Tuesday, December 29, 2009

One Imam?

There may be one imam who is especially important to the recent Northwest Air attempted bombing, the Fort Hood shootings, and other planned attacks. He was born and educated largely in the U.S., and has lived and worked there recently.

Good news: there may be very few people who are truly a threat to attack Americans. Bad news: once again it is a relatively privileged person, with plenty of access to the benefits of Western life, who becomes radical. Are there known cases of radical Moslems becoming Westernized, to counter-balance the Westernized ones who become radical?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Conservatism

I've recently read a substantial part of the life of Lord Salisbury, written by his daughter. Then I re-read a short life of Edmund Burke by John Morley. I keep thinking of A.J.P. Taylor's suggestion that conservatives are people who wait until the other side goes swimming, and then steals their clothes. In other words, from the moment liberals or progressives suggest a new program, it is just a matter of time until conservatives adopt it, even if this comes after years or decades of bitter denunciation of the idea as hostile to our way of life, immoral, etc. Certainly in 19th century British politics, to which I keep returning for some reason, conservatism was largely defined by issues that gradually disappeared.

To be a Tory meant opposing free trade. Tariffs helped the good old farmers (supposedly not only rich landed aristocrats), close to the ancestral soil, tied by habit and instinct to our traditions, etc. Robert Peel as a new, non-landed, kind of urban mercantile conservative, was considered to be taking a bold step in adopting free trade after an election campaign in which he allowed the impression to stand that he would oppose it. Disraeli led a rebellion by "die hard" Tories, but as soon as the dust settled, Disraeli told his followers that protection by means of tariffs was "not only dead, it was damnable." The economy was booming, and free trade was popular, end of story. Protection would pop up again from time to time, pretty much always from Tories. Joe Chamberlain bizarrely brought it up in the 20th century, when it made trouble for Balfour as Tory PM. Balfour tried to come up with a compromise, but failed. Only a few years later Tory PM Baldwin campaigned on some kind of tariffs. When he was defeated, that was the end of it--a hundred years after Peel.

Tories were supposed to be for the established Church of England--even in Ireland and Wales, which didn't want it, and didn't want to pay for it. Gradually this part of the establishment faded away to a considerable extent. Tories were supposed to fight "Reform"--expansion of the franchise to somewhat poorer people, and equalizing constituencies in a way that would weaken some of the gentry. In 1832 the Duke of Wellington persuaded his fellow Tory Lords to back down. In the 1860s Salisbury broke with his leader Disraeli--Salisbury taking the anti-Reform view that the ordinary people, admitting that they were in the majority in the country, should not have unchecked power in government any more than any other narrow group should. Funnily enough, the Tory party benefitted hugely from the Reform in the late 19th century; without good polling or anything comparable, no one could have predicted this. Everyone ended up as one happy family.

So: is there such a thing as a conservatism that can be stated in at least relatively unchanging principles, or are conservatives always simply saying "not yet."

Burke worked harder at this than Disraeli or Salisbury. To paraphrase: a political community has institutions that are functioning more or less well at a particular time. This includes "establishments" (plural, not just one Establishment as those stupid old hippies would suggest), but it also brought a way of life, a home, a set of habits and traditions, for ordinary people. None of this should necessarily be regarded as completely fixed or unchanging, but the better it is working, the more hesitation there should be in changing it, especially by threatening violence. Burke was especially concerned at a kind of intellectual conceit that new ideas should be introduced willy-nilly, to see what would happen, even if the risk of violence was more or less inadvertently raised. One might say Marxism in the twentieth century was an extreme example of this tendency.

Burke was all for the American Revolution, dedicated to the rights of man, which Burke would be the first to say was a relatively new doctrine in history, and largely confined, as a working philosophy, to the English-speaking world. Why would he not oppose what might seem an extension of this doctrine, bringing with it the direct threat of violent revolution, in the American colonies? Burke said the Americans were defending ideas, but more importantly daily practices and habits, that had become well-established among them. Proposed British laws affecting the colonies were going to hurt them, restrict business, force them to curtail the plans and decisions, all arguably beneficial, that they had been in the habit of making. Given all the typically New World talk about the frontier, and tomorrow always being better than today, it may have been hard to find as aggressively entrepreneurial group of business people anywhere as one found in the American colonies. In this sense, aggressive capitalism was something to be defended there, but probably not in India, a very different and, Burke would probably say, more backward place. Burke actually said it was the British government that was introducing a novel doctrine in America, with the idea that Parliament was more supreme over American business people than it was over those in Britain. Instead of allowing them more latitude, as their organic situation may have demanded, Lord North and King George III were trying to force them to accept less. This all reminds me that my late father used to say the American Revolutionaries were demanding the rights of Englishmen. Tocqueville says, no doubt partly because of the relative lack of violence, that the American Revolution was hardly a real revolution.

Burke was a Whig, who may have become more of a Tory with age. He wanted to protect liberalism where it had been established (very few places), and extend it where possible (possibly even fewer places).

Burke famously was opposed, one could almost say violently opposed, to the French Revolution. He suggested the whole mess, even before it became really violent, was the deliberate destruction of organic traditions by a few trouble-making intellectuals. As Morley says, Burke never admitted that some of the reformist measures of the early days of the Revolution were hugely popular, and reflected the actual suffering of the ordinary people in their organic, communal daily lives. The Revolution was not simply hostile to tradition--it was partly inspired by, and consistent with, the traditions of the country and the people. Burke might have said that the pre-revolutionary actions of the King and aristocrats of France were just as revolutionary or bellicose, even if carried out in the name of tradition, as the actions of George III and Lord North before the American Revolution.

Does Burke provide us with any way of telling in advance whether progressive and even revolutionary ideas are "good" or "bad"? Perhaps one can say: the more revolutionary they are, the more they are to be discouraged, but Burke as a Whig surely defended the English Glorious Revolution as the timely establishment of a just and lawful regime that provided a peaceful solution to the religious wars and other issues. Leo Strauss' essay on Burke suggests he moved away from "natural rights" modernity to "history." Somehow big-H History, like a divinity, can decide and let us know the outcome.

The American regime has a conservative character compared to social democratic regimes in the 20th century. For some Republicans and so-called libertarians, if an idea was not in fairly widespread circulation in the 1780s, it can be discounted and perhaps rejected. So: no welfare state--not even public education or pensions, perhaps very limited public or government provision for the poor. The Swedish welfare state began with labour market programs--ensuring that there is work, and workers move to the work, but also that there is unemployment insurance. Perhaps Americans have always believed in government works that employ people, even if they are make-work projects. Capitalism understood as creative destruction--ultimately affecting the family and everything else--does not seem very conservative, but it was definitely well understood by American merchants in the 1780s. A standing army was definitely regarded as an evil to be avoided, even if there were odds and ends of people who wanted to make trouble for you; today's libertarians seem to embrace the Pentagon, possibly the largest and most wasteful bureaucracy that has ever existed, but that is another story.

Blindly led by "experts"

Here's another example of people who should know better being blindly led by so-called experts. (The article in the Register links to a piece in Playboy). In this case, the Bush administration, at the highest level, believing some cock and bull story about details of terrorist attacks being broadcast in code over Al Jazeera. The con artist involved, Dennis Montgomery, was working closely with the Science and Technology unit of the CIA. Surely, one would think, these are people who would insist on proof that there is such a technology, or that it works. But no, they wanted to believe, or they wanted to prove they were being super-cautious, or something, so they sold Montgomery's nonsense to Dick Cheney and others. It took a while for actual intelligence officials to establish that the whole story made no sense: among other things, terrorist operatives would need de-coding devices, there would be no logistical advantage in proceeding this way, etc.

Of course I'm reminded of global warming. There have been many extremes of cold and warmth on earth. No one thinks any of them have ever been caused by human action, except possibly a warming trend in the twentieth century. In order to believe man-made CO2 has caused this particular trend, one must believe that there is a closed energy system, that this one forcing will over-ride any other forcing, including some that might cause cooling, etc. Surely some skepticism would be called for, and in the meantime, detailed evidence would be demanded before drawing conclusions. But no. Gullibility ruled.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Is warming over, and what caused it?

Qing-Bin Lu, a professor of physics and astronomy at Waterloo, says "global warming" lasted from 1950 to 2000; and we are now in a cooling period. This already suggests no real correlation with man-made CO2, which has been increasing steadily since about 1850. He says in fact that when warming occurred, it was caused by a combination of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and cosmic rays. Production of CFCs has gone down dramatically since about 2000, which was the first year that developed countries produced no new CFCs at all. Dr. Lu was intending to explore the relationship between CFCs and ozone loss or "the hole in the ozone layer," but he ended up arriving at findings about temperature and climate.

His work is peer-reviewed in a peer-reviewed journal (Physics Reports) with lots of peers reviewing it. In fact, it may even be sprinkled with fairy dust.

I think for a lay person the main question is: is there some doubt about the science that underlies the recommendations to spend billions or trillions reducing CO2 emissions?

Monday, December 21, 2009

EPA: Clean Air vs. Reducing Carbon

A nice piece by Steven Hayward in the Weekly Standard. He begins by admitting forthrightly (maybe not what you'd expect from a conservative) that the Clean Air Act, enforced by the EPA, has done a lot of good. It has been costly, but it has not really inhibited economic activity or growth in a noticeable way.

