Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Explaining Away Climategate - 1


Climategate
was triggered by the release of thousands of emails and computer programs from the UK Climactic Research Unit (CRU) late in 2009. See Jon Stewart's hilarious and surprisingly fact-filled take and this attempt at Explaining Away Climategate.

This is the first of a series of new Topic postings that detail the viewpoints of the major groups involved in the controversy:

Friday, December 25, 2009

Originality or lack thereof

[from Joel] David Hume was of the opinion that nothing is totally original. All our creative ideas are either rework of the ideas of others or the result of new information from our senses. This is another way of saying that one does not have a divine Muse that sends ideas from out of the blue. Here's an interesting example.

I'm preparing a talk for our philosophy club that extracts notions from pop music (mostly oldies) that contain the kernal of an idea expounded upon by classical philosophers and/or are worth some small-group discussion at our meeting. Since most pop music is about moon-June-spoon romantic love, it's taken me some time (a few weeks) to gather together enough material for a session lasting an hour and one half. I was going to post the list of tunes on this blog today for your input and suddenly realized that Ira had done something of this sort with Gilbert and Sullivan about a year ago. What I thought was a novel idea on my part turns out to be just an extension of Ira's idea. So, although I will post the tunes I'm going to use as the basis of a philosophical discussion, my main point turns out to be that David Hume was right about originality.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sunspots Coming 'Round the Mountain When They Come?

The best experts at NASA have been predicting the imminent ramp-up of Sunspot cycle #24 since 2006. Well, here it is almost 2010, over three years later, and there has been a bit of an upsurge in Sunspot activity. At long last, it appears a Sunspot ramp-up may be coming 'round the mountain* pretty soon - but they won't be drivin' six white horses when they come!

The base figure above is from NASA/NOAA and shows their latest prediction (May 2009) which is the lowest and latest of the four red hoops. You can see that the actual Sunspot observations (black jig-jags with blue smoothing) do not quite match up with NASA's latest prediction. They also fall far short of the previous predictions which I have annotated into the figure as the three higher red hoops. [Click on image for larger version.]

Monday, December 21, 2009

Just some thoughts about life.

[from John] Ira’s latest posting regarding statistics brings to mind my current gripe – frustration? – with the information age. Can anyone be reasonably certain that the information they possess, the information they rely on when they go to the polls is valid and current? I don’t think so. I would like to use an analogy; my grandfather lived in a small town in Minnesota that had a single weekly newspaper. When voting for those seeking national office he only had the information that paper provided. He flew by the seat of his pants – his intuition. My father, living in the same town, at a later time, had a daily paper, a daily (weekly?) Minneapolis paper and primitive radio for information so he still flew by the seat of his pants because his sources were limited. Today I fly by the seat of my pants because I am inundated with information I cannot trust.
I have come to the conclusion that the best way to handle information in the information age is to form an original hypothesis upon which to measure new information discarding some yet be willing to modify the hypothesis if new information seems valid. Keep an open mind but don’t be fooled by charlatans.
The following are my current positions on some items of national issues.

Friday, December 18, 2009

LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND STATISTICS (Part 6)

STATISTICS OF HEALTH CARE SPENDING
Health Care reform has been a hot topic where statistics have been used to: Abuse anecdotal math to falsify the truth and truthify falsehood.

(This is the sixth of the series on misuse of statistics. For the earlier postings, click: 1-Going to St. Ives, 2-Playing Percentages, 3-Correlation and Causation, 4-Fun with the Normal Curve, 5-Global Warming.)

In a December 2009 posting, I pointed out that the map of per capita Medicare spending by county in the US looked a lot like the political division between the "Blue Counties" (Democrats, L-Minds) and the "Red Counties" (Republicans, C-Minds).

Since counties are so numerous and therefore confusing, I used Congressional Budget Office 2004 statistics of per capita Medicare spending on a statewide basis to show that the top five Highest Spending States tended to be Blue States and the top five Lowest Spending States tended to be Red States.

(My stated purpose -agenda if you like- was to indicate that Liberals consume an outsized share of the common pot of health care resources, as compared to Conservatives who take a smaller piece of the pie per capita.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Blind Side - Surprise Hit Movie

My favorite line in this movie is when Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw) asks his wife Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock):

"Who would've thought we'd have a black son before we met a Democrat?"

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Do Liberals Consume More Health Care than Conservatives?

The stereotypical Conservative (C-Mind) is well-off financially, attends religious services regularly, and tends to vote Republican, while the stereotype Liberal (L-Mind) is less well-off, less likely to attend religious services, and tends to vote Democratic. Of course there are many well-known exceptions, but I think reasonable people would accept these generalizations on average. One would think that C-Minds, having more disposable income, would tend to spend more on medical care than their poorer L-Mind colleagues. If one thinks that, one would be surprised by the following maps. [Click maps for larger versions.]



Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Explaining Away Climategate

The video below is is a well-thought-out response to Climategate that explains the scientific meaning of "trick" and that the climate scientists were actually talking about tree ring data when they wrote "hide the decline". Please watch the video and then read my response to it.



WHERE THE VIDEO WENT RIGHT

OK, many of the points are well-taken. Rush and some of the other non-expert loudmouth blowhards are way off in their commentary and totally wrong in the details. There is no actionable evidence of "fraud", "scam", or "conspiracy". It is irresponsible to use such strong words.

WHERE THE VIDEO WENT WRONG

The linked video says the emails and computer programs are "stolen" or "hacked". But there is no evidence of that. Indeed, it is most likely they were released by an inside whistleblower who was appalled by what he saw going on and felt it his or her public duty to do someting about it.

They go after what they call "McExperts" like Rush but they ignore the real experts who have been at this for years and who have exposed important questions about the data and how it is processed.

The video paints all skeptics and "lukewarmers" with the same extremist "deniers" brush. No one who knows the facts denies the Earth has warmed by around 0.5ºC to 0.6ºC over the past century. Nor do reasonable skeptics deny that human release of sequestered carbon (coal, oil, natural gas) is partly responsible.

WHAT IS THE REAL ISSUE?

The issue is not whether it has warmed. The issue is the cause of the warming and the level of human responsibility in it.

The "alarmists" and "warmers" say the major cause is rising greenhouse gases (mainly CO2) and that humans are responsible for the great majority of the warming. They say we are near a "tipping point" and if we do not take immediate and drastic action to stop human-caused CO2 the Earth will overheat beyond our ability to correct it.

The "skeptics" and "lukewarmers" say the major cause is natural cycles of the Sun and decadal ocean oscillations and that humans are responsible for only a small percentage of the warming. They say we are far from any "tipping point" and they favor reasoned action to reduce human caused greenhouse gases.

WHO ARE THE EXPERTS ON THE SKEPTIC SIDE?

If you read the main skeptic websites, such as Watts Up With That? and Climate Audit and others, you will find reasoned science-based critique of the way temperature data is obtained and how it is processed. Even before Climategate, they showed convincing evidence that a large percentage (I say around 30%) of the apparent warming is actually due to measurement bias.

These sites publish photos of active weather stations that have been encroached by asphalt driveways and air conditioner exhausts and other artificial heat sources over the past few decades. They surveyed nearly all official US stations and found that most of them do not meet the guidelines for high quality set by NASA, being at least 100 feet (30 meters) from artificial heat sources. Indeed, many of these stations were properly located years ago, but are now in the midst of newly constructed artificial heat sources. That is convincing evidence at least some of the temperature data is biased.


