's paying for this Web site? Who's putting out this information?"
The short answer is this: PolitiFact is a project of the St. Petersburg Times to help you find the truth in American politics....
Yeah, yeah, you say. But who owns the Times?
Who gives a crap? Finding out who owns a news gathering organization doesn't prove the honesty of said organization. The question remains, how do we know you, regardless of who owns you, are honest?
But when it comes to the question of "Who is PolitiFact?" or "Who pays for PolitiFact?", we can assure you that no one is behind the scenes telling us what to write for someone else's benefit.
Even if this is true, and I'm assuming it is though I have no way of knowing that for sure, the question remains: "Why should I trust you?"
Their answer? "Because we say so!"
We are an independent, nonpartisan news organization. We are not beholden to any government, political party or corporate interest. We are proud to be able to say that we are independent journalists.
I'm sorry but it is possible for people to be corrupted by their own personal ideological motives. In fact, self-interest is kinda the number one way in which truth gets perverted. Now we know from surveys of the profession that self-identifying left leaning journalists outnumber right leaning journalists by almost two to one (see here and here) and are way out of proportion when compared to the American population as a whole. This being true, why is it safe for me as a reader to just assume the bunch of journalists at PolitiFact are playing it straight? The fact is it isn't safe.
I pulled a couple of their stories to check on the fair-mindedness of PolitiFact, and, lets just say I've found them wanting. For example, in this post concerning H. Leighton Steward we read the following:
PlantsNeedCO2.org is skeptical. The organization, which is still awaiting its nonprofit status, is the brainchild of Leighton Steward, a self-described geologist, environmentalist, author, and retired energy industry executive.[emphasis added]
The implication of the wording "self-described geologist" is clear. We are supposed to believe that Steward isn't an actual geologist, only a "self-described" one.
Well, it turns out that is wrong and PolitiFact lied (or "purposely misled", if that makes you feel better.) Steward in fact has an MS degree in Geology granted by SMU in 1959, and used that degree in the oil and gas fields for at least the period 1962-1997 (cite). But, hey, according to PolitiFact he's only a make believe geologist.
But, now that PolitiFact has gotten through impugning the man's academic credentials and three decades of work experience, let's see how they do with the issue:
The Web site is chock-full of links to papers, videos and other evidence that more carbon dioxide is actually good for the environment.
"Far from being a pollutant, rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations will never directly harm human health, but will indirectly benefit humans in a number of ways," according to the site....
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disagrees.
On April 17, 2009, the agency said that thorough scientific review proved that carbon dioxide, along with several other greenhouse gases, are pollutants that threaten human health; it is taking steps to regulate the gases under the Clean Air Act, a law typically reserved for monitoring traditional pollutants including ozone and sulfur dioxide.
Ah, so PolitiFact has discovered a new way to solve scientific arguments; namely by calling upon the authority of the Federal government! Aren't we lucky to have this organ for solving all scientific conflicts at our fingertips?!?!
Funny thing is... being a Political Scientist by profession - or am I??? Maybe PolitiFact can invalidate my three degrees in the field and University teaching experience as well - I'm prone to thinking of the Federal government not as a neutral arbiter on any dispute, but the venue wherein ideological battle get fought and the prize being fought over. Last time I checked, Democrats and Republican still had different ideological visions, and still sought to impose those visions upon the Federal government through winning elections. (Maybe we stopped doing this and no one told us Political Scientists?)
So, I wonder.... was CO2 classified as a pollutant back in 2008? No, it wasn't. Hmmm... what about 2007? Nope. 2006? Sorry. But, it was designated as a pollutant by the Federal government, for the first time, in 2009.
Gee, what is different about the Federal government in 2009 from the Federal government in 2008? PolitiFact would have you believe nothing.
What this boils down to is PolitiFact is making a pronouncement on a point of public controversy (i.e. whether a naturally occurring molecule like CO2 can be legitimately classified as a man made pollutant), and saying, "Because the Democrats now control the Federal government, the controversy is over." And if you persist in trying to make your case, you are a liar.
That is, of course, nonsense. (Laughable nonsense, really.)
The second story I looked at was PolitiFact calling Michele Bachman a liar for raising concerns about the beliefs of Obama medical adviser Ezekiel Emanuel. Here is what Bachman said (quote from PolitiFact):
"The president's adviser, Dr. Emanuel, believes communitarianism should guide decisions on who gets care. He says medical care should be reserved for the non disabled. So watch out if you're disabled."
