Friday, August 31, 2007

Warming Spin

I'm sure I've said it before but one reason I'm skeptical about global warming is that I know the news stories about it are slanted. Take this one. In brief, biologists found that plants retain moisture better in an atmosphere that includes higher levels of CO2. I can think of three ways that this could be spun:

1) Catastrophic global warming less likely. I'm serious. The driving factor in the weather models that give the really alarming forecasts is not carbon dioxide, it is water vapor. The theory is that CO2 emissions will drive up the temperature enough to reach a tipping point where enough H2O is in the atmosphere that it will take over as the dominant greenhouse gas. This will induce a positive feedback loop where more heat causes more water vapor which traps more heat. The plant study shows that plants will hold water instead of releasing it into the air thus reducing a potential source of water vapor.

2) Plants will be more drought-resistant. No question about this. A plant that is retaining moisture does not need as much rainfall.

But this is how the study was spun:

3) Plants will make greenhouse effect flooding worse. The theory is that plants will pull less water from the ground which will make it easier for the soil to become saturated which is a contributing factor for floods. Even at that, I can see some potential flaws. This would only be a factor in minor flooding. In a major flood, the soil is going to get saturated, anyway. It would not be a factor in the really big downpours where rain falls faster than it can be absorbed. Then there is the question - if plants are holding more water then will rainfall and therefor flooding be reduced?

In the meantime, talks at expanding Kyoto are stuck on a proposal to reduce CO2 emissions by 25-40% from 1990 levels (that would be something like 30-50% cuts in today's emissions) by 2020. That's only 12 years and a few months away. To put this level of cut in perspective, you would have to cut off all residential power in order to meet the high end. Forget compact fluorescents,  we would have to do away with all lights, heat, refrigeration, etc. Or we could shut down all businesses. Then we would still have heat and refrigeration but nothing to eat or wear. I hope that these talks fail miserably.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Disparate Standards

A few weeks ago a mistake was found in the figures used to calculate annual temperature averages for the US. Dr. James Hansen of NASA quietly replaced the old numbers with new ones. When asked why this was not accompanied with a press release, Hansen made some statements about the continental US only representing 2.5% of the earth's surface and the adjustments being so small that they were statistically insignificant. Skeptics wondered if the same standards would have been used if the new figures had supported global warming instead of undercutting it.

We found out this week. A new study was just released on 2006 showing that warming that year was due to global warming, not el Nino. Naturally, that got press coverage . All of the same factors are true here as in the first story. It is only about the continental US so it is still an insignificant 2.5% of the earth's surface. The amount of warming is still very tiny. If one story is news the other should be.

To be fair, Hansen is not with NOAA, he is with NASA and it was NOAA that put out the press release on warming. That doesn't let Hansen off the hook.

Remember Al Gore announcing that the debate on climate change is over? That the 2,000 scientists of the IPCC reached a concensus and no one is allowed to argue with it? This point has been raised numerous times in the last year or so. Hansen himself referred to skeptics as "court jesters" and paid stooges of the petroleum industry.

So, from all this we should assume that the IPCC report is the final word on global warming and that no dissenting opinions are allowed.

Enter (re-enter) James Hansen. The IPCC's most recent report predicts a two-foot rise in the sea level, much of it due to thermal expansion (if you heat something it grows). Hansen disagrees. His figures say that the ocean level with rise by at least 85 feet!

So what do we make if this? Again a double standard is in effect. You can disagree with the IPCC but only if you say that things will be worse than they predict.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Just a Joke?

> Huffington Post blogger Martin Lewis now insists that he was only joking when he called for the arrest of President Bush by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

And of course -- as befits those who worship at the shrine of Atwater and Rove -- my satire has been twisted into headlines such as "HuffPo Calls For Military Coup In USA" Yup -- these guys are the Chubby Checkers of politics. They sure know how to twist... Again and again.

If there is even a single person left in the progressive/liberal/Democratic world who doubts how vicious and malevolent these people will be in their desperate attempt to retain the White House and regain Congress next year -- be aware now. These people will literally stop at nothing. 2000, 2004 and 2006 will seem like church picnics compared to how dirty they will fight the 2008 elections.