WHAT IS THE REAL MEANING OF "Mike's Nature trick" and Hide the decline"

The video repeats two of the most widely circulated email excerpts, "Mike's Nature trick" and "hide the decline" and attempts to explain them away. The video repeats these two charges and then accuses the skeptics of not having anything else. Well, there is plenty more, see this and this.

Let us consider the two items the video centered on. Yes, "trick" is sometimes used in scientific literature to describe perfectly honest analysis techniques. Yes, the "hide the decline" statement was about tree ring data that is used as a proxy for surface temperatures in the past.

Why tree rings? Reliable instrumental temperature readings, taken with callibrated thermometers in widely distributed locations on the Earth, have been around only for the past century and a half. For that reason, scientists must use what they call "proxy" data, such as tree rings, which happen to grow more when it is warmer, to determine the temperatures hundreds or thousands of years ago. Well, there is a problem with some of the tree ring data. From about 1940 on, the tree rings show a decline in temperature at the same time instrumental readings have been showing an increase. OY! Either the instruments are biased or -horrors- tree rings are not a very reliable proxy, or both.

So, they used "Mike's Nature trick" (named after Michael Mann a Prof. at Penn State who used the "trick" for a paper published in the prestigious science journal Nature) which is not to plot the tree ring data after 1940. You see, if they plotted all the tree ring data as well as the instrumental data, everybody would see the tree ring data decline as the instrumental data increased. If the tree ring data is shown to be wrong from 1940 to the present, that would raise questions about the actual temperatures indicated by the tree rings hundreds of years ago.

Why the concern about tree ring reliability? Well, historical records indicate what is called the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), during which there were vinyards in northern England, Greenland was an agricultural haven, northern Newfoundland was colonized as "vinland", and the north Atlantic was up to 1.0ºC warmer than today!

Uh, oh!? If the MWP is real, then temperatures 1000 years ago were higher than temperatures now, which would make the alarmists wrong when they say the Earth has never been as warm as it is now. It turns out the tree ring data they had does not show the MWP, so it is important to preserve the reliabilty of that tree ring data. So, "hide the decline" and all will be OK.

Do you believe human reports or tree rings? But all is not OK. I believe the historical record more then the tree rings. Especially if the tree rings are not tracking instrumental temperatures now. Why are tree rings not reliable? Because tree growth is dependent upon much more than surface temperature. It depends upon rainfall, for example.

The tree ring example is sufficient, in my opinion, to throw doubt upon the claim the Earth has never been this warm. It is doubtful it is this warm mostly due to human activities. It was warmer in medieval times, prior to widescale industrialization. That is why the climate scientists used the "trick" to "hide the decline". Sometimes a "trick" really is a is a trick to hide an inconvenient truth. (As Freud said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!")

Ira Glickstein

Sunday, December 6, 2009

National Science Board Prediction: Global COOLING

The US National Science Board (part of the National Science Foundation) issued a report titled Science and the Challenges Ahead that makes six interesting science-based observations and predictions. (Three relevant paragraphs from pages 24-25 of the linked document are reproduced here. Click on image to make it larger.)

Direct quotes are indicated by numbered arrows:

1- "Human activity may be involved on an even broader scale in changing the global climate."

2- "During the last 20-30 years, world temperature has fallen ..."

3- "... there is increasing concern that man himself may be implicated, not only in the recent cooling trend but also in the warming temperatures ...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mating Dance for the Birds

Every year we get to see a family of Sand Hill Cranes behind our home. A male and female and their offspring walk and squawk around the golf course pond.

This week we had a real treat when a pair did their mating dance for us immediately behind our house. Fortunately, my wife and I were photographing them as they got into the dancing mood.

These are good sized birds, three to four feet tall with wingspans of five to seven feet! They seem unconcerned as they walk around, often coming quite close. If you walk towards them, they will back away or fly off.



Several minutes after we went out to see them and take some photos, they began weaving their bills towards each other and jumping and charging in a very impressive mating dance!

(Or perhaps it was merely a domestic dispute? :^)

Quite impressive!

[Click on photos to make them larger.]

Ira Glickstein




Saturday, November 28, 2009

Climategate - Cooking the Books on Global Warming

WHISTLEBLOWER'S REVENGE

If documents from any corporation or government office included the phrases "hide the decline" or "Mike's Nature trick" or asked colleagues to destroy certain emails ahead of a freedom of information request, the media would be all over it. Wouldn't they?

If the whistleblower released computer programs with programmer's notes that said:

shouldn't usually plot past 1960 because these will be artificially adjusted

stop in 1940 to avoid the decline

There are hundreds if not thousands of pairs of dummy stations

What the hell is supposed to happen here? Oh yeah - there is no 'supposed', I can make it up. So I have :-)

Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!

that would be absolute proof the data was invalid. Wouldn't it?

Well, all this, and much more, has happened over the past two weeks, but, so far, the media is treading softly.

WHY?

Because the alleged malfactors are the very scientists who gave us the Global Warming scare. They "cooked the books" to push Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) - the idea that humans are mostly responsible for recent warming and the idea the Earth is close to a "tipping point". AGW is a sacred cow to politicos who have long planned to ride to riches and control of the global economic system.

Well, that old AGW sacred cow ain't going nowhere anytime soon.


WELCOME TO CLIMATEGATE

Today I Googled "climategate" and got 10,600,000 hits, a Google on "global warming" yielded fewer, 10,200,000 hits. The new term was invented only a week ago!

In my March 2009 postings on the Global Warming "Tiger" (see figure above) I allocated 30% of the apparent warming over the past 150 years to "Data Bias", defined as unintentional exaggeration of the amount of waming, primarily due to the encroachment of artificial heat sources on the measurement devices. I assumed the AGW scientists were basically honest, but unintended experimental bias had marred their results by about 30%.

Well, a couple weeks ago, thousands of emails and computer programs were released, possibly by an inside whistleblower from the major UK Climate Research Unit (CRU). Accuweather quotes Eduardo Zorita, a contributing author of the 4th assessment report of the IPCC: "research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies, and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU-files."

Just as Madoff got into trouble when the declining stock market caught him short and exposed his Ponzi scheme, the AGW climate scientists have been caught short by the unexpected stabilzation and small decline in global temperatures, probably due to changes in sunspot activity and other natural cycles that are undoubtedly the major cause of long-term climate changes.

WHY IT IS ABSURD TO ESTIMATE CLIMATE CHANGE TO TENTHS OF A DEGREE PER DECADE

The whole idea of accurately estimating changes that average a tenth of a degree per decade in global climate over centuries is absurd because, as we all know, temperature varies by tens of degrees every day!

We have recorded temperature readings that go back about 150 years, most manually read by volunteers or weather station employees who had to trudge 30 to 100 feet or more out to remote thermometers morning and night in all sorts of weather. If they were five (or fifteen) minutes early or late, the data would easily be off by tenths of a degree or more. If a new person took the job, he or she might follow a different schedule. With the advent of automatic reading, over the past few decades, the devices required electrical power and that caused many of them to be moved closer to buildings, where artificial heat sources biased the readings. Over the years, as hot air conditioner vents were added to buildings and asphalt driveways expanded, many thermometers were further biased by new heat sources. All this added to the experimental bias.

Data prior to about 150 years ago must be obtained from proxies, such as tree-ring data that give an indication of temperature on the basis of the rate of growth. However, variables other than temperature affect tree growth, such as rainfall and atmospheric CO2. Such data cannot approach accuracies of even one degree, much less precision to tenths of a degree.

