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Friday, December 24, 2010

Guest blogging at WUWT: Lump of coal award for Trenberth

Thanks to Anthony Watts for inviting me to help fill in while he takes a much needed Christmas break. Here's my Christmas Eve post.

Lump of coal award: to IPCC lead author Kevin Trenberth for hiding the decline (or the lack of increase) in global temperatures

Old, but untold. Trenberth treated us to a trick in his Halloween interview with Bill Sweet by changing the sign on his own most famous quote. As Trenberth now tells it:
One cherry-picked message saying we can’t account for current global warming and that this is a travesty went viral and got more than 100,000 hits online.
The email in question actually bemoaned how Trenberth couldn't account for the LACK of global warming:
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.
Global warming... LACK of global warming. Hey, what's the difference?

This is Trenberth's answer to having his doubts exposed by the ClimateGate leak: just cover them back up. Pretend that the revealing email said the opposite of what it actually said and PROBLEM SOLVED. The guy's a genius. No wonder he rose to the esteemed lead author position.

Of course he's not fooling anyone who knows what he actually said. Add that lack of warming does have to do with the state of global warming, and most knowledgeable people will grant Trenberth the benefit of the doubt, but should they? Ignorant people will be fooled, and Trenberth has a habit of misleading the ignorant.

Here is Trenberth in a follow-up interview with Sweet (after Sweet was apparently inundated with comments and email mail calling Trenberth a liar and castigating Sweet for playing softball—yay WUWT):
Sweet: Can you say something about the widespread belief that solar activity somehow accounts for the temperature changes we’ve seen in recent decades?

Trenberth: That’s easily disproven. It’s nonsense. Since 1979 we've had spacecraft measuring total solar irradiance, and there's been no change—if anything the sun has cooled slightly. There's nothing in the record that indicates that the sun is responsible for any of the warming in this period.
Trenberth knows full well that "solar activity" refers primarily to solar-magnetic activity, which varies by an order of magnitude over the solar cycle, while total solar irradiance is almost invariant over the solar cycle (which is why it is called the solar constant). Does he really think he can disprove the theory that 20th century warming was caused by solar activity without looking at anything but the least active solar variable?

Again, the knowledgeable will not be fooled, but it is perfectly clear that Trenberth's intent in this instance is to deceive the ignorant. He is also providing us with an example of what he was talking about in his original IEEE interview when he said:
Scientists almost always have to address problems in their data, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded.
That pesky data about solar-magnetic activity and earthly temperatures being highly correlated? ("The long term trends in solar data and in northern hemisphere temperatures have a correlation coefficient of about 0.7 - .8 at a 94% - 98% confidence level.") "Best disregarded."

And it is easily done. Just pretend that "solar activity" means "the solar constant" and, voilà. As easy as replacing "lack of global warming" with "global warming."

As J.R. Ewing put it, "once you give up integrity, the rest is easy."

Any other "lumpies"? (Santa must have had anti-CO2 alarmists in mind when he chose coal for the bad. Like crosses for vampires.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Guy stuff

Which is the prettier picture? This:


Or this:


I can't decide.

(More at Theo Spark)

Hello flamers, goodbye Marine Corps

How badly will the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell damage our military? Just read today's Strategy Page report on our military's suppression of heterosexual behavior in combat theaters ("No Sex Please, We're American Soldiers"). Heterosexuals in the military have always known that their sex lives are liable to be put on hold for long periods of time, but for soldiers off fighting in Muslim countries, the deprivation is extreme. The only outlet is relationships with other soldiers:
Troops are forbidden from establishing relationships with local women in Iraq, and warned against buying booze and drugs from Iraqis. In Iraq, few women cover their faces, or wear any head covering at all. Many of them are quite attractive, and frequently cast admiring glances at U.S. troops (who often do foot patrols in public areas). But there are not supposed to be any marriages. This is a particular problem in Islamic countries, where non-Moslem husbands are expected to convert and elopement often leads to the bride being murdered by her angry family. ...

Troops having sex with each other is generally tolerated, although that can cause trouble as well. Only about ten percent of the troops in combat zones are female, and not all are single or in the mood.
Heterosexual young men are willing to join the military and put their sex lives on hold because the manliness of fighting for their nation makes the lack of access to females bearable. That will change if a subculture of active homosexuality is allowed to burst out and grow amidst the suppressed heterosexuality of our military. Instead of a manly brotherhood, military service will become a chore and even a gauntlet of having to abide whatever in-your-face homosexuality the flamers want to throw up, and they will throw up plenty, as proven by every out-homosexual locale in the world. Flamboyant and even aggressive homosexuality is just what the end of DADT implies. No one is talking about replacing the DADT line with any other line. Full out homosexual flaming will not just be tolerated but will be legally protected, from overt homosexual behavior to every kind of homosexual come on. It will be a death sentence for heterosexual recruiting.

Obama's "Pentagon" study was grossly dishonest

Soldiers were only asked whether having "having an openly gay person in a unit would have an effect in an intense combat situation." They weren't asked about the development of an openly gay subculture, which the end of DADT would create, and they weren't asked about effects on non-combat quality of life, even though life outside of combat is just as important for recruiting. Even so, 40% of marines said out-homosexuality would be a problem, maybe because they are more often assigned to combat theaters where the contrast between suppressed heterosexuality and unleashed homosexuality would be most glaring.

Don't Ask Don't Tell is actually a good solution. It allows homosexuals to serve and only draws the line at their going public with their homosexuality. They have to stay in the closet, which is a pretty mild imposition, compared to the broad harms that out-homosexuality would inflict.

