Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Extreme weather and climate again

Losses caused by extreme weather events have been increasing, but a new study says this is not because of man-made warming. h/t Instapundit.

In a way this is old news. (Linked here). Of course, claims that extreme weather events themselves--not jut the damage caused by them, which could follow from more population and construction in vulnerable areas--have increased has been very important to Al Gore, the IPCC and others.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Alarmists Fight Back on the Gulf

According to peer-reviewed work (O My God! Peer Review!), there is so a big plume of oil in the Gulf: far below the surface, colourless and odourless. The peer-reviewed folks say it will be around for months, so two different commentators have no hesitation in saying it will be years.

Repeated suggestions that the U.S. government has been "wrong" in its reassurances, but quietly it seems to emerge that the coastline, including many fish and the jobs of many people, have indeed been saved. That's what governments are supposed to do.

Still no mention of the fact that there is oil at the bottom of the Gulf all the time, and some of the wildlife would die without it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Media on Climate

Yes, as usual: USA today: extreme weather events--I don't know about you, but I'm scared! scared!--global warming blah blah blah. h/t Watts Up.

One word stands out, and it is in this sentence, quoting Chris Fenimore, a physical scientist at the National Climatic Data Center: "However, Fenimore notes that the frequency at which these extreme weather events are occurring — such as extreme heat or cold — are on the increase."

The rather odd word? Cold. It's almost as if scientists realize that there are places in the world that are experiencing extreme cold, to somewhat counter-balance the areas experiencing extreme heat.

Latin America (human deaths).
New Zealand.
Bolivia (6 million fish killed by cold).

Bolivian fish killed by chemicals, i.e. nasty old human beings/capitalism? Er, no. (h/t Bishop Hill)

Extreme cold in Mongolia in February.
At about the same time, both extreme cold and heavy snow across Europe.

There were plenty of blizzards in the U.S. as well, so scientists had to rush to explain that individual weather events, even over a considerable area, do not determine whether the globe is warming or not. Thanks for clearing that up.

Peer Review Episode # ... whatever ...

Dr. Marc Hauser, Harvard professor: about as big a gun as you could come across when it comes to what we can learn about morality and ourselves from the study of other primates.

One problem: no one reviews his peer-reviewed work until months or years after publication (remember Phil Jones saying no one had actually asked him to show his work until Steve McIntyre did?), and some of his most famous work may be ... absolute bullshit.

The Gulf Oil Spill Again

Sometimes the environmentalism of the boomers is not just harmless fun: it costs jobs.

Some of the fears about the oil spill were jacked up by scientists, working for apparently reputable agencies, smelling the possibility of huge government grants for further study of a crisis. Sounds familiar.

Friday, August 13, 2010

David Lloyd George

I'm reading a kind of mini-biography of David Lloyd George, British PM during and a bit after WW I. (A.J. Sylvester, Life With Lloyd George: The Diary of A.J. Sylvester, edited by Colin Cross).

To some extent I'm named after the guy. (I'm definitely not named after the broadcaster).

Highlights: L.G., as he was called, was convinced that the generals lied to him during the war, and he got more evidence that this was true after he left office.

"Here is a thing that most people would laugh at, when I say politicians do not lie, as a rule. I dare say one reason is that once they are caught they are done. Therefore a politician is much more careful. I have never known a prominent politician who tells an absolute lie. That is a curious thing to say, and I know every soldier would laugh when I say it, but it is true. … These fellows (he meant the soldiers) absolutely lied to me." I fear something similar may be true about the police these days.

What surprises me the most is how little there was to L.G. in his last ten years or so. In the 1915-1920 sort of period, it seems that he was not only a few years older than Churchill (L.G. born 1863, Churchill 1874), he was a person to whom Churchill looked up in virtually all ways when it came to politics. For a brief period they were in the same (Liberal) party, but they were known for their disagreements as much as their agreements. Yet they remained fast friends. As World War II approached, Churchill kept hoping L.G. would see things his way, and join him in Cabinet or in some senior advisory capacity. For a while L.G. was not welcome to anyone but Churchill because he was convinced Britain would lose unless there were an alliance with Russia, and there was no serious move to make such an alliance. Later L.G. might have "come in," but he was convinced that Hitler would win, and there would be a need for a new government to confirm that Churchill had failed, and make some kind of (separate) piece with Germany. He wanted to be the Prime Minister that was called on. In a way his defeatism is understandable, but he was so at odds with Churchill, and with many ordinary people who suddenly agreed that it made sense to fight, and even to prepare to go on offence rather than defence.

