Archive for January, 2010

The Global Warming Comedy Show

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

By Bradley J. Fikes

(Cross-posted at Brad’s Sci-Tech Blog)

Farce, actually. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

First, the head of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has contributed to global warming with a steamy sex novel.

IPCC now in Bizarroland: Pachauri releases “smutty” romance novel
Just when you think things can’t get any more bizarre with the IPCC, having just learned that the IPPC 2007 report used magazine articles for references, head of the IPCC, Dr. Rajenda Pachauri, provides comedy gold. According to the UK Telegraph, he’s just released what they describe as a “smutty” romance novel, Return to Almora laced with steamy sex, lots of sex. Oh, and Shirley MacLaine.


Second, more revelations that the IPCC’s 2007 report used more amateurish sources in its supposedly high-quality report on climate change, the same report that included a now-retracted claim that some Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2025.

UN climate change panel based claims on student dissertation and magazine article
In its most recent report, it stated that observed reductions in mountain ice in the Andes, Alps and Africa was being caused by global warming, citing two papers as the source of the information.
However, it can be revealed that one of the sources quoted was a feature article published in a popular magazine for climbers which was based on anecdotal evidence from mountaineers about the changes they were witnessing on the mountainsides around them.
The other was a dissertation written by a geography student, studying for the equivalent of a master’s degree, at the University of Berne in Switzerland that quoted interviews with mountain guides in the Alps…
Professor Richard Tol, one of the report’s authors who is based at the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin, Ireland, said: “These are essentially a collection of anecdotes.
“Why did they do this? It is quite astounding. Although there have probably been no policy decisions made on the basis of this, it is illustrative of how sloppy Working Group Two (the panel of experts within the IPCC responsible for drawing up this section of the report) has been.
“There is no way current climbers and mountain guides can give anecdotal evidence back to the 1900s, so what they claim is complete nonsense.”

Pachauri can always blame the error on being uh, otherwise occupied.


Third, Pachauri appears to have learned of the falsity of the Himalayan glacier claims earlier than he admitted:

Climate chief was told of false glacier claims before Copenhagen
Rajendra Pachauri was told that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment that the glaciers would disappear by 2035 was wrong, but he waited two months to correct it. He failed to act despite learning that the claim had been refuted by several leading glaciologists…
Asked whether he had deliberately kept silent about the error to avoid embarrassment at Copenhagen, he said: “That’s ridiculous. It never came to my attention before the Copenhagen summit. It wasn’t in the public sphere.”
However, a prominent science journalist said that he had asked Dr Pachauri about the 2035 error last November. Pallava Bagla, who writes for Science journal, said he had asked Dr Pachauri about the error. He said that Dr Pachauri had replied: “I don’t have anything to add on glaciers.”


Fourth, with friends like these . . .

‘Bin Laden’ blames US for global warming
A new message said to be from al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has blamed global warming on the US and other big industrial nations.
The audio tape, broadcast on al-Jazeera TV, urges a boycott of the US dollar “to free humankind from slavery”.
It comes days after another tape said to be from Bin Laden was released, praising the attempted bombing of a US airliner on 25 December.
The authenticity of neither tape has been verified.
But IntelCenter, a US group that monitors Islamist activity, has said the voice on the earlier tape appeared to be that of Bin Laden.


UPDATE: A commenter has kindly provided the text of a statement from Scripps Institution of Oceanography professor emeritus Richard Somerville, defending global warming theory against attacks by “denialists.”

I have given my responses to the statement in the comments. Somerville’s statement is entirely an appeal to authority, without any links to evidence backing up his claims. He even repeats the increasingly farcical claim about “solid settled science.”

Most hilariously of all, Somerville tries to puff up certainty about AGW theory by bragging about the high quality of scientific work.

“Science has its own high standards. It does not work by unqualified people making claims on television or the Internet. It works by scientists doing research and publishing it in carefully reviewed research journals.”

Shortly after Somerville issued his Jan. 14 statement, the IPCC retracted its sensational claim that many Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035. The report, which was supposed to use only peer-reviewed sources, made its claim based on one article that appeared in the New Scientist, not a peer-reviewed journal.

