Monday, November 30, 2009

An interesting fellow

Mike Moore is an interesting fellow. I don't mean the grotesquely loud and obese Mike Moore who fiddles with the facts for his profitable films, while attacking profits. I mean Mike Moore, the former prime minister of New Zealand and was Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

First, some background as to why Moore is so interesting to read. His political life has been spent on the Left. He was a trade unionist and the vice-president of the International Union of Socialist Youth—twice. He was the youngest person ever elected to New Zealand's parliament, in 1972 and remained there until 1999 as a Labour Party MP.

He has a new book coming out in a couple of weeks which is rather interesting, called Saving Globalization. Moore has become a strong advocate of free trade precisely because of the role that free, international markets play in uplifting the poor of the world. Yet it is clear that he still thinks socialism is appropriate for some things at some levels. He also writes a periodic column for the New Zealand Herald, which I try to read whenever it appears. His newest column takes on Green ideology, even though, true to his political leanings, he had previously been a member of GreenPeace. Here are some excerpts from his column:
"I heard a member of the UN Panel on Climate Change say of the findings: 'There can no longer be dissent.'"

"I'm not a climate denier. I feel obliged to point this out to save believers from sharpening their carbon neutral pencils and writing to the beleaguered editor. It's good young people are aware of the issues but some schools command kids to apostolate on environmental issues.

Bossy little people tell you not to eat meat or fly. It's getting a bit like kids having to turn in their parents under fascism. No, it's more like the Inquisition when you had to prove your innocence, and if you were innocent and died under torture that was OK because you were guaranteed a place in heaven.

If you believe the end of the world is nigh, you can rationalise that facts can be embellished and others' rights and opinions can be snuffed out in this crusade."

"If you challenge uber-environmentalists, you are a denier. End of story. Even that is a loaded charge, linking scepticism of this righteous belief to Holocaust-denying."

"What was silly is becoming sinister. Green ideology is becoming a theology that rejects the lessons of the Enlightenment, which was about freeing man so he could reason and choose. This new religion has many apostles, especially in the non-profit sector and the soft media.

It's right and proper that politicians and business people face a sceptical media who scrutinise them, hold them to account, expose their flaws and contradictions. The green agenda is too often accepted at face value because they claim to have the planet's interests at heart, unlike grubby politicians and greedy businesspeople."

"There needs to be scepticism, everywhere, much more of it. Scepticism is the chastity of the intellect and should not be surrendered easily.

Scepticism is desirable, necessary; cynicism is death by instalment. After a long life in public affairs I now have a new rule of measurement. It's the sacred law of humour. If someone can't see the absurdities of life, then I get nervous.

The enemies of reason throughout history, convinced that there is just one way, usually end up burning books, killing sparrows and building furnaces. Even worse, they don't laugh or blush."
You can read his full column here.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Data, we don't need no stinking data.

Admitted the title is a paraphrase of a film quip, or more precisely, a paraphrase that combines two lines from the same film. But it seems to capture some of the attitudes at the Climate Research Unit regarding the data they used, as one of the key centers in the world, to determine whether or not their has been warming.

Raw data is collected. That data then goes through a process of adjustment where the scientist makes certain assumptions about how the data should be manipulated in order to take into account various factors, such as the "heat island" effect, changes in location of the reporting station, etc. Of course, the assumptions one makes can change the results by a considerable amount.

The raw data, however, is obviously critical if one is to verify the results. Would other scientists, using the same data sets, get the same results. Both the data and the assumptions used need to be available for that verification process to work. I personally would argue it "ain't science" until it can be replicated by others, using the same data. Of course, there is also legitimate debate regarding what assumptions were created to massage the data.

But now the Evironmental Editor of the London Sunday Times, Jonathan Leake, reports:
SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based. It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

...The admission follows the leaking of a thousand private emails sent and received by Professor Phil Jones, the CRU’s director. In them he discusses thwarting climate sceptics seeking access to such data.

In a statement on its website, the CRU said: “We do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (quality controlled and homogenised) data.”

The CRU is the world’s leading centre for reconstructing past climate and temperatures. Climate change sceptics have long been keen to examine exactly how its data were compiled. That is now impossible.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Climategate: Blame the IPCC?

Some of the more interesting fallout from Climategate is that numerous warmers are saying that the climate studies should finally be open to scrutiny from without. Mike Hulme, who is no friend of skeptics, has joined that chorus. Hulme says:
The key lesson to be learned is that not only must scientific knowledge about climate change be publicly owned — the I.P.C.C. does a fairly good job of this according to its own terms — but the very practices of scientific enquiry must also be publicly owned, in the sense of being open and trusted. From outside, and even to the neutral, the attitudes revealed in the emails do not look good. To those with bigger axes to grind it is just what they wanted to find.
Even admitting that the leaked material does "not look good" is fairly surprising given how partisan Hulme is. He says he doesn't believe the leak will have any impact on the Copenhagen meeting to forge some sort of new, political consensus on controlling human activity in regards to greenhouse gases. Hulme says it will have no impact since Copenhagen "is about raw politics, not about the politics of science." However, outside politics "the reverberations of this episode will live on." He says: "Climate scientists will have to work harder to earn the warranted trust of the public." Hulme then goes for the political jugular of climate science:
It is possible that some areas of climate science has become sclerotic. It is possible that climate science has become too partisan, too centralized. The tribalism that some of the leaked emails display is something more usually associated with social organization within primitive cultures; it is not attractive when we find it at work inside science.
Think about what he said. First, he seems to be saying that the process of studying climate has become partisan and too centralized. His description of his fellow climatologists is not pleasant by any means. He describes their behavior as "tribalism" more fitting "primitive cultures" and says it is unattractive within science. He is not excusing the actions. He is not claiming that context exonerates the culprits. He is not saying they were misunderstood or are victims of some evil conspiracy. He basically is saying they acted in a unattractive way that is not befitting science.

He then goes a step further. He wonders whether the IPCC itself "has run its course." He also says: "The IPCC itself, through its structural tendency to politicize climate change science, has perhaps helped to foster a more authoritarian and exclusion form of knowledge production—just at a time when a globalizing and wired cosmopolitan culture is demanding of science something much more open and inclusive."

While I've read a lot of material by warming skeptics this is much harsher. Hulme says that the structure of the IPCC has politicized the science involved. While many warming groupies are still denying that such politicization has taken place, Hulme is admitting it rather openly. And he describes the politicization as "authoritarian and exclusive." It seems he is saying that the IPCC is really to blame for Climategate—something that I've not seen from any of the skeptics so far.

Andrew Revkin, at the New York Times, another faithful advocate of warming, also posts another message that Dr. Judith Curry wrote an associate of Michael Mann, one of the Climategate principals. She asks a series of questions which seem to reveal what her own reading of the Climategate files reveals about what was going on at the Climate Research Unit, one of the main centers of warming advocacy in the world. Her questions are pretty much the same ones I would ask based on my reading of the material. I will post just her questions. She does flesh each one out immediately after asking it, if you wish to see the full email follow the link. In each questions she first describes what she sees in the leaked material and then asks her question.
1. What appears to be a conspiracy to organize the deletion of e-mails in contravention of Freedom of Information laws. Do you reject this type of action?

2. What appears to be collusion to “oust” journal editors who decide to publish articles your associates disagree with. Is this a course of action that you believe is reasonable?

3. What appears to be cooperation to modify data sets and papers to achieve defined goals rather than clear presentation. Is there a defense of these actions?

4. What appears to be attempts to keep peer-reviewed, scientific papers from being considered in the I.P.C.C. process. Do you think that lead authors in the I.P.C.C. process should be the ones to judge their own work?
I concur 100% with what Dr. Curry describes and believe her questions deserve answering. However, I won't be holding my breath while waiting.

