Sunday, January 31, 2010

More on climate

The previous blog entry 'Climate change and doubt' touched on two reasons why there are some who doubt the consensus view on climate change, namely that the subject and science is so complex that to get an understanding of the general idea across to the lay public :

a) Experts have had to greatly "simplify" an incredibly complex set of phenomena e.g. very roughly reducing the issue to "man's use of fossil fuels has added such great quantities of greenhouse gasses, mostly carbon dioxide, to the planet's atmosphere that the globe is warming; that this is causing multiple negative changes; and that unless the concentration of carbon dioxide and the temperature rise are held below a certain level, there will be catastrophic consequences", and,

b) The complexity is such that its "proof" has to rely on a heavy dose of "an appeal to authority."

The problem with the first is that occasionally new information is developed that may seem at odds with the "simplified story," leading to weakening it in the eyes of the lay public (even if/when the new information actually still fits within the experts' more complex models). The previous blog entry had provided a couple of examples (i.e. the "Bering Straits effect" and the effect of solar radiation on the Alps)... Recently 'New Study Turns Up Heat On Soot's Role In Himalayan Warming' suggested that black carbon (i.e. soot) may be as much, if not more responsible for the melt rate of the Himalayan glaciers than greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide. Note that this does not vitiate the warming argument, or necessarily change the model. However it also does not fit neatly with the simplified narrative - it puts forward black carbon as a big issue rather than mostly blaming greenhouse gas, and it also thereby shifts responsibility somewhat from the developed nations (who historically have been larger consumers of fossil fuels, and bigger emitters of carbon dioxide) to the developing nations (more responsible for soot emissions)!

The problem with the second (i.e. the "appeal to authority" issue) occurs when issues or facts come up that prove negative to the credibility of the authority in question... Note, the issue is that in this case a weakening of credibility results in a weakening of the acceptance of the argument that rests upon it. This does not mean that the negative issue has to completely disprove the authority, it simply needs to raise doubts about the authority's competence or probity... Thus the "Himalayan glaciers melting by 2035" kerfuffle has proven very negative, to the consternation of the scientists and others who, fixated on the science, don't understand why their protestations that a simple error in one report on the issue does not detract from the solidity of the underlying science! Well, get ready for more! UN climate change panel based claims on student dissertation and magazine article reports that other parts of the seminal IPCC report are also problematic and include assertions that are not based upon peer-reviewed science! A huge issue, since when additional doubts of this kind are raised, the effects are not simply additive but probably exponential... Ditto for 'UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim.' Temperature and CO2 feedback 'weaker than thought' reports that although research "confirms that as the planet warms, oceans and forests will absorb proportionally less CO2..." the effect is less than recently thought and at the low end of IPCC assumptions (where they are included...). Again, a blow to authority even though it does not run counter to the models and actually agrees with them re process, if not with projected outcome!

The bottom line is that perhaps these two efforts (excessive simplification and an appeal to authority) need to be revisited, and perhaps jettisoned...

On a slightly different tack, one effect of the mounting criticisms is that the scientists and those who accept the consensus view are feeling justifiably beleaguered, and thus inclined to 'circle the wagons" in defense! This would be a mistake on their part, and counterproductive. They need to develop a new narrative and explanation as mentioned above, and also jettison the IPCC chair. There already were sufficient grounds to question his fitness for the position (e.g. see here) and now things are getting worse, with additional questions being raised regarding his credibility and actions and activities, see Climate chief was told of false glacier claims before Copenhagen and UN climate chief Rajendra Pachauri 'got grants through bogus claims'

Previous related blog entries:
Climate change and doubt - Jan 24th, 2010
Meet Dr. Rajendra Pachuri - Jan 23rd, 2010
We wuz wrong - Jan 23rd, 2010

Misc update

The February 2nd, 2009 blog entry 'King of Kings' noted that Muammar Gaddafi (fresh from a meeting during which 200 plus African kings and traditional tribal rulers had named him "king of kings") had assumed the chair of the African Union... which he pledged to turn into a "United Staters of Africa." Well his one-year term is up and he has been replaced by the president of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika.

However, apparently not before he tried (and failed) to get his term extended!

Gaddafi thwarted over African Union presidency

Random charts...

Source: Economic Policy Institute's Economy Track - "an interactive look at the U.S. labor market."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Misc update

This blogger earlier commented on the low percentage of inhabitants that have birth certificates or registrations in some countries, and quoted some of the difficulties that this engenders (see links below). Various organizations (e.g. UNICEF) and countries (e.g. Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, etc.) have been promoting registration programs to combat this problem. Now some NGOs based in India are attempting to use SMS to remind people of the importance of birth registration , see 'An SMS to remind you of the importance of birth registration.'