Recognizing the possibility of bias and lack of precision, the experimenters wrote computer programs to process the data to adjust these biases. Of course, that opened the possibility some scientists would exploit the processing to hide inconvenient temperature declines and exaggerate AGW. It is clear from the emails and computer programs that have been released that some scientists took that opportunity to adjust the data to fit the story they wanted to tell. They believed that Global Warming was mostly due to human activity. They manipulated the data to tell that story!

You will hear much about Climategate in the main stream media soon.

Ira Glickstein

PS: Let me be clear, I believe there has been actual warming over the past 150 years, and some percentage of it is due to human burning of previously sequestered carbon (coal, oil, natural gas). I favor reasonable action, including a revenue-neutral Carbon Tax, to reduce the rapid rate of increase of atmospheric carbon gases.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Being American on Thanksgiving

[from billlifka - Photo added by Ira]

The Holiday of Thanks falls halfway between the Holiday of Fear (Halloween) and the Holiday of Joy (Christmas). That suggests one must be thankful for one’s blessings before overcoming fear of bad stuff, some of which is real and some imagined. Many Americans fear the path upon which they’re being led by their nation’s leaders, and for good reasons. In itself, fear can be good or bad, depending upon one’s reaction to it. The instinctive physiological reaction is a choosing between fleeing and fighting. Either can be the better choice, depending on the circumstances.

A current movie tells of the end of the world; in 2012. Some have credited its popularity on one possible interpretation. Why worry about the economic crisis, cultural clashes, etc.? It’s all going to be over in a few years; enjoy what you can right now. That’s the flight choice. A fight choice may be an instantaneous decision but it does require a nanosecond or two to assess the weapons available to fight successfully. The Holiday of Thanksgiving is assessment time.

America’s blessings flow from the American trinity of Democracy, Theocracy and Meritocracy as intended by the Founders. None of these were invented by the Founders; each had been tried in human societies many times; never successfully and lastingly. The American invention was in allowing the best features of each to emerge while muting the worst features in a harmony of opposition; each against the others.

Through the ages, democracy has had a poor record of success. Usually, it’s resulted in anarchy, lopped heads, defeat by neighboring states, dictatorship, in some combination. The problem is not the concept that people are best governed by the people but that people have human failings that must be taken into account. The American version of democratic government addressed the problem of human failings with law (U.S. Constitution) and organization that provided checking and balancing of power. It relied on aspects of theocracy and meritocracy within the national culture to temper the “hardness” of raw democracy and influence original law of the land. The intent was to assure freedom and equal opportunity for individual citizens; to protect against any “tyranny of the majority”; to minimize government size and locate it close to the governed.

Theocracy has prevailed more often than democracy and has failed more dismally. Even Christ emphasized that religion and politics are separate realms of power. But, it was Judeo-Christian beliefs that provided the foundation of personal freedom upon which modern Democracies are erected. More importantly, it was the moral code that shaped American culture and permeated the U.S. Constitution in many ways. Similarly, it calmed the wildness of unbridled meritocracy.

Meritocracy is a broader and better word(s) than market (or free) economy. It’s definitely better than capitalism. It implies that people who have skills and work hard can succeed without being an absolute guarantor of huge success. At least, it guarantees that one has a fair shot. Even more importantly, it guarantees that the government will not steal the fruits of success from citizens.

Many special interests have tried to disarm us from these powerful weapons. We retain them, at the moment. For this we should give thanks and wield them confidently, in great joy.




billlifka

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Comment 5 of: Government - Run Health Care (GRHC)

[from Stu - image added by Ira]
Ira wrote:
3) COST CONTAINMENT: Stu does not mention how health care protocols can help contain costs.

I believe the article dealt with that issue pretty well; here are some direct quotes pertaining to cost (in the order in which they appeared) :


QUOTE

Doctors in many areas are also eligible for bonuses of up to about $2,500 a year if their outcomes are good.


The fee-for-service payment system — combined with our own instincts as patients — encourages ever more testing and treatments. We’re not sure which ones make a difference, but we keep on getting them, and costs keep rising. Millions of people cannot afford insurance as a result. Millions more have had their incomes pinched by rising insurance premiums.


Even more important than how we choose our health care, though, is how we pay for it. One of Deming’s principles is that improving quality also tends to reduce costs. That is not always the case in health care; expensive treatments — implantable cardiac defibrillators, for instance — can bring enormous benefits. But Deming’s principle holds more often than you might think. When in doubt about the best procedure, doctors tend to do more — more tests, more procedures, more surgery. So if a hospital does a rigorous analysis of what actually works, it is likely to discover a fair amount of waste.


But in our current health care system, there is no virtuous cycle of innovation, success and expansion. When Intermountain standardized lung care for premature babies, it not only cut the number who went on a ventilator by more than 75 percent; it also reduced costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Perversely, Intermountain’s revenues were reduced by even more. Altogether, Intermountain lost $329,000. Thanks to the fee-for-service system, the hospital had been making money off substandard care. And by improving care — by reducing the number of babies on ventilators — it lost money. As James tartly said, “We got screwed pretty badly on that.” The story is not all that unusual at Intermountain, either. That is why a hospital cannot do as Toyota did and squeeze its rivals by offering better, less-expensive care.


These pilot programs have been largely overlooked in the public discussion of health reform, because they start small. At first, they would be voluntary. Places like Intermountain would presumably sign up for them, and high-cost hospitals would not. But the Obama administration is hoping to make the pilot programs national — and mandatory — if they are successful. In that case, the program would suddenly not be so small. It would begin to attack medicine’s most upside-down incentives.

Other such ideas also have a chance to be a part of health reform. One is the so-called Cadillac tax on the most expensive health-insurance plans. It would put pressure on insurers to hold down costs, which would increase their incentive to steer patients to hospitals like Intermountain. Another idea would aim to make the market for health care more like the market for new cars. Pushed by Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, the proposal would encourage employers to let their workers choose from a much wider range of insurance plans, which would allow people to shop around for those that provided good, cost-effective care.

For the past decade or so, a loose group of reformers has been trying to do precisely this. They have been trying to figure out how to improve health care while also holding down the growth in costs.


These pilot programs have been largely overlooked in the public discussion of health reform, because they start small. At first, they would be voluntary. Places like Intermountain would presumably sign up for them, and high-cost hospitals would not. But the Obama administration is hoping to make the pilot programs national — and mandatory — if they are successful. In that case, the program would suddenly not be so small. It would begin to attack medicine’s most upside-down incentives.




END QUOTE




[NOTE FROM IRA: Stu explained why he initiated a new Topic:

I had to make this a new post rather than a comment to the original GHRC post because as a Commenter I got the following message from the stupid Google Editor: "Your HTML cannot be accepted: Must be at most 4,096 characters"

Note to Ira: if you can fix this please feel free to do so...

Sorry Stu, that is a setting by Google Blogspot that I cannot change. Even in my exalted position as Administrator, my Comments are restricted to 4096 characters. What I do is edit them down or post multiple Comments.]

Health Care

[from John - Image added by Ira] I am posting my comments as a separate Topic because my view shifts the discussion and it seems more appropriate to post it separately.

I can understand a government run MINIMAL universal health care plan, similar to Medicare, a plan that is evenly applicable to all who have paid their FAIR SHARE of the costs. I can also envision a MINIMAL universal health care plan for those citizens who are TRUELY needy including children for which I should bear my fair share of the burden, (please note my emphases).

With that said, I must return to the main principle I and most of us elderly were raised to follow - responsibility.
I wish to make my own decisions regarding my health care and if I make a mistake, I accept the responsibility as I have done on all matters throughout my life. If I, with or without my doctor’s advice, select a treatment and it is more expensive or less effective than the government’s choice or my doctor’s suggestion then so be it. I made the choice and I will bear the consequences.