The telephone-game quality of the claim is vividly illustrated in a story in the UK Sunday Times.

The IPCC says its statement on melting glaciers was based on a report it misquoted by WWF, a lobby group, which took its information from a report in New Scientist based on an interview with a glaciologist who claims he was misquoted.

And as this post indicates, other errors and poorly-sourced claims are still being found in the IPCC’s work.

Scientists in other fields should be wary of the increasingly desperate attempts of AGW believers to mute criticism of their own sloppy research by appealing to the credibility of science.

Law professor Obama

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

UPDATE #2: Oh, and another thing. All men are created equal is not in the Constitution. It’s in the Declaration of Independence. No wonder we can’t see Obama’s grades from Harvard.

UPDATE: The White House attempted to defend Obama’s demagoguery and stepped in it again.

The State of the Union speech last night was weak, contradictory and filled with straw men. One moment was particularly bad. Obama’s one supposed accomplishment in a very thin resume was that he was an adjunct professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago School of Law. It gave him a certain panache among the professoriate, one of the bases of the Democratic Party. Why then did he use the most appalling bad manners to attack the US Supreme Court in front of six of its members who attended the speech ? He was wrong on the law, as well.

The Court held that 2 U.S.C. Section 441a, which prohibits all corporate political spending, is unconstitutional. Foreign nationals, specifically defined to include foreign corporations, are prohibiting from making “a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State or local election” under 2 U.S.C. Section 441e, which was not at issue in the case. Foreign corporations are also prohibited, under 2 U.S.C. 441e, from making any contribution or donation to any committee of any political party, and they prohibited from making any “expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication.”

Even Linda Greenhouse, the NY Times court reporter confirmed that he had the law wrong. She was formerly a supporter.

The law that Congress enacted in the populist days of the early 20th century prohibited direct corporate contributions to political campaigns. That law was not at issue in the Citizens United case, and is still on the books. Rather, the court struck down a more complicated statute that barred corporations and unions from spending money directly from their treasuries — as opposed to their political action committees — on television advertising to urge a vote for or against a federal candidate in the period immediately before the election. It is true, though, that the majority wrote so broadly about corporate free speech rights as to call into question other limitations as well — although not necessarily the existing ban on direct contributions.

This was said by the only presidential candidate I am aware of who has ever disabled the credit card security functions of his campaign web site, ensuring that anyone, including foreign nationals, could donate to his campaign.

the campaign has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its accounts, aides acknowledged. Instead, the campaign is scrutinizing its books for improper donations after the money has been deposited.

The Obama organization said its extensive review has ensured that the campaign has refunded any improper contributions, and noted that Federal Election Commission rules do not require front-end screening of donations.

This statement is risible since many of the donations were from fictional figures like Mickey Mouse. Campaign fraud was rampant in the Obama campaign last year. And this is the man who insulted the US Supreme Court as they sat in front of Congress and millions of TV viewers. They won’t be back next year, I suspect. It was a sickening moment in an unpleasant evening.

The James O’Keefe story

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Patterico has the basic story on James O’Keefe’s arrest in Senator Mary Landrieu’s office yesterday. The newspaper theme has been that they were trying to wire tap her phones but this is nonsense. The FBI affidavit (pdf) contains the key to what was going on. Basel (one of the four arrested) asked for the phone that is the main public line to the office. He and Flanagan (another arrestee) both tried to call this telephone, which was not in use at the time, and were unable to get through. They used their cell phones and got (presumably) busy signals even though the phone was not in use at the time. Why is this significant?

Another story about a protest provides the background.

“We were stunned to learn that so many phone calls to Sen. Landrieu have been unanswered and met with continuous busy signals,” Perkins said. “We asked them to call their senators. They could get through to Sen. Vitter, but not Sen. Landrieu.”

“Our lines have been jammed for weeks, and I apologize,” Landrieu said in interview after giving a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday. “But no amount of jamming is going to keep me from supporting a good work for Louisiana and the nation.”

Dwight Hudson of Central said many of his fellow Baton Rouge Tea Party members had phoned Landrieu’s office unsuccessfully for weeks. “The point is they’re not getting their opinion heard. Maybe that’s why they’re out here today,” he said.

