Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Garbage In, "Warming" Out

Last week, NRO ran a fascinating Patrick J. Michaels article on how a major "global warming" advocate (I hesitate to use the word "scientist" in this case) has refused to release the raw temperature data that was used in compiling the UN's infamous IPCC reports on "climate change."

Phil Jones, the keeper of the data in question, after refusing for years to release the raw data, finally admitted that he and other researchers had massaged the data set years ago, and that the original recordings were irretrievably lost. Bear in mind, this manipulated and apparently super-secret data set of... temperatures... is what's being used by politicians to justify massive changes in the global economy.

Apparently Jones was not the only Global Warmening "scientist" who didn't really care to release raw data for peer review. The Register (UK) recently looked into an explosive "global warming" study based on tree rings in Siberia, and learned that the source data had been heavily manipulated to bring about a result only an activist could love:

[S]ince 2000, a large number of peer-reviewed climate papers have incorporated data from trees at the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia. This dataset gained favour, curiously superseding a newer and larger data set from nearby. The older Yamal trees indicated pronounced and dramatic uptick in temperatures.

How could this be? Scientists have ensured much of the measurement data used in the reconstructions remains a secret - failing to fulfill procedures to archive the raw data. Without the raw data, other scientists could not reproduce the results. The most prestigious peer reviewed journals, including Nature and Science, were reluctant to demand the data from contributors. Until now, that is.

At the insistence of editors of the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions B the data has leaked into the open - and Yamal's mystery is no more.

From this we know that the Yamal data set uses just 12 trees from a larger set to produce its dramatic recent trend. Yet many more were cored, and a larger data set (of 34) from the vicinity shows no dramatic recent warming, and warmer temperatures in the middle ages.since 2000, a large number of peer-reviewed climate papers have incorporated data from trees at the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia. This dataset gained favour, curiously superseding a newer and larger data set from nearby. The older Yamal trees indicated pronounced and dramatic uptick in temperatures.

How could this be? Scientists have ensured much of the measurement data used in the reconstructions remains a secret - failing to fulfill procedures to archive the raw data. Without the raw data, other scientists could not reproduce the results. The most prestigious peer reviewed journals, including Nature and Science, were reluctant to demand the data from contributors. Until now, that is.

At the insistence of editors of the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions B the data has leaked into the open - and Yamal's mystery is no more.

From this we know that the Yamal data set uses just 12 trees from a larger set to produce its dramatic recent trend. Yet many more were cored, and a larger data set (of 34) from the vicinity shows no dramatic recent warming, and warmer temperatures in the middle ages.

The tampered-with Yamil data also played into alarmist conclusions in a paper co-authored by (wait for it)... Phil Jones. In the words of the late 20th Century philosopher Gomer Pyle, "Sur-prise, sur-prise, sur-prise."

Remember all that the next time you read about a conservative/Republican "war on science"... but don't expect to read about it in the New York Times.

All Glory Is Fleeting

Here's some exceptionally cogent analysis that ought to be daily required reading for politicians of all parties and ideologies, courtesy of Matthew D'Ancona, writing in the U.K. Daily Telegraph:

Labour has grown used to the limelight, and has forgotten that nobody has a right to the public's attention. It is a paradox that the longer a Government lasts, even as it suffers cellular damage and approaches invalidity, the more convinced it becomes that its beliefs are obvious, that its arguments are plain common sense, that it does not have to win the battle daily....

The election of a Government does not represent a collective swoon before an ideological blueprint, but something much messier and more numinous: boredom with or suspicion of the other lot, intuitive enthusiasm for what the victorious party represents. That enthusiasm is provisional, probationary, and must be renewed constantly.

H/T: Michael Barone.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Compare and Contrast

"I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid."
--Muammar Qaddafi, 2003

"We'd be content and happy if Obama can stay president forever."
--Muammar Quaddafi, 2009

I rather prefer it when murderous dictators are afraid, as opposed to content and happy. Don't you?

A Good Point

The real Steve and the Fake Steve both have a great point here: if there's anything that unites the Left and Right in this country right now, it's the genuine and fervent desire of both sides to never hear the words, "President Biden."

Safire's Vision

When I read that William Safire had died over the weekend, I immediately thought of a remarkable column Safire wrote back in March of 1991, in which he attempted to predict what the world would look like five years later.