I can understand Stu’s and others position. Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) and Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY) are necessary to a government run health care system as is the necessity that it be self-sustaining. It will also be necessary to refuse treatments that are proven ineffective. A government run health care system should not over burden society nor should it forward its burdens into the future, nor should it inequitably burden certain elements of society.

Touching on the elderly, QALY, some might say, is a form of euthanasia I disagree. First, a government’s first responsibility to toward its productive citizens, second, it is responsible to ease the effect of aging. I as a responsible citizen must be willing to accept that the government will ease my remaining years but do no more than that.

Finally, I as a responsible citizen, have the responsibility to provide for my welfare in my retirement. Some citizens will be able to provide better for themselves than others will, that is why I agree with a minimal health care system. However, how can I have free choice amongst several treatments for a medical problem while the government’s system properly says it will only pay for the least expensive, effective treatment? My suggestion is, let’s assume that there are four treatments that are effective costing, a-$1300, b-$1000, c-$1500 and d-$1700. The government, rightly, should offer treatment b. However, if I wish to choose treatment c then the government plan should pay $1000 and I should be responsible for the remaining $500. I believe this is an appropriate blend of government and individual responsibility.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Government - Run Health Care (GRHC)

[from Stu, images added by Ira]

This began as an email I sent to several friends, including Ira:
"An interesting article and also,as an aside, a good argument for govt-run health care..."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/magazine/08Healthcare-t.html


And I got the following response from Ira:


"I read the article through and saw no good argument for government run health care.

"Indeed, one of the mentions (bottom of page 7) had to do with reducing charges for use of a medical device that recently cost thousands of dollars less. Nope said the finance guy, as long as MEDICARE (i.e., the taxpayers) is paying the old higher prices, we should not cut our prices, even though we are non-profit!

"As I made clear in http://tvpclub.blogspot.com/2009/09/end-of-life-honest-brokers-not-death.html I favor Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) and Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY) which is what the star of the article is actually doing, but I do not think the US government can successfully pursue that path in the current climate. Look what happened to the breast cancer screening recomendations this week. They are based on CER and, when women and doctors screamed, the govenment back down almost immediately. I think private insurance companies are in a better position to push CER and QALY-based reforms that save real money.

"Where did you see good arguments for government-run health care in this article? "

My response to Ira is the same as my response to Dennis (not on this blog).
First, Dennis' comment follows:

"G-RHC is always attractive to those who believe in big-bigger government, something for nothing (or so it seems) and the philosophy of entitlements (regardless of costs or the negative realities of socialist experiments in other places). Good or bad the reality is our country is broke and cannot afford its current "entitlements" not to speak of its mounting debts and deficits or future entitlements. At some point reality crashes the illusions of the masses and the politicians who feed them. "


So, finally, here is my response to both of my staunchly conservative friends:


"OK, let the (respectful) discourse begin! While the proposition that, " G-RHC is always attractive to those who believe in big-bigger government, something for nothing (or so it seems) and the philosophy of entitlements (regardless of costs or the negative realities of socialist experiments in other places)." may be true, it is indubitably not true that all who believe in G-RHC want something for nothing regardless of the true costs (I know this because I am one of them).

However, the main point of the article was that you can't improve health care protocols without most of the participants adhering to the protocol. It is a statistical fact that you should minimize the variance of the behavior of the doctors if you want to change the protocol for the better. If every doctor tries different treatments then it's impossible to know which of them are really responsible for patient improvement or decline while, on the other hand, if you have a specified treatment plan that all follow and it isn't working then you know just what needs changing. You can't have many variables changing to determine which ones are producing the good results. This is simply what is known as the "scientific method".

Now the above is easier to do with the govt running the health care system than the way we have it now not only without centralized control but rewarding inefficiencies and expanding costs as the article explains. Some things work better if they are centralized and yes, even (shudder) collectivized; e.g. fireman, policeman, soldiers, national parks and interstates, and it appears to me (somewhat on the basis of other countries experience (like Holland)) that health care should be nationalized. No solution is perfect but the benefits, to me, outweigh the costs.

There will always be a tradeoff between the needs of the individual and society; the trick is to find the correct balance."

And finally, finally, here is Dennis' reply to me:

"Theory and abstractions are seductive - as are the plans of mice and men. The reality always proves more elusive and sometimes tragic. Americans may have to experience their own tragedy as they fall prey to the allure of socialist solutions - as the rest of the world discards them. An irony of our times.

I am more attracted to real experiences - and those I am aware of through friends, relatives, and others who have the experience of centralized medical systems is not encouraging (to me at least). Worst of all - is the destruction of the doctor-patient relationship and the need to finagle ways of getting attention (if not bribery then trips to other countries or high-cost private insurance when the state allows it). And - most important - how does a bankrupt system pay for it? The destruction of a system that works for most and that has been the most dynamic in terms of medical advances should not be undertaken lightly. There may be many regrets - as I think many are now realizing as they coalesce in opposition to some dangerious social experimentation. "

I now open the question to this blog.
Stu

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Rest of the Picture

For many, many years, starting during WWII, the late great Paul Harvey broadcast The Rest of the Story - a factual story with a twist at the end.

Well, the photo to the left has a twist at the end.


It appeared yesterday in our local newspaper and seems to show a woman with a cigarette dangling from her lips.


It was an ilustration in a story about the "Clay Arts Club" whose members fashion pottery out of clay.


Why would a woman pose with a cigarette in her lips and why would the newspaper print such a photo?


Well, things are seldom as they seem, and further investigation of the photo shows quite a different story. Look at the second photo, which shows more of the photo that was published.

You can see the "cigarette" is merely the leg of a chair that happens to be behind her. The upper part of that chair leg is above and behind her neck and the other leg can be seen behind her hair.





And, as Paul Harvey would say, "Now you know the rest of the picture!"




Ira Glickstein

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Central Limit Theorem (CLT)




[From Stu. Images added by Ira from this source.]


OK,OK Ira, you have guilted me into action and so I will share something that has been bothering me lately. As many of us may know, the CLT is, next to the Law of Large Numbers, the most important principle in Statistics and is used to justify many a research study. So, I am thinking it behooves us all to try to understand this CLT so we can become more discerning citizens, n'est pas?

Here is the way I understand it. Given a random variable, X with mean mu and standard deviation sigma (X may or may not be normally distributed). Now we do the following m times: We draw n samples from X and compute the mean X-Bar giving us m X-Bars which will have their own particular probability distribution, PD. Finally the CLT promises that as m and n approach infinity, PD will approach a Normal distribution with mean mu (the mean of our original random variable X) and a standard deviation of sigma divided by the square root of n (the sigma of X and the n of the n samples). Pretty amazing actually. Please correct me if my understanding of this is incorrect as I'm going from memory here.

Now here's the problem that is bothering me. Say a research study is done where the researcher does not know the actual probability distribution so he or she can use the CLT to draw inferences about the population but precisely how? From what I understand they want to use as large an n as possible but surely do not use a large m (repeated sampling). And while I understand that once you have a normal/Gaussian probability distribution, it's easy to compute deviations from the mean and confidence intervals, just exactly what is the procedure used. Can anyone give me a useful easy-to-understand example?

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered,
Stu

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lawyers Have Not Changed Since the 1700's

Our recent discussion of the current movie, The Invention of Lying, about a modern society where there was no concept of a lie, led me back to the story of a similar society, written in 1726 by Jonathan Swift. One of best tales in Gulliver's Travels is his adventure in the country of the Houyhnhnms, a society of cultured horses where lying is also unknown.