So, everyone who took him seriously is a malevolent, humorless idiot.


Lewis wrote his entry on a blog which has been calling for the impeachment of Bush since it's creation. There have been numerous posts about seeing Karl Rove or Dick Cheney "frog marched" out of the White House. Huffington has given a forum to congressmen such as Conyers who are calling for Bush to be impeached.

Also, Lewis's column is totally deadpan. There is no over-the-top quality to it to tip off the reader that Lewis isn't serious. He says of this
In an ideal world one doesn't have to wink to the audience so that it gets a joke. And one doesn't have to label satire with a label that says "satire".
Considering the company that Lewis keeps, if he really meant the column as satire then he needed a lot more than a wink to indicate satire. If someone in the middle of a lynch mob suggests that the victim should be shot instead of hung, who is going to believe him later when he says it was a joke?

Someone posting a comment to Lewis's follow-up points out that the Lewis responded to many comments to the original post with total seriousness. Presumably the people commenting to Lewis were well-rounded liberals (make that progressives) who should have been intelligent enough to pick up on the satire.

Or maybe Lewis was completely serious and took the coward's way out. Rather than apologize, he claimed it was all a joke.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Calling for a Coup?

Who would have thought that the Left would call for a military take-over of the country? There's no other way to interpret this entry at Huffington. Martin Lewis asks that General Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, arrest President Bush and relieve him of his powers as commander in chief. Lewis dances around what he is asking for. He only wants Bush arrested and tried as commander in chief, not as president. He is unclear about how Bush would execute his duties as president while under arrest to say nothing of what would happen if he was court-marshaled.

The first commenter pointed out that this would be a coup. Lewis responded
As my post says - I am absolutely not advocating a de facto military coup. I am simply advising General Pace that he should relieve President Bush of his command of the military - pending a court martial.

It is an interesting question as to who would then become Commander-In-Chief. I'm not sure that it would be the Vice President. But if it was - the same course of action could be taken if the Vice President acted with "Conduct Unbecoming"
Sorry, but there is no way of separating the two. If the president is arrested and court-marshaled then the military will have circumvented the Constitution. Further problems - the president is a civilian commander. He cannot be tried as an officer. The Constitution lays out who can try a sitting president - Congress.

Lewis doesn't address what happens next. Would the Joint Chiefs direct themselves? Would the Vice-President? Then there is the precedent. This would have a chilling effect on all future presidents. I"m sure that Lewis thinks that this will make future presidents less likely to go to war but the opposite could as easily happen. The Joint Chiefs could advocate military action and threaten to arrest a president who does not agree.

This is really a sign of desperation. It is obvious that Congress is not going to end the war and many parties agree that the Surge is going well. When all legitimate avenues are closed, the the desperate turn to the illegal.

Of course, this is one single nut-job but he is writing for one of the most prominent political blogs.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hansen and the Numbers

For years the global warming alarmists have insisted that we are already seeing the results of global warming. Almost all of the top ten hottest years occurred in the last decade. Now it turns out that this is not true, at least for the US. First I will describe what happened then what it really means.

As cities expand, they alter the local climate. This is known as urban heat island effect. you can feel it yourself - just walk across your yard and driveway on a hot day. Chances are really good that the driveway will be painfully hot as the cement absorbs and radiates heat. If you place a thermometer near the driveway,it will show the air as being warmer than over the grass.

There is a long-standing policy to fudge the data slightly in order to compensate for urban heat islands. Data from other weather stations that are in the wilderness is applied to the urbanized ones. NOAA does this in real time and forwards the results to NASA which then figures the national temperature.

The problem is that  NOAA stopped fudging the figures a few years ago and NASA didn't get the word. This meant that the effects of urbanization were introduced into the national temperature record which inflated the most recent readings.

A Canadian named Steve McIntyre noticed that the raw numbers looked strange. He sent a query to NASA and they discovered the difference in the numbers. After making the corrections, 1998 dropped from the hottest year in recorded US history to number two and the rest of the 1990s dropped out of the top ten.

So what does it mean? NASA's Goddard Institute says that the correction is meaningless because it only represents a tiny fraction of a degree and the US only represents 2% of the total surface of the Earth. I'll give them both of those butI see some other important implications.