By contrast, if the EPA tries to use its authority to drastically reduce the production of CO2, there is likely to be a substantial economic cost. It's not like other sources of energy are readily available, and business people are just too short-sighted to use them. What's even more likely than costly implementation, however, is that there will be litigation every step of the way, and increasing doubts as to whether CO2 should in fact be treated as a pollutant.

Liberals and environmentalists might say: leave it to a conservative to say that a fairly recent reform, which they bitterly opposed at the time, has worked out, but the one being proposed now is a disaster. I come back to the point that there is real doubt about the data, and the warmists have not been transparent about that. In one way or another, they will have to be more transparent now.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Actual vs. Hypothetical Human Suffering

The Mayon volcano in the Philippines has forced the evacuation of 8,442 families comprising 40,093 people in less than a week. Because the volcano has given substantial warning of a big eruption, there are no serious injuries or fatalities so far.

Is this disruption, caused by one obscure volcano, more than has been caused by alleged global warming so far?

The tsunami five years ago, caused by an earthquake, killed 200,000 people.

There seems to be no doubt that the volcano underneath Yellowstone Park will erupt one day--and on a scale that will cause global cooling, loss of agriculture, and tremendous death and suffering. Is that more certain that the alleged warming? It seems so.

Coal miners die in mines on a regular basis (see here, here, here). Instead of trying to restrict any and all carbon, would it not make sense to encourage a shift from buring coal (still very cheap for much of the world) to burning oil and gas?

CRU: An excess of moral zeal more than a hoax

Key pieces of evidence: Phil Jones in 2004:

Bottom line - their is no way the MWP [Medieval Warming Period] (whenever it was) was as warm globally as the
last 20 years. There is also no way a whole decade in the LIA [Little Ice Age] period was more than 1 deg C
on a global basis cooler than the 1961-90 mean. This is all gut feeling, no science, but
years of experience of dealing with global scales and varaibility.


The 50 or 60 climate scientists were convinced that human activities had made a profound difference to temperature/climate, and were likely to make a greater difference in the future. They needed to develop a response to the obvious observation that spectacular changes in climate had happened in the past with no human intervention at all. As a step in this direction, they came up with the "hockey stick"--temps flat for hundreds of years until 1900, then upward at a steep and steady rate through the 20th century. The MWP wasn't very warm, if it existed at all, and the Little Ice Age wasn't very cool--natural variability was less than the dramatic changes now being caused by human beings. At best this wouldn't answer questions about 5000 years ago or more, but it would be effective rhetorically. Defenders of the CRU point out that they don't sound, in e-mails that they expect to remain private, like they are hatching a plot, deliberatelyh falsifying evidence, laughing at the rubes, etc. It's more that they are convinced that the data will fall their way sooner or later. As soon as it does, they stop being skeptical about it. Once they have one graph on their side, they are ruthless in their criticism of any attempt to question it.

There has been a lot of talk about passages from Kevin Trenberth. This one from October 2009:

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.


He would rather believe every thermometer in the world is broken than give up on the models.

Then a further exchange:

How come you do not agree with a statement that says we are no where close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter. We are not close to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not! It is a travesty!


Coming from Trenberth, this amounts to saying: he's pretty confident he can identify the major factors affecting temperature/climate; but he doesn't know how they interact, or whether warming or cooling is likely to be prevalent in a specific period. A very simple view is that increased CO2 causes increased temps, probably modest increases at first; there is a closed energy system, so there is nowhere for added heat to go, and so there is a forcing that causes a more dramatic temperature increase. This is the Gore view, but Trenberth seems to say he has no idea whether it is true, and he thinks this is true of all the peer-reviewed climatologists.

There's also a line that cooling by SO2 may be canceling warming by CO2--he still believes the latter, but he does not know the extent of the former.

UPDATE: Not Trenberth: MacCracken indicates that man-made SO2 has a cooling effect, and could cancel out the effects of man-made CO2 for all anyone knows:

From: Mike MacCracken [mailto:mmaccrac@xxxxxxxxx.xxx]
> > > Sent: 03 January 2009 16:44
> > > To: Phil Jones; Folland, Chris
> > > Cc: John Holdren; Rosina Bierbaum
> > > Subject: Temperatures in 2009
> > >
> > > Dear Phil and Chris--
> > >
> > > Your prediction for 2009 is very interesting
> > (see note below for notice that went around to email list for a lot
> > of US Congressional staff)--and I would expect the analysis you have
> > done is correct. But, I have one nagging question, and that is how
> > much SO2/sulfate is being generated by the rising emissions from
> > China and India (I know that at least some plants are using
> > desulfurization--but that antidotes are not an inventory). I worry
> > that what the western nations did in the mid 20th century is going
> > to be what the eastern nations do in the next few decades--go to
> > tall stacks so that, for the near-term, "dilution is the solution to
> > pollution". While I understand there are efforts to get much better
> > inventories of CO2 emissions from these nations, when I asked a US
> > EPA representative if their efforts were going to also inventory
> > SO2 emissions (amount and height of emission), I was told they were
> > not. So, it seems, the scientific uncertainty generated by not
> > having good data from the mid-20th century is going to be repeated
> > in the early 21st century (satellites may help on optical depth, but
> > it would really help to know what is being emitted).
> > >
> > > That there is a large potential for a cooling
> > influence is sort of evident in the IPCC figure about the present
> > sulfate distribution--most is right over China, for example,
> > suggesting that the emissions are near the surface--something also
> > that is, so to speak, 'clear' from the very poor visibility and air
> > quality in China and India. So, the quick, fast, cheap fix is to put
> > the SO2 out through tall stacks. The cooling potential also seems
> > quite large as the plume would go out over the ocean with its low
> > albedo--and right where a lot of water vapor is evaporated, so maybe
> > one pulls down the water vapor feedback a little and this amplifies
> > the sulfate cooling influence.
> > >
> > > Now, I am not at all sure that having more
> > tropospheric sulfate would be a bad idea as it would limit
> > warming--I even have started suggesting that the least expensive and
> > quickest geoengineering approach to limit global warming would be to
> > enhance the sulfate loading--or at the very least we need to
> > maintain the current sulfate cooling offset while we reduce CO2
> > emissions (and presumably therefore, SO2 emissions, unless we manage
> > things) or we will get an extra bump of warming. Sure, a bit more
> > acid deposition, but it is not harmful over the ocean (so we
> > only/mainly emit for trajectories heading out over the ocean) and
> > the impacts of deposition may well be less that for global warming
> > (will be a tough comparison, but likely worth looking at). Indeed,
> > rather than go to stratospheric sulfate injections, I am leaning
> > toward tropospheric, but only during periods when trajectories are
> > heading over ocean and material won't get rained out for 10 days or so.
> > > Would be an interesting issue to do research on--see what could be done.
> > >
> > > In any case, if the sulfate hypothesis is
> > right, then your prediction of warming might end up being wrong. I
> > think we have been too readily explaining the slow changes over past
> > decade as a result of variability--that explanation is wearing thin.
> > I would just suggest, as a backup to your prediction, that you also
> > do some checking on the sulfate issue, just so you might have a
> > quantified explanation in case the prediction is wrong. Otherwise,
> > the Skeptics will be all over us--the world is really cooling, the
> > models are no good, etc.
> > And all this just as the US is about ready to get serious on the issue.
> > >
> > > We all, and you all in particular, need to be prepared.
> > >
> > > Best, Mike MacCracken

Friday, December 18, 2009

Climate: Data, Data, Data

The more people look at raw temperature data from specific regions of the world, and apply some reasonable process to allow for changes in environment, low number of stations, etc., the more it seems the big cheese warmists (perhaps 50 or 60 people) have fudged, or have encouraged national weather offices to fudge, the numbers. There is a real possibility that there is no robust data showing the twentieth century was unusually warm, or that there was a warming trend from the beginning of the century to the end, corresponding to the increase in anthropogenic CO2. There may be no correlation between the increase in man-made CO2 and anything bad at all.

The Met in the UK has relied on a changing number of weather stations: from very few in 1850, to a lot more in 1950. There is supposed to be a way of correcting for that--building in a margin of error in the early years, to allow for the fact that much of the area of the country is not being accurately captured by the readings. One researcher seems to have found that some warming indeed appears in the twentieth century, when the numbers are properly adjusted, but all the warming is within the margin of error in the 1850 numbers. There simply isn't much info about 1850. Maybe 1950 was warmer, but then again, maybe not.

One of my favourites, since the alleged thawing of both poles keeps coming up, is Antarctica.

Since 1993, the official temperature data for the Antarctic has depended on one weather station, out of a possible 27.

This one station, Rothera Point, is on the Antarctic Peninsula, which is known by various measures to be warmer than the Antarctic as a whole.

This one station has the highest temperature trend of any of the ten stations in the Antarctic that have been used for readings up to 1993. It is not clear why other stations have not been used consistently.

Rothera Point has an airport built in 1990-91, a hangar, a coffee shop and various buildings that would tend to warm things up.