I think what they were doing was trying to prove that the telephone lines to Senator Landrieu’s office had been disabled by her staff so that constituents could not reach the office. They asked to see the telephone closet to check if there had been alterations made to the incoming lines so the caller got a busy signal.

This was a dangerous and foolish stunt. This was a federal building and a Senator’s office. O’Keefe, especially, should have kept far away from anything like this. It will be used by the left to discredit his expose’ of ACORN and that is already underway with great glee.

Anyway, that’s what I think at this stage of the story.

The spontaneous Obama

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

This is a photo of Obama speaking to a small group of about 15 people. It is described as his “middle class task force” but I doubt anyone is middle class, I see Larry Summers and Christina Romer. The others are undoubtedly bureaucrats of one sort or another. He must see these people from time to time as they all seem to be senior in his administration. Why does he need the podium and a teleprompter to speak to them ?

Does this man ever speak in a casual and intimate fashion to people ? Why is a teleprompter needed to talk to a committee of 15 people ?


And then there is this.

Nah. Couldn’t be.


The left and economics

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Today Washington Monthly has another clueless post on economics which misrepresents the Reagan record on deficits and tax cuts. First, they post this graphic.

If someone believed this nonsense, the solution to unemployment would be obvious. Raise taxes ! Keep raising them until everybody has a job ! Of course, to believe it , you would have to be a left winger who doesn’t know anything about the economy.

There is one fact ignored by Benen and Krugman (who knows better). When the Reagan tax cuts passed, the “root canal” Republicans like Bob Dole included a provision that the tax cuts would not take effect until 1982. That guaranteed what we see. Anyone with a bit of sense would postpone economic activity until 1982 when the tax cuts would have taken effect.

Conservatives believe Obama’s stimulus didn’t work, and as proof, they point to the unemployment numbers 11 months after the policy became law. But if that’s the appropriate measure, wouldn’t Republicans also have to believe that Reagan’s 1981 tax-cut plan also failed, since unemployment went even higher the year after it passed?

They might if they believed Benen and ignored the fact that the tax cuts were postponed until the next year when passed.

On the contrary, the Obama tax increases will take effect in 11 months and will be a disaster, unlike young Mr Benen’s delusion.

But when the huge tax-increase agenda arrives a year from now, the economy will begin to decline, and will be some 3% to 4% smaller than it otherwise would have been. The artificially high growth in 2010 followed by artificially low growth in 2011 would “represent a larger collapse than occurred in 2008 and early 2009,” Mr. Laffer writes.

Hang on, rough water ahead.

Experience vs theory

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

This post from Assistant Village Idiot is an important discussion of theory vs real life experience and the role of academics in business. We see a situation in the Obama administration where people with Ivy League degrees are trying to run a national economy. The whole thing is worth reading but I will post a couple of excerpts.

I have had the pleasure and frustration of working with extremely bright people over the years, both at AT&T and at Imagem- my partner and fellow founder, inventor of the technology, is a retired professor with 5 degrees. Through the years a couple of things have struck me. That not only do academics get angry that they aren’t running things, this includes a lot of the Bell Labs guys, but that a lot of the problem lies in definitions. As a recovering operations research junkie, one of the most important lessons I ever learned was problem definition. In many ways, it has been critical to my success. How to correctly define the problem, in most cases when it presents itself as something else, is key to a successful outcome.

This applies to the Atul Gawande post above. A Harvard professor assumes that physicians in private practice are “wolves” and patients are “sheep.”

they lack a couple of key concepts- the first is that simple understanding of a concept does not mean that you can do it. While this is clear and obvious in the realm of sports and entertainment, it is not obvious in business. And that leads me to the other point. Really successful business executives are rarely, if ever, one trick ponies. They must not only be successful in whatever their entry level occupation is, otherwise they could never be promoted, but eventually, they must shed whatever self styled profession they had and embrace ‘business”. In many cases, the person we promoted was not the “best” in their group, but probably in the top 5. What they had was an ability to not only learn a new skill, but to fully embrace it. Somewhere in middle management, you lose your origin. You begin to hear things like, I started out as an accountant, or I came up through sales. But to be really successful, you have to be able to become a generalist at a minimum, and still be able to master new skills, especially political ones. The others are somewhat obvious, they include finance, legal, HR, etc. You never have to be the best, but, at any one time, one of these areas becomes critical to successful outcome.

