16 December 2009

Kill the Bill.

Michelle Bachmann et al. address Tea Partiers near the Capitol on 15 December. Click to enlarge.
In recent weeks, this site has been preoccupied with ClimateGate. This interest reflects our opinion (1) that anthropogenic warming remains an unsubstantiated hypothesis, (2) that the CRU(d) cabal's behavior, as revealed by the leaked emails, is a stain on the profession, (3) that the computer codes used by CRU(d) are sufficiently dubious to raise questions as to the reliability of at least some of the "data" on which the AGW "consensus" is based and (4) that the "solutions" being proposed to address this (non-)problem will have catastrophic socio-economic consequences.

With regard to the last, we have noted that there is a direct tie-in with health care: 'Cap and Tax' (aka 'Freeze and Starve') will wreck the world's economy, thus giving irresistible impetus to the rationing of medical services and the realization of Sarah Palin's 'death panels.' Additionally, both measures promote the Green movement's ultimate goal, which is the reduction mankind's ecological footprint via the diminution of both total numbers and per capita energy consumption. Regarding this assessment, which some would deem hyperbolic, we can only say that we have rubbed shoulders for too many years with too many environmental scientists and activists — all too often, one and the same — to believe otherwise. These people view humanity as a cancer on the planet, and we all know how one deals with malignancy.


As to health care, a recent article in Politico about the latest Tea Party rally contra the legislation in statu nascendi is hopeful. A majority of Americans are dead set against it. Sooner or later, their voices will be heard.
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13 December 2009

Once is Happenstance.

Some of the ClimateGate links to which I previously linked have moved; others have disappeared. At this writing, the zip file (emails plus miscellany) is still available here; the emails, chronologically, and as a searchable data base, here; and the HARRY_READ_ME.TXT file, here, which is a new location.

Sadly, L'Ombre de l'Olivier is no longer reachable.
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12 December 2009

ClimateGate Gleanings - II.

In 2001, John Houhton of the IPCC made the case for anthropogenic warming, with the organization's poster child graphic in the background. Roger Pielke Jr. discusses this and related matters here.
We continue this site's review of some of the more interesting recent developments in the continuing ClimateGate saga:

Context. Having failed to contain the burgeoning scandal, defenders of AGW have taken to suggesting that the "hacked" emails have been taken out of context. Enter Climate Audit's Steve McIntyre with a detailed exegesis of the correspondence relating to "tricks" employed to hide the infamous, albeit widely misunderstood, "decline." McIntyre, for those unfamiliar with his work, has earned the respect of many — this correspondent included — for his efforts to understand exactly how scientists such as Michael Mann and Keith Briffa convert proxy data, tree ring widths, for example, into paleo temperatures. His essential point is that the results reported in scientific papers should be reproducible given the original data and the methods reported; his subsidiary point, that many of climatological papers provide neither sufficient data nor sufficiently detailed descriptions of the methodology to permit independent replication. Most famously, he and Ross McKitrick [2005. Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance. Geophys. Res. Lett. 32. L03710, doi:10.1029/2004GL021750; also comments by von Storch and Zorita and Huybers and replies thereto by M&M in the same journal and year; also, McIntyre, S. and R, McKitrick. 2005. The M&M Critique of the MBH98 northern hemisphere climate index: Update and implications. Energy and Environment. 16:69-100] argued that the (in)famous "hockey stick;" poster child of IPCC-3, is most economically interpreted as a methodological artifact.

Regarding the context of the ClinateGate emails relevant to "hiding the decline," McIntyre wrote on 10 December as follows:
"The Climategate Letters show clearly that the relevant context is the IPCC Lead Authors’ meeting in Tanzania in September 1999 at which the decline in the Briffa reconstruction was perceived by IPCC as 'diluting the message', as a 'problem', as a 'potential distraction/detraction'. A stone in their shoe."
The "message", as summarized in Figure 2.21 of the IPCC Third Assessment Report was that temperatures had been more or less steady for at least a thousand years prior to the the onset of 20th century warming (the plot in the background of the BBC photo above), which is when the industrial revolution gets going in earnest.

Subsequently, and in response to the ensuing deluge of comments (264 as of this writing), McIntyre modified his conclusion somewhat: "I agree," he wrote,
"with critics who observe that the proximate objection to the Briffa reconstruction ... was not that the decline per se diluted the message, but [that] the Briffa reconstruction overall diluted the message and interfered with a 'tidy story'."
Regardless of which version one accepts, the take home points are the same: the ClimateGate correspondents had something to sell; they were intent on leaving no loose ends upon which dissenters could seize; as IPCC chapter authors, they could promote their personal views from behind the scenes.

A Letter from Wigley. In email 880476729.txt, Tom Wigley, one of the ClimateGate principals, proclaimed that "It is not IPCC's role to make 'convincing cases' for any particular policy option; nor does it." This characterization of the IPCC as a disinterested summarizer of established "facts" is belied by the ClimateGate principals' concern that nothing cloud the message that contemporary temperatures are outside the range of "normal" variability and therefore a likely consequence of human activity. This is the "tidy story," and its effect was to galvanize the push to curtail emissions — not after further study had nailed everything down — but ASAP. To suggest that the ClimateGate correspondents intended otherwise is to strain credulity.

Fraud. In reviewing McIntyre's analysis, Roger Pielke Jr. concluded that
"The 'trick' does not show scientific fraud. It does not show that climate science is a sham. What it does show is a group of scientists at the highest levels of the IPCC stage managing their presentation of climate science for the greatest possible effect via their creation of a graphic showing paleoclimate reconstructions -- the so-called 'hockey stick.' It also shows the conflict of interest faced by an IPCC lead author with responsibility for placing his own work into broader context.

...

"Not only does McIntyre put the "trick" into its contemporary context, but his efforts also helps [sic] us to understand the present spinning by the scientific community suggesting that the 'trick' is just science-speak for a clever method. It is not. The 'trick' in context is clearly an effort by activist scientists at the highest levels of the IPCC to misrepresent scientific complexity to policy makers and the public." [Emphasis added]
Of the three sentences emphasized, this site endorses the second and the third. There was, indeed, a conflict of interest — "you betcha," as someone dear to our hearts might say — and, yes, a group of activist scientists sought to misrepresent the facts as they were then known in a document designed to influence politicians and the public at large.

As for the first emphasized sentence — here, it may be argued that Pielke is narrowly correct, but off base in the large. To expand upon this, the key word is "scientific." IPCC publications, despite their being widely cited in the scientific literature, are not scientific papers; they are the output of an intergovernmental agency. So any fraud, deception, "spinning" — call it what you will — is not scientific fraud, deception, etc. Rather, it is political fraud, deception, etc., which, given the known proclivities of politicians, is not particularly surprising. Of course, in this case, the politicians were scientists, but, when they were working for the IPCC, they weren't doing science. What they were doing was promoting their own work, a prescription for deceit. It was an especially powerful prescription since the principal target audience was, not other scientists, but politicians, real ones, who, in addition to formulating policy, are the ultimate sources of the shekels that keep large-scale science afloat. In short, the IPCC principals were able to further their own pecuniary interests, as well of those of their respective institutions, which undoubtedly returned the favor in kind. Many of the ClimateGate principals were also motivated by a genuine belief in the justness of their cause, which is say that they were / are environmental extremists who availed themselves of the opportunity of "doing well by doing good." From this it follows that the IPCC model is inherently unworkable. The resultant concentration of power results in practices that are essentially monopolistic, and with monopoly comes tyranny, in this case of the worst possible sort. The end result of the IPCC process, what is being haggled over in Copenhagen, even as these notes are being composed is an all-controlling central authority. The old Parsee prayer, "I praise aloud, the thought well thought, the word well spoken, and the deed well done," so eloquent in its encompassing simplicity, will be perverted to "Think what we tell you to think; say what we tell you to say; do what we tell you to do." But I digress.