Wikipedia:

West Antarctica is currently experiencing a net outflow of glacial ice, which will increase global sea level over time. A review of the scientific studies looking at data from 1992 to 2006 suggested a net loss of around 50 Gigatonnes of ice per year was a reasonable estimate (around 0.14 mm of sea level rise).[75] Significant acceleration of outflow glaciers in the Amundsen Sea Embayment may have more than doubled this figure for the year 2006.[76]

East Antarctica is a cold region with a ground base above sea level and occupies most of the continent. This area is dominated by small accumulations of snowfall which becomes ice and thus eventually seaward glacial flows. The mass balance of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet as a whole is thought to be slightly positive (lowering sea level) or near to balance.[75][76] However, increased ice outflow has been suggested in some regions.[76][77]


I believe this means: as far as anyone knows, little to no net loss of ice is occurring at Antarctica. (East Antarctica, either gaining ice or staying the same, is much bigger than West Antarctica, losing ice).

Also many people are reporting the extreme cold and snow in Copenhagen during the last week or so of the Global Warming Conference Boo! I did a little more checking:

Both snowy and cold--overnight lows as much as 10 degrees below the average for December.

I know, weather isn't climate, but it's still funny.

Because of poor planning by people who want to establish a global government, many people stood in line in the cold for six hours or more.

"It was cold, even for a Canadian," said Gerald Butts, president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund Canada, who waited five hours in line to get his pass to enter the building.


Also a cold blizzard waiting in DC for Obama and many others. It's not out of the question that Dulles will be closed.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My new take on Climate

There may really one set of modified temperature data, and a very small group of people who have seen this data and worked with it. I think Steve Hayward is probably on to something:

Michael Mann [Associate Professor at Pennsylvania State University] Phil Jones [head of Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia], and Ben Santer of Lawrence Livermore seem indisputably to be the bad actors (it was Santer who said he was "very tempted" to "beat the crap out of" skeptic Pat Michaels). Others in their circle, such as Keith Briffa [Climatic Research Unit], Tom Wigley [University Corporation for Atmospheric Research], and Mike Hulme [Professor at UAE], appear much more scrupulous and restrained about handling the data, uncertainties, and conclusions they put into print. Kevin Trenberth, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and key IPCC contributor, comes out somewhere in the middle, writing recently, for example, "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment [since 1998], and it is a travesty that we can't." But Jones also suggests in one email that he and Trenberth will help keep contrarian climate research out of the IPCC process "even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"


They had an opportunity to create and develop a new science--the science of climate. Beginning from computer modelling, it would involve a lot of statistics, a bit of physics (interaction of fluids and gases, radiation), a bit of oceanography (ocean currents and sea level), a bit of polar studies (ice cores), a bit of geology/paleontology (fossils, changes in sediments and rocks over time), a bit of dendrology (tree rings), among others.The exciting prospect was to arrive at specific findings about the apparently chaotic set of processes called "climate," and ultimately, perhaps, suggest some actions and government policies that might make climate more supportive of human life than it is. Given this golden opportunity, they squandered it.

They seem to have carved out a field which does not proceed by normal scientific standards. They accept and endorse only work that supports their predetermined conclusions; they decide what counts as a refereed journal in their field, and who is recognized as a refereee. Their competence in any field of science--even statistics, where it is has been assumed they are somehow beyond question--can be questioned. Even if it is admitted that there is some doubt about the connection between temperature and man-made CO2, to say nothing of Arctic ice, remote glaciers, etc., it is usually claimed that at least the climate gurus have a temperature record--or even better, several independent records--going back centuries, that are beyond question, and therefore a kind of bedrock for their theory. It turns out that the supposedly independent records are highly dependent on each other, and all have been manipulated in ways that go beyond the expected corrections that are required by the circumstances in which temperatures are recorded. Most tellingly, they have fought with great resource and determination to hide their original data, and the statistical methods which they have used to arrive at their published results, including wonderfully simple graphs. To an incredible extent, people who should know better have taken their word on all this, and therefore let them get away with it.

The Pandemic that Wasn't

When it comes to swine flu in Ontario, and larger issues, Dr. Schabas is my hero.

Surely a big part of the job of public health officials is to tell the truth about actual health risks as simply and clearly as they can.

Just over 100 deaths in Ontario from H1N1? The provincial ministry of health says: "It is estimated that annually influenza and community-acquired pneumonia account for 60,000 hospitalizations and 8,000 deaths, most of which occur among elderly persons1. Groups at increased risk for influenza complications include the elderly, immuno-compromised and persons with chronic medical conditions. In Canada, on average, 500-1,500 deaths every year are due to influenza alone."

So we had a fairly normal flu year, except that deaths were lower than would have been expected. Is that the impression you get from the media?

There have probably been 300 traffic deaths in Ontario during that time. There are about 80,000 deaths a year in Ontario from all causes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Still Running

Just an update. Yesterday was the Santa Shuffle, 5K. I ended up running an eccentric route, so I don't really know how far I went. I also left my Polar running at the end, so I'm also not sure how long I took. But it was roughly 5 minute pace, and I was scheduled for a tempo run, so that's fine.

The route went crazy because of a young man named Kyle. When I first told the story I was referring to him as an idiot, but that's unfair. Lunatic would be better. He ran clad only in shorts and running shoes, on a chilly day. He was determined to win this thing, and he went off at a fast clip. Then: he was confused about the route, so he circled back at about 2K and came back to the start line. I was some ways behind him, but I saw him turn right at London road (the prescribed route) with his posse following him, then abruptly they all came back the other way. For some strange reason, I folowed. I ended up going off on my own. I assume Kyle did 7K instead of 5. If his posse tried to keep up, they would have been pretty tired.

Today: 11K, mostly a nice country run, with a group (headed by Karen) that is training for a 10 K. A much slower pace for me--close to 7 minutes. Chatting with Jose while we ran, and with other folks before and after. On days like this, it's great to be a runner (despite the cold wind).

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Who's Christmas?

A nasty Facebook entry from a mayor in Tennessee is getting some attention. Apparently Obama's speech on Afghanistan pre-empted the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

"Ok, so, this is total crap, we sit the kids down to watch 'The Charlie Brown Christmas Special' and our muslim president is there, what a load.....try to convince me that wasn't done on purpose. Ask the man if he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he will give you a 10 minute disertation (sic) about it....w...hen the answer should simply be 'yes'...."
-- Arlington, TN, Mayor Russell Wiseman, complaining on his Facebook page about Obama's West Point address


So: Charlie Brown is now the byword for a wholesome, Christian entertainment for the season. And sure enough, the kids read from Scripture and sing an actual Christmas Carol or two. I've had the idea that originally, some Christians regarded the Charlie Brown special as a dangerously metropolitan or ironic take on the season--jazz, sophistication, and all that, the implication that no adult could really believe this stuff, it's really a kind of melancholy for childhood.

My question: if the Dickens story is about as close to scripture as all Americans get, is it really Christian? I guess so, but in a "Jesus was a kind man, aspire to the goodness of a good child" kind of way.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Another E-Mail to Yglesias

I can't resist taking up your challenge: Why would so many politicians be saying "climate change crisis," if it isn't true? What is the upside for a politician who is worried about committing the spending that is called for by the IPCC?

Well, I guess the environment is a motherhood issue of our time. There have been a series of issues that have rallied quite a bit of public concern: landfills, plastics, phospates in lakes, acid rain, etc. I would venture to say that all of this is more salient among those with post-secondary education than among others. Politicians don't necessarily get a majority of votes from those with post-secondary education, but they know that issues that begin with a relatively small group can take on political momentum, until the question is raised: why aren't you doing something?

Beyond the environment specifically, I would say there is a lot of distrust of capitalism. In fact there is what I would call (I can't resist snark completely) kindergarten Marxism--the belief that capitalism is going to kill us somehow unless government or the UN intervenes, it's only a question of how. Maybe supermarket food is poison, despite being the most heavily regulated industry we have. Maybe the water we drink, maybe the air we breathe, maybe vaccines are hyped by Big Pharma not for our health, but for their profits. Maybe Big Agriculture is using biotechnology to make Frankenfood, whatever that is.

Obviously only a very small percentage of all the people I've been referring to really know anything about the science at all. They trust certain sources.

Was the CRU (founded by Margaret Thatcher, when she was fighting for nuclear power) trustworthy? Apparently not. Is the science settled, case closed, etc.? Apparently not, if it is true that the CRU has been one of three legs of the stool supporting the warming-linked-to-anthropegenic-CO2-theory.

My son is asking me: how could all the scientists at CRU be either clueless or lying, as I seem to be suggesting (drawing an analogy to the Bushies going in to Iraq). Part of my answer is that "clueless" can include "full of moral fervour, ideological rigidity, etc." Every large or lasting political movement has lots of extremely bright, well-educated people who are like this.

CRU and alternative data sets

So the major defence of the global warming theory now comes down to this: granted there were problems with the CRU data base, even before the dog ate it, but there are at least three other data bases that are truly independent of the CRU mess. They are all reliable, and they all agree, so global warming is real.

(Stipulating that by "the global warming theory" I mean the belief that: temperature is going up dangerously; this is linked to/caused by man-made CO2; there is something realistic that governments can do about this; and billions of dollars should be spent accordingly. Different skeptics question different parts of this theory).

Slate has jumped on this bandwagon, with credit for information being given to Gavin Schmidt, one of the people implicated in the CRU e-mails.

Veronique de Rugy of the Corner offers a strange take on this: She cites people saying don't worry, science is de-centralized, climate science couldn't be controlled by a small group, anyone with a computer can generate a model, all the models pretty much agree. Her answer is that there are more Democrats than Republicans involved in producing the models. But this is not really the point. Models ultimately need to be tested against a complex mass of data. The big question is whether there are any other sets of data that are truly independent of the lost CRU data.