I won’t reproduce the whole post here but will post one last excerpt.

I’m sure you know who Lanny Davis is, he was one of the top white house lawyers in the Clinton admin. In any event, he was at Yale with Bush. He was one of the only ones on the left who warned everyone about Bush. He had seen him in action. Apparently Bush was the head cheerleader at Yale. According to Davis, he made the post more important than student council president. The story also goes that Bush was able to perform some very unusual feats of memory at his fraternity( ie, memorizing 40 some odd new recruits, name, home town, etc. after hearing them only once, and in order). While everyone on the left was saying how stupid he was, Davis was telling them he wasn’t. He had made a career out of having people underestimate him- and it apparently worked pretty well.

That’s an interesting observation. Here is another.

As for Palin, I agree, she has a much better operational resume than any of them. I don’t know if she has the “persona” that is required. It would have been far better for Bush to have been elected before television or radio, he reads much better than he sounds(ie, his speeches, when read, are actually not bad- he’s no Churchill, but then neither is Obama). And to that point, Obama is so obvious in his “speechifying”- I am reminded again, of that line in Blazing Saddles uttered by Slim Pickens to Harvey Korman about the $10 dollar whore and his tongue.

The generalist with a modest education but more experience may be far more effective than the theorist who has never run anything.

Where have I heard that before ?

The way a lot of us feel

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

I saw this at another blog this morning.

A man owned a small ranch in Montana. The Montana Work Force Department claimed he was not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent out to interview him.

“I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them,” demanded the agent.

“Well,” replied he said, “there’s my ranch hand who’s been with me for 3 years.. I pay him $200 a week plus free room and board.

“The cook has been here for 18 months, and I pay her $150 per week plus free room and board.

“Then there’s the half-wit. He works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here. He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night. He also sleeps with my wife occasionally.”

“That’s the guy I want to talk to … the half-wit,” says the agent.

“That would be me,” replied the rancher.

The Atul Gawande article

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

The Obama health reformers seem all to be depending on an article in the New Yorker written by Atul Gawande, a Harvard surgeon. I’ve read the article, which is titled “The Cost Conundrum.” He uses as an example, the town of McAllen, Texas. He writes about an entrepreneurial spirit among physicians in this Texas border town.

McAllen has another distinction, too: it is one of the most expensive health-care markets in the country. Only Miami—which has much higher labor and living costs—spends more per person on health care. In 2006, Medicare spent fifteen thousand dollars per enrollee here, almost twice the national average. The income per capita is twelve thousand dollars. In other words, Medicare spends three thousand dollars more per person here than the average person earns.

The first seven pages of this article, I agree with. He tells stories of excessive testing although some of his theories are in conflict. At one point, he dismisses the idea that defensive medicine could have anything to do with cost.

“But young doctors don’t think anymore,” the family physician said.
The surgeon gave me an example. General surgeons are often asked to see patients with pain from gallstones. If there aren’t any complications—and there usually aren’t—the pain goes away on its own or with pain medication. With instruction on eating a lower-fat diet, most patients experience no further difficulties. But some have recurrent episodes, and need surgery to remove their gallbladder.
Seeing a patient who has had uncomplicated, first-time gallstone pain requires some judgment. A surgeon has to provide reassurance (people are often scared and want to go straight to surgery), some education about gallstone disease and diet, perhaps a prescription for pain; in a few weeks, the surgeon might follow up. But increasingly, I was told, McAllen surgeons simply operate. The patient wasn’t going to moderate her diet, they tell themselves. The pain was just going to come back. And by operating they happen to make an extra seven hundred dollars.
I gave the doctors around the table a scenario. A forty-year-old woman comes in with chest pain after a fight with her husband. An EKG is normal. The chest pain goes away. She has no family history of heart disease. What did McAllen doctors do fifteen years ago?
Send her home, they said. Maybe get a stress test to confirm that there’s no issue, but even that might be overkill.
And today? Today, the cardiologist said, she would get a stress test, an echocardiogram, a mobile Holter monitor, and maybe even a cardiac catheterization.

