Thursday, December 31, 2009

The East Valley Tribune and the end of an era

Today's issue of the Tribune will be the last. Like many businesses that fail to survive it will end with a fizzle and not a bang.

I had always hoped that the Tribune would motivate the Arizona Republic to provide better coverage of issues of the day but it may well be that other factors make that unlikely.

Newspapers such as the Arizona Republic and the New York Times will continue to operate with their token articles from the other side.

The Tribune will be missed.

[Update: It appears that a business may continue Tribune operations into 2010]

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

This post is just to wish readers of this 'blog a happy and safe Christmas.

Look for politics and policy discussion later: enjoy the time with your families--and if you insist on substance here: consider whether or not something or somebody you supported prevents others from doing the same.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Global warming and desert flowers

Via the University of Arizona, news of a study that shows that anthropogenic climate change (local effects of global warming) is both diminishing and changing the showy Sonoran Desert spring blooms.

Counterintuitively, the change favors more cold-hardy species; as rains get shifted later into the season, germination happens in colder weather. The whole news article is an example of responsible science journalism and is worth reading.

For more information about how AGW will affect Arizona, see the Southwest Climate Change Network website, a project of the University of Arizona.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The recession.

My apartment now has a few squatters of the Mus muscularis sort. I wouldn't mind were it not for the noise and that they don't use the toilet; a live-catch trap is set to try to get rid of them, and the entrance holes have been duct-taped. Mice and people have different ideas of space which makes living together difficult. (Perhaps the difference between reasonable folk and many socialists or global warming denialists is equally intractable; perhaps their brains are simply different. The prospect that some people are incapable of "getting it", of distinguishing truth from falsehood and good argument from bad, in the same way mice can't be brought to not chew the walls and defecate in strange places, is very interesting...)

In earlier times, a live-catch trap would have been though of as ridiculous; the problem with mice back then was not so much that they crapped on the counter and rattled inside the cabinets but that they ate one's stores of food. The mouse and the weevil were a serious threat to health and survival--look up how much grain is still lost to weevils; while one couldn't do much about weevils, killing mice, or keeping allergy-aggravating cats around to do so, was in order. Today mice are a mere inconvenience. Given a choice between the very small inconvenience associated with live catch and turning the mice loose a few blocks away or easier neck-breaking traps and suffering and death for mice, I go with the former. (Shades of Nozick's musings on animal rights, right?)

Over the past few years I've saved aluminum--mostly cans--to take in for recycling, storing it in a trash can outside my apartment. It'd be easier to just throw it in the blue bin, but the money adds up to something not insignificant to someone drawing a grad student salary. On Saturday I was to take it in, along with a few bags from inside my apartment, to pay for gas for a car-shopping trip to Phoenix, but when I went outside, the trash can was empty. The cans in there were mostly in plastic bags, conveniently wrapped up for any scavenger. I took the few bags from my apartment to the recyclers, but arrived a minute late (by their reckoning).

On to the gas station, to fill up before heading to Phoenix. At the pump a shifty-looking, shabbily dressed old man in a pickup was eyeballing me and had the courtesy to wait until I was done pumping before spanging. From his appearance and twitchy manner I though him a tweaker--it isn't uncommon in that part of town for people to somehow have money for amphetamines but not for gas and laundry--so I asked where he was headed. The reply: The metal place down at 22nd and Euclid, to take in scrap.

Instantly it hit me, that his was the truck I saw pulling in to Can-It just before I did. Also a minute late by their reckoning. He explained further that he needed the money to buy pain medicine for his back; he just got out of the hospital for treatment of a crushed vertebra. Ouch! No wonder he was so twitchy.

I gave him the few quarters in my pocket--certainly enough for gas to get to 22nd and Euclid from Miracle Mile-- plus the ten pounds of aluminum from my trunk. Never have I seen anyone so happy to get (what by then was) another man's inconvenient junk.

This economic recession doesn't feel so painful. My in-laws' business is hurting, but they were well-off, and that's most of what I've been hearing: "business is lousy". Jobs statistics reveal something different. Surely as usual they mean many people get laid off and then find employment elsewhere--there's turnover. But for the really marginal cases, recessions can mean having to spange for gas money to sell scrap to buy cheap opiates to take the pain out of a back injury.