I was struck by Gulliver's description of the lawyers of his time and how similar they are to many of today's lawyers (and judges and, especially, professsional politicians)!

Here are some excerpts where Gulliver explains, to his Houyhnhnm host, how justice works in his native England:

There [is] a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving, by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid.

To this society [of lawyers] all the rest of the people are slaves.

For example, if my neighbour has a mind to my cow, he has a lawyer to prove that he ought to have my cow from me. I must then hire another to defend my right, it being against all rules of law that any man should be allowed to speak for himself.

Now, in this case, I, who am the right owner, lie under two great disadvantages: first, my lawyer, being practised almost from his cradle in defending falsehood, is quite out of his element when he would be an advocate for justice, which is an unnatural office he always attempts with great awkwardness, if not with ill-will.

The second disadvantage is, that my lawyer must proceed with great caution, or else he will be reprimanded by the judges, and abhorred by his brethren, as one that would lessen the practice of the law. And therefore I have but two methods to preserve my cow. The first is [bribery of] my adversary's lawyer [or] for my lawyer to make my cause appear as unjust as he can, by allowing the cow to belong to my adversary: and this, if it be skilfully done, will certainly bespeak the favour of the bench.

... these judges are persons appointed to decide all controversies of property, as well as for the trial of criminals, and picked out from the most dexterous lawyers, who are grown old or lazy; and having been biased all their lives against truth and equity, lie under such a fatal necessity of favouring fraud, perjury, and oppression, that I have known some of them refuse a large bribe from the side where justice lay, rather than injure the faculty, by doing any thing unbecoming their nature or their office.

It is a maxim among these lawyers that whatever has been done before, may legally be done again: and therefore they take special care to record all the decisions formerly made against common justice, and the general reason of mankind. These, under the name of precedents, they produce as authorities to justify the most iniquitous opinions; and the judges never fail of directing accordingly.

[Lawyers have] a peculiar cant and jargon of their own, that no other mortal can understand, and wherein all their laws are written, which they take special care to multiply; whereby they have wholly confounded the very essence of truth and falsehood, of right and wrong; so that it will take thirty years to decide, whether the field left me by my ancestors for six generations belongs to me, or to a stranger three hundred miles off.

[Lawyers and judges,] in all points out of their own trade, [are] usually the most ignorant and stupid generation among us, the most despicable in common conversation, avowed enemies to all knowledge and learning, and equally disposed to pervert the general reason of mankind in every other subject of discourse as in that of their own profession.

Well said and so true, so true!

Ira Glickstein

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cross-Dressing for Halloween

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

For the second weekend in a row, and the first two times in my life, I have been cross-dressing!

Last week it was for a comedy at our synagogue where I was asked to play a bridesmaid. The maid of honor was also a bearded man, the groom a woman, the bride a man, etc. I looked pretty darn good in my wife's long black dress with a pink top and a flowered hat. My falsies were so realistic the woman who directed the play said she wished she had a pair like mine, so I took them out and gave them to her!

This week it was for a Halloween party where I was a Hooters Girl wearing an Ogre mask. (Double-click the photo for a larger image.)

In both instances, I was congratulated for my "hooters", and my nice legs of course. Surprisingly (for me) I felt comfortable in my newfound role, something I would not have considered five or ten years ago. Color me a contented cow.


Ira Glickstein

PS: My falsies were made of liquid-filled cooler packs. I put each in a plastic newspaper sleeve and formed them into a ball by twisting the excess plastic and tying a knot in it. Fortunately my wife wears a bra size that fits me fine.

PPS: Wedding photo added 19 November 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Arctic NOT Ice-Free till 2060 at the Earliest!

According to the UK Met Office the Arctic will NOT be ice-free by the summer of 2020 as many climate "experts" continue to predict. Nope, it will be at least 2060 before that happens. Mark it on your calendars!

Also mark my prediction that "pigs will fly" in 2060, and "hell will freeze over" in the same year :^) Seriously, I have made predictions for 2052 and beyond in my free online novel. The beauty of making predictions fifty years in the future is that most of us will be dead by then and those who are alive will have forgotten.

Good news for the polar bears! Not so good for the shipping companies that planned trans-Arctic routes for transporting oil. Or for Global Warming alarmists.

The full text of the UK Met Office October 15th release is here. Key excerpts (with emphasis added):

"Modelling of Arctic sea ice by the Met Office Hadley Centre climate model shows that ice invariably recovers from extreme events, and that the long-term trend of reduction is robust — with the first ice-free summer expected to occur between 2060 and 2080. It is unlikely that the Arctic will experience ice-free summers by 2020.

"Analysis of the 2007 summer sea-ice minimum has subsequently shown that this was due, in part, to unusual weather patterns. ..."

"The high variability has made it difficult to attribute the observed trend to man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, ...

"About half of the climate models involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fourth assessment report, show that ice declines in steps — failing to recover from extreme years. The observed temporary recovery from the 2007 minimum in 2008 and 2009 indicates that the Arctic ice has not yet reached a tipping point, if such exists."

In other words, the low point for Arctic ice in 2007 was mostly due to Natural Cycles in the ocean currents and solar phenomena, and not Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) due to human release of formerly sequestered carbon. About half of the most recent IPCC climate models are wrong about Arctic ice. We are nowhere near any kind of tipping point.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still concerned about the continuing rapid increase in atmospheric CO2. However, we have decades to figure out how to deal with it most effectively without further wrecking our economies via the Cap and Trade scam. I hope the coming decades of stable temperatures, and perhaps a bit of Global Cooling, will allow cooler heads to prevail and chose something like a revenue-neutral Carbon Tax. That kind of Carbon Tax would require minimum government enforcement and political chicanery. It would be hard to cheat on. Most importantly, it would actually work to reduce carbon emissions over time, harnessing market forces to do so.


Ira Glickstein

Monday, October 26, 2009

Grand Illusion of Motion (NOT!)

Double-click on the image to make it larger.

The wheels appear to be turning but I assure you it is a static picture.

If you stare at a black dot, the movement stops in that area.

I don't know what logical or philosophical point this makes.

Perhaps that some politicos claim to be making things happen and change but are not too successful at it. (But, I'm not complaining. Some of the best Congresses have been those that did the least damage!)

Ira Glickstein

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Invention of Lying

This philosophical movie asks the question:

When a society invents the idea of lying, can religion be far behind?

My wife, Vi, and I saw it yesterday and it is highly recommended!

What if there was a society exactly like ours but with absolutely no lying?

Of course, no society could develop, exist and survive without lies - even chimp societies have the equivalent of lying. However, once you get over the basic premise of a society where there is not even a word for "lie" (or "truth") the rest follows naturally.

The main character, played by British comic Ricky Gervais, is a classic loser. He works as a writer for Lecture Films. Since there is no lying there is no fictional dramatization. All films are rather dry recitations of historical facts. Gervais's character has been assigned the 13th century and all he has to work with historically is the Black Plague - not a very inviting subject for a factual movie.

He gets a pity date with Jennifer Garner's character and admits that he is about to get fired and his finances are so poor he is behind on his rent. She tells him frankly that she has superior looks and genes and he is way out of her league financially. She cannot marry him because their children would be stub-nosed pudgy losers.

