Saturday, November 28, 2009

Climategate - Cooking the Books on Global Warming


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.


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.


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.


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.


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) :


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.


[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..."

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 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.

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,

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


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