What about scientific fraud, the thing that Pielke tells us has not transpired? That possibility can only be resolved by evaluation of the papers published in the scientific literature. In other words, what must be determined is whether or not the ClimateGate principals' penchant for pushing a point in IPCC productions extended to their own research publications. That determination will require full disclosure of the data, both before and after it was "processed," of the computer programs that did the processing and of whatever correspondence about these matters was exchanged — an extended and unpleasant undertaking, indeed.

The Overhead Connection. Michael Mann is probably the best known of the ClimateGate principals and a faculty member at Penn State. From that university's Daily Collegian, we read the following:
"'More than $760 million in grants are given annually to research within Penn State,' [University spokeswoman, Annemarie] Mountz said. 'There will be no sanctions or restrictions placed on Mann or any grants during the inquiry.'" [Hat tip to Climate Audit.
Of course there won't be any restrictions. From the $760 million, Penn State collects roughly $250 million in overhead returns, a not insubstantial amount in these days of shrinking state expenditures — see also, in the same issue the article entitled "University Funding Still in Limbo."

So what is overhead? Suppose I'm a professor at the University of the Antipodes, and suppose I ask the National Science Foundation for $1,500,000 to study the turtle that holds up the earth on its back. That's a lot of money, but going to the end of the world is expensive, to say nothing of being dangerous — if you fall off, what awaits is the Abyss. Now, of the total, only $1,000,000 goes to my laboratory. The rest goes to the UotA as "overhead." In theory, these moneys are intended to compensate the university for maintaining my laboratory and providing ancillary support; in practice, most of it goes into the general fund. Over the years, overhead has become an increasingly important component of university budgets. As one wag described it, "overhead is the crack cocaine of the academy." It distorts everything: from the kinds of scholarly activities undertaken by individual faculty to universities' positions on matters that have little to do with scholarship and everything to do with ideological agendas. About these matters, we will have much to say in the future. For the present, it is sufficient to note that universities have very concrete reasons to contain the scandal, no less than the innumerable other entities with vested interests in promoting the green agenda.

Making Sausage. What surprised this correspondent was not the contents of the ClimateGate emails, but that of the "Harry_Read_Me" file, in which the amount of "processing" that goes into generating the thermometer record is nade painfully apparent. I think most people imagine it's simply a matter of collecting and averaging temperatures, but as discussed briefly in an earlier post, things aren't so simple. Weather stations come and go; they move; the surrounding environment changes; not all stations report all of the data all of the time, etc. As a result, outfits such as CRU use complicated, and, if the code documented by Harry is any indication, poorly implemented algorithms to adjust existing data and to construct "synthetic data," when real numbers are unavailable. In other words, what gets displayed in "temperature anomaly vs. time" diagrams is sausage, and what goes into that sausage — well, if you haven't read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, this might be a good time.

Prior to ClimateGate, this author's preferred hypothesis was that 20th century warming was real, but that the case for the case for anthropogenic warming remained unproved, if not unlikely. Today, he entertains an alternative, which is that some, perhaps a substantial, fraction of the warming we are said to have experienced is a lie — possibly inadvertent; possibly, deliberate.
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09 December 2009

Copenhagen Climate Challenge.

An "Open Letter to Secretary-General of United Nations ... " challenging AGW alarmists on ten principal talking points has been prepared by Copenhagen Climate Challenge. In part, the letter reads as follows:

"Climate change science is in a period of ‘negative discovery’ - the more we learn about this exceptionally complex and rapidly evolving field the more we realize how little we know. Truly, the science is NOT settled. …

"We the undersigned, being qualified in climate-related scientific disciplines, challenge the UNFCCC and supporters of the United Nations Climate Change Conference to produce convincing OBSERVATIONAL EVIDENCE for their claims of dangerous human-caused global warming and other changes in climate. Projections of possible future scenarios from unproven computer models of climate are not acceptable substitutes for real world data obtained through unbiased and rigorous scientific investigation." [Emphasis added]

As of morning 9 December, there were 141 signatories, including some prominent skeptics: Akasofu, Happer, Lindzen, Plimer, Spencer, etc. To read the complete letter and sign, go here.

N.B. CCC checks your credentials before adding your name. It takes a while.

Update (14 December). The number of signatories has remained constant since the preceding first posted. Apparently, the CCC crew asleep at the switch. Too bad!
They were even listed briefly on Drudge. These things require follow through.

Update (20 December). The authors of CCC are once again adding names to their letter, this time distinguishing between climatologists and signatories in allied disciplines. If you haven't already signed it, please consider doing so.
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03 December 2009

ClimateGate Gleanings.

Clippy is always ready to help. From Borepatch.
Here are some gleanings from the web plus commentary:
  • FOIA. At Watt's Up with That, Willis Eschenbach juxtaposes FOIA resistance by the Climategate principals, as revealed by their emails, and his own attempts to gain access to CRU(d) data / codes. The resulting chronology sheds new light on the goings on at CRU(d) — who did what, when and why. An added bonus for most readers: you get to add a new word to your not for polite conversation vocabulary.

  • Fisking Nature. A point by point rebuttal of Nature's recent editorial, ("Climatologists under pressure," Nature. 462: 545) has been posted at L'Ombre de l'Olivier. The first Nature editorial, "Aphorisms of Goethe," by T. H. Huxley, was published in 1869. In his early years, Goethe, better known as a poet and the author of Faust, made important contributions to natural history, in particular the discovery of what we now call "serial homology" and "the law of compensation or balancement of growth." These phenomena would later be deemed compatible with Darwin's selection theory — hence the significance of Huxley's choice of subject matter. In greater detail, Nature was founded by Huxley and a handful of associates as a means of promoting scientific professionalism and, by extension, their own careers and agendas, one of which was the advocacy of evolution — see, for example, Barton, R. 1998. Huxley, Lubbock, and half a dozen others: Professionals and gentlemen in the formation of the X-Club, 1851-1864. Isis. 89: 414-444.

    A hundred and forty years later, the journal's agenda-driven character persists, and, in recent years, it has been firmly in the AGW camp. Yesterday's defense of beleaguered climatologists thus comes as no surprise. It is also regrettable. As one of the world's two premier scientific publications, Nature is enormously influential.