HOW LYING GETS INVENTED

Gervais goes to the bank to withdraw the $800 rent money. The bank's computer system is down but the teller implicitly trusts him (no one has ever lied). She gives him the $800. A moment later the computer comes back up and reveals he has only $300, but she assumes it is a computer error. He goes along with he "error" and slowly realizes that he can say things that are not true that everyone will believe. For example, he tells his friend that he invented the bicycle, his hand is artificial, he is wearing a wig, and so on. His friend believes him! He goes to a casino and distracts the dealer and moves his bet after the roll. He puts his roulette winnings in a game of chance worth $1,000,000 and claims he won but the machine malfunctioned. They give him the money and an apology! He is rich and buys a mansion!

He is the only person in the world who knows how to lie and he can get anything he wants! But, can he get Jennifer Garner's character? Is he willing to lie to her and suggest that wealth can change genes? Sadly, no.

I don't want to give away the whole story, but there are a few events worth mentioning.

1) Since he can lie, he finds it easy to forge a document from the 13th century and use it to write a blockbuster Black Plague movie. He gets his job back with a promotion!

2) His mother is dying. To comfort her, he tells her that there is a "Man in the Sky" and that dead people go up into the clouds and are restored to full health and vigor and are reunited with relatives and friends who have passed on.

3) His "Man in the Sky" story is picked up by the news media without question. No one has ever lied so this must be the absolute truth! He becomes a media sensation. To satisfy their curiosity and interests, he writes ten commandments (like Moses) to guide society. They are written on the backs of two pizza pie boxes. An image of him holding the two boxes with outstretched arms becomes a cross-like icon worn by believers.

4) Despite his success and surprising charm for a loser, Jennifer Garner's character is still unwilling to marry him because of his inferior genes. Rejected and dejected, he grows long hair and a beard (like Jesus).

How does it all end? GO SEE THIS MOVIE!

Ira Glickstein

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

More DEMOCRATS watch Fox News than CNN or MSNBC!

Could it be? YES IT BE!

Analysis of ratings data from respected Pew Research and Neilson
shows that more Democrats watch Fox News than either CNN or MSNBC.

Fox News has come up on this Blog several times. The data in this posting sheds more light on the situation.

THE PIE CHARTS ARE NOT TOO SURPRISING

The first pie chart shows the distribution of the MSNBC audience. As one would expect, 45% are self-declared Democrats and only 18% are Republicans. The remainder are Independents (27%) and "Don't know" (10%).

The second pie does the same for CNN, with the only surprise being that a higher proportion of Democrats (51%) watch CNN than MSNBC. 18% of Republicans watch CNN.

The third pie does the same for Fox News. 39% of their viewers claim to be Republicans and 33% Democrats.

It might be surprising to see the Fox News "balance" between Republicans and Democrats. 39/33 = 1.18. MSNBC has a balance between Democrats and Republicans of 45/18 = 2.5. The balance at CNN is 51/18 = 2.83.

THE REAL SURPRISE

Fox News has a considerably higher viewership than either CNN or MSNBC. I combined that (from the 2009 Neilson data) with the data from the most recent (2008) Pew Research report, to generate the graphic.

The bars show the number of viewers using Total Audience (all ages) and averaging over the Entire Day. The Blue bars are MSNBC, the Red Fox News, and the Yellow CNN. The surprise is that more Democrats choose Fox News than either MSNBC or CNN. Indeed, if you combine the Democrats who watch MSNBC and CNN, they total only a bit more than Democrats who watch Fox News. If you consider Independents, more of them watch Fox News than CNN and MSNBC combined!
BUT, WHO IS "FAIR AND BALANCED"

Of course, what appears "fair" or "balanced" to one person on MSNBC may appear biased to another person, and vice-versa on Fox News. This is a subjective issue that each person needs to resolve for him or herself. My personal opinion is that MSNBC leans way to the left and Fox News a bit to the right. CNN appears to me to go right down the middle, or a bit to the left of middle.

The above data indicates that, given a free choice, people who seek out cable TV news and talk tend to choose Fox News over the competition. If you add the presumably "fair and balanced"-minded Independents to the presumably left-leaning Democrats, you find that more of that cohort watch Fox News than CNN and MSNBC combined. And that is true despite the fact that Fox News is available to fewer households.

BUT READ THE "FINE PRINT" BELOW

In the above analysis, I used Total Audience averaged over the Entire Day. I did that because the Pew Research data was for all ages and did not ask people when they watched cable TV. Fox News tends to have a slightly older audience, so had I used the 25-54 year old demographic, the results would have been a bit less surprising. However, they would still have shown that more Democrats and Independents watch Fox News than CNN or MSNBC.

The statistics for Prime Time are also a bit different from averages over the whole day. However, Fox News is also ahead on that measure. For example, for the 25-54 demographic, Fox News leads with 446,000 to MSNBCs 250,000 and CNNs 143,000. For the Total Audience including us old folks, Fox News leads with 2,036,000 to MSNBCs 753,000 and CNNs 621,000.

Ira Glickstein

Monday, October 12, 2009

BBC NEWS: What Happened to Global Warming?

OK, if you don't trust me on Global Warming, how about the good old BBC NEWS? (09 Oct 2009).

**********************************

"What happened to global warming?

"By Paul Hudson
"Climate correspondent, BBC News

"This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.

"But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

"And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.

"... last month Mojib Latif, a member of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says that we may indeed be in a period of cooling worldwide temperatures that could last another 10-20 years. Professor Latif is based at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University in Germany and is one of the world's top climate modellers. But he makes it clear that he has not become a sceptic; he believes that this cooling will be temporary, before the overwhelming force of man-made global warming reasserts itself. ...

"One thing is for sure. It seems the debate about what is causing global warming is far from over. Indeed some would say it is hotting up."


**********************************************************************************************

I've been on this case for quite a while. See my postings that go back over a year.


Ira Glickstein

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Leadership

[from John] One of my sons is taking a course on leadership and motivation. The instructor assigned a research paper on "Why do bad leaders hire bad managers". The instructor believes, or teaches, there is just as many bad leaders as there are good leaders, he wants to expand on the leadership topic by including bad leaders. The instructor gives three examples of bad leadership. First are the leaders that only hire managers that are yes men so that he/she can promote their own agenda. The next is the leader that will only hire managers that are under skilled so nobody can make them look bad. The last is the leader that is self-absorbed and they only hire managers that will make them shine, but the managers do not have the skills to manage the employees. The class agrees that the number one reason for the lack of motivation is a result of bad management.

I find the theme strange. It seems a negative approach to teaching leadership and motivation. Still, as we have been discussion motivation it may be a subject to pursue.

"Why do bad leaders hire bad managers?" Obviously because they are bad managers themselves.

While I agree somewhat with the instructor’s examples, I suspect that poor leaders hire poor managers, if they do; it is because they are poor managers themselves. I am also not sure I agree with the instructor that there are as many bad leaders as good leaders. I suspect that bad leaders fall by the wayside while bad managers may stay in their job but not advance.

We must separate leadership from management. A good leader inspires people. He motivates them to perform at their best. A good manager is a good organizer. He motivates people because they are comfortable with their boss and with their jobs and know they will be rewarded for their efforts. Two different things. Let’s explore this further.

Does a poor leader hire poor managers or does he make poor managers?
This is an important question, to use the army, as an example, you must work with the people assigned, good or bad. The task is to make do with what you were given by training, supervision and by making sure, he or she understands what is expected of them.

In the military, or at least the army, where I have my experience, progression up the ranks in interesting. Leadership is the key during the early stages, at the squad, platoon and company levels. As one advances he is assigned staff positions where management skills are developed and as he reaches the higher levels he combines the two skills of leadership and management as do successful CEO’s.