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Two more scientists speak out.

There is positive fallout from the Climategate leak, what I consider a searching for a better way of handling the data used to project global warming. Some climatologists are very unhappy with what the leaked material portrays and they want changes.

Eduardo Zorita, an associate researcher at the GKSS Research Center as well as head of the Department of Paleoclimatology, has posted a message on his website about the matter. Zorita was a contributing author to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report. Zorita says that he thinks Michael Mann, Phil Jones and Stefan Ramstorft “should be barred from the IPCC process” because of the revelations about how they have behaved.

Zorita says that some of his email correspondence with Keith Briffa and Timothy Osborn were among those leaked. Zorita is blunt: “The scientific debate has been in many instances hijacked to advance other agendas.” Zorita makes it clear that he is not a warming skeptic but he says he is also aware “that in this thick atmosphere—and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now—editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations, even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed. In this atmosphere, Ph D students are often tempted to tweak their data so as to fit the ‘politically correct picture.’ Some, of many issues, about climate change are still not well known. Policy makes should be aware of the attempts to hide these uncertainties under a unified picture. I had the ‘pleasure’ to experience all this in my area of research.”

Zorita specifically thanks Briffa and Osborn for their work on chapter one of the IPCC report because the leaked emails show “they withstood the evident pressure of other IPCC authors, not experts in this area of research, to convey a distorted picture of our knowledge of the hockey-stick graph.” Zorita also says he feels justified in reading the leaked emails because they show how “some researchers tried to influence reviewers to scupper the publication of our work on the 'hockey stick graph' or to read how some IPCC authors tried to exclude this work from the IPCC Report on very dubious reasons.” And, the says these email reveal some “very troubling professional behavior.”

The Climate Progress blog, which is firmly in the camp of the warmers, published a piece by Dr. Judith Curry on what the leaks reveal about climate science. They endorsed Curry as a “first rate scientist” and said “her views deserve to be read and debated widely.” Curry was writing to grad students and young scientists in the field of climatology, whom she says are probably “confused, troubled, or worried by what you have been reading about ClimateGate and the contents of the hacked CRU emails.”

Curry says she spent “considerable time reading the hacked emails and other posts” and has called for “greater transparency in climate data and other methods in climate research.” Curry is pretty scathing about what the leaked material shows. She writes:
What has been noticeably absent so far in the ClimateGate discussion is a public reaffirmation by climate researchers of our basic research values: the rigors of the scientific method (including reproducibility), research integrity and ethics, open minds, and critical thinking. Under no circumstances should we ever sacrifice any of these values; the CRU emails, however, appear to violate them
Curry says that there are really three ways that her fellow warmers can deal with the skeptics.
1. Retreat into the ivory tower

2.Circle the wagons/point guns outward: ad hominem/appeal to motive attacks; appeal to authority; isolate the enemy through lack of access to data; peer review process

3. Take the “high ground:” engage the skeptics on our own terms (conferences, blogosphere); make data/methods available/transparent; clarify the uncertainties; openly declare our values
Curry, as Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, says that she is trying to use the third tactic. She has even invited “skeptics” to lecture at the university as she thinks that is a more effective strategy for “dealing with skeptics” and for teaching “students to think critically.”

Curry says that the time has come to “make all your data, metadata, and code openly available. Doing this will minimize the time spent responding to skeptics; try it! If anyone identifies an actual error in your data or methodology, acknowledge it and fix the problem.” One would have hoped this was the case all along but, since Dr. Curry is asking people to adopt these strategies, it is clear she thinks that this was not how warming advocates were acting.

She urges her fellow climatologists to actually read what skeptics are saying and to try to grasp the “enormous policy implications of our field.” She says: “Publish your data as supplementary material or post on a public website. And keep your mind open and sharpen your critical thinking skills.”

Unfortunately, this call for actual pro-science, pro-reason values went over like a lead balloon with the readers of the site who pretty much said Curry doesn’t understand the situation or how utterly evil and monstrous skeptics have to be. Most responses use the typical warmer tactic of using the argument from intimidation.

Others merely argue that the world is coming to an end, disaster looms, and scientific debate is wasting time. Damn the science; let’s push policies. As one reader said: “Turning up the engine of scientific process is great and necessary, but public policy needs our attention the most.” One claims that skeptics are just “people who hate science,” which is at least better than people who allegedly want to destroy the planet.

Of course, the website itself, goes to great length to stifle debate. The editor of the site deleted one comment as “long-debunked,” said it was “laughable” and concluded: “Since you deny that which in “unequivocal,” you are a pure disinformer and not welcome here.” The editor of the blog, who Time magazine, says is the “most influential climate-change blogger,” goes so far as to say that skeptics on warming are “far more dangerous” than neo-Nazis who deny the Holocaust. Apparently this is because they are urging caution “on a problem that has not yet become catastrophic, but which will certainly do so if we listen to them and delay action much longer.” See, the skeptics want the world destroyed and want everyone to die, presumably including themselves.

Many of the readers of the blog are just rabid. One says that the skepticism of others is phony: “That they are liars and dupes [can you both at the same time?]. They are, objectively, enemies of humanity.” This reader wants young scientists to not bother with research but join him and his fellow warmers “at the front lines” “demonstrating for the shut down of coal-fired power plants, protesting at ExxonMobile board meetings, etc.” Others resort to attacking skeptics for their lack of published “peer-reviewed” articles, even though the scandal exposed how their own gurus manipulated the process to try and stop articles that had passed peer-review from getting published.

In spite of the rabid, unthinking, and often libelous, comments of the fanatical readers of the Climate Progress blog, I still consider it a good sign when a prominent scientist is willing to call for openness in this debate, something that has been clearly missing. It is also good that the tactics to stifle dissent have been exposed. In a matter like this, where tax money is used to fund research, and that research is then used to fuel political agendas, it is imperative that the process be as open as possible.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Don't be thankful for this.

Contrary to the chicken littles of the world, crime in America is down, way down. Oddly, as crime rates continued to plummet in the US the number of registered sex offenders is a growth industry. As the Washington Post reports, "Sex-offender registries have grown dramatically this decade...." They report there are now 716,319 people who are official pariahs in the United States, open to public harassment or worse because their names, photos and addresses are posted online. In 2001 the number was 403,000. So, in just eight years the number of registered offenders has almost doubled. It is basically heading for a doubling each decade. Hmm, at that rate the entire population of the US should be registered sex offenders by the end of the century. In Washington, DC., where the politicians hang out, the number of registered offenders has increased by 483 percent since 2001.

One reason for this explosion is that the registries are now casting wider and wider nets. Politicians have criminalized so much human sexuality that chances are good that everyone is sex offender at some point or another in their life. All that prevents them just combining the census with the sex offender list is they haven't been efficient enough to catch everyone. One in five teens could be arrested as child pornographers for taking nude photos of themselves. Young teens who have consenting sex with each other get charged as sex offenders for molesting children. At one high school, if the law were applied as written, virtually every kid in the school would be a registered sex offender. Some girls were arrested for molesting themselves!

When these registries were started the purpose was to have a data base for law enforcement to use during crime investigations. Then some politician got the idea of making them public, which has lead to numerous problems. Then the natural imperialistic nature of bureaucracy took over and the defining of "sex offender" kept expanding. Now it is wide enough to catch just about everyone.