    To L'Ombre de l'Olivier's analysis of the recent editorial, I offer a comment or two concerning the magnitude of the stakes as perceived by its author. Experience suggests that many (most? nearly all?) of these gatekeepers of scientific expression are undismayed by the possible economic and social consequences of carbon abatement. Got to break a few eggs, etc. What they do care about is the restriction of scientific discourse to those "entitled" to an opinion.

    In "Huxley and Wilberforce: A legendary encounter," J. R. Lucas (1979. The Historical Journal 22: 313-330), observed,
    "Science, in the first half of the nineteenth century ... , was part of the intellectual culture of mankind, into which all might enter and from which all might profit. But from 1860 onwards it becomes more of a closed shop, with its own puritan ethic, from which amateurs are more and more excluded. ... The men of science who attended the British Association in 1860 and were hearing from Professor Draper, M.D., of New York 'On the Intellectual Development of Europe' were to give way to the academics we know, for many of whom it is a point of professional pride to know nothing outside their own special subject."
    Thus, by 1867, Fleeming Jenkin, in his devastating review of The Origin of Species, felt compelled to justify his right to an opinion on a subject outside his area expertise — Jenkin was an engineer. "About the truth and extent of those facts [observations reputed to contradict Darwin's theory]," he wrote,
    "none but men possessing a special knowledge of physiology and natural history have any right to an opinion; but the superstructure based on those facts enters the region of pure reason, and may be discussed apart from all doubt as to the fundamental facts." [Emphasis added]
    Like the contemptuous dismissals by Mann, Jones, et al. of "outsiders" like McIntyre, the message of the more moderately worded Nature editorial is "Trespassers W." Understandably so. Money, influence, political power, all in staggering abundance, are involved. With the advent of the internet, supremely capable "amateurs" like Steve McIntyre are once again gaining a voice, even as the high priests of the temple defend their turf. It is no exaggeration to say that Climategate is really about "Who shall rule?"

  • The MWP. For reviews of the evidence supporting the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) as a global phenomenon, and discussion of why this is important. go here and here. The MWP, of course, is that time in the earth's climatological history that Michael Mann characterized as "putative" and sought to "contain."

  • Bishop Hill. CRU(d) Mail highlights available here.

  • Judith Curry. A recent interview with the Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech is posted here. In a previous piece published at Climate Audit, Curry called for greater transparency even while attempting to explain, if not excuse, CRU(d) gate principals' behavior. Her more recent statements are less "understanding," and appear motivated, at least in part, by feedback from the rest of the scientific community, i.e., people outside climatology. These folks are appalled.

  • Sarah Palin. The heroine of grass roots conservatism has weighed in on CRU(d)gate:
    "Policy should be based on sound science, not snake oil. I took a stand against such snake oil science when I sued the federal government over its decision to list the polar bear as an endangered species despite the fact that the polar bear population has increased. I’ve never denied the reality of climate change; ... But while we recognize the effects of changing water levels, erosion patterns, and glacial ice melt, we cannot primarily blame man’s activities for the earth’s cyclical weather changes. The drastic economic measures being pushed by dogmatic environmentalists won’t change the weather, but will dramatically change our economy for the worse." [Emphasis added]
    Indeed.
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27 November 2009

It's the Code, Stupid!

Bad code offsets are rumored to have been purchased in bulk by the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit.
Previously, it was suggested that the CRU programmers are "in over their heads." As people dig further into the "hacked" files, the truth of this assessment becomes increasingly evident. Take, for example, the file in which "Harry" records his (possibly FOIA motivated) efforts in 2006-2009 to resurrect / repair his predecessors' handiwork.

The programs in question process data from thousand of weather stations world-wide. Now consider the following: Each station has an ID, of course. But, Station IDs don't conform to a standard format. Neither do the data they report. From time to time, the IDs change; likewise the format in which the data is reported. Not all stations report all of the data all of the time. Sometimes they report some of it; sometimes, none at all. For better or worse, the folks at CRU substitute "synthetic" data for the missing numbers which they create from data reported by nearby sites. To determine which sites to use, they locate each station on a map and draw circles around its position. If another station lies within the circle, its data goes into the mix. But coastal stations make for a problem because land temperatures and sea temperatures are handled differently. So a station's position (latitude and longitude) can be critical. And sometimes the stations move. In short, assembling the numbers from which CRU computes global temperature "anomalies" is a book-keeping nightmare. Add to this the fact that the programming was done by graduate students, who left thousands of poorly (if at all) documented files for their successors to puzzle over, and you get a witches' brew that cries out for external review and / or independent replication.>

Here are some gems culled from the Harry_Read_Me file by TickerForum.org poster Asimov — my comments in square brackets. They've been referenced elsewhere, but some things in this life merit repetition. Also, as of 1041 h (EST), 29 November, the site is unreachable:
  • "Well, dtr2cld is not the world's most complicated program. Wheras [sic] cloudreg is, and I immediately found a mistake! Scanning forward to 1951 was done with a loop that, for completely unfathomable reasons, didn't include months! So we read 50 grids instead of 600!!"
  • "... have just located a 'cld' directory in Mark New's disk [Mark New was one of the student programmers], containing over 2000 files. Most however are binary [and therefore unreadable] and undocumented."
  • "The conclusion of a lot of investigation is that the synthetic cloud grids for 1901-1995 have now been discarded. This means that the cloud data prior to 1996 are static. ... For 1901 to 1995 - stay with published data. No clear way to replicate process as undocumented. For 1996 to 2002: ... This should approximate the correction needed." [Emphasis added]
  • "I am seriously worried that our flagship gridded data product is produced by Delaunay triangulation [new to this author] - apparently linear [as opposed to great circles on a sphere?] as well. As far as I can see, this renders the station counts totally meaningless. [Not sure why, but for now, I'll take Harry's word for it] It also means that we cannot say exactly how the gridded data is arrived at from a statistical perspective - since we're using an off-the-shelf product that isn't documented sufficiently to say that. Why this wasn't coded up in Fortran I don't know - time pressures perhaps? Was too much effort expended on homogenisation, that there wasn't enough time to write a gridding procedure? Of course, it's too late for me to fix it too." [Emphasis added]
  • "On we go.. firstly, examined the spc database.. seems to be in % x10. Looked at published data.. cloud is in % x10, too. First problem: there is no program to convert sun percentage to cloud percentage. I can do sun percentage to cloud oktas or sun hours to cloud percentage! So what the hell did Tim [Mitchell, the other student-programmer] do?!! As I keep asking." [Emphasis added]
  • "Then - comparing the two candidate spc databases: spc.0312221624.dtb [and] spc.94-00.0312221624.dtb[,] I find that they are broadly similar, except the normals lines (which both start with '6190') are very different. I was expecting that maybe the latter contained 94-00 normals [not sure what these are, but apparently they're important; maybe 1994-2000 averages], what I wasn't expecting was that thet [sic] are in % x10 not %! Unbelievable - even here the conventions have not been followed. It's botch after botch after botch. Modified the conversion program to process either kind of normals line." [Emphasis added]
  • "Decided to go with the 'spc.94-00.0312221624.dtb' database, as it hopefully has some of the 94-00 normals in. I just wish I knew more." [Emphasis added]
  • "These [results of a trial run] are very promising. The vast majority in both cases are within 0.5 degrees of the published data. However, there are still plenty of values more than a degree out." [As Asimov notes, "He [Harry]'s trying to fit the results of his programs and data to PREVIOUS results." N.B. While discrepancies of 0.5 to 1.0 degrees C may not seem especially troubling, it should be recalled that a century's worth of CO2-induced warming (according to the models) is on the order of 3-5 degrees C.] [Emphasis added]
Runtime Errors. Additional discussion of the coding issues can be found at L'Ombre de l'Olivier — two posts, "The HADCRU Code as From the CRU Leak" and "More CRU Code Thoughts". Their author, a retired programmer, categorizes the various infelicities. Arguably the one with the greatest adverse potential is the
"use of program libra[r]y subroutines that ... fail at undefined times and ... when the function fails[,] the program silently continues without reporting the error" [Emphasis in the original].
Sigh! Runtime errors are the bane of programming. If they do something dramatic, like crash the program or produce obviously nonsensical output, it's OK. Eventually, you find the bug and squash it. But if the effects are subtle, your first notice that something's wrong may be a query from a colleague / competitor wondering why he couldn't replicate your results.