Previous blog entries on birth registration:
Update - May 5th, 2009
Registered identity - Jul 2nd, 2008

Misc update

Turkmenistan ex-leader Niyazov's arch to be removed It seems that Turkmenistan's strongman Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has ordered the removal of the big arch (in the capital, Ashgabat) which is topped with a gold-plated statue of the previous strongman Turkmenbashi, i.e. Saparmyrat Niyazov. No doubt to make a future place for one of his own as he replaces Turkmenbashi's cult of personality with one of his own...

Previous blog entries on Turkmenistan:
Brief update - Nov 4th, 2009
January is back - May 1st, 2008
Turkmenbashi - No laughing matter - Sep 6th, 2002

Random picture

Source: Judicial Watch: Taxpayers pay $101,000 for Pelosi's in-flight 'food, booze.'

"Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents from the Air Force detailing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s use of United States Air Force aircraft for Congressional Delegations (CODELs). According to the documents, obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Speaker’s military travel cost the United States Air Force $2,100,744.59 over a two-year period — $101,429.14 of which was for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol..."

Misc update

La RATP déploie des «Flashcodes» sur 11 000 arrêts de Bus et de Tramway reports that the RATP (the Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens, the transit operator in Paris) has deployed 2D barcodes at every bus and tram stop in Paris to allow voyagers to use their mobile phones to find out when the next bus/tram is scheduled to arrive at their stop... The article also has a video .

Article (partial) and translation:

Afin d'informer les voyageurs en temps réel des arrivées de bus ou des tramways, la RATP déploie la technologie «Flashcode». L'ensemble des points d'arrêt à Paris et en Ile-de-France seront équipés.

In order to io inform travelers re the real-time arrivals of buses or trams, the RATP is deploying "flashcode" technology. All stops in Paris and Ile de France will be included.

La RATP déploie la technologie «Flashcode» sur l'ensemble des points d'arrêt de ses réseaux de Bus et de Tramway, à Paris et en Ile-de-France. Les flashcodes mis en place permettent aux voyageurs d'accéder aux horaires de passage des deux prochains bus ou tramways, en temps réel, directement sur leur mobile.

The RATP is deploying "flashcode" technology at all stations on its bus and tram networks in Paris and Ile-de-France. The flashcodes set up allow passengers to access the arrival times of the next two buses or trams, in real time directly on their mobile phone.

La RATP souligne qu'elle est le premier transporteur à généraliser l'usage des flashcodes pour une application en lien direct avec son offre de transport. Avec 20 000 flashcodes déployés, c'est désormais l'ensemble des 11 000 points d'arrêt des réseaux de surface de la RATP, 350 lignes de bus et 3 lignes de tramway, qui disposent d'une information voyageurs en temps réel, incluant notamment tous les points d'arrêt déplacés pour raison de travaux.

The RATP underlined that it is the first carrier to spread the use of flashcode for an application directly related to its transport services. With 20,000 flashcodes deployed, now all 11,000 stops on the RATP's network, 350 bus lines and 3 tram lines, provide passenger information in real time, including all stops effected by work.

L'information voyageur est fournie en temps réel. Chaque flashcode est unique. Il correspond à une ligne de bus ou de tramway pour un point d'arrêt donné. Localisé sur chaque plan de ligne, il peut être lu et décodé par tous les téléphones mobiles compatibles (pour savoir si votre téléphone est compatible voir sur Pour lire les flashcodes, il faut avoir télécharger l'application de lecture du flashcode sur son mobile et disposer d'un abonnement à l'internet mobile.

The passenger information is provided in real time. Each flashcode is unique. It corresponds to specific stop for a bus or tram line. Located on every transport map, it can be read and decoded by any compatible mobile phone

... see the remainder of the article here.

French flashcode site

Previous entries on this topic:
Barcode update - Dec 29th, 2009
No luck - Dec 15th, 2009
QR codes to hit the U.S.? - Dec 13th, 2009
Misc. update (BB/2D barcodes) - Aug 22nd, 2009
QR update - May 19th, 2009
BB & 2D barcodes - Apr 21st, 2009

Friday, January 29, 2010

Great quotes. Imagine!