And all this complicates the nature of investigation real sex crimes. Those 700,000 (and climbing) Americans on the list have to register. The police have to monitor them. The vast majority are not a danger to anyone. So the police spend less and less time monitoring any individual on the list—they can only spread themselves so thin. Consider a police officer with the job of keeping track of the 40 truly dangerous sex offenders in his area. He could spend one hour per week on offender. But if the law expands so that he tracking 400 people instead the amount of time he can dedicate per offender drops significantly. And since the really dangerous offenders would be on the list in most cases, the expansion is coming largely from non-dangerous individuals being added to the list. To spend more time monitoring non-dangerous "offenders" he must spend less time monitoring truly dangerous ones. That doesn't make things safer, but more dangerous.

And unlike other crimes, when you do your time, you haven't done your time. A killer can get out of jail and there is no registry to keep track of him. But two teens who had a rumple in the backseat and got caught by Barney Fife can be put on the registry and in many states they stay there for life. No matter how many decades pass, without reoffending, sex offenders stay on that list for perpetual surveillance. In fact, in many states they won't even delete the names when the person dies.

While we should be thankful that crime has fallen dramatically we should not be thankful that the sex offender lists are growing like Topsy.


The double standard at CBS.

Singer Adam Lambert set the cat among the pigeons by snogging his male drummer during his performance at the America Music Awards. The Bible-belt went into a tizzy and sent complaints to the network for this egregious sin. (Please note that anything regarding sex offends them deeply, but the most bigoted, cruel, vicious acts imaginable can be portrayed with barely a peep from them.)

Lambert refused to apologize and noted: "I'm not a baby-sitter. I'm a performer." (I like the "not the baby-sitter attitude, I just wish Congress would adopt it.)

Fearful of offending the Jesus crowd, ABC's Good Morning America canceled an appearance by Lambert lest outraged Bible-thumpers whine at them endlessly. CBS, however, then invited Lambert onto The Early Show to discuss the controversy.

Lambert said it was all a double-standard because he was gay. He said the same performance, done by a woman, wouldn't create nearly as much of an outrage, and he's probably right. CBS, to illustrate the story showed the infamous kiss scene but blurred the picture so no one could see it. Of course, a blurred image makes the debate far less real to the CBS audience. What got interesting was that in the course of reporting this controversy CBS also showed the clip where Britney Spears and Madonna snogged on stage except that since it was two women they didn't blur the clip at all. It was shown with perfect clarity.

What is particularly incredulous is the excuse that CBS uses for their own blatant hypocrisy. It is perfectly fine for them to show two women kissing but for two men the image has to be unviewable. A spokesman for the show tried to excuse this double standard saying that the Spear-Madonna kiss was fine because it "is very familiar and has appeared countless times" while the "Lambert image is a subject of great current controversy" and "has not been nearly as widely disseminated." Okay, sure that makes, .... well, that makes no fucking sense at all. If anything CBS looks even sillier. That CBS tried to pretend their might be legal consequences for the Lambert kiss is even more absurd.

If the one kiss is fine to air then the other kiss is as well. While CBS ought to be free to set their own standards about showing kisses—my god! this sounds like a debate from Saudi Arabia—the blatant hypocrisy ought to be condemned. CBS didn't have the obligation to show either kiss. The show certainly could have discussed the silly controversy without showing the kiss. They could have done the report without showing either clip. But to show the one, while censoring the other, is, to me, somewhat offensive.

Could it be that male officials at CBS get a kick out of seeing two women snog but no pleasure from two men doing it? Was this decision merely an example of the well-known trait of heterosexual men to get aroused seeing women snog. Both clips depicted same-sex kisses. But only one makes straight men sit up and pay attention and smile (if the wife is out of the room).

I suggest that the Madonna clip got aired, while the Lambert clip didn't, merely because decision makers at CBS tend to be heterosexual men who enjoy seeing women snog. The double standard is not so much "homophobia" or "hetereosexism" as it is just old fashioned sexism. I don't know if straight women find much pleasure in seeing men make out. I know some do, but I doubt it is as widespread as the male fantasy of seeing women make out. Women, in general, are not as visually oriented as men when it comes to sexuality—which is why there is so little erotica for women and so much for men.

CBS would be more believable if they had just come out and said: "Hey, we're men and we like seeing women kiss, that's why we didn't blur the second clip." At least that would have been more honest. But to pretend that the one clip can't be shown because it is a "current" issue, while the second, similar clip can be shown, merely because it was shown before, is absurd and rather circular in logic. I suggest you will find that when the Madonna incident took place that CBS showed it when it was still current. And how if a clip can't be shown, because it wasn't widely shown already, then exactly how does a clip become "widely shown?"

CBS just looked stupid with their excuses. I'd advise them to go with the "we're just men" defense instead. At least that would sound plausible to most people.

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Weathercasters question warming orthodoxy.

Recently the National Environmental Education Foundation, a political entity created by Congress to “educate” the public about the environmental point of view. And to do so they wish to work with “a network of professionals, weathercasters, land managers and teachers.” The problem with their network appears to be that weathercasters are not very reliable when it comes to the warming scare.

They recently commission a study of the opinion of weathercasters and the results were published in the October issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. And the results are not favorable to the warming orthodoxy.

The survey was sent to about 800 broadcast meteorologists and the hoped-for response was 100. But they actually surpassed that with 121 responses.

Most of the meteorologists surveyed say they don’t speak about climate issues on the air very much. But many make public appearances where they do speak about climate issues. And many of these individuals have blogs and newspaper columns “where individual weathercasters freely express their opinions.” (p. 1459)

Here is what the survey found.

Most meteorologists say that it is appropriate for them to discuss climate change on-air or online. Only small minorities oppose discussing the topic. An overwhelming majority (80%) say that they have a responsibility to be aware of what the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which would indicate that a good number of them do know what the IPCC says. But when it comes to agreeing with the IPCC’s claim that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” only 43% agree. Another 21% are neutral on the matter and 34% disagree with the premise. (p. 1461)

But whether or not there is warming is only part of the warming thesis. For political purposes the prime question is whether humans are to blame for the warming or not. They were asked if they agreed that, “Most of the warming since 1950 is very likely human-induced.” Only 8% of meteorologists strongly agreed with the claim and 16% agreed. But 26% of the meteorologists said they “strongly disagreed” with this claim and another 24 % said they disagreed. Twice as many meteorologists dispute the theory that humans have caused global warming than agree with it. (p. 1461)

Levels of scepticism are even higher when it comes to the models used to predict global warming. Asked how strongly they agreed, or disagreed, with whether, “global climate models are reliable in their projections of a warming for the planet,” only 16% agreed, and only 3% strongly agreed. But 37% disagreed and another 25% strongly disagreed. (p. 1463)

Asked if global climate models are reliable in predicting precipitation and drought only 18% agreed, and 1% strongly agreed. But 36% disagreed and another 16% strongly disagreed. Asked out rightly if they thought global warming was “a scam,” 29% said they agreed or agreed strongly with the claim. Of course the organization set up the politicians in Washington is now looking at how to create “lesson plans” to convince meteorologists to take the approved position on the issue. (p. 1463)


Whose dirty tactics?

The most disgusting thing about the leaked emails and data from the Climate Research Unit (see our previous posts here and here) is how these politicized scientists have responded to be caught acting in a very unacademic way. The emails clearly show that these men acted in concert to try to get dissenting scientific papers suppressed. They wanted to get editors of scientific journals fired because they dared published papers disagreeing with aspects of their theories.

These men plotted to undermine academic freedom and their emails show them acting like self-appointed censors who would decide what the scientific community should, or should not, be allowed to read. I suspect as the data that was discovered is analyzed other problems will emerge as well. But for the time being their campaign to silence and suppress other scientists is enough to warrant the condemnation of their behavior.

So have they admitted that acted like intellectual Gestapo sent out to control the scientific media? Of course not! Instead they are crying that they are victims.