As is normal for such predictions, Safire got a lot wrong. No intra-European army was ever formed to replace NATO, George H. W. Bush was not reelected in 1992, Norman Schwartzkopf never ran for president; there are plenty of prophesies in the column (many of them obviously tongue-in-cheek) that never came true.

Safire's crystal ball was clearer on a few items, and some of them were not that difficult to predict. The old East did become a massive economic headache for the eventually-reunified Germany. Yugoslavia did crumble into war shortly afterwards--this was possibly the most obvious prediction in the entire piece--and the Europeans, after dithering for years, did finally call Washington for military help.

But the most remarkable display of prescience came in this paragraph. I still remember reading it for the first time in the International Herald-Tribune, and marveling over its audacity with my Oxford tutor in Soviet Politics:

And what to do about the former Soviet republics, with their newly productive market systems? From Yeltsin in Russia to Sheverdnadze in Georgia, a curtain of grain will fall from the separated parts of the old Kremlin empire. Although capitalist Poland is reviving nicely, fresh competition from the former Soviet republics is now causing Central European unemployment.

In 2009, approaching the twentieth anniversary of the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, those words appear almost banal, but in early 1991, when Gorbachev was sending black beret KGB thugs into Lithuania to crack down on a nascent independence movement, they hit like a thunderbolt.

Even with the old Eastern Bloc having sloughed off the dead hand of Communism, the Soviet Union itself appeared as implacable and permanent as one of Stalin's grim apartment blocks. Although he lacked the strength and the stomach to crush the external revolutions of 1989, Gorbachev was still determined to maintain his own internal empire, and to keep his Communist Party in firm charge of Russia and the captured Soviet buffer states. For a figure as prominent as Safire to write, almost casually, of Yetsin and Shevardhaze--both still members and high-ranking officials of the Party--as the leaders of independent, non-Soviet states... that was so far outside of the status quo we'd lived under for so long, it sounded like something out of a fantasy novel.

But of course, that bolt-from-the-blue prediction came true, and it happened mere months after the Safire column went to press.

Safire like to recall an anecdote from his early days as a columnist at the New York Times, in which he went to his editor and said that he'd like to write a memo for then-President Nixon, but wasn't sure whether doing so would compromise his new job at the Times. The editor replied that Safire should write the memo, submit it as a column, "and the president will read it, and you'll get paid for it." Which, of course, is exactly what happened.

I've often wondered what the reaction in the Kremlin was like when Safire's March 1991 column was translated and disseminated. Who within those walls had the same reaction that so many of us had, the realization that someone as experienced and (yes) cynical as William Safire still believed it was be possible for the world to change, that much?

It was a remarkable time, and I strongly suspect that Safire, who had a hand in many remarkable things over his long life, played a hand in the days that followed, simply by thinking ahead and writing about what he imagined the world could be.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

David Broder and the Washington Delusion

David Broder, the distilled product of seventy years of D.C. conventional wisdom, opines today about the difficulties Obama is having in molding reality to his policy prescriptions. Unfortunately for Broder, the column says more about the writer's capital-centric blind spots than it does about actual policy.

Broder starts out by complimenting this essay in National Affairs, "Obama And The Policy Approach," by William Schambra. Schambra, as quoted by Broder, says,

"In one policy area after another, from transportation to science, urban policy to auto policy, Obama's formulation is virtually identical: Selfishness or ideological rigidity has led us to look at the problem in isolated pieces . . . we must put aside parochialism to take the long systemic view; and when we finally formulate a uniform national policy supported by empirical and objective data rather than shallow, insular opinion, we will arrive at solutions that are not only more effective but less costly as well. This is the mantra of the policy presidency."

Broder himself is plenty experienced enough to correctly note,

Historically, that approach has not worked. The progressives failed to gain more than brief ascendancy, and the Carter and Clinton presidencies were marked by striking policy failures.

... but it's at this point that Broder falls prey to the Washington Delusion and runs off the tracks, blaming that pesky system of checks and balances for the inability of the enlightened ones to bring about their vision of "change." Not unlike his colleague Thomas Friedman, Broder seems to prefer a government where a race of superior (liberal, Harvard-approved) beings can avoid all the messy requirement of democracy and just "get things done":

The reason, Schambra says, is that this highly rational, comprehensive approach fits uncomfortably with the Constitution, which apportions power among so many different players, most of whom are far more concerned with the particulars of policy than its overall coherence.