In the John Ford film version of The Grapes of Wrath--and unlike Steinbeck, John Ford was no Red--Oklahoma townsfolk try to figure out who should be shot or hung for bringing bank-related trouble down on farmers. There's ultimately no answer, just as there's nobody to blame for last year's finance-sector collapse. (That didn't stop many from seeking someone to blame, be it economists who had nothing to do with the problem, bankers, or someone else. Such talk always sounded brutish to me, but see the note about mice and global warming denialists above.) We can say that the system used to hedge against certain sorts of risk was broken, and we can't say that there's anything wrong with hedging against risk. If we choose to look deeper, we find that the government forbade more transparent ways of hedging against risk.

Contra Rawls, I do not think it necessary or even desirable to do everything that will produce some gain at the "bottom", regardless of its effect on everyone else. His theory also is clumsy in its failure to account for progress over time, its 100% discounting of the future. Nevertheless there are reasons, both moral and practical, for everyone from the "bottom" to the "top" to have a stake in the political and legal order. Reactionary policy from Washington--"X Y and Z need to be 'more regulated' (whatever that means"--still appears likely, but if we had any sense we'd sit back and ask "what will make us better off?" That must take into account not only the welfare of those who use derivatives to hedge against risk but also of those for whom the systemic risk problem means having to spange for gas money to sell scrap.

If this means that things are made slightly less convenient for those at the "top"--and I'm not confident that it does mean this--then so be it. I'd like to think that people deserve at least as much consideration as my apartment mice.

Martel writes Grijalva...

Martel Firing of the "Odd Citizen" 'blog sent a letter to Rep. Grijalva. It begins:
You’re acting like a push-over. Look, Ben Nelson and Mary Lanerieu got lots of boodle for their districts...
Read the whole thing. Best humor I've seen in the blogosphere in months!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Border Patrol: "Our arrests aren't really arrests."

Via Terry Bressi, a report in the Nogales International about a possibly unlawful stop, arrest, and search by the Border Patrol.

Pima Medical Institute student Iris Cooper turned around to return to Patagonia to retrieve her forgotten textbooks and was pulled over by the Border Patrol. Maybe seeing someone perform her maneuver gives "reasonable suspicion" for a stop and maybe it doesn't, but as Bressi notes, standards of probable cause for detaining her for half an hour in handcuffs and searching her vehicle probably isn't in order.

Here's the hilarious part:
Agent David Jimarez, a spokesperson for the Border Patrol, said agents more than likely thought they had pulled over a smuggler and that Cooper was cuffed for both their safety as well as her safety. He said that often smugglers will try to run away if they think their vehicle is going to be searched. “The handcuffing doesn’t necessarily mean that she is being placed under arrest,” said Jimarez, referring to Cooper.

"Yeah, you're in handcuffs, you're not free to go, and it's not an arrest because we don't call it an arrest." I suppose it's better than facing prison time for having been punched in the face by Border Patrol, but still both stupid and unbecoming of agents of the law in a liberal republic.

It looks like La Migra might be getting thumped again.

However, Dan Pochado, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona told the Weekly Bulletin/Nogales International that 99.9 percent of the time such an act would indeed be considered an arrest.

"When you are handcuffed that is effectively an arrest because you are unable to leave voluntarily,” Pochado said. "From the information given, it appears that the level of force here would arise to an unreasonable seizure and a violation, therefore, of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."

"Pochado" here is actually "Pochoda", and is no lightweight.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bill of Rights Day

This post is just to wish readers a happy and free Bill of Rights Day.

Food for thought: It does not appear that the enumeration of rights in the Constitution facilitated abridgements of others. Ponder that next time a "libertarian" offers up "principle" and high abstractions as reason for a policy position.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

San Diego police chasing homeless to AZ

On behalf of nine San Diego homeless and a relief-providing church, ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties has filed for injunctive relief and damages against the City of San Diego.

The city would wait until homeless left their belongings to seek services in a church, then confiscate them and load them in a garbage truck. Seized items included medical devices, medications, bedding, winter clothes, identifying papers, and personal effects such as family photos. Victims of this practice were advised to head to Arizona.

The San Diego Union-Tribune and Courthouse News have more.

HT: Nick Martin

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Robert Shelton weighs in on UA "Climategate" involvement.

This is why it is good to have a scientist as a University president: he knows how to evaluate popular controversies about science.