Quality Control. The mess that is CRU bears on quality control standards, on peer review and on the changing nature of scientific research. With regard to quality control, our L'Ombre de l'Olivier correspondent observes:
"When I was a developer, in addition to the concepts of version control and frequent archiving, one thing my evil commercially oriented supervisors insisted on were 'code reviews'. This is the hated point where your manager and/or some other experienced developer goes through your code and critiques it in terms of clarity and quality."
Obviously, nothing of the sort transpired at CRU, most likely because there were no "experienced developers" to go through the codes. This raises the question: "Should it have transpired?" Poster Patrick, at L'Ombre observes that "It is probably better to have scientists writing bad code than programmers doing bad science." Other posters note that confidence in science results, not by someone's approving the "how" of what was done, but by independent replication — if an experiment, then on someone else's lab bench; if a theoretical calculation, then with someone else's algorithm and if data analysis, then with someone else's ad hoc assumptions and the code that implements them. These are valid observations, but there are two important caveats. The first is that replication really has to be independent. A bot mot (at the expense of the computational physics crowd) that has stayed with me over the years involves the passing of code from one lab to another, gremlins intact. That's true for things as run of the mill as differential equation solvers, matrix inverters, etc. The important point is that as soon as things get too complicated to prove , i.e., proposition, lemma, theorem, Q.E.D, what's going on, one is doing experiments. So, if it's differential equations being studied, the sensible investigator convinces himself that his results are not solver-dependent. Likewise, in the case of data analysis, one wants to be sure that the results are robust with regard to the programs that crunch the numbers and, when data are manipulated prior to analysis, and, boy, are climatological time series ever, that trends, "statistical significance," etc. aren't artifactual.

Finally, there's the source of the data. AGW proponents like to point out that similar results have been reported by different groups. But as McIntyre, McKitrick and others have pointed out, the same data sets are used over and over, and the analyses therefore not independent. This appears to be the case in both paleoclimatological and historical studies that rely on a limited number.

Peer Review. In my honors and upper division classes, I insist that students reference the peer reviewed literature. If it's not peer reviewed, I tell them, they have no way of judging the truth of the conclusions. I also tell them that every scientific paper that's ever been published is wrong, the only questions being how wrong and how long it takes the scientific community to discover the errors. So how much protection does peer review actually provide? Not a whole lot if the article in question fails to provide enough information to allow the reader to replicate the results. Many (most? all?) of the climate change papers that I have seen fail this test resoundingly. Indeed, most reviewers restrict themselves to assessing a paper's overall plausibility, the appropriateness of the methods, the extent to which the results are consistent with previously published studies, etc. Only occasionally does a reviewer attempt to reproduce the results, and, in such cases, the editorial response is unpredictable. Sometimes, the reviewer receives a letter thanking him for going the extra mile; on other occasions, one accusing him of attempting a hit job. And, of course, reviewers sometimes have an ax to grind. If the paper in question goes against their own work, they may do what they can to see that it is rejected. Correspondingly, if the paper supports a reviewer's work, he may be inclined offer a favorable response, even if there are problems. Finally, peer review, to say nothing of the funding process, discriminates against ideas and approaches that are outside the box. Let me be clear. My object is not to deny the utility of peer review, but to suggest that it is something less than a guarantee of accuracy.

The Changing Nature of Science. More and more, scientific research is being carried out by teams who tackle projects that, because of their sheer magnitude, do not lend themselves to checking. This is true across disciplines, and it is certainly true of climatology. To verify the results of an outfit like CRU, one needs another group of roughly comparable size. Now it is true that CRU is not the only entity engaged in large-scale climate studies. But it is also true that there are only a couple of others, and they all cooperate. The result is what amounts to monopolistic practices and the need, for the scientific equivalent of anti-trust legislation.
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23 November 2009

And So It Begins.

Hide the Decline

Well done and a good laugh, even though it's the wrong decline — see Marc Sheppard, "Understanding Climategate's Hidden Decline," at The American Thinker.
At The Global Warming Policy Foundation, recently launched, we read the following:
"In response to recent revelations contained in leaked e-mails originating from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, Lord Lawson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the GWPF, has called for a rigorous and independent inquiry into the matter. While reserving judgment on the contents of the e-mails, Lord Lawson said these are very serious issues and allegations that reach to "the heart of scientific integrity and credibility:
'Astonishingly, what appears, at least at first blush, to have emerged is that (a) the scientists have been manipulating the raw temperature figures to show a relentlessly rising global warming trend; (b) they have consistently refused outsiders access to the raw data; (c) the scientists have been trying to avoid freedom of information requests; and (d) they have been discussing ways to prevent papers by dissenting scientists being published in learned journals.

'There may be a perfectly innocent explanation. But what is clear is that the integrity of the scientific evidence on which not merely the British Government, but other countries, too, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, claim to base far-reaching and hugely expensive policy decisions, has been called into question. And the reputation of British science has been seriously tarnished. A high-level independent inquiry must be set up without delay.' "
We concur and further urge that parallel inquiries be initiated at the home institutions of the individual scientists involved. These entities are recipients of millions of dollars of governmental funds, both as direct costs and as overhead returns that have become the crack cocaine of the academy. They have an obligation to see to it that minimal — forget about "the highest" — standards of ethical behavior are observed by their employees.

Meanwhile. Luboš Motl continues his review of emails over at The Reference Frame. I especially like the one (from Tom Wigley to Timothy Carter, dated 24 April, 2003) about getting rid of a journal editor consequent to the publication of an article adverse to the Hockey Stick:
"PS Re CR [Climate Research], I do not know the best way to handle the specifics of the editoring. Hans von Storch is partly to blame -- he encourages the publication of crap science 'in order to stimulate debate'. One approach is to go direct to the publishers and point out the fact that their journal is perceived as being a medium for disseminating misinformation under the guise of refereed work. I use the word 'perceived' here, since whether it is true or not is not what the publishers care about -- it is how the journal is seen by the community that counts.[Emphasis added]

"I think we could get a large group of highly credentialed scientists to sign such a letter -- 50+ people.