The energy bill that went into the House was a reasonably coherent set of trade-offs that would reduce carbon emissions and help the atmosphere. When it came out, it was a grab bag of subsidies and payoffs to various industries and groups. Now it is stymied by similar forces in the Senate.

Schambra's essay anticipated exactly what is happening on health care. Obama, budget director Peter Orszag and health czar Nancy-Ann DeParle grasp the intricacies of the health-care system as well as any three humans, and they could write a law to make it far more efficient.

Uh, no, Mr. Broder. I don't care how brilliant or learned The One and his various minions might be, they are not smart enough to "grasp the intricacies of the health-care system." It does not stand to reason that "any three humans" could actually "write a law to make it far more efficient." They simply don't posses anything close to enough data, and they aren't blessed with the Godlike intelligence that would be required to actually comprehend a system that large and complex.

It's much more likely that any law they could write to reorganize such a vast apparatus, one that involves hundreds of millions of individuals, not one of whom will act according to theory in any given particular, would result in unintended consequences far beyond the ken of Barack Obama, Peter Orszag, Nancy-Ann DePearle, or even (gasp) David Broder.

This reliance on "we'll just get the smartest kids from [insert favored Ivy League school of the moment] in the room and figure all this out" Washington-think got us into a great many messes in our recent history, not least including the alleged "Maestro" of the national economy building up an unsustainable real estate bubble, the popping of which led to the current unpleasantness.

The delusion that any small group of "planners" can "manage" much of anything in a vast, continental nation is perhaps the defining characteristic of the Washington class. Having been assured for decades that they are the Best And The Brightest, they simply do not understand--much less accept--their own limitations.

As he has been so many times in the past, Broder is Hubris's herald.

All Your Files Are Belong To Us

How great is it to be Andrew Breitbart right now? Not only is he running rings around the see-no-evil-on-the-Left mainstream media, the guy just got subpoena power over the radical Left's most prominent organization--and they were dumb enough to hand it to him!

Andrew's going to have more fun with that than he'd have managing a Dash Rip Rock Reunion Tour. And he is a big Dash fan...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hotter Than Hell

While one should very clearly not rejoice over the deaths of seven pilots and airmen who, for all we know, were fine and upstanding individuals, one also can't help but chuckle when one reads that Iran's only "AWACS"-style tracking and control aircraft collided with a vintage Northrop F-5E fighter during a military parade... and then the fiery wreckage crashed into Ayatollah Khomeini's crypt.

The last part, at least, might just constitute proof that God not only exists, but also that He has a sense of humor.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Giant Sucking Sound

From Network World, via Slashdot:

Dell has agreed to buy Perot Systems for around $3.9 billion in cash, and intends to make the company its global services delivery division, the companies said Monday.

The deal will allow Dell to expand its range of IT services, and potentially allow it to sell more hardware to existing Perot customers, it said.

Sales by acquisition isn't exactly a prime indicator of a vibrant company; it's more the move a fossilized incumbent trying to hold on to market share. Dell hasn't even been around for 30 years, seeing them acting like IBM or AT&T now is pretty disappointing.

What He Said

Michael Barone:

Actually "mainstream media" is doing its friends in the Obama administration and the Democratic party no favors, at least in the long run. Obama comes from one-party Chicago, and the House Democrats' nine top leadership members and committee chairmen come from districts that voted on average 73 percent for Obama last fall. They need help in understanding the larger country they are seeking to govern, where nearly half voted the other way. Instead they get the impression they can dismiss critics as racist or "Nazis" or as indulging in (as Sen. Harry Reid said) "evil-mongering."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned us that there was a danger that intense rhetoric could provoke violence, and no decent person wants to see harm come to our president or other leaders. But it's interesting that the two most violent incidents at this summer's town hall meetings came when a union thug beat up a 65-year-old black conservative in Missouri and when a liberal protester bit off part of a man's finger in California.

