Sunday, October 29, 2006

Newsweek proves its climate change journalism has worsened since 1975

Over at Real Climate, Connolley points to a Newsweek "re-examination" of its 1975 article predicting global cooling. Newsweek claims the 1975 article, while ultimately wrong, was accurate journalism.

Connolley lets Newsweek off way too easy by calling the judgment "self-serving". The 1975 article says:

the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century.

That was a demonstrably wrong assessment of what scientists thought at the time, but has been used endlessly by idiot denialists ever since to argue against the significance of actual scientific consensus.

So in 1975, Newsweek couldn't do accurate journalism research. Now, they can't even read their own article closely. I don't know how good its journalism has been on climate change in the intervening decades, but Newsweek has bookended its work with incompetence.

UPDATE: Working Newsweek link to article here (the one at RealClimate died).

Monday, October 23, 2006

An open letter to California Lieutenant Governor candidate Tom McClintock

Dear Senator McClintock:

I have an open challenge for you, Senator McClintock: you have repeatedly dismissed global warming, saying it is nothing more than what "has been going on since the last Ice Age and it will continue until the next Ice Age." I suggest that you put your money where your mouth is.

There’s a charitable website called, where bettors donate their bet money to a foundation that holds the bets and donates all the money to a charity chosen by the winner. I challenge you to bet over global warming - I even have a bet waiting at If temperatures go down or even just go up slightly, my money will go to a conservative charity of your choice. I'll even sweeten the pot - you seem to hold the view, without any scientific evidence to back it, that we're just in a natural warming cycle. I'm willing to set up a new bet with you that warming will accelerate in the next decade or two compared to the last century. Given how strongly you've spoken out on this issue, I sure hope you won’t run away now that you have a chance to be personally invested in the outcome.

Please contact me if you intend to put your money where your mouth is. I look forward to hearing from you.

Brian Schmidt

P.S. I'll put this letter on my website and will be sure to post any response I receive from you at the site:

Sunday, October 22, 2006

NY Times on science fraud

NY Times has an interesting piece on uncovering ten years of scientific fraud by a prominent medical researcher. I still think the fact that the fraud was caught after many years shows a weakness in the scientific process, not a strength, as well as make me wonder what other frauds are ongoing.

Especially interesting was the implication that the young technician who turned in the researcher had damaged his own career - in a just world, one that the academic elite could affect, it would do the exact opposite. I think scientific academies and universities should include in their hiring criteria that uncovering major fraud is at least as important in someone's CV as a major research project. I'm sure it took up about as much of that tech's time, and involved greater risk.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Volokh Correction #14 and a Prometheus Correction

Two more erroneous posts at the Volokhs and Prometheus argue it's wrong to call global warming denialists by that name, because it reminds some people of Holocaust "deniers", which reminds Volokh and Prometheus of Godwin's law, which somehow means then that "denialist" term is an ad hominem attack.

I would agree that the statement, "Global warming denialists are wrong because they're similar to Holocaust deniers," is an illogical, ad hominem attack. Count on me to shoot that statement down if somebody somewhere decides to say it. Otherwise, denialist is a fair and accurate term. "Skeptic" is inaccurate, and "septic," while sometimes accurate, interferes with talking to the other side. I and many others didn't draw the Holocaust connotation, and I don't really care if others noticed the similarity.

Generally, I'm a reluctant convert to the idea that we need to influence language. I'd rather have it be a neutral process, but that's not the real world, and the other side is pushing the other direction. The key is to be fair, accurate, and ethical. Denialist fits that criteria.

(More relevant musings by Connolley here. Ironically, he's one of the few tagged with seeing the Holocaust connection, but he doesn't use the term, preferring "septic" instead.)

UPDATE: I should clarify that I don't see anything ethically wrong with expressly drawing an analogy between the two denialist classes, but it's just that such an analogy doesn't prove anything. As a science matter though I wouldn't draw the analogy myself because global warming, while proven, is not as completely undisputable as the Holocaust.

UPDATE II: Adler at Volokhs repeats the claim some use denialist as a parallel to the Holocaust. His proof is Connolley, who doesn't use the term, and Pielke who says he proved it sometime around 2001, but doesn't provide a link.

Friday, October 13, 2006

I want bacteria to have separate species

Lyn Margulis thinks they don't though, and she's just a hair more qualified than me to judge. She says they change genes too readily to be consider genetically isolated, and should be ID'd as strains instead.

All I can say is that the species concept is a little fuzzy too with eukaryotes (ring species, anyone?), and bacteria maintain a meaningful separation between their "strains" so the concept is close enough. The reason I want them to be separate species is because I still want to demonstrate speciation in a petri dish. Maybe someday.

(And I do recognize that the fact that I want bacteria to have separate species has no influence on whether they have separate species. Unfortunately.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

655 thousand and 65 percent

The first figure is the best estimate on the number of excess deaths in Iraq following the 2003 invasion. The second number is the low end of several polls that asked Iraqis if they want American troops to leave (high end is 80 percent).

Below is the unimpressive history of my views on Iraq:

2002-03: undecided over whether we should invade. If I were President, I wouldn't have done it, but if I were in Congress, I probably would have voted in favor of giving Bush the authority. I could claim there's some way to reconcile those positions, but I won't bother. After all the time I spent in Burma, I couldn't easily pass up a chance to overthrow an entrenched dictator.