How does PolitiFact go about "debunking" this? Why they ask an Obama spokesman of course.
So the question is, is Emanuel saying that he thinks health services ought not to be guaranteed to patients [for example] with dementia?
No, said Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for the White House Office of Budget and Management. "He just unequivocally doesn't believe that."
There are two things wrong here. One, the method PolitiFact employs to "debunk" this is simply stupid. Here you have a matter of controversy which you will solve by taking the word of one of the disputants as if they were impartial. [And, yes, since Emanuel has a role in the administration it cannot reasonably present itself as an impartial outsider.] The question, after all, is not what Emanuel says now his words are causing controversy, but what he said.
And, did he say what Bachman said he said? Yes, he did.
In the piece in question, which is all of three pages but still taxed the PolitiFact researcher beyond the point of their endurance, Emanuel is concerned about the lack of universal health care in the United States. Emanuel thinks he knows the reason why this is so:
Underlying the repeated failure of attempts to
provide universal health care coverage in the United
States is the failure to develop a principled mechanism
for characterizing basic health services. Americans
fear that if society guarantees certain services
as "basic," the range of services guaranteed will expand
to include all-or almost all-available services
(except for cosmetic surgery and therapies not
yet proven effective or proven ineffective). So rather
than risk the bankruptcy of having nearly every
medical service socially guaranteed to all citizens,
Americans have been willing to tolerate a system in
which the well insured receive a wide range of medical
services with some apparently basic services uncovered;
Medicare beneficiaries receive fewer services
with some discretionary services covered and
some services that intuitively seem basic uncovered;
Medicaid beneficiaries and uninsured persons receive
far fewer services.
Notice, because this dates from the days of the failed Clinton health care proposals of the 1990's, the concerns are not exactly the same as we hear today, but that is irrelevant for our purposes. We are only interested in what Emanuel advocates for, which he conveniently tell us:
On this view, the reason the United States has
failed to enact universal health coverage is not primarily
political or economic; the real reason is ethical-
it is a failure to provide a philosophically defensible
and practical mechanism to distinguish basic
from discretionary health care services.
This "ethical failure" results, so Emanuel tells us, from a mistaken belief that defining such an ethics would merely be the imposition of one vision of the good upon those who define the good differently. Emanuel believe this is wrong, and spells out his alternative:
Fortunately, many, including many liberals, have
come to view as mistaken a liberalism with such a
strong principle of neutrality and avoidance of public
discussion of the good. Some think the change
a result of the critique provided by communitarianism;
others see it as a clarification of basic liberal
philosophy. Regardless, a refined view has emerged
that begins to create an overlap between liberalism
and communitarianism. This overlap inspires hope
for making progress on the just allocation of health
care resources. This refined view distinguishes issues
within the political sphere into four types: (1) issues
related to constitutional rights and liberties; (2) issues
related to opportunities, including health care
and education; (3) issues related to the distribution
of wealth such as tax policies; and (4) other political
matters that may not be matters of justice but are
matters of the common good, such as environmental
policies and defense policies. While there still
may be disagreement about the need for a neutral
justification for rights and liberties, there is consensus
between communitarians and liberals that policies
regarding opportunities, wealth, and matters of
the common good can only be justified by appeal
to a particular conception of the good.
That vision of the good to be adopted he defines as follows:
We may go even further. Without overstating it
(and without fully defending it) not only is there a
consensus about the need for a conception of the
good, there may even be a consensus about the particular
conception of the good that should inform
policies on these nonconstitutional political issues.
Communitarians endorse civic republicanism and a
growing number of liberals endorse some version
of deliberative democracy. Both envision a need for
citizens who are independent and responsibile and
for public forums that present citizens with opportunities
to enter into public deliberations on social
Now, this is the point at which the PolitiFact argument falls flat on its face. Here is what the PolitiFact article says:
Baer said, is that Emanuel was exploring different views of political theory as they apply to health care decisions and following one school of thought through to the point where he notes that it would lead to "potentially disturbing types of policy ramifications."
This is simply false. Any cursory reading of the original article would have made that perfectly clear. PolitiFact simply takes the word of the Obama spokesman at face value. (Gee, I wonder why.) The notion that Emanuel simply put this view out there in a discussion of many different alternatives, and Bachman is pulling it out of context to embarrass Emanuel is a lie.