What part of YOU HAVE A MANDATE do our idiot representatives not understand?

With voters handing Democrats in Congress a historic drubbing you would think Republicans would understand that they have a mandate to stop the repudiated Democrats from passing ANY major bills before their lame duck term expires, yet instead of proclaiming their mandate and promising to filibuster DADT, START, DREAM, etcetera, the Republicans are letting one major bill after another waltz down the aisle. They are even logrolling their votes on these Democrat abominations. Here is Republican Senator Bob Corker, telling Democrats to:
...drop plans to repeal a military ban on gays serving openly or risk the fate of a nuclear pact with Russia.
Really? If we don't let the ousted Democrats make one major military policy change we have to let them make another? How about NO MAJOR LEGISLATION until the voters' new representatives are seated? This isn't hard. Just tell soon to be minority witch Nancy Pelosi to go to Hell! Haven't they all been wanting to do that for two years?

Why DADT is the correct policy as seen by moral theory

It has to do with the correct understanding of the right to privacy. Yes, there is such a right, but it is not a right of the individual against the power of the state. Rather, it arises as a right of the state (the rights of the majority) to limit what individuals are allowed to do in public.

Kind of obvious once you think about it. What else does a right to privacy mean but a right to do certain things in private, which implies the lack of a right to do them in public.

In moral theory, the right to privacy derives from John Stuart Mill's principle of liberty. Mill's principle is based on a distinction Mill made between "direct interests" and "indirect interests." Direct interests in impinge directly on a person's physical movement or welfare. If you throw someone in jail or take away their sustenance you are affecting their direct interests. In contrast, indirect interests are the interests that one takes in OTHER people's direct interests. That is, they are vicarious interests in how other people live.

Mill's principle says that injury to some people's indirect interests can never justify injury to anyone's direct interests. In particular, it can never justify STATE infringement of anyone's direct interests. As to how Mill's principle itself is justified, think of it as an obvious requirement for securing the maximum equal liberty: when liberties come in conflict, no one's more important interests (their direct interests) are to give way to anyone else's less substantial interests. Thus once moral theory is able to establish that society should secure maximum equal liberty, Mill's principle follows. (Going back one step further, maximum equal liberty is justified by recognizing that all progress in discovering and securing value comes through liberty, since progress in either would be impossible without liberty.)

Where direct interests are involved on both sides, Mill was explicit that majority rule should take precedence, but he was silent on one crucial case: what to do when there is a conflict with only indirect interests on both sides? Since the priority of direct over indirect interests is not in play, such cases should again be left to majority rule. So where does this situation arise? When the question is what people should be allowed to do in public. Then the question becomes one of social approval, and nobody has a right to approval.

Note that tolerance and approval are opposites of a sort. Liberty rights are rights to have one's behavior be tolerated, so long as one is not infringing the direct interests of others. Their mere opinions are not to take precedence over your physical liberty and welfare. A demand for approval is a demand to be allowed to force other people's opinions, which is a close parallel to letting vicarious interests trump physical interests. It is insisting what is in other people's heads cannot be allowed to rule your body, then turning around and claiming a right to reach into their heads and tell them what they have to think. When this is backed up by state power, it violates the priority of direct over indirect interests. It is allowing some people's opinions to trump other people's physical reality.

Same sex marriage is such an issue. Marriage is an explicit mark of social approval and homosexuals only have an indirect interest in social approval. They have a right to have their relationships tolerated, but they have no right to ANYONE'S approval, never mind majority approval in the form of state recognition for homosexual marriage.

There are a few more bases to touch if one wants to be thorough. As for the few direct interests involved in social support for marriage, there are direct interests on both sides. Dollars that homosexuals would receive in support of their marriages are dollars out of other people's pockets. On the question of equal rights, homosexuals have the same right to marry someone of the opposite sex that heterosexuals do. Equality does not arise in regards to the few benefits society confers on married couples because these benefits are not directed at parents at all. They are intended to assist in raising of children, and there is no requirement that such efforts at assistance must be perfectly or even very well targeted. Thus the basic issue prevails. There is no right to approval, hence there is no right to homosexual marriage. (Quite a bit more thoroughness here.)

Out vs. closeted homosexual behavior is a similar issue. It is not quite as clear cut as marriage, which is explicitly about social approval, but when an activity can without much difficulty be conducted in private, an interest in being allowed to engage in that activity specifically in public will generally be an indirect interest in social approval. It might seem surprising, but yes, liberal moral theory allows a LOT of scope to ban public displays. The one public display that can rarely be limited is speech. There must be free exchange of ideas and information. But out-homosexual behavior? Like cross-dressing, very much a proper subject for majority rule by the affected public.

With gay marriage, the affected public is the national electorate, since marriages recognized by one state must be recognized by others. For homosexual flaming, it could be city by city. San Francisco could allow homosexuals to have public sex (as it regularly does allow). Fresno might ban homosexual kissing in public, or all kissing in public. All perfectly legitimate. And how else could it be? Does anyone really think that matters of fundamental right narrow down the range of morally legitimate societies to the publicly libertine? Absolutely not. Don't be so illiberal.

Of course military necessity would trump liberty rights in any case, on the simple logical principle that protection of the tree of liberty must take precedence over protection for the fruits of the tree of liberty. If in trying to protect the fruits of the tree you sacrifice the tree then the fruits are lost anyway, while sacrificing a few fruits allows the tree to fruit another day. But that is all moot, since DADT does not violate anyone's rights in any case. Like same sex marriage, DADT repeal is fundamentally a demand for approval, and no one has a right to approval.

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