Churchill and L.G. accused each other of being megalomaniacs. L.G. reads Churchill's volumes on World War I as they come out, and when he reads the claim that L.G. went to then-P.M. Asquith and threatened to resign from Cabinet unless Bonar Law and the Tories were included, he says to long-serving Sylvester that he "did no such thing." On the other hand, L.G. says he will not include in his own book the story that when the "Dardenelles" operation was being planned (better known as Gallipoli), with Churchill very much in the driver's seat, Churchill said "I shall be the biggest man in Europe if this comes off." Of course it ended as a fiasco. L.G. refers to Churchill as stubborn, and in 1936 he says: "[Churchill] had no judgment: he had a brilliant mind and his obsession today was Germany. He was a brilliant writer." L.G. claimed that Churchill had one remarked: "Success in politics depends upon whether you can control your conscience."

Like a lot of people, L.G. became almost unbelievably fawning toward Hitler in the 30s, and this continued into the war. Yet L.G. was supposed to be distinctly on the left: he fought for social programs, and against military spending, in the years leading up to World War I, he mentions that he became a feminist or something of the kind after seeing A Doll's House, and he is proud to express progressive views--in favour of divorce, for example. Of course, in his treatment of people close to him he was vain and often abusive. Altogether he seems to have shrunk into something insignificant by 1939. Of course the elderly become fearful, but Churchill obviously thrived in his mind and soul, if not his body, during World War II.

There is also the money issue: L.G. collected a huge fund, supposedly to fight political campaigns in which he was somewhat on his own, opposed to the older or established Liberal party. Yet he ended up using the fund for strictly personal purposes. He seems to have thought he was always working-class Welsh, so it was always him vs. the banks and the establishment, yet he had not problem accepting favours from capitalists, and even doing their bidding, when it suited him.

This book goes into great detail on L.G.'s two households: wife and legitimate children in Wales, but with the understanding that they can show up in the country house in England at any time; mistress and illegitimate child at the latter house, with the understanding that they may have to cheese it at any time. Eventually L.G. marries mistress after wife dies, and mistress even becomes Countess Lloyd-George. L.G. was known back in Wales as a staunch "non-conformist"--a Protestant but not an Anglican--and he even went to church occasionally. But it is extremely unlikely that he was a believer. Sylvester calls him a pagan. (He was supposed to be a tea-totaller, and was not, which I think is a bit like Diefenbaker in Canada, and possibly Lincoln in the U.S.). One story not in the book, since it belongs in younger days, is that after sleeping with her for a while, L.G. proposed to Frances that she get a better-paying job in the office, and move in with him as officially as possible given the ongoing marriage. Frances agrees, but only if L.G. is prepared to speak to her strict parents. L.G. does so, and gets exactly what he wants.

As I recall, when Churchill was made Chancellor of the Exchequer by Tory P.M. Baldwin in 1924, he cried and said this was more than Lloyd George had ever done for him. Yet their friendship seems to have been genuine. Churchill toasted L.G. on the latter's 73rd birthday in 1936: "There have been many vicissitudes in public life during that period [since they became friends], and all the time I have thanked God that he has been born to work for our country, for the masses of those poor people in times of peace, and for our strength and security in the great days of the war." L.G. responded that it was a pleasure to have at the gathering "my oldest political friend. It is a friendship which has not depended in the least upon agreement, even on fundamentals." This reminds me of another story: when F.E. Smith, a somewhat insubstantial but eloquent character who became Lord Birkenhead, died in 1930, Churchill had dinner with a few friends, cried and said "he was my dearest friend."

My father's name was George. My older brother has always been called David or Dave. I am Lloyd, so for a while the family other than my mother was "David Lloyd George," as one uncle called us. My younger brother breaks the patter with his names. My father like his father before him was a life-long Liberal, but also a huge admirer of Churchill.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Peer Review and Pharmaceuticals

An interesting post on Laika's MedLibLog via Grand Rounds (Life in the Fast Lane).

A company called Elsevier, which publishes the Lancet among other journals, has been found, through a subsidiary, to do contract work for Merck--basically cutting and pasting reports that seem to be based on peer-reviewed literature, in favour of Merck pharmaceuticals. Their "journal," The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, contained articles most of which "presented data favorable to the Merck products Fosamax (for osteoporosis) and Vioxx." Vioxx was ultimately withdrawn from the market because of the proven danger it presented to patients.

This is only one example of Medical Education and Communication Companies (MECCs), doing lucrative contract work that is hardly more than shilling for the pharmaceuticals, but with a bit more scientific patina than ordinary advertising. Of course the companies in question think they keep this marketing work quite separate from legitimate medical research publishing, but is the Lancet as squeaky-clean as it used to be?

Richard North and the Battle of Britain

When North started this series of posts, I wasn't sure where it would go, or whether it would be of great interest to me. Basically, for each date this summer (beginning I forget when), he is saying something about what was happening in the Battle of Britain on the same date in 1940.