In civilian life, you have the opportunity to interview applicants. You can match your needs against his or her resume. You then chose what appears to be the best applicant. Even with the best applicant, a good leader must train the newcomer. Teach him what is expected of him.

A poor leader may chose the applicant for wrong reasons, but more than likely the applicant will become a poor manager because the leader does not do his job of training and integrating him into the job.

It is also possible that a good leader has a bad manager foisted on him. Internal politics does exist and he may have no choice. A good leader will be aware of the internal politics and work to avoid the problem. A poor leader may be fearful for his job and accept a lesser qualified person.

We have been discussing motivation a lot lately. A person is motivated because he or she can see and achieve some goal. It may just be compliments from your boss or it may be more, but motivation will not exist if the individual cannot derive some benefit from his effort. A poor leader who criticizes and badmouths his employees, who also criticizes his bosses and the company will not have motivated people including the managers below him.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Amazing High Speed Robot Hand-Eye Coordination

WOW! Click for a great video of Three-Finger Robot Hand-Eye Coordination.

My still video captures do not do justice to the amazing performance.

The photos show:


o Tossing and catching a cell phone

o Bouncing a ball faster than the eye can see

o Throwing a ball into a basket


This is a video well worth watching!

See more information and videos at Ichikawa Komuro Laboratory (University of Tokyo).

We have become used to machines that are stronger than we humans, and computers that are faster and have greater memory capacity.
However, this Robot Hand-Eye Coordination system is an example of dexterity that will greatly exceed the speed and precision of anything a human hand and eye (and eventually entire human body) can do.

Our Eye/Brain/Muscles cycle no faster than 1/10 second. This thing can go at 1/100 or 1/1000 second. Order of magnitude improvements that will only continue to accellerate.




Ira Glickstein

Friday, October 2, 2009

No OIL in Afghanistan

OIL and the Iraq War

Back in 2007, I posted Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL), agreeing with Alan Greenspan that "The Iraq war is largely about oil ..."
The original name of the operation, was "Operation Iraqi Liberation". That spells out the acronym "OIL".

In my 2007 posting, I linked to the White House website where, on March 24, 2003, Ari Fleisher, President George W. Bush's Press Secretary, is quoted as saying: "The President this morning has spoken with three foreign leaders. He began with Prime Minister Blair, where the two discussed the ongoing aspects of Operation Iraqi liberation." [Emphasis added.]

The name was soon changed to "Operation Iraqi Freedom" - "OIF" and statements were made that Iraq was not about "blood for oil". The 2003 White House posting was available at the time of my 2007 Blog item, but it has since been taken down.

Of course, OIL was not the only reason for the Iraq War. It was certainly important to depose a terrible and dangerous dictator who had used chemical weapons in the past against his own people and who we thought had or intended to get a nuclear weapons program. So, liberation of Iraq and setting up something like democracy were important reasons for the war.

My 2007 Blog posting was written before the surge where Gen. Petraeus used a healthy helping of additional US troops and established the conditions that have allowed the current partial withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. I believe history will conclude our actions in Iraq were justified to assure a level of stability in a country that has a large percentage of the world's oil. The Iraq War was necessary for the stability and progress of the world's economy and for something like peace in a historically turbulent region.

Afghanistan Has No OIL

"Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan" (OEF-A) is the official name for our military action in Afghanistan. (The original name was "Operation Infinite Justice" which offended those who believe the source of "infinite justice" is God.)

According to Wikipedia, "The initial military objectives of OEF-A, as articulated by Former President George W. Bush in his Sept. 20th [2001] Address to a Joint Session of Congress and his Oct. 7th [2001] address to the country, included the destruction of terrorist training camps and infrastructure within Afghanistan, the capture of al Queda leaders, and the cessation of terrorist activities in Afghanistan." Multi-national military action began in 2002, just a year after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US mainland.

The Bush administration has been criticized for emphasizing military action in Iraq, which had little or nothing to do with 9/11, rather than in Afghanistan where the Taliban allowed Al Queda to train the terrorists responsible for 9/11. The Obama administration is now being asked by the commander, Gen. McChrystal, to deploy tens of thousands of additional troops there and repeat an Afghan version of Gen. Petraeus's Iraq surge. As in Iraq, the generals say we need US "boots on the ground" to gain and hold territory.

After much reading and consideration, I have come to the conclusion the US should not greatly increase troop strength now. We should revert to the previous Bush administration policy of a "light footprint" that defends key population centers and uses mainly airborne strikes to prevent the Taliban and whatever remnants of Al Queda remain in Afghanistan from making too much progress. Given the terrain, population and history of Afghanistan, there is nothing to be gained by adding more US blood to that already left by the British in the 1800's and the Russians more recently.

I think history will eventually recognize that the Bush strategy of a relatively low-level war in Afghanistan, where our allies took a large percentage of the responsibility, was correct. Those of you who have played chess know it is sometimes safer to hold back and exercise force from a distance, using your Rooks, Bishops and the Queen on clear diagonals and columns, rather than commit your pawns and Knights to a "boots on the ground" attack.

Iraq, a strategic source of oil, required both boots on the ground and airpower. Afghanistan, especially now that we have unmanned air vehicles capable of pinpoint attacks, should be addressed mostly with remote airpower. I believe VP Biden has been advocating a position similar to mine and that Obama will eventually accept that policy.

Lots of OIL in IRAN

I hope it does not come down to it, but, if Iran continues to build its nuclear weapons program, the US and our allies will have to take military action of some sort. That country has a large percentage of the world's supply of oil and it is therefore important to keep it stable and peaceful.

But, Iran is not Iraq. There is a considerable level of well-organized internal opposition to the current leadership and the Ayatollahs are not crazy. Perhaps we can persuade the Iranians to take a more reasonable approach. With the cooperation of the Russians and French, Iran can have a peaceful nuclear power program and we can have guarantees it is not directed at nuclear weapons.

Ira Glickstein

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dorothy Del Favero’s 100th Birthday

[from billlifka, posted with his permission]
Dorothy Del Favero has achieved every woman’s dream. She’s reached an age where all listen to her talk, but she can’t hear them.

A balanced diet and strenuous exercise routine are the secrets to her longevity.

She eats sweet rolls, cookies, chocolate candy, mountain dew, deep fried onions and baked potatoes with a stick of butter and three ounces of salt. Each of these foods provides an antidote to some particular pill prescribed by her doctor.

As for exercise, can you bend from your waist to use a hand broom and dust pan on the floor?

Dorothy does a lot of walking; from her nap on the sofa to her nap on the recliner to her nap in bed. She carries her four-point cane at shoulder level so as not to impede her passage. She still clears the dinner dishes. The juggling of dishes from table to sink is an entertainment highlight. She still empties the dishwasher. We hope to find most of the dishes some day.

To be honest, Alice [her daughter, billlifka's wife] is the drill sergeant in charge of food and exercise and deserves the credit for Dorothy’s survival. Of course, Dorothy wasn’t always a senior senior.

She was born in the Friesland province of Holland, birthplace of old English. Her maiden name was Bijvoets which means, “by foot”. This suggests her ancestors walked into the Low Countries at the time family names were assumed. Her Bijvoets side is traced back 500 years to a tinsmith in Antwerp. In her early grammar school years, Dorothy’s family nearly starved during World War I. Her father was an archetypical entrepreneurial immigrant to America. After the war, it took him three tries before he finally established himself making sinks for Pullman railroad cars on Chicago’s south side. Then he brought his entire family to live with him in the new world. Dorothy was 17 at the time, the 6th of 12 children.