The first replies concerns the leaked information was that there was nothing there of interest and that no one really need bother reading it. The second reply was that the emails were just harmless banter that didn’t mean anything. Reading the emails themselves proves both those first replies simply are not true. A third reply has been to satirize the emails themselves hoping that by making fun of the emails they can divert attention. A fourth reply has been to trumpet what the emails didn’t say, while ignoring completely what they did say.’’

Kevin Trenberth, one of the men caught red-handed in these emails, sees a nefarious conspiracy working behind the scenes to undermine him. “One has to wonder,” he says, “if it is a coincidence that this email correspondence has been stolen [it may have been leaked from within the Unit as well] and published at this time.” Trenberth calls it “a concerted attempt to put a question mark over the science of climate change…”

A “concerted attempt”? But wasn’t that precisely what these emails exposed? Trenberth and his fellow warmers acted in concert in the hopes of suppressing scientific papers. They plotted on how to get editors fired by organizing a mass protest to a journal’s publisher concerning one editor and they made it clear that the accusations made didn’t even have to be true to be effective.

Consider what Andrew Revkin, of the New York Times, had to say regarding the material that has been published on-line. Revkin writes that the “documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.” Wasn’t it the New York Times that is famous for publishing the Pentagon papers that also were acquired illegally and never intended for the public eye?

Consider what would happen if the shoe were on the other foot. Suppose a treasure trove of emails from skeptics turned up. Imagine those emails outlining how skeptics would conspire to deny warmers access to various journals. Just imagine that all the strategies the CRU emails show the warmers engaging in, were exposed as tactics for the so-called deniers. Do you honestly believe that Mr. Revkin would avoid publishing the actual content of those emails?

Revkin got some flack for that remark and he has responded. He says his remarks are interpreted as saying his paper is “laying off looking into these documents” but claims, “we’re actively reporting on and citing these documents” and cites his original story as evidence. But the original story is actually woefully deficient of quotes from the emails themselves. Most of it is letting apologists for the emails defend them, there is some vague comments about what they contain and he quotes one sentence of one email from a second-hand source.

Revkin actually never cites the documents themselves. What he entirely ignored was that the documents show these scientists to be actively engaged in a political campaign to silence dissent through various maneuvers. The entire issue of academic freedom was swept under the rug, as were the actual content of the emails. Yet Revkin pretends his original article “actively” reported on, and cited, the documents in question. Neither is true.

Revkin, who is openly and explicitly biased on this matter, writes that he prefers to focus on “running down tips and assertions related to the theft and hackings.” He wants to get the person who released the documents; he’s not very interested in what the documents actually say. Focusing on content makes his allies look bad and he hopes to cause problems for the presumed political opponents who released the material instead.

At the British left-wing Guardian, George Marshall dismisses the emails since they don’t prove any conspiracy such as taking “’marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords.” Sure that was the criticism all along! This is a subtle form of the Argument from Intimidation, misstate what the opponents say, make it satirical in nature and don’t address what they do say. Marhsall saw no conspiracy, but he ignores the open planning of how to end the careers of skeptics, as well as stifle debate by stopping journals from publishing papers that have passed the peer-review process. These conspirators went so far as saying that they might have to redefine peer-review in order to stifle dissent.

While Marshall conveniently ignores planned assault on academic freedom by his friends he does find a plot however: “This is an orchestrated smear campaign and does not require balance or context.” What proves the “orchestrated smear campaign?” According to Marshall the proof is: “The speed with which the emails have been cut apart and fed into existing storylines is remarkable.” Remarkable? Clearly Mr. Marshall doesn’t understand how the Internet works. Speed is easy when information is of interest to hundreds of millions of people. And thousands and thousands of those individuals start looking at the material what is contained in the documents is published very fast indeed. That is merely proof of the scale of the debate on this issue, not proof of some conspiracy.

Marhsall complains that this is “an application of dirty political tactics to climate change campaigning.” Let me see if I get this. Someone exposes that climate scientists of the warming bent conspire together to suppress papers, get editors fired, and discredit scientific journals because they don’t like what they publish. That is not a dirty political tactic. However, exposing that this was being done is a dirty political tactic. The plot to deny academic freedom is not a conspiracy but someone exposing the plot with source documents is a conspiracy because lots of people reported on it.

Marshall wants the scientists exposed in these emails to go on the offensive and says that Phil Jones, who is at the center of the scandal, needs to fight for his colleagues who are “defamed and slandered by the kinds of people who illegally hack into computers. This is a desperate, last-ditch tactic by fanatics who have lost the rational debate.” Please note we have no proof of a hack as of yet. It still could have been an internal leak. Without knowing the sources of the material to call it an illegal hack is merely biasing the debate, quite intentionally I might add.

But again, while Marshall whines about the defamation of the scientists exposed of using dirty tricks to suppress opposition papers he says nothing about their efforts to defame and slander their opponents. Remember these were people who said that an effort to unseat one editor should revolve around telling the publishers that their journal is now “perceived as being a medium of disseminating misinformation” and that “whether it is true or not” doesn’t really matter since it will have the same impact in removing the editor in question. But that is not a dirty trick, or defaming or slandering someone.

But consider the question of how do these emails that were released slander and defame? They only make people look bad because of what they actually say. There has been no evidence that the emails were tampered with. They were not accompanied by essays explaining them. They were simply documents released to the public and the only reason these scientists look bad is because they behaved badly. It is their own actions, which slander them, not the revelation that they acted like an intellectual Gestapo. This story is still in the early stages and more will come out.

Notice: I was asked by my colleagues at the Institut für Unternehmerische Freiheit to mention their conference on the climate change debate. It is scheduled for December 4th in Berlin. More information available here. All presentations will be in German or English with simultaneous translations available. Speakers include: Prof. Dr. Markus Kerber; Dr. Jewgeni Volkl; Prof. Nils Axel Mörner; Prof. Henrik Svensmark; Dr. Lubos Motl; Prof. Dr. Horst-Joachim Lüdecke; Viscount Christopher Monckton; and Dr. Fred Singer.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Silencing the heretics: the Holy Inquisition of the Warmers

The presumed hacking of emails and records from the Climate Research United at the University of East Anglia has drawn a great deal of attention. And there is even some speculation that the hacking wasn’t a hacking a leak.

Some of the coverage, especially from fellow travellers with the warming advocates, repeats the party line that “there’s nothing here to see folks, just keep moving.” But there is enough meat in the documents to attract the attention of some press outlets usually known for their uncritical acceptance of anything the warming advocates say.

The Washington Post is as “establishment” media as you can get, only bested by the New York Times. It tends to be a reliable ally for the warming advocates. Yet, even the Post found the emails worthy of a news story that was less than flattering. It described the emails as providing a “rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes battle to shape the public perception of global warming.” I would have hoped it was a battle over the facts of science myself. But it is what it is.

The Post says that the emails revealed the defenders of the consensus as a circle of intellectuals “eager to punish its enemies.” And it describes them actively campaigning to stop studies from being published, if those studies do not correspond with their “consensus.” In one email, the center’s director, Phil Jones, writes to prominent warming advocate Michael Mann, concerning some studies that contradict aspects of his own theories. Jones tells Mann: “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow—even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

The Post reveals:
In another, Jones and Mann discuss how they can pressure an academic journal not to accept the work of climate skeptics with whom they disagree. "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal," Mann writes. "I will be emailing the journal to tell them I'm having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor," Jones replies.
As warming skeptic, Patrick Michaels notes in the Post article, this sort of attempt to intimidate editors into refusing to publish papers contrary to the “consensus” is very troubling. Michaels said “these same academics repeatedly criticized him for not having published more peer-reviewed papers.” On the one hand the number of published papers are used against critics while the warming advocates are simultaneously working behind-the-scenes to make sure that they don’t get papers published.