This sounds to me like there is some defensive medicine there. In a population that is obese and heavily Hispanic, a first episode of gallstone colic is an indication for surgery. I completely disagree with him on this. We see asymptomatic gallstones on routine x-rays. Those cases can be safely watched but a patient who is having symptoms may show up yellow from a common bile duct stone the next time. Ditto for the woman with chest pain. We read articles about higher mortality in women because male doctors fail to identify female heart patients correctly. This is because they wrongly assume women don’t get coronary artery disease.

The other place where I disagree is in his solution. I can see why the Obama people liked his prescription.

As America struggles to extend health-care coverage while curbing health-care costs, we face a decision that is more important than whether we have a public-insurance option, more important than whether we will have a single-payer system in the long run or a mixture of public and private insurance, as we do now. The decision is whether we are going to reward the leaders who are trying to build a new generation of Mayos and Grand Junctions. If we don’t, McAllen won’t be an outlier. It will be our future.

His prescription is an end to fee-for-service. Every bureaucrat’s prescription is the same. The control of health care will be centralized and both doctors and patients will lose control.

The third class of health-cost proposals, I explained, would push people to use medical savings accounts and hold high-deductible insurance policies: “They’d have more of their own money on the line, and that’d drive them to bargain with you and other surgeons, right?”
He gave me a quizzical look. We tried to imagine the scenario. A cardiologist tells an elderly woman that she needs bypass surgery and has Dr. Dyke see her. They discuss the blockages in her heart, the operation, the risks. And now they’re supposed to haggle over the price as if he were selling a rug in a souk? “I’ll do three vessels for thirty thousand, but if you take four I’ll throw in an extra night in the I.C.U.”—that sort of thing? Dyke shook his head. “Who comes up with this stuff?” he asked. “Any plan that relies on the sheep to negotiate with the wolves is doomed to failure.”

Yup, that is us doctors; the wolves. No wonder Obama likes this article.

The debt limit

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Congress wants to raise the debt limit.

By a lot.

This cannot go on much longer.

UPDATE: The world According to Krugman.

Quite aside from everything else going on, the economic recovery isn’t looking very good. Unemployment claims are stalled at a level that bodes ill for for the overall employment picture (don’t count on falling unemployment until that number falls well below 400,000). And the 10-year bond rate, which is my personal index of the market’s expectations about recovery, has been falling off again after rising for several weeks.

No reason to panic — but it does look as if this recovery is going to be jobless for quite a while.

He previously said this:

In the table above, spending peaks in the second quarter of 2010, but the peak impact on growth is in the third quarter of 2009, i.e., it’s behind us. That’s true even though by the end of 2009 less than a third of the money has been spent.

And when the spending begins to tail off, the effect on growth turns negative.

So growth will soon turn negative. I like the first comment on his blog post.

As Alesina and Ardagna showed in a recent study of 91 episodes in OECD countries since 1970 when governments attempted to stimulate the economy, cuts in business and income taxes are successful, while increases in government spending fail. There is no reason at all to ever propose a Keynesian “stimulus”.

Unfortunately, ideology often trumps fact and analysis. Accordingly, Prof. Krugman continues to propose Keynesian stimulus, even as he struggles to square his ideology with the failure of (now three) stimuli since 2008 to do anything other than destroy jobs.
Those who actually create jobs in small businesses struggle to manage the obstacles that governments create upon the advice of people like Prof. Krugman. We see nothing but future obstacles, as the promise of new taxes on investment, inheritances, and growth destroy seed capital, added regulations based on junk science (for example “climate change”) and health care “reform” raise the cost of business, and Obama’s corporate socialism transfers wealth to cronies in unions and Wall Street.
Pork-laden stimulus bills and the frantic vote-buying that preceded this week’s Senate health vote confirms our worst fears about liberal governance, with or without a “conscience”: it’s a racket rigged to benefit privileged insiders floated by our tax dollars.