As to surface temps, Ron Bailey says No.

What about satellite temps, available since the 1970s? Lord Monckton says they are tied to the suspect surface temp data.

I have my doubts about Monckton, especially his fears that the warmists are trying to bring about a world government. I actually think the warmists have done little harm so far, since actual governments are so hesitant to actually pay an economic price over this issue. Many of the countries that have flamboyantly promised to achieve CO2 levels that go back decades are ex-Communist countries that have lost a lot factories, and will have little difficulty in keeping their promises. Canada used to make promises based on the idea that forests are carbon sinks, so we can get away with the oil sands.

Having said that, another point from Monckton: On "hiding the decline". Actual temperature readings do not go very far into the past. Going further back than 1900, or at best 1850, requires the use of proxies such as tree growth. The warmists discovered that for the period during which they had both tree ring data and temperature readings, the tree ring data was completely out of whack. In the most recent years, the tree rings showed decline whereas the temperature readings did not, and in earlier periods there were other problems indicating that tree rings were totally unreliable. So they wanted to stick to temperature data, which itself has probably been fudged to exaggerate warming in the 20th century, while concealing the fact that the tree ring data is of no use, and there is really no good data from before 1850 or 1900. "Hiding the decline" shown by tree rings in recent years was just the tip of the iceberg: more of the iceberg was exaggerating warming in the 20th century, and pretending to have good data from before the 20th century.

The IPCC report says tree rings are a questionable proxy for temperature, since many factors other than temperature can affect tree growth. Despite this warning, the warmists have relied very heavily on a very naïve reading of tree ring data.

Today on Anthony Watts' site: someone who works with stats, who has previously not been involved in the climate debate, shows that the CRU program literally told the computer to align all temperature data with a hockey stick.

Monday, November 30, 2009

MSM can cover CRU if they try

The Toronto Star, in a story which generally treats Al Gore as a saint:

This week, climate-change deniers have been making a great ruckus after hackers broke into a computer system at the University of East Anglia in the U.K. and downloaded a welter of emails exchanged over the past decade or so by scientists studying climate change.

At the very least, the correspondence raises troubling questions about the motivation, the ethics and the science of at least some of the researchers involved.

But climate-change skeptics have seized on the documents as more than just an embarrassment for their adversaries. They are hyping the correspondence as nothing less than a smoking gun – proof positive that global warming is a hoax and that the jig is now up.

Al Gore's word, they say, is finally mud.


But if in fact, as reported, the "science" of "at least some of the researchers" at CRU is now subject to "troubling questions," "at the very least," then the skeptics have been right all along. So: they're not deniers of something that's beyond question for sane people; they're skeptics.

That wasn't so hard, was it? Al Gore is probably not a pathological liar, but he is also probably not a martyr for the truth. Somewhere in between.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

More on CRU

My son is still not convinced there is much wrong with the official global warming line, and the science behind it. One question: why would a number of reputable scientists, even if a fairly small number, fudge data or draw conclusions that go far beyond their data? My best answer is that all boomers, at least those who have been to university, are attracted to kindergarten Marxism and environmentalism. But we need to do better than that.

One thing we've discussed: Eddington claimed to confirm one of Einstein's theories, I can never remember which is which (general) by his observations of a total eclipse. It has been established in recent times that he was actually unable to measure what he claimed to have measured.

Here's the CRU quote:

In other words, Eddington believed in Einstein’s theory and wanted to prove that it was true, and therefore he subconsciously minimised his errors in order to get the right result. Regardless of whether or not this was the case, Eddington’s result was hailed as a wondrous piece of science, experimental validation of the greatest intellectual achievement of the of the youthful twentieth century, a sign of optimism in a world that had been torn apart by war. J.P. McEvoy, author of the “Eclipse”, encapsulated the significance of the announcement: “A new theory of the universe, the brain-child of a German Jew working in Berlin, had been confirmed by an English Quaker on a small African island.”


See also here.

Of course, Eddington turned out to be right--or the theory by a much smarter person he was defending was right--but he still seems to show how enthusiasm can get the better of a scientist.

Revkin does OK on CRU

The New York Times: Not bad at all.

Friday, November 27, 2009

CRU: Lessons learned so far

It seems that a wide range of people, including some who believe strongly in the global warming theory, are now going to join in expecting that full data is made available to the public, contrary to what has been the usual practice of alarmists. This is a good thing, and Steve McIntyre deserves a lot of credit for his lonely campaign on this front.

Another believer who wants openness here. This is pretty amazing stuff.

What if all the data is a mess, or doesn't tell any convincing story about climate, or actually contradicts warming (just as severe hurricanes have stopped in the U.S., Arctic ice is rebuilding, etc.) Will people who want to believe in global warming, partly because of what I call kindergarten Marxism, be willing to give it up?

Of course, there still may be good arguments for cutting back on our use of so-called fossil fuels--especially coal. It would be progress if we (China, India) could shift from coal to oil, and then from oil to gas. Are we going to run out? Who knows? Should we shift as quickly as possible to nuclear? (It's that belief that got Thatcher behind Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), and led her to establish the CRU, among other things).

Funniest joke from the CRU issue so far

Paraphrasing: By now Gore is probably sorry he invented the Internet.

Such memories that joke brings back. It's probably not true that Gore is a pathological liar. And yet: there was a list of pufferies and whoppers.

And he didn't seem to learn.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My E-Mail to Yglesias

(Thinking of this post on a possible climate change futures market, among other posts)

I'm still surprised you don't apply your usual skepticism to claims about global warming.

From the CRU material: Kevin Trenberth says "we" don't know whether the cooling effect of man-made SO2 completely counteracts the warming effect of man-made CO2; and "we" don't understand the whole system of energy close to the earth's surface well enough to know whether geo-engineering would work or not. I take it this means: maybe once the temperature starts going up, the only way it can go is up more steeply, positive feedback, tipping point, etc., but then again maybe not. There is not enough understanding of all the major determinants of climate to be sure.

Even the temperature readings since 1850 don't co-relate well with the dramatic increase in man-made CO2, and these readings are more questionable than we are usually told. Before 1850 it is a matter of proxies; it seems there is very little actual data to go on, and the way it is processed is at least somewhat questionable. A skilled programmer, not hostile to the CRU at all, spent three years trying to get data that had already been used for "publications in refereed journals" into recognizable shape, but failed. He says he was completely unable to replicate the results that had already been published.

You still imply that anyone who questions all this is either stupid, or has been paid off by Big Oil, Big Coal, Koch, or whatever.

Monday, November 23, 2009

CRU files

Many chickens coming home to roost. There will be lots of discussion of these files for the next while. I`ve been especially impressed by two things: 1) the hypothesis that all these e-mails and other documents were gathered into one file by staff at CRU, for their own purposes, over a period of time. Why would a hostile hacker, or someone with a guilty conscience, go to all the trouble of finding and sorting files? On the other hand, why would CRU staff do so?

It looks like it is precisely the most incriminating files that have been gathered together--the ones that make top global warming scientists look like political hacks, deliberately distorting and mis-representing evidence, smearing and undermining anyone who questions them, etc. I think there's a good chance they gathered this stuff to prepare for a Freedom of Information request under the new law in the UK. If the request came, they may have been prepared to destroy all this stuff. Unfortunately for them, they must have put this huge file on a shared drive so various staff could comment or add. One can imagination them reminding each other: make sure everything is in here. If so, there may not have been any difficult security to hack.

2. Secondly, this list of highlights is a bit different from most you are seeing:

McIntyre's revelations caused a firestorm of controversy, in response to which the alarmist community circled its wagons to fend off the threat from an outsider. This process can be clearly seen in the East Anglia emails.

The alarmists' effort to respond to McIntyre was complicated by the fact that Briffa had been ill and undergone surgery, and was then recuperating. So several of them wrote to Briffa's co-author, Tim Osborn, for advice on how to respond to McIntyre's critique. Osborn replied on September 29, 2009:


Hi Mike and Gavin, thanks for your emails re McIntyre, Yamal and Keith. I'll pass on your best wishes for his recovery when I next speak to Keith. He's been off almost 4 months now and won't be back for at least another month ....

Regarding Yamal, I'm afraid I know very little about the whole thing -- other than that I am 100% confident that "The tree ring data was hand-picked to get the desired result" is complete crap. Having one's integrity questioned like this must make your blood boil....

Apart from Keith, I think Tom Melvin here is the only person who could shed light on the McIntyre criticisms of Yamal. But he can be a rather loose cannon and shouldn't be directly contacted about this....


So: these scientists don't really have any idea whether McIntyre's critique of Briffa's work is correct or not. Even Briffa's co-author professes ignorance. There is one person they could approach who could "shed light on the McIntyre criticisms of Yamal." But they don't do it. Why? Because "he can be rather a loose cannon and shouldn't be directly contacted...." In other words, his loyalty to the cause of climate alarmism may not be absolute. This is much like the case noted here where Michael Mann, one of the recipients of the above email, warns against sharing information with someone named Andy because he is "not as predictable as we'd like."

Despite having no idea what the facts are, the alarmists don't hesitate to formulate a position. Thus, on the next day, September 30, Osborn writes:


Keith's temporarily come in to get a handle on all this, but it will take time. Likely outcome is (1) brief holding note that no cherry-picking was done and demonstrating data selection is defendable by our time tomorrow; (2) longer piece with more evaluation etc. in around a week. No point is posting something that turns out to be wrong.