These incidents don't justify a conclusion that all liberals are violent. But they are more evidence that American liberals, unused to hearing dissent, have an impulse to shut it down.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Well Said

An excellent column in today's New York Daily News by Michael Meyers, the executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. A sample:

To my ears, Obama's speech before Congress was a bundle of contradictions - one big, fat lie. I did not buy his claim that real health care reform, the kind we on the left can believe in, won't add a "dime" or even a penny to our out-of-control federal deficit. Nor did I hear anything credible from him about controlling the skyrocketing costs of Medicare and Medicaid. The promises he listed simply did not add up. I said to myself - not being on the floor of Congress at the time - "you lie." That heretical thought did not make me a "racist." Nor did the expression of the idea make Joe Wilson a "racist."


As a liberal, I must ask: Why can't liberals who support Obama make an intelligent argument without accusing those who disagree with us of racism, and sideswiping other liberals who, like me, when I heard Obama's speech, reflexively agreed with Wilson's sentiment - to wit, "Mr. President, you lie!"?

Read the whole thing.

Appeasement 2009

From the AP:

The Czech prime minister says President Barack Obama has told him that the U.S. is abandoning plans to put a missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Czech Premier Jan Fischer told reporters in Prague on Thursday that Obama phoned him to say that Washington has decided to scrap the plan that had deeply angered Russia.

Fischer says Obama confirmed that Washington no longer intends to put 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic.

Because, you know, it's much more important to appease dictatorships than it is to stand by your allies.

For a bunch that (loudly) prides themselves on "smart diplomacy," the Obama Administration has a tremendous knack for stupidity, to say nothing of historical ignorance. Two of our best friends in the world are less important to these academic twits than "being nice" to Putin and Ahmadinejad, to say nothing of their quarter-century outdated hostility towards missile defense ("you peon--that was a Reagan idea, therefore, it must be bad!").

In the East, seventy years ago, they called this kind of asinine policy the Western Betrayal. Shame on us to repeat the same shameful back-stabs now.

Nile Gardener:

What signal does this send to Ukraine, Georgia and a host of other former Soviet satellites who look to America and NATO for protection from their powerful neighbour? The impending cancellation of Third Site is a shameful abandonment of America’s friends in eastern and central Europe, and a slap in the face for those who actually believed a key agreement with Washington was worth the paper it was written on.

What did you expect from an ideology so blinkered it could look at those countries, most of them free for less than 20 years now, and call them "a motley collection of nations one could buy on eBay"?

UPDATE: Johnathan Adler notes this betrayal occurrs on a particularly inauspicious date, namely the 70th anniversary of Stalin's invasion of Poland.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Mush From The Wimp

Having heard Jimmy Carter's mush-mouthed accusations of "RRRRRACISM!" on the radio this morning, I think Mickey has it exactly right:

Instant reaction: Kiss of Death. Gift to the GOPs. Remember the Carter era of smug moralizing? Anyone want to go back to that? ... P.S.: A good example of how, if the MSM wants to tilt against the Republicans, it's often too wedded to its own conventions--e.g., the desire to 'make news' with an ex-Pres.--to be effective. ... No sophisticated campaign propagandist would say, "OK, let's throw Jimmy Carter at them. They'll be reeling!"

For everybody old enough to remember what life was like under Jimmy's stupefying mixture of sophomoric self-righteousness, boundless naivete and gobsmacking incompetence, shoving Mr. Peanut back under the spotlight in his bitter dotage does nothing to help Obama, who's been looking like Carter II since a few hours after his inauguration.

And for those too young to remember history's greatest monster (thanks, Glenn), Jimmah's empty slander is just another sign of the unbecoming moral vanity at the heart of the modern Left, to say nothing of its overweening intolerance for any hint of dissent. People know good and well that being opposed to socialized medicine or trillion-dollar deficits doesn't make them racist. Calling them ugly names isn't going to make them cower away in fear--it's going to make them more convinced than ever that they're in the right.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Shouting "Racism" At Politico

Johnathan Martin of Politico has a terrible, thumb-sucking piece today titled, "Democrats imply race factor for Barack Obama foes." The headline at least is honest; as many predicted around the time of Obama's election, "RRRRRACISM!" quickly became the default response to any substantial (or even trivial) criticism of The One among much of the Left.