He started a business tinning implements for the Chicago stock yards. In time, this broadened its scope in plating processes. When Dorothy’s father died, the business was willed to his 4 sons and continues in the Bijvoets family. The 8 daughters were bequeathed the family home and, before that, encouragement to find good husbands. About a year after her arrival, Dorothy met a hunky young man at a Lake Michigan beach. Mario Del Favero had emigrated from Northern Italy in his teens to join an older brother successfully employed as a carpenter in Chicago. Photographs at the time suggest he was the kind of guy who attracts bathing beauties. As luck would have it, Dorothy qualified as a bathing beauty. I’m guessing they didn’t really share a language when they met. That may have contributed to their 58 year marriage. Mario died in 1987.

Mario and Dorothy produced Alice, Tom, John and Richard. Present count is 9 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren and 1 & 8/9 great-great grandchildren. None are in jail and all are gainfully employed or doing well in school. Until recently, Dorothy could speak knowledgeably about each of them without being prompted. She still can with a little help in getting started.

I think she’s had a satisfying life far beyond her expectations when she left her mother country as a girl, full of apprehension. Hers has been a classic American immigrant story similar to most of our family stories. In celebrating Dorothy’s life, in a way we celebrate the America that was and the America that shall come again. Happy 100 years, Dorothy!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Motivation and PASSION

The photo shows my water aerobics friends (I only wish!)

Joel is having trouble keeping motivated and wonders "is it worth the effort?" (See 1 and 2.)

He writes "I know that Ira's bicycling group ends their ride with a stop at Panera's for coffee, danish and conversation. Is this what gets them on their bikes from a cozy bed on a chilly morning?"

I thought about it while bicycling to water aerobics this past Saturday morning, again at Paneras with my bike club friends, and yet again at Chumach (Bible) Study at the synagogue that morning. Yes, the coffee and snacks are a definite draw, but it is mostly the people, my set schedule, and naps that keep me motivated.

As I turned the pedals, and watched the world go by, "People/Set Schedule/Naps" became "PSSN". That acronym, with the addition of vowels, morphed into "PASSION".

MOTIVATION IS EASY WITH A YOUNG FAMILY

When young, motivation is easier. A close-knit, loving family had high expectations for me. My mom worked at my grandma's knitting shop. I was surrounded by women who doted on me. In those innocent days, it was considered safe even for young children to play outside. I had a nice nap every early afternoon. My dad, a letter-carrier, was up and out on schedule early every morning, but he also came home early and we spent quality time talking, working carpentry projects, and playing.

I walked to school on a set schedule with friends. In those days we had all-day kindergarden that included a noontime nap. The naps ended with first grade, but the set schedule, and a sense of duty to family and teachers went on through high school. I worked part-time at a shoe store and selling ice cream on the beach and in an office during those years and that motivated me to go to college so I could qualfy for non-menial employment.

Work as an engineer was challenging and often involved long hours of (unpaid) overtime and travel, but I was motivated by obligations to wife and children. Again it was the people in my family and at work and in the clubs and synagogue that kept me motivated. My wife and I had a full schedule of work, attendance at our daughter's school events, square dancing, and so on. I had bike and ski and kayak club friends. My employer paid for me to get my Masters and then my PhD and that kept me busy and intellectually alert.

Then, the children went away to college and had families of their own, ... and we retired!

HOW TO KEEP MOTIVATED IN RETIREMENT?

There is a danger of "vegging out" in retirement if you are financially secure. Pension and Social Security checks come regularly, investments grow, and so do your waistlines! There is a temptation to sit and watch mindless TV programs, eat rich food and "enjoy life - you earned it!"

Fortunately, my life before retirement gave me the foundation for the PASSION (People, Activities, Set Schedule, Interests, Optimism, and, eventually Naps) that keep me motivated.

People - Particularly loved ones - your wife and family, but also friends, neighbors, co-workers and other acquaintances.

People are far and away the best motivators. Spouse and family provide a firm foundation. If you show up they have to let you in! Beyond that, what gets me up and out almost every morning are the people who are waiting for me.

As I bicycle down the street, people call out my name and I say theirs. Others nod to me - we don't know names but we shout "good morning!" as I bike and they walk their dogs or jog along. At the sports pool they (mostly women :^) are happy to see me. We exchange pleasantries, ask about travels, and kid around about who can hold his or her legs up higher and longer and so on. No better way to start a day than exercising in a heated pool. (My wife, Vi, goes to some of the same water aerobics classes, but she travels by golf cart, most often with a neighbor.)

If I'm meeting friends for a bike ride we are happy to see each other. Bicycling is probably the best form of transportation ever invented. You go fast enough to get someplace miles away, yet slow enough to talk, enjoy the sights and sounds, and "smell the roses". And, bicycles run on peanut butter sandwiches - "green" energy!

We eat out with other couples, go to parties and entertainment events, and enjoy life. It is my wife and all those other people who make it worthwhile!

Activities - Athletic and otherwise

The key to living a nice long life is to keep moving! It may be "sour grapes" but I don't think strenuous running or competitive sports are good for the body, particularly not an aging body. That is why I do "soft' exercises such as bicycling, water aerobics, kayaking, walking, and so on.

I try to put in at least an hour a day, but, I keep the civil service worker attitude in mind: "I'm paid by the hour, not by the mile!"

Set Schedule - Something to get you up early and out of the house almost every day.

When we retired we thought we were leaving set schedules behind. However, it turned out that our calendar is far more complicated than ever. Without scheduled events it would be so easy to stay in our cozy bed all morning, reading or watching TV, perhaps taking turns preparing breakfast in bed. To help prevent that, our alarm is set for 6:30AM every morning and we have no TV in our bedroom.

My morning schedule is set in stone: get the newspaper, feed the fish in the koi pond, read the paper over a light breakfast, and get outside! Monday, Wednesday, and Friday it is bicycling to regular water aerobics. Tuesdays I lead an easy neighborhood bike ride and end up at a different sports pool for deep-water aerobics. Thursdays I bike with a neighbor to a men's breakfast at Perkins and then to deep-water aerobics. Saturdays it is early deep-water aerobics and then a bike ride to Paneras. After bicycling home, it is into the hot-tub with a cup of ice cream and a magazine. Then, it is time for a nice nap!

The rest of the day is free, except for lunch or dinner with friends, shopping trips, volunteering at the synagogue office Thursday afternons, Friday evening services, and other odds and ends. My wife and I each teach an online grad course for the University of Maryland, so that takes a few hours every other day or so. I also have email to keep up with, my Blogs (The Virtual Philosophy Club, Curb Your Enthusiasm - Fantasy Episodes, 2052-The Hawking Plan, and 2052 Life, Liberty, and Technology), my Google Knols, websites I follow including The Drudge Report, Watts up With That, Reality Prime and several others. There are TV programs I watch regularly, some automatically recorded on our DVR. That keeps me busy and involved!

Interests - Intellectual and otherwise.

My interests are wide and varied. We get lots of magazines, mostly from trading in unusable airline miles. My wife buys me books, in a so far unsuccessful attempt to change my social and political views. (My father taught me to be frugal. therefore, any book or magazine we have paid for, including those from airline miles, and idiotic political screeds, has to be read.)

Optimism - Open outlook welcoming variety.

Take to heart Max Ehrmann's beautiful words of Desiderata "Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, ... be on good terms with all persons. ... the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is ... everywhere life is full of heroism. ... Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. ... You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."

Naps - Noontime slumbers to refresh body and soul.

This has been a protracted posting. Time for a nice long nap!


Ira Glickstein