That's good enough for Osborn's fellow alarmists. Michael Mann replies:


great--thanks Tim, sounds like we have a plan. in our post, which we'll target for tomorrow as well, we'll simply link to whatever CRU puts up and re-iterate the sentiment of the temporary short response (i.e. that there was no cherry-picking, a careful and defensible selection procedure was used) and we'll mostly focus on the broader issues, i.e. that any impact of this one series in the vast array of paleoclimate reconstructions (and the importance of the paleoclimate reconstructions themselves) has been over-stated, why these sorts of attacks are not legitimate science, etc.


Note that the alarmists are willing to denounce McIntyre's work as "not legitimate science" even though, at this point, they still have no idea whether his analysis was right or wrong. That is not, however, what they tell the outside world. On September 29, Andrew Revkin, environmental reporter for the New York Times, wrote to Mann asking about McIntyre's critique:

needless to say, seems the 2008 pnas paper showing that without tree rings still solid picture of unusual recent warmth, but McIntyre is getting wide play for his statements about Yamal data-set selectivity.


Has he communicated directly to you on this and/or is there any indication he's seeking journal publication for his deconstruct?

Mann, ignorant of the facts, responds by slandering McIntyre:

Hi Andy, I'm fairly certain Keith is out of contact right now recovering from an operation, and is not in a position to respond to these attacks. However, the preliminary information I have from others familiar with these data is that the attacks are bogus.


It is unclear that this particular series was used in any of our reconstructions (some of the underlying chronologies may be the same, but I'm fairly certain the versions of these data we have used are based on a different composite and standardization method), let alone any of the dozen other reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere mean temperature shown in the most recent IPCC report, which come to the conclusion that recent warming is anomalous in a long-term context.


So, even if there were a problem w/ these data, it wouldn't matter as far as the key conclusions regarding past warmth are concerned. But I don't think there is any problem with these data, rather it appears that McIntyre has greatly distorted the actual information content of these data.

Given what is said in the other emails, that last attack on McIntyre appears to be simply fabricated out of whole cloth. Mann concludes by buttering up Revkin:

Fortunately, the prestige press doesn't fall for this sort of stuff, right?

mike

Of course not! Revkin replies, "Thanks heaps."


At the same time they were issuing these assurances to outsiders, however, the alarmists' internal communications were much more equivocal. On September 30, the day after he corresponded with Revkin, Mann asked Tim Osborn to confirm that a key 2006 paper co-authored by Osborn and Briffa was untainted by what is implicitly acknowledged to be Briffa's bad Yamal data:

And Osborn and Briffa '06 is also immune to this issue, as it eliminated any combination of up to 3 of the proxies and showed the result was essentially the same (fair to say this Tim?).

Osborn's reply is hedged at best, and includes a rather insouciant admission that he is "amazed" that the journal Science agreed to publish his paper in the first place:


Mike,

yes, you're right: figs S4-S6 in our supplementary information do indeed show results leaving out individual, groups of two, and groups of three proxies, respectively. It's attached.

I wouldn't say we were immune to the issue -- results are similar for these leave 1, 2 or 3 out cases, but they certainly are not as strong as the case with all 14 proxies.


Certainly in figure S6, there are some cases with 3 omitted (i.e. some sets of 11) where modern results are comparable with intermittent periods between 800 and 1100. Plus there is the additional uncertainty, discussed on the final page of the supplementary information, associated with linking the proxy records to real temperatures (remember we have no formal calibration, we're just counting proxies -- I'm still amazed that Science agreed to publish something where the main analysis only involves counting from 1 to 14!

:-)).


But this is fine, since the IPCC AR4 and other assessments are not saying the evidence is 100% conclusive (or even 90% conclusive) but just "likely" that modern is warmer than M[edieval] W[arm] P[eriod]. ...

So, this Yamal thing doesn't damage Osborn & Briffa (2006), but important to note that O&B (2006) and others support the "likely" statement rather than being conclusive.

Cheers
Tim


Another member of the climate alarmist cabal, Tom Wigley, gave this darker assessment of Briffa's errors with regard to the tree ring data on October 5. Note in particular his concern about the alarmists' practice of withholding data from public review:

Phil,

It is distressing to read that American Stinker item. But Keith does seem to have got himself into a mess. As I pointed out in emails, Yamal is insignificant. And you say that (contrary to what M&M say) Yamal is *not* used in MBH, etc. ...

But, more generally, (even if it *is* irrelevant) how does Keith explain the McIntyre plot that compares Yamal-12 with Yamal-all? And how does he explain the apparent "selection" of the less well-replicated chronology rather that the later (better replicated) chronology?


Of course, I don't know how often Yamal-12 has really been used in recent, post-1995, work. I suspect from what you say it is much less often that M&M say -- but where did they get their information? I presume they went thru papers to see if Yamal was cited, a pretty foolproof method if you ask me. Perhaps these things can be explained clearly and concisely -- but I am not sure Keith is able to do this as he is too close to the issue and probably quite pissed of[f].

And the issue of with-holding data is still a hot potato, one that affects both you and Keith (and Mann). Yes, there are reasons -- but many *good* scientists appear to be unsympathetic to these. The trouble here is that with-holding data looks like hiding something, and hiding means (in some eyes) that it is bogus science that is being hidden.


I think Keith needs to be very, very careful in how he handles this. I'd be willing to check over anything he puts together.

Tom.

This strikes me as a damning commentary on the entire alarmist enterprise. Meanwhile, not only are Briffa's data flawed and seemingly cherry-picked, the assumptions on which the tree-ring studies are based may be bogus in the first place. The email collection includes these two messages from a plant scientist, both within the last 60 days:

Dear Professor Briffa, my apologies for contacting you directly, particularly since I hear that you are unwell. However the recent release of tree ring data by CRU has prompted much discussion and indeed disquiet about the methodology and conclusions of a number of key papers by you and co-workers.

As an environmental plant physiologist, I have followed the long debate starting with Mann et al (1998) and through to Kaufman et al (2009). As time has progressed I have found myself more concerned with the whole scientific basis of dendroclimatology. In particular;

1) The appropriateness of the statistical analyses employed
2) The reliance on the same small datasets in these multiple studies
3) The concept of "teleconnection" by which certain trees respond to the "Global Temperature Field", rather than local climate
4) The assumption that tree ring width and density are related to temperature in a linear manner.


Whilst I would not describe myself as an expert statistician, I do use inferential statistics routinely for both research and teaching and find difficulty in understanding the statistical rationale in these papers. As a plant physiologist I can say without hesitation that points 3 and 4 do not agree with the accepted science.

There is a saying that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof". Given the scientific, political and economic importance of these papers, further detailed explanation is urgently required.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Don Keiller.


Tree ring studies are vitally important to the conclusions reached by the U.N.'s IPCC report, which is the main foundation for the claim that anthropogenic global warming has been "proved." That being the case, one would think that Briffa, one of the two or three primary authors of the tree ring studies, would have a ready response to these very basic questions. But no: he did not reply to Dr. Keiller's email. That prompted this second inquiry from Dr. Keiller:

Dear Professor Briffa, I am pleased to hear that you appear to have recovered from your recent illness sufficiently to post a response to the controversy surrounding the use of the Yamal chronology; ([5]http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/people/briffa/yamal2009/cautious/cautious.htm) and the chronology itself; ([6]http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/people/briffa/yamal2009/)


Unfortunately I find your explanations lacking in scientific rigour and I am more inclined to believe the analysis of McIntyre ([7]http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=7588) Can I have a straightforward answer to the following questions

1) Are the reconstructions sensitive to the removal of either the Yamal data and Strip pine bristlecones, either when present singly or in combination?

2) Why these series, when incorporated with white noise as a background, can still produce a Hockey-Stick shaped graph if they have, as you suggest, a low individual weighting?

And once you have done this, please do me the courtesy of answering my initial email.
Dr. D.R. Keiller


Again, one might assume that if the science surrounding global warming is settled, the alarmists would have good answers to such basic questions, and certainly would be willing to engage in debate in a spirit of open-minded inquiry. Such, however, is not the case. Phil Jones of East Anglia advised Briffa against trying to respond to the plant scientist on October 20:

Keith,

There is a lot more there on CA now. [I'm pretty sure CA is Climate Audit, a web site where McIntyre posts.] I would be very wary about responding to this person now having seen what McIntyre has put up.

You and Tim talked about Yamal. Why have the bristlecones come in now. [1]http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=7588#comments


This is what happens - they just keep moving the goalposts. Maybe get Tim to redo OB2006 without a few more series.

Cheers
Phil

As far as I can tell from the email archive, Briffa never did respond to the plant scientist. Jones's email warning Briffa to be "very wary about responding to this person now having seen what McIntyre has put up" was written just three weeks ago. It, along with the rest of the email archive, makes an utter mockery of the alarmists' claim that the science of global warming is settled in their favor.