Now, that fellow should be considered for a Nobel Prize.

Now comes this.

The fact is that the Senate [health care] bill is a centrist document, which moderate Republicans should find entirely acceptable. In fact, it’s very similar to the plan Mitt Romney introduced in Massachusetts just a few years ago. Yet it has faced lock-step opposition from the G.O.P., which is determined to prevent Democrats from achieving any successes. Why would this change now that Republicans think they’re on a roll?

This man is delusional. He doesn’t seem to understand economics or health reform. God help us.

Scott Brown’s truck

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

The lefties are trying to figure out what happened. Here is an interesting analysis from a far left site that has gotten much more left wing since Kevin Drum left. Let’s analyze their thinking.

With that in mind, here are my Top 5 lessons to be learned from the Mess in Massachusetts.

1. Successful candidates hit the campaign trail. Candidates seeking office should probably campaign while voters are making up their minds. It’s old-fashioned thinking, I know, but winning a primary and then dropping out of sight — while your opponent is working hard to reach out to voters — tends to be a bad idea.

This is true and Brown was a superb candidate. He is the most skilled retail politician I have seen in a long time, maybe since Reagan. That, however, follows the meme so common on the left this week. The skills of the candidate are only part of a winning formula. One of those skills is to learn what the voters are concerned about. You have to choose your issues.

2. Voters like likeable candidates. Some voters care more about policy and substance than which candidate they most want to have a beer with, but these voters tend to be outnumbered. We’ve all seen races in which the thoughtful, hard-working, experienced candidate who emphasizes substantive issues loses out to the fun, likable opponent (see 2000, presidential election of).

Here we see the left wing arrogance about the stupid voters (What’s the Matter With Kansas ?) who are taken in by the slick candidate. On the other hand, did you see John Kerry the past two days ? What an arrogant ass ! Scott Brown showed the sunny optimism that Reagan was famous for and it helped a lot.

3. Saying dumb things will undermine public support. When the pressure was on, Coakley insulted Red Sox fans — twice. She kinda sorta said there are “no terrorists in Afghanistan,” and that “devout Catholics” may not want to work in emergency rooms. When the Democratic campaign realized it was in deep trouble, and readied an effort to turn things around, it had trouble overcoming the distractions caused by the candidate’s public remarks.

The Coakley gaffes certainly kept her from connecting but, once again, those voters in Massachusetts are mostly Democrats ! A Democrat candidate should know how to connect to Democrats. If the lefties think they were dumb, maybe they should think about how intelligent the average Democrat voter is.

4. Learn something about your opponent. Because the Democratic campaign assumed it would win, it didn’t invest much energy in understanding its opponent (who, incidentally, won). They didn’t identify Brown’s weak points, and seemed to know practically nothing about his background. When the race grew competitive, nearly all of the damaging stories about the Republican candidate came from well-researched blog posts, not the campaign’s opposition research team. “Get to know your opponent” is one of those lessons taught on the first day of Campaign 101, and campaigns that forget it are going to struggle.

The Democrats might have spent some time doing oppo research on their own candidate. They might have learned about her role in the disgusting persecution of the Amirault family. Scott Brown is clean as a whistle. He has a great and photogenic family with a wife who is a TV reporter and a daughter who was a semi-finalist on American Idol.

5. Enthusiasm matters. No matter how confused and uninformed Brown’s supporters seemed, they were also motivated. Dems liked Coakley, but they weren’t, to borrow a phrase, fired up and ready to go.

More left wing arrogance. Brown’s supporters can’t just disagree on the country’s agenda. They have to be “confused and uninformed.” I see no mention of Obama’s uninformed and arrogant theme about Brown’s truck. “Anybody can buy a truck.” Brown, in another example of his quick reflexes, came right back with “Not everybody can afford to buy a truck now, Mr President.”

This guy is a Republican superstar. He is pro-choice but has opposed partial birth abortion and was slammed by Coakley for proposing a conscience exemption for those healthcare workers who are opposed to abortion. That made his bones for the pro-life voter. He is a moderate Republican but is very agile in policy debates.