In full:

TO: UA Employees
FROM: Robert N. Shelton, President
SUBJECT: Email Messages on Climate Change
DATE:Dec. 9, 2009

The University of Arizona takes very serious any allegation of impropriety, academic or otherwise. As soon as news accounts surfaced about selected emails that were illegally obtained from a British university computer server and posted publicly, the UA reviewed the material with the full cooperation of UA faculty whose names appeared on some of those messages.

We firmly believe there is no substance to the negative allegations regarding the content of the emails. To the contrary, the work of our professors is contributing substantially to humanity's growing understanding of the origins and nature of global climate change.

As a matter of course, our faculty adhere to the highest standards of research ethics. Their data, once published, are available to other scholars as required by the journals publishing the work, and in most cases are posted online and hence are freely available for download. Their research conclusions are cross-examined through vigorous rounds of peer review. In the case of collaborative research by the UA's Malcolm Hughes, independent studies by other research groups and critical reviews, including by the National Academy of Sciences, have confirmed both the integrity of their research methods and their basic findings.

The research area in question - global climate change - is the subject of vigorous, worldwide debate. The implications of the findings being produced by the world's scientific community are profound. Naturally, there will be those who will not fully understand or be prepared to accept scientific conclusions that may be upsetting. This is an expected part of our faculty's work. Their response is to inform and explain their research methods as transparently and dispassionately as possible.

The UA faculty mentioned in these stolen emails have done so admirably. For that reason, the leadership of the UA has full confidence and pride in both the scientific methods they have employed, and the conclusions they have reached.

Unlike the Arizona Daily Star's false balance--Ross McKitrick is neither a "skeptic" nor a credible person nor one making reasonable accusations--and the Wildcat's parlay of this into an actual accusation by the paper itself of scientific wrongdoing, Shelton nicely gives weight where weight is due. Shelton is not a journalist and not acting as one, but nevertheless, his use of good sense is exemplary and the note is a show of fair-mindedness. Word to the Washington Post and the Star: Impartiality doesn't require you to give equal time (or, in the Post's case, well more than equal time) to the ridiculous. Most of the time, you do not do so!

What we should see from Hughes and Overpeck is a public lecture. They don't owe it to anyone, but it would go a long way to restore confidence, unfairly lost or not.

No word yet on whether or not either scientist plans to hit back. Maybe the Wildcat crossed the line and maybe it didn't--what's "potentially" supposed to mean?--but there have been things written in the blogosphere, especially about Hughes, that are outright libel. Being upset with a scientist's finding does not justify allegations of "fraud", even if one can cite private e-mails out of context to justify this post hoc. "Fraud" is an allegation of fact, not of opinion.

The Maricopa County tantrum continues.

Via the Phoenix New Times, Andrew Thomas files criminal charges against Gary Donahoe.

Donahoe is the judge who ordered Adam Stoddard to jail.

The excuse: involvement in the supposed conspiracy involving the new court building. The evidence?: a series of rulings with which Thomas and Arpaio disagreed. Chances of indictment?: Minuscule.

Anyone closer to this care to weigh in? Thane?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

"Climategate" comes to Arizona

Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe has sent intimidating-sounding but somewhat vacuous letters to University of Arizona dendrochronologist Malcolm Hughes and paleoclimatologist Jon "Peck" Overpeck. Something a bit more substantial was directed to U of A General Counsel Lynne Wood.

To Wood:
Recently a large number of alleged CRU documents and e-mails were released to the public. These documents and e-mails outline disturbing trend of actions, which, at the least, imply activity to create a false impression of the certainty of climate change science. I will be conducting an investigation into these matters.

I am requesting that you secure, as soon as possible, all documents and records related to the communications or other interactions with CRU. This would include materials directly and reasonably related to CRU documents, e-mails, and its subject matter. Should you discover that other employees in your agency/organization have interacted with CRU or have furnished information which may be used in communications with CRU, please secure those documents as well.

Very interesting doublespeak there: "Released to the public." Meaning "somebody committed a computer crime, downloaded information from a mailserver, and then released the stolen information to the public."

And the e-mails don't really "imply activity to create a false impression of anything", at least not to a reasonable person familiar with academic science, when put in their proper context. The stolen e-mails may contain evidence that U.K. scientists ran afoul of that country's Freedom of Information laws, at least enough to merit investigation. There's nothing in the e-mails pointing to wrongdoing by any U.S. researcher. Claims to the contrary have all fallen apart upon critical inspection.

But to the point: Inhofe is requesting communications between U of A scientists and those at the CRU--and the "and its subject matter" bit can only mean that he is requesting all documents and records pertaining to climatology done at the U of A, from all labs!