On the contrary, the conclusion an observer is likely to draw from the CRU archive is that the climate alarmists are making up the science as they go along and are fitting facts to reach a predetermined conclusion rather than objectively seeking after truth. What they are doing is politics, not science. When I was in law school, this story was told about accountants: A CEO is going to hire a new accountant and summons a series of candidates. He asks each applicant, "What is two plus two?" The first two candidates answer, "Four." They don't get the job. The third responds, "What do you want it to be?" He gets hired. The climate alarmists' attitude toward data appears to me much the same as that fictional accountant's attitude toward arithmetic.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Re-considering flu vaccine

This blogger (responding to the Atlantic article) seems pretty reasonable. Yes, there is some doubt in any given flu season as to exactly how much flu is out there, and what exactly the vaccine does, especially when it comes to preventing deaths. But, and it's a big but: the vaccine prevents a lot of its recipients from either getting or spreading the flu. There are costs to people getting sick--they are less able to care for themselves and their families (that's why my wife and I started getting vaccinated years ago), and their employers probably suffer from their absence. Emergency personnel may lose the critical mass of people they need 24/7.

A normal flu apparently spreads more slowly, but kills more those infected, than this year's swine flu. Contrary to the way I've been thinking, this may mean there is more reason to get the vaccine this year. The closer we come to everyone getting vaccinated, the fewer people will get sick with flu.

Of course this blogger can't resist suggesting that one of these years, a flu will once again, as in 1919, kill 5% of the human race. I doubt it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Smart Approach to Climate Change

If I was being considered for some responsible position where my views were to count for something, I would probably blurt out: believing that man-made CO2 is the main determinant of global temperature, or all of global climate, is not simply believing that the tail wags the dog; it is believing that a flea on the tail wags the dog. Then I would be widely laughed at, and disqualified.

Harper and Obama are more sensible. Do nothing to speak of to implement Kyoto, much less launch into a new round of madness with Copenhagen, but mouth a few pieties about intending to combat climate change when the time is right--that is, when the major contributors of CO2 come to the table. It does no good to the environment, and can do harm to our own economy, to act on our own.

Meanwhile, lots of media stories for a study claiming to show that there have been more record highs than record lows since 1950, indicating a clear warming trend. The authors apparently say: there should be a trend toward fewer and fewer records, high or low, since there should be a kind of normalcy in temperature. Really? Constancy is the norm in nature? Somehow the boomers all think that there was a kind of peace or changelessness when they were children, and that is the way it should be. The study puts its entire reliance on U.S. surface monitoring stations, and claims that some adjustment has been made to allow for problems with siting. This of course is Anthony Watts' specialty, so he will have something to say along with Roger Pielke. (The naive, surface-based record for the whole twentieth century shows a couple of decades of cooling alternating with a couple of decades of warming. No one has a model that can explain these changes--they certainly don't co-relate with a steady increase in man-made CO2).

The reports on this study make no mention of man-made causes of temperature change other than CO2, and certainly makes no mention of causes other than man-made for any large scale climate change. Is this realistic? Two other studies, both of which received far less media attention, accept that there has been a certain amount of temperature increase, but say that much of the increase is attributable to changes of land use--basically urbanization. One says half of the increase is owing to this one factor. So: this is human intervention, but not CO2 production per se. Simply living at higher density, with more asphalt,lights and other electrical and industrial equipment, a higher concentration of motor vehicles generating heat, etc.

So: assume temperature increase. Half from urbanization and other changes of land use. The other half--probably not entirely man-made. Maybe very little of it man-made?

Meanwhile, the ocean, along with "terrestrial ecosystems," turn out to be absorbing all the extra carbon we have thrown at them so far. It is hard to say what the upper limit of the earth's capacity for absorption is, or where the so-called "tipping point" is--if indeed there is one in the simple way that is often presented. If the carbon is 100% absorbed by the ocean and earth, I gather it may have nothing to do with any temperature changes or climate changes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Major Nidal Hasan

The Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 of his fellow service-people.

What makes this not just "another serial killing" in the U.S.? First or second, it is unusual for any officer to turn on his fellow-officers, and it is unusual for military people to be assaulted while on base. (Michael Peck says an attack on a base is inevitable but, er, he doesn't seem to be able to think of one that has actually happened). What is getting the most attention: Major Hasan is an observant Moslem, of Arab (Palestinian) ancestry, who had expressed concern about Moslems being asked to take part in the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

So was he part of a group, and was the attack planned as one of a series of attacks? This in a way has been the U.S. nightmare since at least 9/11. So far it seems the answer is no, although Hasan probably had some contacts with imams and such who are too radical for the good of society. Jonah Goldberg says the lone nut possibility is actually more frightening--presumably because law enforcement has very little way of identifying a plan in progress. He refers to the so-called Washington Sniper, who was just executed.

It is surely wise to be aware of the relevance of Islam to this case, and to see if there are radicals who are actually persuading Moslems in the U.S. to commit crimes. Contrary to Goldberg, groups are more frightening because they can use the tools of conformity and enthusiasm to recruit fanatics. Without claiming moral equivalence, their cause is aided by attacks by outsiders. There were probably no Palestinians who were actually prepared to commit suicide while launching attacks until the intifadas got underway. Suicide attacks in Lebanon and Iraq have followed, and been responses to, specific events which have made groups identify themselves as oppressed, with very few weapons at their disposal.

Having said all that, the U.S. has a lot of serial killers--whose victims are often their own families. The Washington Sniper (John Allen Muhammed) had in mind--well, God knows what. The big question, very hard to answer, is why the U.S. is prone to this type of crime. Despite all the talk of individuality and choices, and partly because of it, people get lost in the crowd? TV and movies (with Hitchcock's Psycho a major event) make it clear that a serial killer can really gain a high profile, his views and utterances pored over by experts, and perhaps his intelligence praised?

Another look at some evidence

A nice summary from Finnish TV of the problems with the theory that anthropogenic CO2 (which everyone agrees has increased) is causing a problem for global climate.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Frightening the Boomers

I suppose history will eventually show that people with very little evidence behind them were able to convince a lot of other people of global warming, an endless parade of frightening pandemics, dangerous food in supermarkets, etc. But then: they only had to persuade the gullible old boomers. How hard is that? As long as you start by confirming that they're the smartest people who've ever lived, you're in. In their pants, in their pocketbooks.

Surely a major factor in all this is that the boomers are getting old, and they are more and more afraid to die, as old people pretty much always are. So of course fear of capitalism and technology--kindergarten Marxism--have never really gone away. Now fear of death gives all these fears a rocket booster. The boomers were never known to have great resources of character, judgment or resiliency, so old age is likely to be pretty terrifying for them. Perhaps the prospect of it, for many of them, will actually be worse than the reality. Some of them, at least, will remain relatively pain free, and then die in their sleep. (Although that last expression often conceals the fact that no one actually sees a person die--the death may have been quite a bit more horrible than the expression "dying in your sleep" implies).

See earlier posts here and here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Prevention stats

An interesting, sometimes amusing piece, on whether preventative health care, i.e. testing people who are not showing symptoms, does more good than harm, and whether (a separate question of course) it saves money.

It is an article of faith among a lot of people, including people advocating for "Obamacare," that the answer to both questions is yes. Maybe not.

Race Photos




Both are here. It seems to be standard now to charge even for a decent electronic image.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Saviour to the Rescue of Climate Change Models

The Toronto Star highlights a Bower award winner in Physics.

The sub-hed reads: "His insights into nature's diverse systems help prove the validity of climate change models." Wow, all those models used by the IPCC, increasingly under attack both for lacking robust data in the first place, and for failing to predict anything meaningful, are vindicated in one fell swoop by one big picture theorist.

Let's read on:

"THE WAY IN WHICH we try to prove to ourselves that the models have predictive capability ... is to apply the same models to epochs in the past," Peltier says.

"We take the same models which are being used to make future climate predictions and we ask `do they predict what we know to have been characteristic of the climate at this earlier time?'"

Make no mistake, Peltier says. For the sophisticated climate change skeptic, the models now used to predict future temperatures, glacial melting and rising ocean levels are global warming's Achilles' heel.

Based on scientific suppositions about past climates and the complex sun and earth conditions that caused them, they are too prone to error, too dependent on seas of suppositions to reliably forecast our future.


But this makes it sound like ... all those other models are wrong. All of them. Only Peltier has saved the day.

Amazingly, he has studied the geology of one precise period, in great detail, applied a mathematical model, and successively extrapolated his findings to other periods, presumably including our own. The article is frustratingly vague on some points:

Numbers and mathematical theorems are the tools of the theoretical physics that Peltier employs to communicate his disparate disciplines.

With them, Einstein could describe the potential power that lies within an atomic nucleus. Or with them, Peltier could pixelate a snapshot of a glacier's edge, 21,000 years ago, at the end of the last great ice age.

What was the solid earth doing at that time? How were the oceans behaving? What were the glaciers like just then, at the very end of their onslaught?

Providing precise answers to these questions has been the crowning achievement of Peltier's career so far, he says.

And it's those answers that are now used to prove that the monumentally complex computer models being used to predict future climate change are accurate.


Back to the beginning again. All of the models are accurate, even though on their own they have so far failed to predict anything?

To build his picture of the ice age world, where glaciers stood four kilometres high over much of what's now Canada and Europe, Peltier employed his own mathematical theorems and supercomputers to crunch millions of pieces of data.

That data included everything from ice core samples to satellite imagery of the ground rebounding still from its long-gone glacial loads.

And the picture Peltier painted with it was so precise and elegant that it become the proving ground for today's predictive climate change models.