But instead of making any effort to actually investigate this trope, Martin simply quotes an extensive list of Democratic politicians and activists who were quite happy to read his thesis back to him in made-to-order zingers directed at their political opponents. Martin never bothers to mention that such attempts at debate-silencing are directly in the interests of his interviewees, or the not-incidental fact that the political opposition being gratuitously smeared in the article are currently trouncing the congressional Democrats in the court of public opinion.

But surely, you say, in this brave new world of "journalism," there must have been some sort of rebuttal to these charges? I mean, Politico is allegedly a nonpartisan news outfit, didn't Martin at least go out and find one person who would make a case counter to his narrative?

Uh, no. Check the article for quotes from conservatives, liberterians, or even regular old Republicans? You'll find exactly zero.

Martin's article isn't journalism, or even "journalism." It's stenography.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Walter Duranty, 2009

Thomas Friedman has always been an overrated bore (I love it how a guy with degrees in Mediterranean and Middle East Studies is, in media-land, considered an expert on economics, science and technology--but then again, if you stick "journalist" after your name, you're apparently an expert on everything), but he really reaches a new low in this execrable paen to the dictatorship in Communist China. Making things worse, Friedman once again expresses his own longings for an authoritarian regime here at home that can cut through the pesky mess of democracy and implement his personal list of pet projects. It is a revolting and disturbing display of affection and longing for untrammeled dictatorial power, and one that in a sane world would cost Friedman his job.

You'd think even the New York Times would have learned from their past experience with apologists for totalitarianism like Walter Duranty, but no, the old grey broad and her anointed pundits just keep on carrying the torch for murderous dictatorships, decade after decade. After all, the Friedman and the Times are here to make the omelets of the future, and never mind all those bloody little eggshells.

Jonah Goldberg takes Friedman apart here and here. Jonah's comments are highly recommended; Friedman's column is not--unless you just strongly feel the need to vomit.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

There's Mean, And Then There's Mean.

Last night's resignation letter by Mumiac, Truther, radical whack job and now ex-Obama "czar" Van Jones, loaded up with whining about a "vicious smear campaign" using "lies and distortions," reminded me of something P.J. O'Rourke said after his famous review of Hillary Clinton's ghost-written tome "It Takes A Village" many years ago.

Quoth P.J., "I did the meanest thing I could think of: I quoted her."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Standing Ovation

I had been under the impression--at least until I read this masterpiece--that I was pretty good at blasting out a customer-no-service rant.

I now hereby declare that I am but a rank amateur. A sample of the greatness within:

So I call Maytag. The Maytag. The Mothership. And the agent I get after working through a five-minute maze of PRESS THIS and SAY THIS and PLEASE HOLD is the snootiest customer service person I have ever talked to in my life. And I let her know the entire story, front to back, and that while I'm really upset and sleep deprived, I'm not mad at her because I know it's not her fault. And she keeps saying, yeah, can't really help you, you're going to have to call and have the history faxed over, and then we'll take a look, and even then we'll schedule someone to come take a look, maybe in three to five days?

Why can you not give me a working washing machine in the meantime while you figure out what is wrong with the brand new one that is sitting there broken in my laundry room? Why? I'll take any machine. Any working machine. Give me a machine that works while you figure out why THAT BRAND NEW ONE DOESN'T WORK.


Okay then, I say, almost begging at this point, almost to the point of tears, is there anyone I can talk to who might see what I've been through and understand? And here's where I say, do you know what Twitter is? Because I have over a million followers on Twitter. If I say something about my terrible experience on Twitter do you think someone will help me? And she says in the most condescending tone and hiss ever uttered, "Yes, I know what Twitter is. And no, that will not matter."

That is what she said to me.

So I asked if I could please speak to her supervisor. And I am not even kidding she goes, "Uggh. Fine. Hold, then."

She UGGGH'ed me.

(I've just upset the Cro-Magnons.)

And then I spend the next fifteen minutes giving my story to her supervisor, pleading for someone to fix my washing machine today or at least give me a working machine in the meantime, and he says no, but maybe we'll schedule someone to come take a look, maybe in three to five days?

Okay then. I hang up the phone, calmly walk over to my computer...

Oh, go read the whole thing already.

H/T: Megan McArdle.