In one email to Jones, Mann complains about a paper published by Climate Research. He complains that the paper “couldn’t have cleared a ‘legitimate peer review process anywhere.” But since the paper was published, in spite of Mann’s opposition to it: “That leaves only one possibility—that the peer-review process at Climate Research has been hijacked by a few skeptics on the editorial board.” Mann says that the hijackers presumably include “a member of my own department.”

Mann is upset that the skeptics “achieved what they wanted—the claim of a peer-reviewed paper.” He laments that once published, “there is nothing we can do about” it now. Instead he suggests pretending that the paper was never published saying it “will be ignored by the community on the whole.”

Mann refers to the strategy of attacking skeptics on the basis of peer-reviewed papers and says that the paper in question reveals of the “danger” of that tactic. He says that the skeptics responded by a “take-over” of the journal. It strikes me as a bit paranoid to assume that the only way ones critics pass peer-review is by a plot to take over a journal.

Mann then suggests that the journal in question must be punished. He says: “So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering Climate Research as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal.”

Jones writes back: “I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor.” He notes that his own organization has “a person… on the editorial board, but papers get dealt with by the editor assigned by Hans von Storch.” Jones says he tried to get von Storch to stop publishing critics: “I’ve had words with Hans von Storch about this, but got nowhere.”

In another set of emails Tom Wigley writes Jones, Mike Hulme (who we have covered in our previous post on this issue) and Timothy Carter. It appears to be about the journal edited by von Storch. Wigley says he is unsure of the “best way” way to handle the problem of critical papers getting published. He says: “Hans von Storch is partly to blame—he encourages the publication of crap science ‘in order to stimulate debate.’” Well, they can’t have that, can they?

Wigley says that perhaps the best method of making sure skeptics are not published “is to go direct to the publishers and point out the fact that their journal is perceived as being a medium of disseminating misinformation under the guise of refereed work.” Wigley goes further noting that it doesn’t actually matter if this is true or not. “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.” Wigley says he get a “large group of highly credentialed scientists to sign such a letter — 50+ people.”

Wigley says he added Hulme to the discussion because Hulme previously suggested they “get board members to resign,” but Wigley said that wouldn’t work. The board members they would get to walkout would be the ones on their side and they might get replaced with skeptics. Instead, he says they “must get rid of von Storch” and says that a mass protest to the publishers, aimed at von Storch “might remove that hurdle too.”

In another exchange, Wigley writes to Mann about the Geophysical Research Letters journal, another journal that deem too unreliable for their agenda. Mann says: “It’s one thing to lose Climate Research. We can’t afford to lose GRL.” This was over a paper the journal wanted to publish. Mann says they need to investigate and if “there is a clear body of evidence that something is amiss, it could be taken through the proper channels.”

Wigley responds that “GRL had gone downhill rapidly in recent years” but says “proving bad behavior here is very difficult.” But, says that if “you think that [the editor] is in the greenhouse skeptics camps, then, if we can find documentary evidence for this, we could go through official AGU (American Geophysical Union) channels to get him ousted.”

In another exchange Graham Haughton speaks of another climate journal that Jones considered unreliable. Haughton also feels it necessary to remind Jones that academic freedom includes critics. He says that when he next sees the editor he will try to “have a quiet word with her about the way the affiliation to us is used, but the moment she is entitled to use it in the way she does.” H tells Jones, “I want to protect another academic’s freedom to be contrary and critical, even if I personally believe she is probably wrong.” (Good for Haughton.)

While some are still trying to pretend that the leaked documents mean nothing, or only that one has to be intellectually challenged to take them seriously, one of the most reliable advocates for the warming crowd realizes the evidence is very damning indeed. Left-wing columnist George Monbiot has been a staunch advocate of the warming scare and he says he and his allies have a problem.
It's no use pretending this isn't a major blow. The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I'm dismayed and deeply shaken by them.

Yes, the messages were obtained illegally. Yes, all of us say things in emails that would be excruciating if made public. Yes, some of the comments have been taken out of context. But there are some messages that require no spin to make them look bad. There appears to be evidence here of attempts to prevent scientific data from being released, and even to destroy material that was subject to a freedom of information request.

Worse still, some of the emails suggest efforts to prevent the publication of work by climate sceptics, or to keep it out of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I believe that the head of the unit, Phil Jones, should now resign. Some of the data discussed in the emails should be re-analysed.
Monbiot’s response after this is to note that these emails alone, don’t prove the anthropogenic theory of warming as false, but then no one said they did. He then concocts absurd satirical emails that would prove that. However, he does recognize that the real emails that have been released are a major blow to the political agenda that he, and the email authors, shared. It is no longer sufficient for the apologists to claim this was merely harmless banter. It is clear that these men were trying to figure out how to apply political pressure to silence critics of their own theories and shut down debate. I repeat my claim from my previous post: this is not science at work, this is politics.

One problem with the hack/leak is the massive volume of material that has been released. More and more eyes are going through the material every day. As more and more material is exposed concerns about the leak itself will diminish with most people and concerns about the content of the material will increase.

I will try to cover more angles of this story, including emails which show that data sets, used to calculate current global temperature trends, were hidden from skeptics. In the emails they discussed that the best strategy to avoid a Freedom of Information request was to claim that they lost the data. Coincidentally, when a request for such data was made, the CRU claimed that they didn’t keep the “original raw data” and couldn’t supply it, precisely the strategy planned in the emails. I suggest this story is just beginning.

Addendum: When this was posted I did not read the comments to Monbiot's piece at the Guardian. However, it was brought to my attention that Monbiot actually posted an additional comment there which is pretty shocking. One reader commented: "By now I suggest you review your file of correspondence and articles, and figure out who you need to apologize to." What was truly shocking was Monbiot's response: "I apologise. I was too trusting of some of those who provided the evidence I championed. I would have been a better journalist if I had investigated their claims more closely."

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

America's Best Christian on the Mormons

Some amusing satired by Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian.

In related news, but not humor, is the story of an evangelical church in Denver. Having given much deserved grief to the fundamentalists for their bigotry I should mention this attempt to change. Highlands Church, is an evangelical church run by Mark Tidd. Tidd said he watched Christians he knew who were gay trying to change and repeatedly failing. He concluded that if this sort of attempted change were really the will og God then the process ought "to be life-giving." Instead he says that "people were not flourishing. The results were broken spirits, despair and depression." (Sounds right to me.)

After giving this much thought Tidd told his congregation that the church would be welcoming to gay people. Tidd said: "If you had told me 10 years ago I would be standing here... speaking out in favor of gay marriage and ordination. I would have told you, you were crazy." Tidd had a congregation of 350. Around half his congregation walked-out. (Now, that's the fundamentalism I have come to know and loathe.)

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Left, Right, Intimidation and Superiority

Ayn Rand, in one of her more insightful moments, explained an argument that I think is the prime political argument today. She called it the Argument from Intimidation. Here is her definition of the argument. My comments will follow:
There is a certain type of argument which, in fact, is not an argument, but a means of forestalling debate and extorting an opponent’s agreement with one’s undiscussed notions. It is a method of bypassing logic by means of psychological pressure . . . [It] consists of threatening to impeach an opponent’s character by means of his argument, thus impeaching the argument without debate. Example: “Only the immoral can fail to see that Candidate X’s argument is false.” . . . The falsehood of his argument is asserted arbitrarily and offered as proof of his immorality.