This civic republican or deliberative democratic
conception of the good provides both procedural
and substantive insights for developing a just allocation
of health care resources. Procedurally, it suggests
the need for public forums to deliberate about
which health services should be considered basic
and should be socially guaranteed. Substantively, it
suggests services that promote the continuation of
the polity-those that ensure healthy future generations,
ensure development of practical reasoning
skills, and ensure full and active participation by citizens
in public deliberations-are to be socially guaranteed
Notice, at no time does Emanuel qualify these statements to indicate they belong to anyone other than himself and fellow travellers who also believe it is "fortunate" that liberalism and communitarianism have found one another. (How touching.) So, when Emanuel follows the logic of his reasoning and states...
Conversely, services provided to individuals
who are irreversibly prevented from being
or becoming participating citizens are not basic and
should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is
not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.
...we have no reason to believe he doesn't mean it, or that he is talking about someone else. Indeed, based upon what Emanuel is arguing here it is clear that denying health services to people with dementia is merely an example. Presumably, their would be other examples. Indeed, it is easy to come up with other examples of human beings who fail the Emanuel's test because of disabilities that prohibit them from developing "practical reasoning skills [to] ensure full and active participation by citizens."
Not content with merely lying about what Bachman did and what Emanuel wrote, PolitiFact goes on to enagage in a little non sequitar action. Once again, parroting the Obama spokesman, PolitiFact adds:
Furthermore, he said, you need to balance McCaughey's claim against Emanuel's 25-year record of caring for very sick people, and specifically providing quality care to very ill patients at the end of their life.
Does he also help little old ladies across the street and buy Girl Scout cookies? That's all very nice, and totally irrelevant. (But isn't it a wonder?) But, hey, whats a little misdirection when you are PolitiFact?!
"He's a little surprised at how his record is being twisted and turned," Baer said. "It is preposterous that Ezekiel Emanuel would deny care to someone who needed it, or that he believes we should be making the sort of horrific medical decisions he's been accused of."
The poor dear. The problem is he proposes such things routinely. In this paper, for example, looking at the allocation of scarce medical resources (who gets a vaccine in short supply, or a transplant, etc.), Emanuel proposes the following under his scheme "The Complete Lives System":
Because none of the currently used systems satisfy all
ethical requirements for just allocation, we propose an
alternative: the complete lives system. This system
incorporates five principles: youngest-first,
prognosis, save the most lives, lottery, and instrumental
value. As such, it prioritises younger people who have not
yet lived a complete life and will be unlikely to do so
without aid. Many thinkers have accepted complete lives
as the appropriate focus of distributive justice: “individual
human lives, rather than individual experiences, [are] the
units over which any distributive principle should
operate.” Although there are important differences
between these thinkers, they share a core commitment to
consider entire lives rather than events or episodes, which
is also the defining feature of the complete lives system.
Consideration of the importance of complete lives also
supports modifying the youngest-first principle by
prioritising adolescents and young adults over infants.
Adolescents have received substantial education
and parental care, investments that will be wasted without
a complete life. Infants, by contrast, have not yet received
these investments. Similarly, adolescence brings with it a
developed personality capable of forming and valuing
long-term plans whose fulfilment requires a complete
Notice, Emanuel is absolutely arguing for denying care to infants in a situation of scarce medical resources, in favor of older children who have had more "invested" in them. Whether the patient "needed" the the treatment is not our jumping off point here, thus Emanuel is most assuredly talking about denying care to those who would need it, particularly the oldest and the youngest among us. How it would work in practice is, of course, wishy-washy (much of Emanuel's work shares that as a basic characteristic), but it is an open question as to what would happen in the event of a catastrophic flu outbreak. Would Emanuel support diverting scarce vaccine away from older Americans and infants who might be more vulnerable to the disease, in favor of the younger and stronger just because we have not gotten the "return on our investment" yet? I don't know. But it is a valid question.
Now, I'm not saying it is illegitimate to have these types of discussions, and to pose these types of hypotheticals, but that does not mean Emanuel gets a "Get Out Of Public Controversey Free" card because he's an academic. It also doesn't mean you get to call Michele Bachman a liar when she calls him on it.