"Each year as we watch the state of the union we see half the chamber rise to applaud the President, and half the chamber stay in their seats. We see half the country tune in to watch, but know that much of the country has stopped even listening. Imagine if next year was different. Imagine if next year the entire nation had a President they could believe in, a President who rallied all Americans around a common purpose. That's the kind of President we need in this country, and with your help in the coming days and weeks that's the kind of President I hope to be..." - Senator (and candidate) Barack Obama,

27th, 2010... and keep imagining...

Random chart

Source: Historical look at the labor market during recessions

Thursday, January 28, 2010


In the Pre-SOTU blog entry this blogger listed five things he hoped he would not see at President Obama's state of the union speech - see the video and transcript of the speech. Well, not much luck with that!

'Bankers' bonuses" red meat? Check. Excessive 'Jack-in-the-Box' applause, with hooting and hollering? Check. Some sitting on their hands,and/or clucking disapprovingly? Check. The set-up and knock-down of straw men? Check (although the "... Some say that..." formulation was replaced by "... I've been told..." and "... I know that some ... will argue...").

The only one of the five that we, thankfully, did not see was the use of invited guests to push "policy by anecdote." All in all, a grievous disappointment. One would hope that this solemn occasion should have been marked by more decorum...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


As the hours and minutes wind down to President Obama's state of the union address to a joint session of the Congress (plus various other dignitaries, including Supreme Court justices, cabinet members, associated guests, etc.) after his first full year in office, the airways are full of discussion re what we are going to see in the address... Pundits opine on what they would like to see, what "the people" are expecting from their President, etc., etc. This blogger will take a different tack and will list some things that he does not wish to see!

It is this blogger's fervent hope that he will not need to feel embarrassed on behalf of the assembled politicians... Hopefully their behavior will be (dare we hope) adult, and not puerile as it often is at this occasion. So, hopefully the following will not occur:
  • Excessive applause by some, with politicians bobbing up and down like so many Jacks-in-the-Box while applauding wildly, and occasionally even hooting and hollering as well.
  • While some engage in over-the-top enthusiasm, a number of others sit on their hand, or, worse, cluck disapprovingly...
  • The set-up and immediate knock-down of multiple straw men! Let's minimize the number of times we have the "Some say that..." formulation...
  • No (apparently obligatory) references to invited guests... Most likely an injured service-person who can be verbally saluted; a person who got some dread disease and had trouble with his/her insurance company; someone who lost their home to a mortgage foreclosure; or even one of each to hit the trifecta. This blogger dislikes the "policy by anecdote" approach that these represent, and wonders what is going through these people's heads. Sure, it must be very cool to be invited to a prestigious occasion by the POTUS, but allowing oneself to be used as a political prop! Ugh!
  • An obligatory toss of red meat to the crowd, say banker bonuses, or some similar easy target!
This blogger could go on, but will stop with this short list. Let us see if there really is "change' and a new era, or if it is more of the usual.

Random charts...

Source: Indian Nuclear Assets Danger To The World

This blogger finds the article unpersuasive... but the charts are interesting. Note: the site that has this report is rather 'sketchy'... other headlines include nonsensical junk such as 'Israel did 9/11' (and apparently, also the USS Cole attack)...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Al Qaeda and WMD

A sudden spate of articles (e.g. see the links below) regarding Al Qaeda and its nuclear ambitions caught this blogger's eye...

A Failure to Imagine the Worst
Warning from Harvard study on WMD terror
Harvard report: al-Qaeda WMD threat a reality
Al-Qaeda Remains Intent on WMD Strike Against U.S., Report Says
Report says Al-Qaeda still aims to use weapons of mass destruction against U.S.

All of these are in reference to a January 2010 report published by Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 'Al Qaeda Weapons of Mass Destruction Threat: Hype or Reality?'

In the articles referencing this report we read that the author, Mowatt-Larssen, "... provides a detailed chronology of relentless efforts by Al Qaeda from 1988 to 2003 to get and use chemical and biological weapons including ricin and anthrax, and, most worrying, nuclear weapons. Most of the details he cites have been reported before, but Mowatt-Larssen assembles the evidence in a fashion that leaves little doubt that Al Qaeda operatives would not hesitate to launch attacks that could kill tens or even hundreds of thousands of Americans if they could pull off such an attack..."