"If the model doesn't pass the past climate test, then you should be very, very concerned about the future predictions you're making," he says.

Many of them have passed, and those successes, Peltier says, stand as the key rebuke to climate change skeptics. "The work that I do is exactly to counter these arguments that the models can't be trusted."


Many of them. Many of them have passed. Some, I guess, have not. Some may even be, dare I say it, elegant nonsense. But there are no details as to what has passed and what has not, what specific periods have been successfully predicted, or anything. What periods has Peltier himself studied, to show that his model from one specific time and place can be applied to other times and places, and fit actual data?

Pseudo-Science

I suppose there's no harm in anyone getting the swine flu vaccine. This year, there are indications that most of the flu will be swine flu, so it makes more sense to get the swine flu vaccine than the other one. My wife and I have had the flu shot several years in a row, beginning when our medically fragile daughter was living with us. This will be the first year in some time when I don't get any flu shot.

I think it's silly to wait in line for hours for the swine flu shot. Maybe I'd think differently if I had young children, but there is a cost to spending so much time on that one task; crowds are exactly where bugs of all kinds are spread; and the risk of serious cases of swine flu is extremely small. People in Ontario have been frightened by the death of a previously healthy teenage boy, but such things happen every flu season.

Then comes the Atlantic Online:

There is little evidence that either flu vaccine or anti-virals like Tamiflu actually reduce mortality from flu.

There is a co-relation: Those who are vaccinated, overall, have significantly lower death rates, from all causes, than those who are not vaccinated, with little control as to whether they are otherwise the same kind of population. There is good evidence that the population that goes to the trouble of getting vaccinated is healthier in the first place, and young healthy people get more benefit from vaccine--their immune system gets more of a boost--than the older, sicker people who are more likely to die from flu. The vaccine may be effective for those who don't need it, and ineffective for those who do need it.

One expert recommends controlled trials--two populations, otherwise identical in critical respects including age and health, one given vaccine, the other a placebo. But of course if you believe the vaccine saves lives, the trials would seem unethical.

My biggest concern is that, once again, pseudo-science is triumphing over science. Australia normally has about 3,000 flu deaths every winter. The winter that just ended for them, they had about 1,000--mostly swine flu. This was a good year, not a bad year. Is it more likely to kill healthy young people in comparison to regular flu, which disproportionately kills frail elderly people? Maybe there is a bit of a shift, but it is still true that the general healthy population is at extremely low risk. Yet there is a kind of mass hysteria.

How many of the people lining up for flu shots are the same people who oppose the use of the MMR shot in chilren--a proven life-saver? Incredibly, there is an outbreak of mumps in Brooklyn, affecting kids as old as 15--going back to roughly when the anti-MMR campaign picked up steam.

In recent weeks, in addition to the young man dying of flu, a young Canadian woman was killed by coyotes in a national park. There is no evidence of anyone saying "stay away from that park," or from parks in general, or cull a lot of coyotes, or anything like that. Risk is a part of life.

I go back again to Gulliver's Travels. In the third voyage, scientific agriculture is being applied on earth, and turning good land into deserts. Swift may have some hope that at least the people closest to this phenomenon won't be completely fooled as to the promise of science. Up on the flying island, things in a way are worse. The people there don't have to work with their hands, and they have no idea how food or anything else is produced. They are sophisticated in their scientific thinking, yet they are increasingly obsessed with only two topics: their innermost selves, and whether the sun is going to explode or something like that. Today there is obviously an analogy to Buddhism/yoga/self-realization, on the one hand, and fears of global warming, supermarket food, beneficial vaccines and epidemics, on the other. Moderns turned away from ancient wisdom in order to benefit from modern science. Are we going to turn away from modern science in a kind of mass hysteria?

I made my son laugh by saying I also wonder about Prime Minister Harper's role in all this. Has he ordered officials to utter all their warnings about pandemic, so that he can be the hero who somehow delivers a bunch of vaccine? If so, it's not working--they are already a bit short of vaccine. But he may have learned from Bush the advantages of being the King of Fear. The treatment of swine flu by public officials has been a disgrace. It makes the whole public sector look bad--like no one knows how to run a Sunday School picnic. And that may suit Harper as well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Arcitic Ice: Thanks to the Met in the UK

I'm pretty sure this means:

Proposition A may be true: there is a warming trend such that Arctic ice is on a steady decline.
On the other hand, Proposition Not A may be true: there is no such trend.

The odds are about 50/50.

Let's panic.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Balfour

I've finished reading a life of A.J.B. Balfour by R.J.Q. Adams (I know: three initials).

Somehow this book almost makes the great crises of British politics from the 1880s to the 1920s seem boring. This may be the effect of seeing things through Balfour's eyes. He wasn't as indolent as many people always thought, and he showed a surprising toughness when he had to. His reputation at the highest levels of British politics always somehow surpassed his actual accomplishments. He was promoted by his uncle Robert Cecil, the Marquess of Salisbury (from which we get the typically English irreverent observation on those who are lucky, "Bob's your uncle." Once in Cabinet, he seemed the natural choice for leader of his party. His brief tenure as Prime Minister was more or less a disaster, he was out of office in 1906, and he was not trusted by the ultra-Tories. When Asquith, the Liberal Prime Minister, started seeking Tories who might join a wartime Cabinet, Balfour for a while was the only one. As Lloyd George manouvred to take over from Asquith, Balfour became one of the indispensable "Coalition" ministers. Churchill comments in Great Contemporaries that Balfour shifted from Asquith, who had supported him, to Lloyd George who had criticized him, without batting an eye. Adams' defence is that Balfour sincerely believed Asquith could not win the war, whereas Lloyd George could.

Post-War, the Tories had a chance at power, and Balfour eventually re-insinuated himself with his own party. Adams does not unduly flatter his subject, or sugar-coat events, but it is questionable whether he conveys the true extent to which Balfour was successful despite his failures--perhaps the most successful twit, or Bertie Wooster type, ever. Part of his secret seems to have been that he knew to whom he had to show loyalty--this was often his most powerful subordinates.

Perhaps the biggest fiasco is the Balfour Declaration, promising a Jewish homeland in what was then Palestine, in 1917, with the war still on and Lloyd George as Prime Minister. Balfour always claimed that he thought this could be worked out with the local Arabs, then in a majoriy, in a peaceful way, and he certainly seemed surprised at the extent of Arab outrage. The only member of Cabinet to vote against the Declaration was also the only Jew--Edwin Montagu. He feared that the Declaration would be bad for the Jews. There was plenty of anti-Semitism (the problem Balfour claimed to be addressing), and anti-Semites could embrace the Declaration as a statement that the Jews should all go to Palestine--Europeans no longer had to put up with them. This was about twenty-five years before the Holocaust, which makes it a lot less funny.

Adams gets a bit into Balfour's bachelor status, and sexuality. There is a possibility of some kinky stuff with a long-time married lady friend, but it seems possible this was a series of excursions for a man who was as gay as Liberace since at least his time at Eton.

All of this makes me want once again to read more about Lord Salisbury, the twit's uncle. I've sent a way for the 1921 biography by Salisbury's daughter, Lady Gwendolen (sic) Cecil.

Changes

Well: what to do over the winter, thinking of possible events in the Spring?

My long-suffering wife has put up with my training for a half-marathon. That went very well, but do I go for a marathon in April? The training gets long, tedious, and sometimes sore. I get very little done in my free time other than running, and then some weekend chores to prepare for a work week. Do I want to scale back on running in order to get some writing done?

Meanwhile, we've been going to classes to prepare for being foster parents. I don't know if we'll actually do it or not. I'm the more skeptical of the two of us, but even Laura agrees there is a lot to think about when the instructors describe how difficult the kids can be. At one time we had two small children, one of them medically fragile. Do we start the sleepless nights, etc., all over again? Laura says she will do the lion's share of the work as I commute to my job, but obviously I will have to pitch in. Does this make it actually impossible to train for a marathon? Or does writing get pushed even further down the list?

Laura has been baby-sitting, but she needs more to occupy her time.

I've been working a few hours a week at the running store--both to socialize with runners, to keep on learning, and to get a discount on running gear. That part-time job will probably be the first thing to go.

On writing: I finally got back to a long-standing piece on Aristotle's Ethics this weekend. It feels good. I feel a kind of patriotic duty to write something on Pierre Trudeau, and that requires getting through the biography by English which I have made it part way through. I have a piece on gassing the boomers which I may not be able to do anything with.

Having not run for a week, today I joined a group (most of them in a 10K clinic) running about 8K. It felt good. A couple of 6ks during the week, a visit to the sports therapist, and I should have more sense of whether it is realistic, in a narrow sense, to train for a marathon starting in mid-December.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More problems for the IPCC Model

A new analysis of Global satellite data to find temperature trends for the period January 1979 through June 2009. (h/t good old Anthony Watts)

In this thirty year period, there was cooling at the beginning and at the end, and a warming period in the middle. Projections indicate that either cooling, or "flat" temperature readings,is likely for another 15 or more years.

Analysis of the satellite data shows a statistically significant cooling trend for the past 12 to 13 years, with it not being possible to reject a flat trend (0 slope) for between 16 and 23 years. This is a length of time at which disagreement with climate models can no longer be attributed to simple LTP.