"Note that I am copying this view only to Mike Hulme and Phil Jones. Mike's idea to get editorial board members to resign will probably not work -- must get rid of von Storch too, otherwise holes will eventually fill up with people like Legates, Balling, Lindzen, Michaels, Singer, etc. I have heard that the publishers are not happy with von Storch, so the above approach might remove that hurdle too." [Emphasis added]
In the event, von Storch resigned along with four other editors because CR's publisher refused to print a letter he had composed suggesting "that the publication of the Soon & Baliunas article [the paper in question] was an error, and that the review process at Climate Research would be changed in order to avoid similar failures. ... The problem," he continues,
"is not whether the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than the 20th century, or if Mann's hockey stick is realistic; the problem is that the methodological basis for such a conclusion was simply not given. ... However, my authority as Editor-in-Chief did obviously not cover the publication of an editorial spelling out the problem. The publisher declined the publication, and I canceled my task as Editor-in-Chief immediately on 28 July 2003."
More recently, and subsequent to the present scandal's irruption, von Storch has written what he calls a "little addendum" (same link):
"I have been often in the cross-fire of alarmists and skeptics, two politicized gangs of climate activists - who often have something useful to say, but who are conditioned by their respective loyalties to their "agendas", while not being too much interested in providing the cold and impassionate science needed to come up with reasonable and acceptable climate policies." [Emphasis added]
For additional commentary, go here (discussion of the Hockey Stick controversy) and here (discussion of the hacked emails). In the latter, we read the following:
"I would assume ... that a useful debate about the degree of politicization of climate science will emerge. A conclusion could be that the principle, according to which data must be made public, so that also adversaries may check the analysis, must be really enforced. Another conclusion could be that scientists like Mike Mann, Phil Jones and others should no longer participate in the peer-review process or in assessment activities like IPCC. [Emphasis added]
A Prescription for Error. Von Storch's conclusions, I believe, are self-evident. They also raise a more fundamental problem, which is that the people doing the science should not also be formulating policy. But even when the scientist's role is limited to doing science, there are problems. Objectivity is a precious and vulnerable commodity; asking investigators to be assess the validity of their own ideas, a prescription for error. The late Michael Crichton, put it this way:
"Just as we have established a tradition of double-blinded research to determine drug efficacy, we must institute double-blinded research in other policy areas as well. Certainly the increased use of computer models, such as GCMs, cries out for the separation of those who make the models from those who verify them. The fact is that the present structure of science is entrepeneurial, with individual investigative teams vying for funding from organizations which all too often have a clear stake in the outcome of the research-or appear to, which may be just as bad. This is not healthy for science.

"Sooner or later, we must form an independent research institute in this country. It must be funded by industry, by government, and by private philanthropy, both individuals and trusts. The money must be pooled, so that investigators do not know who is paying them. The institute must fund more than one team to do research in a particular area, and the verification of results will be a foregone requirement: teams will know their results will be checked by other groups. In many cases, those who decide how to gather the data will not gather it, and those who gather the data will not analyze it. If we were to address the land temperature records with such rigor, we would be well on our way to an understanding of exactly how much faith we can place in global warming, and therefore [with] what seriousness we must address this." [Emphasis added]
Returning to the emails, the extent to which von Storch's decision to resign was prompted by the tactics discussed in Wigley's letter is unclear. What is clear is that the very consideration of such tactics is a stain on the profession. What were these people thinking?
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22 November 2009

Just Read it!

For an interesting look at what goes on behind closed doors, go to http://www.tickerforum.org/cgi-ticker/akcs-www?post=118625&page=13. At issue is a file called HARRY_READ_ME.txt, which, according to the poster, consists of "15,000 lines of comments, much of it copy/pastes of code or output by somebody (who's harry?) trying to make sense of it all ...." Just read it; I'm not going to opine other than to suggest that close inspection of the simulation codes, i.e., the gobbledygook that implements the "models," might prove even more discomfiting. Briggs (see previous post) suggests that the Climategate principals are intelligent. Of course they are. But they're also in over their heads, way over. And doing this stuff in FORTRAN — I say this as a long-time programmer in that language — doesn't make things easier. Nor does it appear, from some of the shenanigans in the code, that the coders were particularly fluent in the language — system calls to "wc" and the like. Yuck!
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20 November 2009

Climate Change and the Academic-Political Complex.

What has emerged since the end of the Cold War is an academic-political complex, the significance of which cannot be overstated. Fairness, contrary to the view of some critics, is not the principal casualty. Rather, the corpse in the quadrangle is Truth, which, however slippery it may sometimes appear, is distinguishable from propaganda. And so we come to climate change, a "science" that seems destined to join the ranks of iconic examples of agenda-driven balderdash — think craniometry, eugenics and Lysenkoism. Global warming skeptics have long recognized this, but today the charge acquires new veracity with the publication of emails and data that point to coordinated efforts by leading climatologists to hide, manipulate and falsify data in order to buttress the case for anthropogenic (we nasty humans did it) global warming (AGW).

Before proceeding, some specifics and links to what's out there:
  • The emails, along with additional data, are from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Britain. CRU, an acronym that cries out for an additional letter, a terminal "D," is one of the big players in climate warming, and the emails involve influential investigators of international stature: Briffa, Jones, Mann, Overpeck, Schmidt, to name a few.

  • At this writing, the material appears to be genuine. The Register reports that "the University of East Anglia has confirmed that a data breach has put a large quantity of emails and other documents from staff at its Climate Research Unit online." At the same time, they also quote a CRU spokesman as being unable to confirm the authenticity of all the material. "We are aware," he tells them, "that information from a server used for research information in one area of the university has been made available on public websites. Because of the volume of this information we cannot currently confirm that all of this material is genuine" [Emphasis added].

  • Even without confirmation, inspection of the data suggests that most or all of it is real. Luboš Motl puts it this way:
    "You really don't want to type all these files by hand. Each subdirectory contains either numerous subfolders or dozens of DOC, PRO, TXT, no-suffix, ARS, CRN, CRNS, DAT, RAW, and other files. I don't know anyone who could create such an amount of authentic things in a finite affine time. The only alternative," he continues,"is that the bulk of the files is real and some 'cherries' have been added or edited. But that would still require a collaboration of a good hacker with a good person who follows climate science (a well-informed skeptic), or the unification of these two roles in one person. Somewhat unlikely. In my opinion, the most likely story is that all these files are 100% legitimate."
  • The emails are available in chronological order here [404 error as of 11/26], and as a searchable data base here. A zip file containing the data — emails and text — is available at File Dropper. Motl, who lists this and additional links, warrants that the files are clean.

  • A growing number of links and comments are posted at Climate Depot, where the story is being given top billing. Interesting examples of apparent chicanery have been reproduced by Andrew Bolt at HeraldSun.com.au. Explication of one of the seemingly more egregious, "Mike's Nature trick," can be read at Climate Audit, which, due to the resulting upsurge in traffic, now boasts a mirror site.