OK, so let's take a look at the "detailed chronology"... It bullets 51 points during the period from 1988 to August 30th, 2003. This blogger is somewhat mystified why a "detailed chronology" published in 2010 appears to be blank for the past six and a half years! In reference to nuclear weapons the actual information related to acquisition (as opposed to the issuing of fatwas and declarations, and references to nuclear drawings, etc.) would seem to indicate that al Qaeda got nuclear materials and/or actual nuclear devices as far back as in the 1990's and early 2000's For example:

"Late 1993-Early 1994: "he heard later the uranium, which al Qaeda acquired for $1.5 million and was tested in Cyprus, was “genuine"; "1996... statement that al Qaeda had obtained nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union"; "November 7, 2001: "we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons. We have the weapons as deterrent.” In the same interview, Ayman Zawahiri states that, “If you have $30 million, go to the black market in the central Asia, contact any disgruntled Soviet scientist, and a lot of dozens of smart briefcase bombs are available. They have contacted us, we sent our people to Moscow to Tashkent to other central Asian states, and they negotiated and we purchased some suitcase bombs"; January 2002: ... Ibn al-Shaykh al Libi during interrogation by Egyptians, al Libi claims al Qaeda operatives received chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training in Baghdad. He claims several small containers of nuclear material were smuggled into New York City by Russian organized crime." And, finally, June 26 2003 An Armenian citizen, Garik Dadayan, was caught with 170 grams of unsheathed highly enriched uranium (HEU) on the Georgia Armenia border. This was a sample of a larger amount of HEU that was being offered for sale to an unknown customer, possibly in the Middle East..."

However, actual evidence that they have come close is rather thin. In fact the report actually undermines its central thesis by arguing (and convincing) that Al Qaeda would not hesitate to launch attacks that could kill tens or even hundreds of thousands of Americans. If you would believe the chronology, then al Qaeda actually has had nuclear weapons for up to a decade or more but for some reason has refrained from using them, a complete contradiction of this argument!

It needs to be said that even given that a) Bin Laden and crew are "incredibly patient", b) "... al Qaeda’s top leadership has demonstrated a sustained commitment to buy, steal or construct WMD...:", c) They have undertaken multiple approaches to achieve their ends, and d) the detonation of a nuclear device could have horrendous consequences, this still does not add up to President Obama's formulation that this would "destabilize our security, our economies, and our very way of life."

There is no doubt in this blogger's mind that al Qaeda would love to get their hands on one or more nuclear devices, and that they would love to cause untold U.S. casualties. Work needs to be done to degrade their organization and its capabilities, and to prevent their acquisition of nuclear materials. However, breathless reporting that this is the central issue our time is over the top...

Note: while this blog entry has looked at this report from the radiological and nuclear angle, the report's focus on WMD also included chemical, biological weapons. A couple of other responses that take issue with the Belfer report with regard to these dangers are linked below:

Terrorism Experts Can Be Alarmists, Too
The Busted Watch Of U.S. WMD Threat Assessment: More evidence

Note: This blogger would be remiss if he did not mention that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is charged with the attempted use of WMD, see the Bomb - explosive, firearm, and WMD blog entry. Since Bin Laden has 'claimed' the "underwear bomber" this blogger is forced to concede the al Qaeda - WMD link, but only on the basis of the expansive definition under criminal law!

Additional note: This isn't particularly new, for example see this article from April 2006, Osama Bin Laden All Nuked Up.

Random charts

Source: Top All-Time Donors, 1989-2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Climate change and doubt

Why do many people have great difficulty believing in 'global warming'? If you listen to the convinced/converted it often seems that they attribute others' doubts to stupidity and/or a willful disbelief of the obvious... While this may be true for some small percentage, a much larger number simply are not equipped to understand the science... Climate science is incredibly complex, especially when you are talking about it on a global scale... a large number of different phenomena that have varying effects, and which interact with one another in different ways, and differently at different points in time, etc. Unfortunately the very difficulty in neatly explaining this complexity has resulted in attempts to encapsulate and/or recap the overall effect that have not been very useful. A prime example is the term 'global warming.' This 'short-hand' is hard for folks to grasp and/or believe when there is so much variation in temperatures - people see record cold snaps in many areas and have trouble squaring their observations with the notion of 'global warming'.... It doesn't help to point out to them that they have to think in terms of decades or centuries; that they have to distinguish between individual variations and the long-term trend; and so on.

OK, so 'climate change' is a better term. Changes in climate are occurring across the globe. For example, some areas are getting hotter and others colder; some are seeing increased precipitation while others are seeing an increase in droughts; the changes happening differ at the various latitudes and at different elevations; and the changes happening also differ on the surface of the oceans versus in the depths. The important issues that we need to understand, and the questions that we need to answer are re how these are connected, what the various trends are, what the longer-term trends are, and (very importantly) which of these are natural and/or cyclical versus which ones of these are caused by human activity. And if we are able to fully understand and answer these questions, the next thing to determine is what we should do about it, if anything.