In today’s epistemological jungle, that second method is used more frequently than any other type of irrational argument. It should be classified as a logical fallacy and may be designated as “The Argument from Intimidation.”

The essential characteristic of the Argument from Intimidation is its appeal to moral self-doubt and its reliance on the fear, guilt or ignorance of the victim. It is used in the form of an ultimatum demanding that the victim renounce a given idea without discussion, under threat of being considered morally unworthy. The pattern is always: “Only those who are evil (dishonest, heartless, insensitive, ignorant, etc.) can hold such an idea.”

The Argument from Intimidation dominates today’s discussions in two forms. In public speeches and print, it flourishes in the form of long, involved, elaborate structures of unintelligible verbiage, which convey nothing clearly except a moral threat. (“Only the primitive-minded can fail to realize that clarity is oversimplification.”) But in private, day-by-day experience, it comes up wordlessly, between the lines, in the form of inarticulate sounds conveying unstated implications. It relies, not on what is said, but on how it is said—not on content, but on tone of voice.

The tone is usually one of scornful or belligerent incredulity. “Surely you are not an advocate of capitalism, are you?” And if this does not intimidate the prospective victim—who answers, properly: “I am,”—the ensuing dialogue goes something like this: “Oh, you couldn’t be! Not really!” “Really.” “But everybody knows that capitalism is outdated!” “I don’t.” “Oh, come now!” “Since I don’t know it, will you please tell me the reasons for thinking that capitalism is outdated?” “Oh, don’t be ridiculous!” “Will you tell me the reasons?” “Well, really, if you don’t know, I couldn’t possibly tell you!”

All this is accompanied by raised eyebrows, wide-eyed stares, shrugs, grunts, snickers and the entire arsenal of nonverbal signals communicating ominous innuendoes and emotional vibrations of a single kind: disapproval.

I think this is the most common political argument around. Consider when the "Tea Bag" protests went on in Washington. The way the media and Left-wing Talking Heads covered it was almost entirely one long argument from intimidation. It is the condescending "tsk tsk" sound, accompanied with a small grin implying that anyone who disagrees simple "can't be taken seriously." The same argument comes from the Right, especially from the Religious Right. It is the assumption that anyone who disagrees with their theology simply has to be "antifamily," or "antiAmerican," or just plain "sinful."

What concerns me is that the Argument from Intimidation is often accompanied by the most dangerous political view around: that those who are the object of one's ridicule must be either stupid or immoral. This sort of black/white fundamentalism, in any field, is implies that all dissent is fundamentally immoral, of at best, the sign of a inferior mind at work. Consider the ramifications of that perspective for a moment.

If you assume that all who disagree with you are, at best, stupid, then you are the superior man. When people are tempted to place them self into that category, by implication they are placing the dissenters—that is those who dissent from them—into the "inferior" status. I happen to think that dividing humanity into categories of superior and inferior is a highly dangerous one. It is inherently totalitarian. The superior man easily concludes that due to his superiority that it is legitimate to use force against the inferior for their own good. Since the inferior are inferior they are poor judges of what is best. So such decision-making should be left to the superior men of the world.

Of course, since it is difficult to persuade the inferior men to follow the wisdom of these elite sages then it behooves the superior folk to find ways to compel the inferior to obey. None of it is every justified as a power-grab. It is always because the superior men know what is best and "are trying to make the world a better place." In many ways this sort of view is unrelenting, especially when combined with the view that some sort of moral virtue is involved when you "help" people without their consent. C.S. Lewis warned of this attitude:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Equally as dangerous is the assumption that those who dissent are immoral or evil. The self-proclaimed "superior" man may think that force is necessary to "help" the stupid. But when it comes to the "evil" then force must be used to harm them. Any tactic, provided it harms the perceived enemy, is thus justified.

Both the Left and the Right use both these justifications. But the mix differs between them. The Left-wing superior man tends to mainly assume that people are stupid and thus power and force may be used to "help" them. Of course, the power and force is given to them to wield according to their own innate superior intelligence. Intelligent people tend to be attracted to Left-wing ideologies.

While the intelligence levels on the Right are clearly lower that does not mean that individuals on the Right do not see themselves as "superior" men. Their superiority is not based on intelligence but on what they perceive to be moral character. And typically this "superior moral character" comes in the guise of religion. The Left shuns religion because they don't need it. They can easily concoct intellectual justifications for their superiority. The Right, however, clings to religion because it allows the man of average intelligence to claim superiority through divine revelation. The man who sees himself as morally superior tends to believe that those who sin need punishment or the fear of punishment.

Thus Left-wing ideologies tend toward the welfare state while Right-wing ideologies tend toward a theocratic state. One preaches compassion for the intellectually inferior man, the other preaches law and order to control the morally inferior man. And while these two ideologies are often seen as polar opposites they, in fact, have much in common. Both are movements of individuals who see themselves as superior to the bulk of their fellow citizens. Both feel justified to use coercion. They merely differ as to the justification for their use of force against others: the Left uses force to "help" individuals, whether they wish to be help or not; the Right uses force to punish evil.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thriving on dissent? Or demanding consensus?

As is widely known now, someone hacked into the computers at the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. There is a major concentration of global warming gurus at East Anglia, in the UK, so this is somewhat more significant than it sounds.

Whoever did the hacking didn’t fool around with data, what they did was copy and disseminated a large quantity of documents and emails that they found. The so-far anonymous hacker did it because he thought the information was important for public appraisal of the warming scare. Openness of records, of course, is applauded by most people unless it makes them appear questionable, or contradicts their agenda. And the warming gurus are none too happy that their information is open to the public—especially since they have often gone to great lengths to hide their data from scrutiny, something that I always find sufficient to raise an eyebrow, and more than just a few questions.

A general description of the emails, from the Wall Street Journal is interesting. So I will take the luxury of quoting it at length, concentrating on what I think is of interest. And I will make a few comments along the way.
The publicly posted material includes years of correspondence among leading climate researchers, most of whom participate in the preparation of climate-change reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the authoritative summaries of global climate science that influence policy makers around the world.
Okay, so we know these are some of the top gurus of the global warming movement.
A partial review of the emails shows that in many cases, climate scientists revealed that their own research wasn't always conclusive. In others, they discussed ways to paper over differences among themselves in order to present a "unified" view on climate change. On at least one occasion, climate scientists were asked to "beef up" conclusions about climate change and extreme weather events because environmental officials in one country were planning a "big public splash."
If this is accurate I think it shows a highly politicized organization as opposed to a purely scientific one. That they differ with one another is science. Progress in science is made because people differ. Some great leaps in science are precisely due to one individual challenging the consensus of the day. But discussions on how “to paper over differences among themselves in order to present a ‘unified’ view” sounds rather political to me. If the goal is truth one does not hide differences of opinion but thrashes them out with open debate and discussion. I can see why a “unified” view is expedient to a political movement but not to science.

Similarly, if a scientist, or scientists, were asked “’beef up’ conclusions about climate change and extreme weather events because environmental officials in one country were planning a ‘big public splash,’" that also indicates a group that was putting their political agenda ahead of science. Consider the position of Mike Hulme, who is at the University of East Anglia. Hulme was the founding director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the university, where he is a lecturer. Hulme wrote a controversial essay newspaper column in the left-wing Guardian, where he said society needed to abandon traditional science for a new kind of science that he calls “post-normal.”

His complaint was that the awareness of danger from alleged climate change “will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth seeking” so “post-normal” science is needed instead. That kind of science, he says, will allow warming adherents to “trade (normal) truth for influence.” Trading truth for influence sounds to me, like trading science for politics. Certainly warming evangelist Al Gore has said the same thing. He claimed it was “appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentation of how dangerous it [global warming] is” in order to get the audience to his film to accept his claims. But then he is a politician and lying to scare the public is common in political circles. But is this science? Or is it politics?