2004: I realized it was a mistake, and unlike some VIPs, also realized that I should have known better before the invasion. I didn't think we should pull out though.

2005: Moved to undecided on whether to pull out.

early 2006: Increasingly believe the US should pull out in 6-18 months.

now: We should definitely pull out in 6-18 months.

I find it very hard to argue with 655,000 dead and 65% who want us out. Yes, the Iraqi parliament might be different, although they haven't put it to a vote there, I believe. Even if the parliament wants us there, I still think it's a mistake. And I don't expect things will go well if we leave, either.

The Democratic and moderate Republican position should be get out of Iraq, and double our effort to fix Afghanistan. That's the best option we have now.

UPDATE: Just thought I'd also add that unlike some VIPs who've acknowledged their mistakes, I don't believe that the fact that I was wrong before somehow makes my opinion more weighty than people who have been right from the beginning.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Loose Change versus Popular Mechanics on 9/11 - score one for Loose Change

I did not expect to write the headline above, but that's the way it turned out when I tested one randomly-chosen contradiction between the two sides.

"Loose Change" is a documentary with an IMO ridiculous claim about 9/11 being a conspiracy. Popular Mechanics wrote a rebuttal which became a book. Democracy Now hosted a debate, and this came up regarding the Loose Change claim that Underwriter Laboratories certified the Twin Towers steel as something that wouldn't melt or weaken under the heat from the fires:

DAVID DUNBAR: In fact, Underwriter Laboratories does not certify structural steel.

DYLAN AVERY: Oh, okay.

JASON BERMAS: I would disagree with that.

Okay, seems like there's no gray area on this question. I looked up Underwriters, and found several relevant examples of certifying steel for structural uses. I emailed Dunbar about it two weeks ago, and have heard nothing so far.

So this doesn't change me from being a skeptic about the conspiracy theory, but it's a little disconcerting how this seems to have turned out. I hope Popular Mechanics did better quality control on other things they assert with equal authority.

To put some fuel on the fire, I'm going to send this entry to the Skeptic's Circle. Folks there might be able to explain how Popular Mechanics is right - otherwise, they would just know not to use this argument when talking about 9/11.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The silver lining about the North Korea test bomb

It'll make it a little harder for the Bushies to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran. I think the Joe Sixpack reaction would be that Bush is going after the wrong target, again. Still, you never know the level of stupidity these jokers can reach in their holy mission.

I suspect the test will help Bush and Republicans, slightly, as the rally to the flag reaction battles against the wondering about what's Bush done to deal with this in the last six years.

Via Kevin Drum, there's a recap of how Bush screwed up Clinton's attempt to keep North Korea from getting nukes. Left out in that recap is the role Senator Jesse Helms played in stopping the US from giving them the reactors we promised. That guy did a lot of damage in his lifetime, and some of it hasn't been felt yet.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Boy do I hate to agree somewhat with Brooks and Althouse, but...

...there's something very wrong with seduction of a 13-year old (changed to a 16-year old) by an adult woman in The Vagina Monologues, and anyone on the left who disagrees with that position likely has some inconsistent positions about Mark Foley. Alicublog does a reasonable job of pointing out the stupid overgeneralizations Brooks and the extremely annoying (yet banal) Althouse make, but ultimately misses the germ of a reasonable point about taking a consistent position regarding sex with minors. Yes, there are some differences between the real Mark Foley and the somewhat based-on-reality Monologues, but that doesn't eliminate a reasonable comparison between the two.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The next Lieutenant Governor of California knows about betting over global warming

I met John Garamendi at an environmental fundraiser last week. He's the Democratic candidate for California Lieutenant Governor, and a shoo-in for office. He was emphasizing his interest in "the central challenge of our time—reversing global warming and climate change." I told him I had a global warming hobby - challenging denialists to long-term bets over global warming. He was interested and asked a few questions about how the bets would be decided. I added there's a number of us who've been doing this, and he said I should challenge his opponent, Tom McClintock, another denialist. I think I will.

Garamendi has made global warming an important part of his campaign. It's very interesting triangulation - putting Garamendi in the same camp as both the Dem and Republican candidates for governor, and isolating McClintock. And it's a data point - Garamendi emphasizing an issue in 2006 when Al Gore said in 2000 that polls showed voters didn't care about it.

Monday, October 02, 2006

September 2006 Iraq casualties

Avg. daily Coalition fatality rate for the last month: 2.6
(nearly all Americans, and excluding Iraqis): 2.6.

Previous months:
August: 2.13
July: 1.55

Last year, September 2005: 1.73.

Overall daily average to date is 2.29. Total US dead as of today: 2720.

Iraqi monthly military/police fatalities: 150.

August: 233
July: 217

Last year, September 2005: 233.
Total dead: 5468.

Iraqi monthly civilian fatalities: 1,429.

August: 970
July: 1060

Last year, September 2005: 640.

To-date total since March 2005: 13,905. Note that the civilian numbers may be less accurate than others (most likely to be greatly underestimated), but could still be useful in determining trends.

Comments: Things look slightly worse to me this year for US figures, but not dramatically worse as per Woodward's new book. Just continuing badly.

There's an uncovered story in the decline of Iraqi military casualties compared to 2005 while civilian casualties skyrocket. I'd assume that the Iraqi military stats would also get worse. My best guess for an explanation is that the military and police are sitting out the civil war, one more unhopeful sign for the future.