The overall scientific consensus appears to be that there is an overall warming trend, and that this has been exacerbated by human activity (most importantly the use of fossil fuels)... and that unless very significant changes are made in the way we do things, this trend will reinforce itself and continue, with significant detriments to the future of mankind. While this is an overall consensus there is an argument by some re whether this is 'settled science', and even among those who do believe the consensus there are differences in emphasis and degree...

Like many others, as a lay person this blogger doesn't know the answer. He struggles with a number of issues, including:
  • Given the complexities briefly touched upon above, it is extraordinarily difficult to have the time, inclination, or background to vet the science on an individual basis. As a result a large part of the argument in support for the consensus agreement is based on an appeal to authority. We are asked to take on faith that the climatologists and other scientists have studied this in sufficient detail; that they have constructed sufficiently detailed models and have taken into account all the appropriate variables; that they have the best data; that they have crunched the available data and applied their models; and that the simplifications, interactions, and assumptions built in the models work accurately to produce results that not only explain past events (something that is always much easier to do) but also can be used to accurately predict the future (something that is exponentially more difficult, as can be attested to by any economist!). At the same time one has to believe that there is a sufficient degree of rectitude and self-disinterest among the postulates of the consensus position, something that this blogger and many others may find difficult to do automatically - based primarily on a somewhat jaundiced view of the general human condition (i.e. that most people act in their self-interest), but also not helped by instances such as this or this...
  • The sources of information on the topic (e.g. the press ) often purvey incorrect and/or contradictory information, leading this blogger to scratch his head re what to believe. An example here would be the spate of articles (e.g. see this) saying that the earth is in for a period of cooling, immediately followed by other articles attacking the earlier ones as an incorrect reading of the situation (e.g. see this).

  • On a fairly regular basis, new theories and/or data points pop up that do not necessarily fit neatly with the consensus position.. A recent example would be the observations regarding the cycles with which the Bering Strait is free from or closed off by ice, see Global Ice Age Climate Patterns Influenced by Bering Strait. While the article by the NSF says "... the findings do not directly bear on current global warming ..." it also says "... "If we can improve our understanding of the forces that affected climate in the past, we can better anticipate how our climate may change in the future ..." Another example would be from this finding, Sunshine speeded 1940s Swiss glacier melt: scientists, which seems to indicate that in this specific case solar radiation at one point might have been a better explanation for melting of the glaciers in the Alps than temperature... Note: this disagrees with the thrust of the consensus position that it is carbon dioxide levels (worsened by human activity) and the associated higher temperatures that are the main reason for the loss of glaciers rather than solar radiation (natural i.e. no human intervention). Now it is true that the article also says that "... this should not lead people to conclude that the current period of global warming is not really as big of a problem for the glaciers as previously assumed ..." But how often can we accept these 'outliers' and/or exceptions and still say "it does not change the consensus"? At what point are there sufficient numbers of these that we need to admit to some doubt of the underlying models?
  • The last item that this blogger will discuss is the putting forth of very specific examples of "the effects of climate change." For example, see "Angry Greenhouse Gas Victims Demand Action.' Here, proponents of the consensus theory have identified specific areas that have been adversely effected by human-induced climate change in very specific ways. So, apparently farmers in the Kericho District of Western Kenya have been adversely effected by decreased rainfall compared to twenty years ago, and the WWF somehow "knows" that their plight has been caused by human-induced climate change and puts them forward as "greenhouse gas victims." Now, this blogger has no trouble believing general propositions such as "if current trends persist then crop outputs will decrease by x percent by 2050'"and other similar predictions. But identifying current "victims"? The WWF has managed to do this with such specificity and has managed to rule out all other contributing factors? This blogger has a hard time swallowing this... And, in fact, the putting forward of such propositions to support the consensus view is something that he feels undercuts rather than enhances its likelihood of acceptance!
The bottom line: a very complex issue. This blogger is inclined to believe the consensus view, but admits to periodic doubts raised by the issues noted above, among others...