Hulme says that what science produces is “provisional knowledge” that “can be modified through its interaction with society.” It is changed when “it rubs up against society.” Do the theories change? Do facts vary? Or does he mean that in a social setting politics now becomes important and we should use politics to “adjust” science to political agendas? When it comes to global warming theory, Hulme says “the stakes are high, uncertainties large and decisions urgent,” so this new kind of science has to focus on “who has the ear of policy,” in other words, who sets the political agenda.

Old, traditional science is deficient because “it assumes science can first find truth, then speak truth to power” but that is deficient because it ignores “values, perspectives and political preferences. This requires that “we have to take science off centre stage” in order to concentrate on political preferences.

American global warming archbishop, Stephen Schneider, in a 1989 Discover magazine interview, makes it quite clear that he is pushing a political agenda. He said that politicized scientists needed to “capture the public’s imagination.” And that, “of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.” Schneider seems to be saying, yet again, that there is conflict or "double ethical bind" between his science and political agenda.

What does “being effective” mean, if not politically effective? It means pushing an agenda. And Schneider recognized that in order to push a political agenda his side might have to trade some truth off for effectiveness. This is sacrificing science to politics—something they quite rabidly accuse the “skeptics” of doing. Dr. Freud might refer to this as “projection.” Dr. Richard Niolon defines projection this way:
Projection is something we all do. It is the act of taking something of ourselves and placing it outside of us, onto others; sometimes we project positive and sometimes negative aspects of ourselves. Sometimes we project things we don't want to acknowledge about ourselves, and so we turn it around and put it on others (i.e., "It's not that I made a stupid mistake, it's that you are critical of everything I do!"). Sometimes it is simply our experiences (i.e., "My father was a reasonable man when we disagreed, so if I use reason with my boss we can work out our disagreement").

The problem with projecting negative aspects of ourselves is that we still suffer under them. In the above example, instead of feeling inadequate (our true feeling) we suffer with the feeling that everyone is critical of us. While we escape feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability, we nonetheless still suffer and feel uneasy. The more energy you put into avoiding the realization that you have weaknesses, the more difficult it eventually is to face them. This is the main defense mechanism of paranoid and anti-social personalities.
In several of the emails, climate researchers discussed how to arrange for favorable reviewers for papers they planned to publish in scientific journals. At the same time, climate researchers at times appeared to pressure scientific journals not to publish research by other scientists whose findings they disagreed with.

Again the politicization of science by warming scaremongers is obvious. Assuming an accurate portrayal of their emails this means that they were intentionally trying to skew the debate in one direction. This was done in two ways. One was to make sure that their own papers got published. The other was to use their influence to prevent contrary studies from seeing the light of day. If science is the pursuit of truth, if truth is a claim consistent with reality, then vigorous, open debate is required. In politics an agenda dominates and it makes sense as a political tactic, to suppress dissent. The warming advocates are acting precisely like a political, or even religious movement, not like scientists.
More recent exchanges centered on requests by independent climate researchers for access to data used by British scientists for some of their papers. The hacked folder is labeled "FOIA," a reference to the Freedom of Information Act requests made by other scientists for access to raw data used to reach conclusions about global temperatures.

Many of the email exchanges discussed ways to decline such requests for information, on the grounds that the data was confidential or was intellectual property. In other email exchanges related to the FOIA requests, some U.K. researchers asked foreign scientists to delete all emails related to their work for the upcoming IPCC summary. In others, they discussed boycotting scientific journals that require them to make their data public.
We are asked to accept global warming theory on the basis of computer models making projections based on data sets. Of course, as with all such models, “garbage in, garbage out,” so the data that is input is critical to appraise the claims being made by the modelers. Yet, the gurus of warming are absolutely paranoid that other researchers will be able to scrutinize their data and methodology.

I will say that this is not “political” behavior, not at all. This is precisely how religious sects, protecting sacred dogma behave. Throughout history the religions of the world have strictly forbidden “heretics” from questioning the theology of the sect. Investigation, that didn’t conform to the “consensus” was punished, often with death. Religious thinking is directly contrary to scientific thinking. Religion, and politics to a lesser degree, fears dissent, schismatics, heretics, and so forth. Science thrives on dissent. Based on the descriptions of the private discussions of the warming advocates, they act more like the College of Cardinals meeting in the Vatican, then they act like scientists grappling to discover the truth.

Photo: The College of Cardinals, that's consensus.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Believing Weird Things

If you want about 10 minutes of good, informative, entertainment here is Michael Shermer of the Skeptics Society. It's a great presentation and far more amusing than I expected. I've only met Michael socially and this video was the first time I've seen him in action. Good stuff. If you want his book Why People Believe Weird Things you can order it from Laissez Faire.

NOTE: Some people seem to have problems watching this. My FireFox browser works fine with the video here. But Safari seems to have some odd problems. With Safari I can not watch the video at this url, but I can watch the video if I go to the Laissez Faire Books link provided. The video is on the page where the book is promoted and this is where I got the video. So, if your browser doesn't allow you to see the video here, try the LFB page that is linked or get FireFox.I suspect the problem is not the browser so much as blogspot since the same browser does play the video at the LFB link above.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

America's most authoritarian sheriff

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of Maricopa County, Arizona, likes to promote himself as America's "toughest" sheriff. If by tough, one means authoritarian, then that would be accurate. There are few sheriffs in the modern world with a similar contempt for the law and the constitution. Actually it is the law that he disrespects. The constitution is just completely off his radar entirely.

Because of the numerous complaints that Arpaio engages in racial profiling the Immigration thugs told Arpaio he was no longer allowed to act on their behalf. And when Immigration thinks you are in contempt of the law and the constitution that says a lot. To get around the ban Arpaio now uses the slightest excuse to stop anyone who looks too brown for liking. Then the individual, if suspected of being an undocumented immigrant is arrest for human trafficking. The law exists to criminalize individuals smuggling in undocumented workers. Arpaio argues that any such person has smuggled himself and is thus susceptible to his authority. The same logic, I would note, would justify the arrest of all individuals under the age of 18 for child molestation if they masturbate.

Recently one of Arpaio's underlings was in court when a suspect was being sentenced. He walks over to a table for the defense attorney and swipes a privileged document. His theft was caught on video. Officer Adam Stoddard pretends he has the right to steal documents from an attorney's desk in court by claiming that it had "suspicious words" on it. Of course, even if true, the only way to know that was to pull the paper from the pile and look at it in violation of the attorney's rights. And that would invalidate any information he gathered by the act.

The judge says the officer is in contempt of court. More importantly he has shown a contempt for the law and shouldn't be a police officer. Not so, says Sheriff Joe, with his usual contempt for law and justice. The judge told the officer he must make a public apology to the attorney for violating her rights and the privacy of her documents. I would have preferred legal charges.

Sheriff Joe went ballistic—he is the law as are his deputies and they need not follow the law. Arpaio started his counterattack by claiming that attorney has links with other attorneys who allegedly smuggled contraband to prisoners (whatever that means in Arpaioland). But having "links" is not the same thing as having committed a crime. This was just Arpaio trying to tarnish the reputation of someone who embarrassed him by catching his arrogant staff acting with the same contempt for the law that Arpaio exhibits.

King Arpaio has ordered his sheriff to refuse to apologize for his actions. Arpaio says: "My officer was doing his job, and I will not stand by allow him to be thrown to the wolves by the courts because they feel pressure from the media on this situation. I decide who holds press conferences and when they are held regarding this Sheriff's Office." Doing his job? Theft is now part of the job of the sheriff's department? (This is the same department that took a tank to delivery to arrest someone on a minor charge. They left the tank parked on a hill when it rolled backwards smashing into a car almost killing a woman and her child.)