He has said two things that I find very interesting. First: there has been some debate about 1)whether Britain shot down German planes that were clearly marked as rescue planes for flight crews that went down over water; 2) whether these attacks were justified by the alleged fact that the dastardly Germans sometimes used rescue planes in their attacks; 3) whether German rescue planes would rescue British and Allied crews as well as German crews, indiscriminately; and 4) whether Britain made any attempt to provide rescue planes for her own crews, much less anyone else's. The answers, which North makes clear he regrets, are yes, no, yes and no. He gives this an interesting libertarian twist by saying governments will lie to you if they think they can get away with it.

Then a slightly larger question: Was Churchill correct that "the few"--fighter pilots--basically won this battle? Churchill's own remarks, considered more fully, point to the importance of bombers attacking German sites; and a little-known fact of the battle is the extent to which anti-aircraft crews made a difference. Although this was not known immediately, they apparently confirmed over 200 "kills" of aircraft; and their effects went beyond that. Going to contributions that are even less likely to be recognized or glorified, the crews of small boats called colliers kept hauling coal to England in the face of extreme danger, and indeed increasing casualties.

Then perhaps the biggest question: did Germany have a realistic chance of invading Britain? North says no.

However perilous the situation for Fighter Command might have been, the outcome of the Battle of Britain was never seriously in doubt. The Germans' objective – the invasion of Britain – was one which could never have succeeded. Apart from anything else, they simply did not have the physical resources to transport and sustain an invasion force. We, on the other hand, at the height of the battle, still had sufficient resource to send a squadron of Hurricanes to Malta.

I have tended to assume that Hitler let the Brits off the hook twice--first at Dunkirk, than by breaking off the Battle of Britain. I must admit I haven't thought much about the fact that Germany would have had to launch an amphibious attack on Britain, as the Western Allies eventually did beginning on D-Day, and probably no country including Germany had the means to do that in 1940. I have speculated that Hitler was surprised there was so much resistance to his campaigns in Britain--when there had been little evidence of such resistance only a few months earlier, and the French, led by their generals from World War I, had given up quite easily. Hitler may have surveyed certain actions of the British Empire and decided that these folks were natural Nazis. The rule of India is obviously part of this, but if anything the use of genocidal wars in Ireland to relieve political pressure in London is an even better example.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Running Update

My next goal race is the Scotiabank Half in Toronto, Sept. 26. The week before that I'll do the Terry Fox 5K. Oct. 31 is the inaugural Tom Taylor 10-mile locally, and the week after that is the Angus Glen Half. Maybe I'd be pushing it to do that last one.

Starting in January, I hope to do five runs a week to train for the Goodlife Toronto Marathon on its new date in May.

Training is going well. I'm only running three times a week for now--going 20k or more on Sunday to keep up my weekly distance. My sore left heel stays with me like an old friend. Swimming twice a week seems to help, along with some stretches.

I've glanced at a Running Room forum. I may or may not join one, but one idea I like is listing PB's.

5K: 23:59 (Terry Fox 09)
10K: 55:19 (Oasis Zoo 08)
10m: 1:22:20 (Acura Toronto 09)
Half: 1:49:37 (Goodlife Toronto 09)
Marathon: 4:00:05 (Waterloo 10)

Monday, August 2, 2010

The hockey stick is dead

It's now just a matter of performing the last rites. Steve McIntyre is vindicated in that more and more people who are not known as sceptics are discovering what complete bullshit Mann's work was from the beginning. (See also here). McIntyre has always said that there were simple statistical checks that should have been performed and either were not performed, or were performed and then the results were not published because they didn't support the hockey stick. In either case there are literally thousands of people who should have been calling bullshit from the beginning instead of saying "it's climate science, Mann must know what he is doing," "it's peer reviewed," "it's political, I'll get smeared as a creationist," or whatever.

There are reliable methods that show no significant temperature increase for a thousand years before the 20th century, then an abrupt increase? Bullshit.

Proxy methods that have been specifically discredited should be used anyway, even though the results don't matter? Bullshit.

That several independent lines of research, not dependent on faulty proxies, confirm the hockey stick? Bullshit.

That there is precise and reliable data available from proxies, comparable to actual temperature data, available from before 1850? Bullshit.

That there is good reason to believe the 20th century was unusually and dangerously warm? Bullshit. Insofar as pre-20th century records mean anything, there was probably a medieval warming period--comparable to the 20th century, the warming not man-made, and not regarded at the time as a crisis or catastrophe.

That there is a clear correlation between dramatic and/or dangerous temperature increases, other weather occurrences, and man-made CO2? Probably bullshit. With no correlation, no basis to speculate on cause and effect.

Mann and others may have started with a zeal to publish, enthusiasm at what seemed an exciting discovery, rushing their work, and maybe some incompetence. But as time as gone on, and he and his acolytes have become more stubborn in defending the indefensible, there has been more and more dishonesty.