  • Steve McIntyre's laconic, and eminently quotable, summary reaction was "Words fail me." More expansively, Motl emphasized the financial aspect of the scandal: "These people should be put in jail as soon as possible. ... [They] have acquired millions if not billions of taxpayers' money by methods that seem to be provably fraudulent." Still more extensively, Tom Nelson observed
    "So the 1079 emails and 72 documents seem indeed evidence of a scandal involving ... the most prominent scientists pushing the man-made warming theory - a scandal that is one of the greatest in modern science. I’ve been adding some of the most astonishing in updates below - emails suggesting conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more. If it is as it now seems, never again will 'peer review' be used to shout down sceptics."
  • William Briggs advocates a more measured response. He writes:
    "As far as I can tell by my early reading, all the folks in those emails truly believe their models (it’s the observations they don’t love).

    There is no conspiracy, as far as I can tell. A conspiracy would obtain if the participants knew their stated beliefs were false, yet the still espoused them with the goal of winning either money, or power, or control, or whatever. My early, and admittedly incomplete, judgment is that all of these people really are convinced that catastrophic warming is on the way and that it will be caused by mankind. Further, they believe it fervently.

    "So, caution, friends. Try not to use the word “conspiracy” too readily. It is an extremely strong word—and it is beside the point. Or should be.

    "If, as a skeptic, you try to club the email originators over the head with conspiracy, they have the easiest defense: they believe. And people will see that they believe, that there is no conspiracy, and you will look like a brute and an ass. Meanwhile, what should really be at question—will it get hotter, colder, or can we know with sufficient precision—will be left unanswered.

    "Again, I see conviction in these emails, and strained attempts to tame and fix their creations, the models, so that the models’ outputs fall in line with what they believe. This sort of “experimenter’s bias” is fair game, and should be noted. It is the main story, I think.

    "But attempts to point out bias should be formed with compassion and not passion. This is not the time to settle scores, but to gain allies. We are dealing with a group of highly intelligent people and they can be convinced of mistakes where they exist."
  • In contrast to Briggs, here quoted at length because I disagree with him, are A. C. Montford's summaries of some four dozen of the letters at Bishop Hill. Among the topics discussed are the silencing of critics, the removal of unsympathetic journal editors, the deletion of (possibly incriminating) email and manipulation of the press. This is in addition to withholding and playing tricks with the data.

  • Over at Canada Free Press, Jim Ball writes of "the death blow to climate science"; at American Thinker, Marc Sheppard decries "the evidence of climate fraud." Especially delicious is Marc's reproduction of the following analysis by Tom Wigley writing to Briffa regarding the with-holding of data, an issue that has been going back and forth between McIntyre and CRU for some while now:
    "And the issue of with-holding data is still a hot potato, one that affects both you and Keith (and Mann). Yes, there are reasons - but many *good* scientists appear to be unsympathetic to these. The trouble here is that with-holding data looks like hiding something, and hiding means (in some eyes) that it is bogus science that is being hidden.

    "I think Keith needs to be very, very careful in how he handles this. I'd be willing to check over anything he puts together."
  • This author's incomplete perusal of the letters — more accurately, a very shallow dipping into the muck — is consistent with Mountford's — which is to say that I came upon several of the same instances of outlandish behavior. As to whether or not Jones et al., are guilty of conspiracy legally, I haven't the foggiest. In that narrow sense, Briggs may be right. That having been said, I rather doubt that the letter writers, however highly intelligent they be, "can be convinced of mistakes where they exist." What one appears to be dealing with is a collection of scoundrels who will have their way no matter what. What fraction of their behavior derives from personal ambition, what fraction, from ideology, etc., will be determined, or at least argued over, by future historians. For now, it's sufficient to note that they are scoundrels. So I'm with Motl.
The Two Ladders. In his marvelous retelling of the discovery of evolution, Loren Eiseley observed that there are two ladders into the past: paleontology and the comparative study of living beings. For climatologists, there are likewise two roads to the future.
  • In the first place, there are computer simulations that predict catastrophic warming consequent to continuing accumulations of atmospheric carbon. These calculations, it is often observed, are not evidentiary. They confirm nothing. Rather, they are hypotheses and, as such, subject to falsification by observation. Indeed, there is good reason to believe that they can only be "tweaked" to fit 20th century data by careful parametric adjustment. This, plus the fact that they cannot account for the past ten years' lack of warming, suggests that they are fundamentally flawed — useful, perhaps as research tools, but unreliable for divination.

  • The second way to the future paradoxically involves the study of climates past, necessarily via the use of proxy variables (tree rings and the like) once one gets back far enough. Here the object is to determine the extent to which current climates are exceptional, which is what the models predict. According to IPCC-2 (see the Figure), the Medieval Warm period equaled or eclipsed anything post industrial. For AGW to be important, it had to go — see Ball's reference to Overpeck's alleged assertion that "We must get rid of the Medieval Warm Period." Enter Michael Mann and the hockey stick, poster child of IPCC-3, and the claim that today's climate is the hottest in eight to ten thousand years.
About both roads a great deal can be said. The computer simulations, as I have previously written, replace "a system system we don't understand with models we can't understand — at least not mathematically." This is no technicality. Writ large in climatological time series are the fingerprints of chaos — not just unpredictability, but cyclicity on a wide range of time scales, which is as much a symptom of chaos as sensitivity to initial conditions ("butterfly effect"). The models do not reproduce this; therefore, they are wrong, not just in failing to predict a decade's worth of stationary temperatures, but in failing to predict a fundamental property of the entire record. When modelers appeal to the ENSO, when they re-initialize the initial conditions so as to harmonize simulation with current observation, they merely admit that the models cannot by themselves replicate the qualitative essentials of the system they purport to caricature. Until the models can do this absent parametric adjustment, they are simply not believable.

As to the ladder into the past, the essential point is that with paleo proxies, one sees through the glass darkly. That's the reason for the fancy statistics, the impenetrable arguments regarding the legitimacy of this procedure or that, and so on. With a (considerably higher) signal to noise ratio, the need for such analysis would disappear. Perhaps, one day, better proxies will be found. Until then, caveat emptor.

Richard Levins, the brilliant Harvard ecologist who did good work, his Marxist inclinations notwithstanding, once quipped that "truth is the intersection of three or more independent lies." By "independent lies," he meant "plausible simplifications, i.e., models, that differ in their particulars." In the case of climate change, we have two lies and the evidence of the emails is that they are not independent. To convince oneself of the truth of this assertion, one has only to compare the double blind standard of the medical community with the tweak and fudge apparent in both the climatologists' emails and in the published literature. Indeed, even as this article is being edited, Steve McIntyre's readers have begun delving into the computer codes wherein the sausage passed off as data was ground. The preliminary results are, shall we say, less than edifying — see "These will be artificially adjusted" by R. Neal.

Finally. The Greens will not be dissuaded. For them, mankind is a cancer on the planet, and the appeal of climate change, that it represents an opportunity to diminish humanity's per capita ecological footprint and, ultimately, its total numbers. Outfits such as Optimum Population advocate a world population of 3-5 million, which goal, were it to be accomplished in the near-term, would entail a level of slaughter the likes of which we have thankfully never seen. Measured against this horrific standard, the tweaking of a few data sets is of negligible consequence. Gotta break a few eggs to make that omelet.
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04 November 2009

Three Wrights and a Wrong.