The first is that the global warming hysteria machine has been using the incorrect numbers to insist that we are feeling the effects of global warming right here, right now. It's a harder sell tog et Americans to make most of the cuts when the effects are showing up elsewhere.

The next implication is that it might not be showing up elsewhere, either. The US is the only country that tries to filter out the effects of urban heat islands. Skeptics have long argued that urbanization was corrupting the figures and causing graphs to show warming where it is not.

Finally, there are the implications of NASA not noticing the error. The official guardian of the data is Dr. James Hansen. This is the same Dr. Hansen who first warned of global warming in 1988. It is impossible to know for sure but there is a good chance that he didn't notice the difference in the figures because he needed them to be correct. How many other figures have errors that went uncorrected because the results confirmed Hansen's or someone else's theories on global warming? There is no way to know.

NASA and Goddard should take a close look at all of the weather data currently being used to confirm that warming is happening. Without this, skeptcs like me can are justified in doubting the evidence.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Goodbye to Rove

Karl Rove announced his resignation yesterday. I'm not sorry to see him go. I think that most of what is wrong with the Republicans today came from his strategies. That includes abandoning fiscal conservatism in favor of big-spending social conservatism. Along the way Republicans wandered into territory normally occupied by Democrats - things like earmarks, trade wars, and general corruption. This let the Democrats win last year on a platform of being different (the difference is that they have no shame over earmarks).

But is he really gone? Liberals are sure that they drove him out. A quick look at Huffington shows that most posters think that Rove's departure was part of a deal over the Libby case or an attempt to get a lower profile before he could somehow be charged in the attorney firings.

Something none of them seem to have considered - did he really leave to go work on someone else's campaign? There's nothing for him to do in the Bush White House. The 2008 campaign will be managed by a new candidate and Bush will just be a bit player. Rove may have hopes of doing a repeat performance and putting the next Republican president in the White House.

I can hear the howls from the Democrats now if someone even suggested this to them. They always credited Rove with more power than is humanly possible. Remember the speculation that there would be an October Surprise in 2004 - that Rove had arraigned for bin Laden to be captured just before the election? Then there are the 9-11 Truthers who think that Rove planned the whole thing, probably with the help of the Jews.

To many Democrats, Rove is evil incarnate. The policies that I see as having Rove fingerprints on them - the moderating of the Republican party in order to capture a permanent majority - goes under their radar. Instead they assume that everything that has happened since Bush took office January, 2001 has been part of some Rovian master plan.

Who will they blame when Rove is gone?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Inside the Global Warming Hysteria Machine

This week's cover story on Newsweek promising an inside look at the Global Warming Denier's well-funded machine. It is actually a hatchet job. This article is just one example of a concerted effort to convince the country that there is no real argument about Global Warming and that anyone who says differently has been paid by ExxonMobil. This begins in the first paragragh:

{...} As she left a meeting with the head of the international climate panel, however, a staffer had some news for her. A conservative think tank long funded by ExxonMobil, she told Boxer, had offered scientists $10,000 to write articles undercutting the new report and the computer-based climate models it is based on.

This is a clever statement. It is factually correct - Boxer was told this but what Boxer was told was incorrect, or at least misleading. The think-tank in question had received less than 1% of its funding from ExxonMobil and it was offering a standard honorarium to scientists to compensate them for the time needed to write a peer-reviewed article.

Since 2005 at least, there has been a movement to shout down any skepticism to Global Warming. It has several features reflected in this article. The primary one is to insist that Global Warming is settled science. Al Gore did this in an Inconvenient Truth. This article echoes Gore.

In the Leipzig petition, just over 100 scientists and others, including TV weathermen, said they "cannot subscribe to the politically inspired world view that envisages climate catastrophes." Unfortunately, few of the Leipzig signers actually did climate research; they just kibitzed about other people's. Scientific truth is not decided by majority vote, of course (ask Galileo), but the number of researchers whose empirical studies find that the world is warming and that human activity is partly responsible numbered in the thousands even then. The IPCC report issued this year, for instance, was written by more than 800 climate researchers and vetted by 2,500 scientists from 130 nations.
This paragraph also denigrates skeptics. It would be more accurate to call the skeptics "Meteorologists" than "TV weathermen" but that would imply that they know a lot about weather. Instead, the Hysteria Machine wants to depict skeptics as people working out of their field or paid stooges.