How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic
Global warming hike may be steeper: research
Global Ice Age Climate Patterns Influenced by Bering Strait
Earth could be entering global cooling for the next 30 years
Addressing "Global Cooling"
Sunshine speeded 1940s Swiss glacier melt: scientists
AGU stunner: Aircraft Vapor Trails Responsible for 15-20% of Arctic Warming
Climate Change: Angry Greenhouse Gas Victims Demand Action

Chart source: Spiegel

Previous blog entries on climate change:
Meet... Dr. Rajendra Pachauri - Jan 23rd, 2010
We wuz wrong - Jan 23rd, 2010
Saving the day... - Dec 20th, 2009
Skimmed milk masquerades as cream - Dec 17, 2009

Chart source: Spiegel

Random chart

Source: Building Partner Capacity to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Meet... Dr Rajendra Pachauri

Now here's a busy guy! In addition to his role as the Chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, according to this report is a very busy man. It lists some of his "side" interests, including: "... In 2007, for instance, he was appointed to the advisory board of Siderian, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm specialising in ‘sustainable technologies’, where he was expected to provide the Fund with ‘access, standing and industrial exposure at the highest level’,

In 2008 he was made an adviser on renewable and sustainable energy to the Credit Suisse bank and the Rockefeller Foundation. He joined the board of the Nordic Glitnir Bank, as it launched its Sustainable Future Fund, looking to raise funding of £4 billion. He became chairman of the Indochina Sustainable Infrastructure Fund, whose CEO was confident it could soon raise £100 billion.

In the same year he became a director of the International Risk Governance Council in Geneva, set up by EDF and E.On, two of Europe’s largest electricity firms, to promote ‘bio-energy’. This year Dr Pachauri joined the New York investment fund Pegasus as a ‘strategic adviser’, and was made chairman of the advisory board to the Asian Development Bank, strongly supportive of CDM trading, whose CEO warned that failure to agree a treaty at Copenhagen would lead to a collapse of the carbon market.

The list of posts now held by Dr Pachauri as a result of his new-found world status goes on and on. He has become head of Yale University’s Climate and Energy Institute, which enjoys millions of dollars of US state and corporate funding. He is on the climate change advisory board of Deutsche Bank. He is Director of the Japanese Institute for Global Environmental Strategies and was until recently an adviser to Toyota Motors. Recalling his origins as a railway engineer, he is even a policy adviser to SNCF, France’s state-owned railway company..."

In addition to the above, he also shills on behalf of the Indian government..., something which also would seem to conflict with his U.N. role. Wow, what a guy!

Questions over business deals of UN climate change guru Dr Rajendra Pachauri
The curious case of the expanding environmental group with falling income
Pachauri in expenses scam
Pachauri slams charges about conflict of interest
The questions Dr Pachauri still has to answer

We wuz wrong

Source: IPCC Report

Source: Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaption and Vulnerability

In the ongoing back and forth between those trying to get governmental action on climate change and those who , let us say, are 'not persuaded', there recently has been a hubbub about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s seminal report from 2007, the Fourth Assessment Report. Specifically in the section on The Himalayan Glaciers (see above, or go to 10.6.2), a number of mistakes were made... The report overstates the extent of the Himalayan glaciers (500,000 square kilometers, rather than 33,000 square kilometers); overstates their melt rate ("... glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world...", incorrect); and says that "...likelihood of them disappearing by the 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high...", which is a huge mistake... (2350 might be closer).

Now, how these errors made it into the report is rather unclear. The first explanation reported regarding the origin of the '2035 error' was that it originated from an article in the popular science press that somehow made its way into the IPCC report. A subsequent (more convenient) explanation was that it was a typographical error, and that somehow the digits in 2350 were transposed to give 2035. It is unclear which was the actual way that the error was introduced, the IPCC did not explain, and its statement (see below) only referenced improperly applied "standards of evidence"...

Now one can readily understand why the IPCC would prefer that people accept the second possibility, rather than the first! After all, who hasn't made a similar typo at some point in their lives? A common mistake that can happen to anyone without reflecting on their competence. On the other hand the first explanation does serious damage to their credibility, competence, and intelligence. This is especially serious for a group that relies on 'appeals to authority' as a significant part of their argument... Ouch!

Note: this blogger does blame the IPCC for this use. Climate science is very complex, and when we are talking about evaluating this on a global scale we are talking about something extraordinarily complex, with very intricate computer models, tortuous mathematics, etc., all not easily explained to the lay person. "Appeal to authority' may be all they are left with...