Pavel Trofimovich Morosov, hero-informer of the infamous Soviet morality tale.
The word "wright" (worker), deriving from the Old English "wryhta," survives principally in combinations — "playwright," "wheelwright," etc. — and also as a surname. Famous Wrights include the brothers, Wilbur and Orville, the architect, Frank Lloyd, and the population geneticist, Sewall. The first two are known to most; the third, principally to students of evolution. Perhaps, in a later post, we will discuss the latter's contributions to the "modern synthesis," a between the world wars confection of mathematics, observation and experiment that sought to harmonize nineteenth century Darwinism with the then nascent science of genetics. Perhaps, even, we will discuss Wright's famous quarrel with R. A. Fisher another important contributer to the theory. But those undertakings, as the Teletubby remarked, we "save for later."

Wright Makes Wrong. Like our faithful canine companions, not all Wrights go to Heaven. One who may have difficulty gaining admittance is the Reverend Jeremiah. Accuracy in Media reports that this notorious promoter of things nefarious has good things to say (is anyone surprised?) about Marxism, the recorded evidence of which endorsement surfaced briefly at Vimeo. That video has now disappeared, but, as sleuthed by Cliff Kincaid, whose exegetical commentary can be read here, Reverend Wright's address can still be viewed in parts (here, here and here).

What interests this correspondent is not the content of brother Jeremiah's remarks, which, like that of his character, is questionable, but the parallel to practices of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (GSE). In the halcyon days of Soviet socialism, GSE subscribers sometimes received replacements for articles no longer deemed accurate along with instructions to delete the originals — literally, to cut and paste. "Accurate," of course, meant consistent with the changing party line, which circumstance, in addition to providing grist for George Orwell, necessitated the continuous rewriting of history.

Pavel Trofimovich Morosov. Regarding the Wright video, AIM's editor notes, "We do not know why the original ... was taken down, but [we] have our suspicions." So too, one hazards, does Svetlana Kunin, whose most recent article on this nation's rush to recreate the Soviet past merits serious consideration. The pattern would likewise have been familiar to the family of Pavlik Morozov, hero-informer of the infamous Soviet morality tale to which Kunin alludes. The offical story, most likely apocryphal
— see Pavlik Morozov: Soviet Boy Hero, Seventeen Moments in Soviet History and this recent article in Pravdahas young Pavel reporting his father to the Cheka for crimes against the state and subsequently dying a martyr at the hands of vengeful relatives. Remarkably, a modest contribution by George Soros is being (or already has been) used to reopen the museum that once honored Pavlik's memory, "this time," according to the first reference, "with a display placing [his] life ... in the context of the collectivization campaign, and of the political repression that it represented." How ironic: the tale foisted upon generations of Soviet school children celebrated the primacy of government over family, the same objective being pursued by Soros' far more generously funded American minions at Service.gov. The world wonders.
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13 September 2009

Passing Trains.

Date: Early 1940's (inferred from the GS-4 on the point and the use of full-width diaphragms); Time: Approximately 8:30 AM. Place: Lower San Francisco peninsula. The Coast Daylight (left) to Los Angeles passes the north-bound Lark, the last two cars of which, having been been split off from the main consist at San José, are now en route to Oakland.
Longfellow wrote of ships. But I've always been partial to trains. In the United States, long distance rail travel was at its pinnacle in the years preceding and following World War II. The most famous passenger trains, the Twentieth Century Ltd. and the Superchief, each traversed half the continent, allowing for connection in Chicago. But for my money, it was traffic along Southern Pacific's "coast route" that set the standard. With "Golden State" class steam locomotives on the point, trains like the Coast Daylight and the Lark linked California's two largest cities, affording their riders speed, comfort and incomparable views of the Pacific, the latter accessible only by rail.

Nations also pass each other with "only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness." Sometimes the occupants of one vessel are more cognizant of the moment than those of the other. In the Russian press, one finds discussion of the changes now propelling America in the direction of socialism or something worse. Stanislav Mishin ("American Capitalism Gone with a Whimper") advises that
"... Russian owners of American companies and industries should look thoughtfully at ... the option of closing their facilities down and fleeing the land of the Red as fast as possible. In other words, divest while there is still value left."
Closer to home, Svetlana Kunin, who came to America in 1980, writes as follows:
"In the USSR, economic equality was achieved by redistributing wealth, ensuring that everyone remained poor, with the exception of those doing the redistributing. ...

"When I ... experienced life in this country, I thought it was fortunate that those living in the USSR did not know how unfortunate they were.

"Now in 2009, I realize how unfortunate it is that many Americans do not understand how fortunate they are. They vote to give government more and more power without understanding the consequences." ["The Perspective of a Russian Immigrant," IBD Editorials]
Just so. The deficiencies of contemporary Russian "democracy" notwithstanding, our country is headed whence came the motherland. Meanwhile, the New York Times, along with other representatives of the fourth estate, does what it can to ignore burgeoning evidence of the incipient Marxist takeover. And, of course, there is the pitter-patter of little feet, the advance, now quickening, of slow variables that aim to "unseam us," as it were, "from the nave to the chops" — all this, twenty years after the Berlin Wall. Mmm, mmm, mmm!
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12 September 2009

After the Party — a Convention.

"The Congress, ... on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which ... shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress;" Article 5, U.S. Constitution.
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03 September 2009

A Letter from Phil.

It's been more than a decade since my old buddy, Phil, was expelled from one of the Ivies, sad to say, for "mooning" the chaplain's wife. After 'the incident' and a failed attempt at therapy, Phil drifted west where he attended law school and discovered that he could support himself nicely promoting "of course, it's legal" investment schemes. Occasionally, we correspond — which fact I mention by way of introducing the following account, recently received, of a town hall meeting in southern Arizona.

Before proceeding, a little more about Phil to give context to his remarks:
  • Phil's favorite word is "excess;" his preferred expression for evidencing enthusiasm, "Whoa, excess!" sometimes reduced to "Whoa!" delivered in a cadenced baritone and a Nashville accent.

  • He is deeply attached to crudities, which affection remains pretty much what it was in college.

  • He hates universities, generally, their speech codes, in particular, the latter because they limit 'freedom of expression', which is how he views 'the incident'.

  • He also hates 'controlling people': professors, therapists of all sorts and especially psychiatrists, the latter, because, in the course of the counseling noted above, he 'was shot down in flames' by a 'bodaceous lady shrink'.

  • Ever partial to gluttony, Phil has recently slimmed down to a svelte 290 pounds — 'all muscle.'

  • Despite a respectable income, he doesn't pay much in the way of taxes.

  • His disdain for pyramid schemes (see below) is, shall we say, selective.

  • Phil rarely walks, preferring instead his souped-up 1951 Imperial — 'built like a tank' — that guzzles 2-3 gallons per mile in traffic, but 'makes up for it on the road'. Also, 'the fillies love it'.