Look at this example:
Industry found a friend in Patrick Michaels, a climatologist at the University of Virginia who keeps a small farm where he raises prize-winning pumpkins and whose favorite weather, he once told a reporter, is "anything severe." Michaels had written several popular articles on climate change, including an op-ed in The Washington Post in 1989 warning of "apocalyptic environmentalism," which he called "the most popular new religion to come along since Marxism." The coal industry's Western Fuels Association paid Michaels to produce a newsletter called World Climate Report, which has regularly trashed mainstream climate science. (At a 1995 hearing in Minnesota on coal-fired power plants, Michaels admitted that he received more than $165,000 from industry; he now declines to comment on his industry funding, asking, "What is this, a hatchet job?")
Of course it is a hatchet job. There is no mention of the World Climate Report's total budget or what percentage that $165,000 was or the circumstances of how it was granted. The reader does not know if this was 100% of Michaels' budget or 0.1%. It is quite likely that Newsweek has received more money from ExxonMobil over the years than any of the skeptics.

Another way that the Hysteria Machine manipulates public opinion is through careful use of smear terms. There are no "skeptics", only deniers.

Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said.

Gee - why would they hate a term that equates them with Holocaust Deniers? This is the only time that they are not called deniers in the article.

The other smear is here:
Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless. "They patterned what they did after the tobacco industry," says former senator Tim Wirth, who spearheaded environmental issues as an under secretary of State in the Clinton administration. "Both figured, sow enough doubt, call the science uncertain and in dispute. That's had a huge impact on both the public and Congress."
Now warming skeptics have been equated with Nazi sympathizers and cigarette makers. As a topper, it's supposed to be the same companies charging you $3+ per gallon. It makes you want to stone them on sight, doesn't it?

The article also uses some of the same tricks it attributes to the skeptics. It has this to say of the skeptics:

ICE ads asked, "If the earth is getting warmer, why is Minneapolis [or Kentucky, or some other site] getting colder?" This sounded what would become a recurring theme for naysayers: that global temperature data are flat-out wrong. For one thing, they argued, the data reflect urbanization (many temperature stations are in or near cities), not true global warming.

Newsweek is not above picking and choosing its facts to prove global warming. They have a graphic showing the breakup of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antarctica. While this looks scary, they neglect to mention that Antarctic warming is limited to this small portion of the continent and the rest is staying constant or cooling. Giving that sort of factoid might lead you to think that there is some debate about climate science.

For a real look at the debate, look at the book Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming. The author meant this to be an attack on Republicans as a follow up to his book The Republican War on Science. ALong the way he discovered that the skeptics couldn't be dismissed so easily. In interviews he has said that he isn't sure which side is true. This doesn't fit in at all with the Hysteria Machine's world view so it is never mentioned.

Also missing from the article and the Hysteria Machine's message in general is any recognition of the limits of Kyoto.
MIT's Lindzen told NEWSWEEK in 2001, he was summoned to the White House. He told Bush he'd done the right thing. Even if you accept the doomsday forecasts, Lindzen said, Kyoto would hardly touch the rise in temperatures. The treaty, he said, would "do nothing, at great expense."
This is exactly right. Kyoto was originally meant as a "first step" with most of the cuts being made by America. If Kyoto had been successfully implemented, emissions would still be higher than in 1990 because China and India are excluded from making cuts.

The Hysteria Machine does not represent science. They pick and choose. They exaggerate (remember Gore's prediction of a 20+ rise in ocean levels - that didn't come from any scientist). When a preliminary copy of the most recent IPCC report failed to be scary enough they lobbied the writers to punch it up. They also pressured the IPCC to put numbers on their estimates - a percentage of how sure the IPCC is that their figures are correct.