World misled over Himalayan glacier meltdown
UN climate report riddled with errors on glaciers
IPCC statement on the melting of Himalayan glaciers (see below)
Pachauri admits mistake in IPCC report, rules out resignation

The Synthesis Report, the concluding document of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (page 49) stated: “Climate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources from population growth and economic and land-use change, including urbanisation. On a regional scale, mountain snow pack, glaciers and small ice caps play a crucial role in freshwater availability. Widespread mass losses from glaciers and reductions in snow cover over recent decades are projected to accelerate throughout the 21st century, reducing water availability, hydropower potential, and changing seasonality of flows in regions supplied by meltwater from major mountain ranges (e.g. Hindu-Kush, Himalaya, Andes), where more than one-sixth of the world population currently lives.”

This conclusion is robust, appropriate, and entirely consistent with the underlying science and the broader IPCC assessment.

It has, however, recently come to our attention that a paragraph in the 938-page Working Group II contribution to the underlying assessment2 refers to poorly substantiated estimates of rate of recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. In drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly.

The Chair, Vice-Chairs, and Co-chairs of the IPCC regret the poor application of well-established IPCC procedures in this instance. This episode demonstrates that the quality of the assessment depends on absolute adherence to the IPCC standards, including thorough review of “the quality and validity of each source before incorporating results from the source into an IPCC Report”. We reaffirm our strong commitment to ensuring this level of performance.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Random charts...

Source: Reform In an Age of Networked Campaigns. Charts showing donation size of various campaigns... The result of a "Joint Project of The Campaign Finance Institute, American Enterprise Institute and Brookings Institution" that argues for increased transparency (e.g. real-time and downloadable electronic disclosure on a single disclosure web site), as has this blogger. However, where we part company is that they recommend keeping most existing donation limits, and tweaking public funding mechanisms... while this blogger suggests drastically raising limits e.g. see the June 19th, 2008 entry, Campaign Finance.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Great quotes...

"... Coakley campaign noted concerns about "apathy" and failure of national Democrats to contribute early in December. Coakley campaign noted fundraising concerns throughout December and requested national Democratic help... DNC and other Dem organizations did not engage until the week before the election, much too late to aid Coakley operation... Because of the failure of national Democrats to support Coakley, she was forced to devote significant time to fundraising in December. She also released a variety of plans in December and had a public event nearly every day..." - Quotes from a memo put out by the Coakley campaign in the special election for the Senate in Massachusetts.

“... The candidate in this race and the campaign have been involved in the worst case of political malpractice in memory, and they aren't going to be able to spin themselves out of this with a memo full of lies...” - response from an unnamed 'senior Democratic Party official'

"... Look, we’re never in place of a campaign; a candidate has to run their own race. When the alarm bells went off, we sprung into action...” - Senator Menendez, DSCC Chair.

"... “She had a humanity deficit as a cold campaigner, but they didn’t try to warm her up — or, instead, define the race about big issues — and instead ended up with a referendum on likability...” - anonymous Massachusetts Democratic Party veteran.

"We're always in touch with our members. In the House, we don't have surprises when it comes to elections..." - House Speaker Pelosi snarky comment on the election.

And most of this back-and-forth sniping took place on election day with the polls still open!

Coakley adviser memo: D.C. Dems 'failed' Coakley
Finger-pointing begins for Democratic insiders
Dems trade friendly fire while waiting for election returns


Some 'blankety-blank' collections company has taken to calling this blogger's cell number, looking to contact a "Janella McKinney." Back in December I answered and told that they had the wrong number, and the representative said she would make a note and stop the calls. However, the calls continued (see above). Two further attempts to get them to stop calling were unsuccessful (they hung up!). Unfortunately the BB 9700 always says "unknown number" because this blogger would really like to know who is doing the calling so as to report them to the FTC.

Next stop, Epic Applications, to purchase Call Blocker Pro. After installation, the set up in 'Settings - Options - Call Blocker Professional' (see screen captures below) allows a number of possibilities. Quickly checking off 'Block all Unknown Numbers' with action 'Pick Up and Hang Up' and the calls are taken care of...

Well, it's working well, as they keep on calling... The best $2.99 I've spent.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Great quote

"Given the terrible economic and social challenges we now face in Haiti, we welcome the continuation of the positive economic benefits that the cruise ship calls to Labadee contribute to our country." - Leslie Voltaire, Special Envoy of the government of Haiti to the United Nations.

Cruise ships still find a Haitian berth
Luxury Cruise Ship Docks On Private Haitian Beach, Just 60 Miles From Devastation

Some folks are waxing indignant over the fact that cruise ships continue to make port at Haiti, despite the devastation in parts of the island. Apparently they feel that the vacationers aboard should sacrifice the cruise they have saved for and paid for weeks or months before... in order to don sackcloth and ashes. Piffle!