If the officer doesn't apologize he is in contempt of court and can face jail time for it. Personally I think Arpaio ought to be sharing the cell with him. Dissect Arpaio's comment and you will see several distortions of the truth—usually called lies in moral circles. An apology for acting illegally is hardly "being thrown to the wolves." And the officer was caught at the time and held in contempt. The media didn't have time to put pressure on the judge. But Arpaio has never been concerned about facts.

One local attorney, Jason Lamm, said: "Never before has this community seen such a blatant violation of the attorney-client privilege." Arpaio's claim is that the sheriff was attempting "to protect the people inside the courtroom." From what? A piece of paper? Words? It's just more Arpaio bullshit.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scoundrel defenders line up here. Please!

One reason that authoritarianism continues to prosper in this country is the dangerous notion that bad laws, which ostensibly target some undesired group, are not a threat to those who do not fall within that group.

This is how liberty is destroyed. Rarely do governments pass legislation that clearly assaults the liberty of everyone at the same time—to accomplish that they first have to terrify the public over some imagined monster. While that does happen, witness the odious Patriot Act as a prime example, most liberty is whittled away by slivers, not by large chunks.

To whittle liberty down, the politicians must target some group that the majority of people are loath to defend. Once the new legislation is in place, the net it casts grows wider and wider with each passing day. By the time the law is a threat to the majority of people, it is firmly in place and there is usually an organized special interest group that benefits from it, which will lobby strenuously to keep it, if not to expand it even further.

The drug laws are a good example of this. Most Americans do not consider themselves “drug users,” as in users of drugs who violate the law. Frances Thompson is clearly one such person. She’s a church-going granny who was startled to find armed men attacking her home one day. They were drug warriors who were in the wrong place. As they were preparing to break down Thompson’s door, a neighbor saw them and told them an elderly woman lived there who was quite law abiding, not the drug dealer they claimed they were looking for. Police told the neighbor to mind their own business and attacked Thompson’s home anyway. She was lucky—she lived.

Kathryn Johnston was not so lucky. This woman, in her 90s, was too frightened to leave her home. Police concocted false reports of drug dealing from her home to get a search warrant. They started smashing down her door. The terrified old woman pulled out a gun in self-defense and started shooting. The police killed her. There were no drugs. There was no drug dealer. And all the “evidence” the police had presented to prove there was, was a lie. As we have shown here, this sort of killing of people who have nothing to do with drugs is not uncommon. The police have the power the kill and they just aren’t very careful about they use it.

We have documented numerous cases where laws that are passed, because the politicians say it will protect “the children” from sexual exploitation, are used to actually arrest children for mutually consenting sex with their peers. Kids who take nude photos of themselves get arrested and charged with manufacturing child pornography. The law has gone haywire on the issue.

Easily somewhere around half of all American adolescents could be arrested and convicted as sex offenders, not because they are rapists, but because they are engaged in the sort of sexual experimentation common to teens for all of recorded history.

But a lot of people aren’t teens, and don’t have kids, so they don’t give a fuck what happens. They can’t be the target, can they?

Consider the terror that Harry Berlin, described as “ 71 years old, frail, and, frankly, petrified” has to endure. Berlin moved into an apartment and suddenly found himself the victim of constant harassment and vandalism. Apparently the state of Nevada listed his address as being the home of a “sex offender.” These sex offender registries list the address as belonging to a man who had been arrested for having some child porn. But it wasn’t Berlin. No matter to the vigilantes the registries encourage.

The Las Vegas Sun reports:
“Now whenever the Web site gets TV attention, Berlin says, people come looking for Risdon. Maybe to rough him up. Or at least give him a good scare. Instead, they terrorize Berlin.

Depending on whom you ask, this is either a disturbing example of why the Web site should be taken down or an inevitable and easily remedied occurrence when dealing with sex offenders.
Berlin tried to get his address removed from the web site since no sex offender lived there. The Sun says his “complaint was suffocating in a bureaucratic morass.” The state told him to talk to the city, the city told him to talk to the state. Neither wanted to talk to him. So this elderly, innocent man is constantly victimized by vigilantes encouraged to find his apartment because the police are quite happy to hand out the address on-line.

The police are pretty ho-hum about it. They don’t care that innocent people get harassed—hell, they enjoy doing that when on duty, so why deny the public the same sort of entertainment. Sgt. Steve Rossi, who runs the Vegas program, says the police aren’t responsible. He claims that the sex offenders are supposed to report their current address or when they move. If they don’t do it, you can’t expect the police to worry about it. And he points out that site has a disclaimer telling people not to harass people at the addresses in question. You have got to be fucking kidding me! Any moron knows that a disclaimer like that will have no impact whatsoever on the people reading the registry.

Because the number of “crimes” that qualify one for the sex registry have grown like Topsy, the police say they can’t go out and actually check the data that they publish on-line. The city registry has a statement saying they can “not verify, warrant, vouch or confirm the accuracy of the data posted and makes no warranties whatsoever that the data is accurate or timely when posted by the related agency.” So, of what use is it? These disgusting registries were created because the politicians said the public “had a right” to accurate information on “dangerous sex offenders” (which now includes large numbers of non-dangerous individuals who got caught in badly written laws). But the registries are wrong. They contain bad information. They have even been known to list people as convicted sex offenders who were not.

Only when the press started sniffing around this one case did Harry Berlin get the police to actual remove his address from the list. But that’s just one error fixed. As the laws expand through the invention of new “sex crimes,” thousands and thousands of additional people are placed on the list. Tens of thousands move. Address changes get lost, neglected or typed in wrongly. And the numbers of innocent people living at addresses supposedly marked with the Scarlet O (for offender) grows.

Harry Berlin is lucky. He got out alive and he eventually got the police to correct the error. But people on those sex offender lists have been executed by vigilantes using the on-line information to find their victims. As errors accumulate on the lists it is only a matter of time before vigilantes kill the “wrong person.”

In the cases I know about, an older man was killed by a neighbor who saw the man’s name on the sex offender list. The killer said he had to do it to protect his children from a potential child rapist. The man’s offense had nothing to do with children. The neighbor didn’t realize that. A young man in Maine was executed at his front door, in front of his mother. His crime was that his girlfriend was slightly underage when they, both in their teens and of similar ages, had sex. The killer assumed this meant the young man was a child rapist.

Just because you aren’t a sex offender (which may just mean you were lucky, since the laws are so broad that I suspect half the country is guilty of one sex crime or another), doesn’t mean the sex offender laws won’t harm you. Harry Berlin was no offender yet he suffered for years. Kathryn Johnston is dead because of the drug laws, laws I suspect she would have approved of, and which she did not violate. No matter how “innocent” she was she is dead because of them.

H.L. Mencken warned us. He said: “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”

There are a lot of libertarians who, to placate the conservatives, don’t want to spend much time “defending scoundrels.” For P.R. purposes they think it best to avoid those issues. “After all, most Americans aren’t scoundrels, so why should we bother? Let’s stick with issues that bother everyone, like taxes, and avoid the contentious issues that get people upset.” So they avoid them. And the webs that the government spiders weaves just grows bigger and more numerous every day. Sure, some real cockroaches get stuck in the web, but a growing number of butterflies and Ladybugs get trapped as well. But the “moderate” libertarians keep quiet since they don’t want to be seen as defending cockroaches. And so it goes. Liberty is undermined more each day, and cowardly libertarians are often the accomplices of that process.

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