With this article, Newsweek established itself as a partner on the Hysteria Machine. They didn't quote scientists, they quoted Democrats. They used the Hysteria Machine's terminology. We can only be thankful that they didn't join Robert F Kennedy jr and call for skeptics to be treated as traitors - just corporate stooges.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Long and the Short of It

Is height a good measure of health? That is the basis of a UN study written about in Newsweek. The study shows that Americans have fallen from the tallest people in the world out of the top ten. The authors of the report and the Newsweek article assume that the only factor is child health care. In order to make the report more accurate, the authors only looked at native-born whites and blacks.

The Newsweek article picks up on this and uses it to bash Americans for not instituting socialized medicine.

There are a lot of problems with the report. A big one is the assumption that Americans should have the same genetic basis for height as the Europeans. Their basis for this is sort of a shrug, pointing out that Americans were taller than Europeans for a long time. The flaw here is that, outside of genetics, the biggest factor limiting height is nutrition.  Americans may well have reached their genetic maximum decades before Europeans.

There is some indication of this in the report itself. All of the countries with tallest populations are from northern Europe. Since white Americans are from a wide mixture of Europeans, you would expect us to be a bit shorter than the tallest. The opposite is true for American blacks. Most Africans brought as slaves came from a the area close to the so-called Slave Coast. I have no idea how this sub-group compares with Africans as a whole but it could account for differences.

A second flaw in the assumptions is that the lack of insurance equates to a sicker population. The biggest factor here is childhood vaccinations.  The American rate is as high as anyone's nearly 100% and is already highly subsidized.

The final problem with the report is contained in the report itself. If universal health care is the determining factor then you would expect the British to come in at the top of the list. After all, they were the first country to institute it and are often held up as the model for the US to emulate.

Instead they come in right after the US. Even with socialized medicine and the rest of the welfare state, they are still shorter than the US population, although not by much. What does that tell you about biases in the report?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Obama Retrenches

If I didn't know better I'd think that Obama reads my blog. No sooner do I point out his potential problems in wooing the dove wing of the Democrats than he redefines his position.

Yes, he is still for an immediate pull-out from Iraq. He sees no purpose in the US troops being there. Instead he would use them to invade Pakistan - a friendly government.

I'm afraid that he lost me. Yes, there are AQ in Pakistan and they are gaining influence. The problem is that they will gain a lot more influence if we are seen pushing Pakistan's government too hard.

Then there is the whole unseemly problem of invading an ally. It would be different if the Pakistani government was inviting us in in greater numbers to fight AQ but they aren't. Instead they are incensed when innocents are killed.

I'm also a bit hazy on the idea of abandoningIraq in order to pursue AQ. What about AQ in Iraq? What if we pull our of Iraq and bin Laden moves in. Will we invade again?

Obama is making really basic mistakes, the sort of mistakes you would expect from a first-term senator with no foreign policy experience. Hillary is actually starting to look good in comparison.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Obama stakes out the pacifist wing

Obama is trying hard to position himself as the dove candidate. First he announced that potential genocide is not a good enough reason to keep troops in Iraq - or anywhere else. This is a strange attitude for the supposedly caring party but it distinguishes him from Hillary. She said, at least a few weeks ago, that she would keep enough troops in Iraq to prevent ethnic cleansing.

In last week's debate, Obama was asked if he would be willing to meet with leaders hostile to the US without precondition. He said that, yes, he would. Later in the week, he slammed Hillary as being Bush-lite for refusing to meet with leaders she disapproves of. Hillary, who knows how the White House works, knows better.

Obama is trying to carve out a position that will appeal to anti-war activists. There are dangers here.

The first problem is that some Democrats may be uncomfortable with such an iron-clad position. Since the Holocaust, the cry of the Jews has been "never again". Obama contradicts this. Will Jews vote for a candidate who would allow a second Holocaust happen?

Assuming that the strategy works and Obama gets the nomination, he faces a new set of problems. While most Americans are tired of the war, it is not clear that most Americans want a bloodbath on their hands or that they want a president who has essentially announced his surrender to terrorists and insurgents. His willingness to meet with foreign leaders who openly mock the US will make us look week.

Worse, if another terrorist strike happens on US soil, Obama has already fenced himself in. It will be hard to assure an anxious country that he will reply to terrorism with strength when he is so against military action.