Sunday, January 17, 2010


The suicide attack that recently devastated the CIA has led to efforts to figure out how this could have happened - the exact circumstances, who was responsible, the mistakes that may have been made that allowed this to happen, etc., etc. Most of what is found out will never be publicized, however, reading the various press accounts (some examples linked below), this blogger sees that the "sophisticated" meme has reared its ugly head again!

This refers to the propensity to label as "sophisticated" every terrorist "success" against us, and to then brandish it as prima facie evidence of interference from third parties... Thus, EFPs and IRAMs are "sophisticated" and therefore must be supplied by Iran; the 2007 attack at Karbala was "sophisticated" and thus had to have been carried out by the Iranian Quds Force and not Iraqi insurgents; the interception of the unencrypted video feeds from our UAVs is "sophisticated" and again must be due to Iranian interference; etc. Now apparently the use of a double agent to carry out a strike against us is "sophisticated" and thus must have been assisted by the Pakistani ISI!

OK, so the ISI very well could have been involved, as might the Haqqanis... obviously there is no way for this blogger to know the truth of the matter. However, brandishing "sophisticated" as the 'proof' is beyond ridiculous. Also, the argument that the Haqqani network had to have been involved and that it could not simply have been the work of the TTP (Pakistani Taliban) because "... Khost is Haqqani territory ..." is really flimsy. After all it was the CIA that had the bomber driven from Pakistan to Camp Chapman (Khost)!

This blogger sincerely hopes that a little more "intelligence" is being applied here than is being reported! And, repeating the last paragraph of the April 2008 blog entry: "... Sun Tzu is required reading for the Marines and for COIN experts, but for some unknown reason they are ignoring his maxim -It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” Underestimating the enemy, internalizing Rumsfeld’s “dead ender” propaganda, assuming that they are stupid, etc. is a big error paid for in lives." It is to be hoped that lives do not continue to be lost needlessly by continuing to underestimate the enemy.

How a Double Agent Lured Seven CIA Operatives to Their Deaths
Suicide attack reveals threat to Obama's Afghanistan plan
Exclusive: CIA Attacker Driven in From Pakistan

Previous blog entries about suspicious"sophistication":
The pattern continues II - Dec 27th, 2009
Lobbing (more than bombs) - Jul 12th, 2008
Backward Iraqis - Apr 28th, 2008

All hail!

Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons

All hail, Mariusz Pudzianowski... the only five-time winner of "The World Strongest Man" title (2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2008), rugby player, member in his own band, karate green belt, boxer, and now mixed martial arts fighter...

Mariusz Pudzianowski (Wikipedia)
Mariusz Pudzianowski (official site in Polish)
While you nurse your New Year hangover, the World's Strongest Man will be busy lifting cars

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Random chart

Source: The Right Target: Stabilize the Federal Debt Chart from The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showing "... projections of federal spending, revenues, deficits, and debt through 2050. These projections show that without changes in current policies, federal deficits and debt will grow in coming decades to unprecedented levels that threaten serious harm to the economy..."

Random charts...

Source: UAV Sniper With Tenacious Automatic Precision Shooting System (TAPSS). One of many "projects" for the "war on terror," the UAV Sniper "a highly accurate unmanned combat air vehicle armed with a 50-caliber sniper weapon system." Given the date, October 2006, one wonders if it is in use or if the project failed...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Random chart

Table comparing the levels of funding FY09 vs. FY10 in the two main accounts for foreign assistance (economic support funds and foreign military financing), as it relates to Middle eastern countries. From the USD 447 billion omnibus spending bill (H.R. 1105) for Fiscal Year 2010 (signed into law by President Obama on December 16). Source.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Great quotes

Picture credit: Walid Jumblatt sets a new course (an ever-green headline!)

"The return to the circumstances that preceded May 7 (2008 incidents) is useless except for stirring feelings by those who are dominated by their uptight vision" - Walid Jumblatt, Progressive Socialist Party MP (and leader)

"Today, we gather to restore the unity of stances and the painful chapters have been turned through the sacrifices of everyone." - Ali Hassan Khalil, Amal MP

"We will stay consolidated and we will defend our land. Our solidarity deep-rooted the choice of resistance against every aggression, and together we will support the Palestinian cause." - Mohammed Raad, Hezbollah MP

"We stress upon our unified constants and no sound is higher than the sound of national reconciliation. Let's embrace the resistance because it is the only guarantee to protect Lebanon" - Talal Arslan, Lebanese Democratic Party MP (and leader).

After a "reconciliatory gathering"