  • Phil now counts himself a member of the TEA party movement; will it survive the encounter?
And now, to Phil's recent epistle. As always, edits (most for the sake of decorum), clarifications, etc., in square brackets.
"Hey T. A. -

We were pretty rude last night. Excess! Giffords, [Representative, D. Az.], Carmona [former Surgeon General] and two pro-Obama Care plants — a Ph.D and a shrink — took some major [unprintable]. [Unprintable]s deserved it; crooks; liars. 'Fire 'em all!' I said; audience loved it. Too bad I can't go into politics. [Unprintable] [unprintable]s 'd start digging around! [Good thing; Phil would go straight to the top.] Anyway, I had fun. [Phil always has fun.] Finally got [illegible] back for my tax dollars [see above]. Of course, they could have given us eggs and tomatoes; raised some major dinero, chipped away at those unfunded liabilities. Whoa! Rotten tomatoes priced by size; better, by target: 5 bucks for Likins [former President of the state university], $10 for Carmona; $25, for Giffords. Me, I'd pay $100 for Carmona. Condescending S.O.B. [the original was more colorful], says we need a "health maintenance system" with folks like him tell [sic] us what to eat, when to drive, what to say. [Unprintable] thought police! 'Course universities do that already; [unprintable]. Likins rates a hundred bucks too. [Phil, being Phil, would, of course, arrange for the unfortunate gentleman to pay him for the privilege of being pelted.] Anyway, it won't save jack; just give the [unprintable]s more [unprintable] control, more [unprintable] power. Line their pockets too. [Unprintable]! Rationing my [unprintable] you know what! And they're gonna make it worse — [unprintable] green facists! Cap 'n trade my [unprintable]-[unprintable] [unprintable]! We need nuclear! Jane Fonda — [unprintable] [unprintable]! Old [folks] don't know [what's in their own interest]!

"Whoa! We could raise money for the TEA Party! — put on a "Take Back America Faire." Get some volunteers; give them masks; put 'em in the stocks or over a dunk tank. OK, maybe not volunteers, someone could get hurt. How about dummies? Oops, that gets us back to politicians; (Get it? politicians, dummies!) should of said mannequins. (Ha! Ha!) What do you think? If you go in with me, we could split things down the middle [Translation: I could foot the expenses; Phil would handle the profits.]

"Hope you've worked off some of that jelly roll, not sitting around like you used to. [He should talk!] Anyone reading that blog of yours yet? Bet no one's seen it [Sigh!]. Still think you should call it 'T & A'; come up better in Google that way. Skip the 'Speaker' part — sounds like you're peddling woofers and tweeters.

"Phil"

Good old Phil. He gets to the point, albeit in a "Philish" sort of way. As always, I took the bait and did some digging. Here is a more conventional statement of his argument:
  1. The looming crisis in health care is driven by demographics. An aging population, consequential to the post-war baby boom and the subsequent decline in the birth rate to less than pre-war levels, necessitates a greater per capita burden on those who work, even if the goal is only to maintain services at their current levels. Carmona, Emanuel, et al. want to compensate by curbing expenditures — by forcing people to live healthier lives, in which regard I share Phil's skepticism, and by government-enforced rationing. Likins, if one judges by his other enthusiasms, doubtless agrees.

  2. The inevitable result is Sarah Palin's "death panels," from which we can only be saved by increasing per capita productivity.

  3. Giffords supports cap and trade, for which she recently voted, and opposes domestic drilling, nuclear power, etc. She voted against H.R. 6566 back in 2008. This is a surefire strategy for reducing per capita productivity, which means more rationing, more death panels, etc. So, when Giffords says that she wants to improve the nation's health care — well, that's not quite accurate. Some, will see an improvement, or, at least, be able to stop using the ER in lieu of a PCP. But for the majority, those already insured, the result will be diminished, probably greatly diminished, services. As for the near-elderly, their future is bleak. Review boards will substitute hospice care, sometimes appropriately, sometimes not, for treatment. A single payer system — inevitable if there's a public option — will prevent people from "wasting" their savings on expensive procedures, and a jacked up (Sheesh! I'm starting to sound like Phil) inheritance tax will guarantee that the money saved is used for the greater good, i.e., that it goes to the government.

  4. Whatever comes of this, one can be sure that the likes of Carmona and Giffords will never themselves face the prospect of health care truncated by communitarian concerns.
Phil's right. They're liars for sure; hypocrites, too.
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29 August 2009

Trigonometry.

“The study of angles and of the angular relationships of planar and three-dimensional figures ... .” Mathworld.
“ … sure wish folks could ever, ever understand that we ALL could learn so much from someone like Trig — I know he needs me, but I need him even more ... the world needs more "Trigs", not fewer.” Sarah Palin. 3 July, 2009 [Emphasis added].
So there’s trigonometry and trig functions (above, left), and then there’s Trig, the little boy with Down’s Syndrome. Ubiquitous math phobia notwithstanding, most would agree that the first two are useful. What about 21st chromosome trisomics? At least among their mothers, the majority view is thumbs down; most are aborted. That’s what makes Palin’s observation so remarkable and, to this author, himself the parent of a special needs child, so very genuine. Her critics, most of them not having had the experience, can hardly be expected to appreciate the plusses. What they do understand, albeit in many cases but vaguely, is that caring for a “special needs” child is difficult, time consuming and expensive.

It's also parenting for life. In the usual sense, most of these children do not grow up; conventionally, they do not fledge. Their bodies mature, of course – often abnormally and typically with a raft of attendant medical issues, the treatment of which is complicated by the underlying disorder. But intellectually, emotionally and behaviorally, they remain forever young. What waits after Mom and Dad is not the independence of adulthood, with its sundry trials and triumphs, but an existence at best sheltered, more often, neglectful, at worst, abusive. Indeed, when I first saw Sarah, having just delivered the best speech of the political season and holding her son, I could only wonder if she had any real idea as to what she was in for.

That uncertainty was set to rest by the remark quoted above. Like other parents who put their developmentally disabled child first and let the rest sort itself out, Sarah Palin understands that children like Trig bring purpose to life in ways that are both unique and uniquely fulfilling. Like Sarah, my son needs me, even as I need him. But unlike Sarah, no “rendezvous with destiny” looms in my future. You think the Palinophobes [emphasis on the second syllable] don’t sense that such an encounter awaits in hers? Of course, they do. It is the taproot of their rage; the prospect that appalls. Sarah will fight and triumph, God willing, for her son, and, in that victory, secure the future for us all.

Some say that the time evolution of complex systems is marked by unexpected twists and turns; others that the Lord works in ways mysterious. Take your pick. Trig is Sarah’s bow of burning gold; her arrows and her spear; her chariot of fire. With apologies to the spirit of Wm. Blake for changes (square brackets) to the original:

"[She] will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall [her] Sword sleep in [her] hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In [this, our great] & pleasant Land."

Surprisingly, there’s a path that leads from trig, the branch of mathematics, to Trig, the child. Along the way, there are stops at demography, mathematical optimization and medical ethics. Having followed it, we may better understand the tumult of August, 2009. [To be continued].
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