I take this mean: they have confidence in the cooling numbers for the past 12 to 13 years, and they have relatively high confidence that there will be no warming (either cooling or flat) for another 16 to 23 years. Their confidence extends over a period of time significant enough that they can compare their findings to "climate models," knowing that disagreements are too great to ascribe them to LTP or Long-Term Persistence of anomalies or deviations from a trend.

Which models do they compare to?

On the other hand, studies cited herein have documented a 50–70 year cycle of climate oscillations overlaid on a simple linear warming trend since the mid-1800s and have used this model to forecast cooling beginning between 2001 and 2010, a prediction that seems to be upheld by the satellite and ocean heat content data. Other studies made this same prediction of transition to cooling based on solar activity indices or from ocean circulation regime changes.


There are some models that their findings support--the models that have predicted the present cooling period.

In contrast, the climate models [such as the IPCC model] predict the recent flat to cooling trend only as a rare stochastic event. The linear warming trend in these models [the ones mentioned before] that is obtained by subtracting the 60–70 yr cycle, while unexplained at present, is clearly inconsistent with climate model predictions because it begins too soon (before greenhouse gases were elevated) and does not accelerate as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate. This model and the empirical evidence for recent cooling thus provide a challenge to
climate model accuracy.


These authors confine the phrase "climate model" to the type of model one finds in the IPCC reports, or the Gore/Hansen approach. Somewhat confusingly, they also refer to other "models" relevant to climate, that point to very different findings. Their new analysis of satellite findings supports the latter models, not the IPCC-type model. There is a cycle of cooling-warming-cooling; it doesn't match the steady increase in anthropogenic CO2; it probably does match both "solar activity" and "ocean circulation regime changes."

Also from Anthony: a new hunt for past hurricanes that may have been missed in weather reports. (Let's find some more hurricanes to support our theory).

"Before satellite observations began in the 1960s, weather monitoring was spotty." Hardy har har.

Another Run

Goodlife Toronto Half Marathon on Sunday: a shade under 1:50, which is fast for me. It works out to a bit over 5 minute (per km) pace. The first km seemed to take me about 7 minutes--a big crowd, lots of people to pass, zig-zagging. Then I gradually settled into a 5 minute pace, which was consistent from roughly 5 km to 16 km; then just cross the finish line somehow.

Next step is to see about training for a marathon over the winter. If I'm ever going to qualify for Boston in 2011 (just after my 55th birthday, when I cross into the next age group and gain 15 minutes to qualify), 2010 is the time. If I try and fail in the Spring, I can still try in the Fall.

Just looking around for photos of the event (none on the homepage yet), I found this young lady (Angela Dawn), with lots of photos. She ran the half at Scotiabank Waterfront in Toronto three weeks ago, did very little running between, then another half on Sunday--quite fast for her, despite having a painful stitch almost the whole way.

Every runner has a story.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mansfield Park

I've avoided this novel for years, thinking it is probably the worst of Austen's works--too long, unshapely, with a mediocre heroine.

Reading it again, I am of course favourably impressed. Austen set herself a difficult challenge in making Fanny her heroine--Fanny who, even in her late teens, is too easily embarrassed and rendered speechless, too easily intimidated, too easily reduced to blushes which are themselves ambiguous and sometimes lead to further confusion. Why doesn't she speak for herself more, as other Austen heroines do? Why is she such a wet blanket? No wonder the people around her (in general) don't think highly of her; as an American might say, you can't expect other people to sell you if you don't sell yourself.

In the other novels it is mainly the heroine who makes a great mistake, nearly misses her chance at a successful and happy marriage, and then repents her mistake and arrives at a happy ending. There is a gain in self-knowledge. In Mansfield Park, I'm beginning to think Fanny is the other character who never makes a mistake. Even when her blushing silences cause awkwardness and confusion, it is not clear this is her fault in the way that actively bad words and deeds would be. Edmund, her cousin who begins as more of a brother, is the one who has to learn.

Then there is Austen. Maybe she thought Fanny was one kind of female that Jane herself might have been--if she hadn't been so intelligent, and if she hadn't had at least a little of the sauciness of Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. Austen the tough-minded writer lets us see Fanny's and her own judgment of Fanny's parents:

On her father, her confidence had not been sanguine, but he was more negligent of his family, his habits were worse, and his manners coarser, than she had been prepared for. He did not want abilities; but he had no curiosity, and no information beyond his profession; he read only the newspaper and the navy-list; he talked only of the dock-yard, the harbour, Spithead, and the Motherbank; he swore and he drank,he was dirty and gross.


...

She might scruple [unlike Austen] to make use of the words, but she must and did feel that her mother was a partial, ill-judging parent, a dawdle, a slattern, who neither taught nor restrained her children, whose house was the scene of mismanagement and discomfort from beginning to end, and who had no talent, no conversation, no affection toward herself ....


UPDATE: I think Austen comes close to suggesting here that, almost in terms that Hobbes and Hegel would recognize, slaves see more clearly than masters. Masters are too busy enjoying being masters, their vision clouded by pride and self-indulgence; only those who have been continually frustrated have enough "outsider's" perspective, just on the outside looking in, to see both others and themselves more clearly. Obviously there is more to say: Fanny is not exactly a slave--she is a second-class family member living among the gentry, not really required to do much menial work or exert herself. A true slave might have no opportunity to think at all. Frustration and suffering perhaps best those who feel most. But Austen seems to suggest some moral truths are more available to those who suffer. Edmund remains a bit deluded about Mary, no matter what she says or does.

Almost in the last lines of the novel, Sir Thomas seems to reflect that of all the people in his little world, those who suffered early or, as in his older son's case, to a significant degree, turned out best.

...in the general well-doing and success of the ... members of the family, all assisting to advance each other, and doing credit to his countenance and aid, Sir Thomas saw repeated, and for ever repeated reason to rejoice in what he had done for them all, and acknowledge the advantages of early hardship and discipline, and the consciousness of being born to struggle and endure.


Those who are most indulged in their youth turn out worst: Maria, out of all Sir Thomas's children, Mary and Henry Crawford, young Tom Bertram before his brush with death. They are the leaders of the famous play, which perhaps really was immoral, and in any case really did lead to disastrous consequences, just as a certain kind of moralist might wish. Preparing the play allowed them all to exercise their whims, and vent their complaints (mainly to Fanny, who knew all and saw all) at any frustration in doing so. Edmund held out for a while, but then joined in, to the triumph of the others. After all, wasn't he a son of Sir Thomas?

Of course the idea that the theatre encourages immorality is quite old-fashioned--there has been so much water under the bridge in recent decades. Strangers uttering the words of love, with as much conviction as possible, might break the hearts (and vows, including marriages) of others, and might suffer themselves. Isn't that what hooking up is all about?

Austen wrote in what now seems the early stages of the Napoleonic Wars. The navy was a force to reckon with, even in the country houses on which she focuses. Admirals and captains were making fortunes, and rising in society in a way that was still largely controlled by the gentry. Who was going to win the world, rule India, and so on? The spoiled children of the gentry, or someone else? Austen was making herself, almost prospectively, the poet of the new Victorian middle-class, prosperous, hopeful about the future, and highly moralistic about sexuality and the family--partly because they want sex to remain very romantic, and true to the feelings of good people.

Fanny's rude father, a one-time lieutenant of marines, in some ways hopeless, reads about the adultery involving Maria in the newspaper--surely a middle-class invention--and condemns such wrong-doing. Fanny and Austen both clearly think he is right--even living as he does, he can properly condemn the immorality of the gentry, and treat them as if they otherwise don't count for much--their day is passing.

FINAL UPDATE: Once her younger sister Susan comes along, Fanny is enough justice to admit that Susan has the potential to be a better all-round person than Fanny herself. When we first meet Susan she is "back home" in Portsmouth, with Fanny's rough and rude family, and Susan is getting a reputation for being a bossy scold. Fanny sees that Susan is often right on the merits of an issue, but she doesn't seem to realize that in many cases, speaking out will not improve the situation, and in fact will make things harder for herself. Susan has great potential:

Susan saw that much was wrong at home, and wanted to set it right ... Fanny soon became more disposed to admire the natural light of the mind which could so early distinguish justly, than to censure severely the faults of conduct to which it led. Susan was only acting on the same truths, and pursuing the same system, which her own judgment acknowledged, but which her more supine and yielding temper would have shrunk from asserting. Susan tried to be useful, where she could only have gone away and cried; and that Susan was useful [at age 14] she could perceive ....


Later Susan takes over Fanny's former role as house comforter in Mansfield Park, and probably does a better job of it:

Her more fearless disposition and happier nerves made everything easy to her there. With quickness in understanding the tempers of those she had to deal with, and no natural timidity to restrain any consequent wishes, she was soon welcome and useful to all; and after Fanny's removal [she became], perhaps, the most beloved of the two.


Even Fanny seems to admit that she is a bit too much of a cry-baby to do as much good as she should. So why did Austen make her this way? I thing harsh truths are literally forced upon Fanny by her timidity. Even decent people learn they can get away with things with her--being late for appointments, leaving her in an uncomfortable spot, simply refusing to consult her as to what she wants. She sees how nasty they all are--eventually she tries to tell Edmund, but he doesn't really believe her. The same people are so nice to him. One might think Fanny would escape into a fantasy world where she is queen, but this never happens. She is as free from delusion about herself as she is about everyone else; perhaps Susan, as a more successful person, is also at least a bit more deluded about what the world is actually like?