The letters sent to Overpeck and Hughes were clearly both showboating and a smear. The stolen e-mails not imply a single act of wrongdoing by either man, but Inhofe's letters serve a way to imply that their activities are suspect without making an accusation.

The request for all information, however, is clearly nothing but an harassment tactic, designed to prevent scientists from spending their time doing science. Can the "legal eagles" clarify to what extent this request must actually be met?

Overpeck and Hughes are both holding their own in the Daily Star. Those who bother to read can confirm: no wrongdoing here.

If you stop at "We need to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period", yes, it looks bad, but stopping there is simply lazy. When reputations are at stake due diligence is a moral obligation. That's something Inhofe doesn't understand. (And I'd love to see him cross the line to libel, so Overpeck can sue him off the planet!) Overpeck makes due diligence easy:
Overpeck said last week that he had searched through his e-mails dating back a decade, and could find none like Deming referred to. Overpeck pointed out that he has written papers dating to the late 1990s saying that various records, including tree rings, stretching back 1,200 years, confirm earlier assertions that the Medieval period was warmer than today in the North Atlantic and northern Europe — but not globally.
"My papers are the record of fact, and in this case, I obviously did not try to get rid of the MWP," Overpeck said. "Instead, I have tried hard to be clear what it likely was and was not."

As I said: no scandal here, just a mal fide twisting of a scientist's words, a treatment of informal private communications as though they trump what Overpeck actually contributed to the scientific record.

If any Arizona scientist ought to be investigated regarding climate it's probably ASU's Robert Balling. Funding sources do not necessarily or even usually control scientific outcomes, but there are clear tail-wags-dog cases, like Fred Singer and the late Fred Seitz, who went from tobacco denialism to ozone hole denialism to global warming denialism. Balling doesn't publish his arguments against the scientific consensus (meaning, consensus of those with current scientific arguments) in the meaningful sense of "publish" but spends an awful lot of time directing them at a noncritical public. Just what is it that the Western Fuels Association pays him to do?

Balling, of course, will never be investigated by Inhofe, because he's a "skeptic". "Skeptic" in Oklahoman must mean "one who disagrees", without the implications of reason, caution, and modesty that the word usually carries. A skeptic, and most scientists are skeptics, who agrees with the only position compatible with what we know now--as Overpeck does--doesn't count. Being a real skeptic, that gets your research interrupted by a showboating Senator who has an ideological or psychopathological beef with the implications of your work.

No word yet on whether Inhofe's request for anything and everything pertaining to climatology has yet hampered research at the U of A. But Arizona taxpayers and donors to the U should be mad as hell. Being a U.S. Senator shouldn't mean that your peculiar form of crazy be nursed, in the form of a frivolous investigation, at the expense of a university.

Have questions? Readers should follow the instructions in Inhofe's letters and direct them to (202) 224-6176.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Food for thought: Christmas shopping arbitrage

Counting cars at the Tucson Mall today going into and out of two of the department stores, I found that nearly 40% had Mexican license plates, mainly from Sonora with the usual handful of Sinaloans thrown in, but also a few from as far away as Mexico City (Distrito Federal).

In Tucson we're used to seeing this every weekend--at Food City, at Wal-Mart, and at department stores--but not quite at the same scale. Arizona politicians should think of that before speaking as though the AZ-Mexico relationship is one-sided.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Fake surveys?

Today was not supposed to be "Beat up on the Goldwater Institute Day", but here's the second in a row about their lax intellectual standards.

David Safier, of Blog for Arizona, outlines good reason to believe that the survey of students' knowledge about their government conducted by Strategic Vision LLC for the Goldwater Institute was extremely flawed if not outright bogus. See:

It's impossible to say if the Institute colluded with Strategic Vision or was merely a "mark" in a scam. Donors to the Goldwater Institute--and supporters of the free-market cause--should be very concerned either way. We depend on them to at least be a sound, credible source of information. (It'd also be nice for them to be intellectually sound in their arguments, too!) If the surveys turn out to be fake, the result isn't merely the loss of a talking point.

Nate Silver has more. Although he uses the word "random" to mean "uniformly distributed" (sort of like a signal that he drags his knuckles when walking--the concepts are very different and not in a subtle way) once one substitutes the right word in, his point is valid.

FWIW, a real test of randomness would be interesting, as well. In a large table of survey responses, the results should be "spatially" uncorrelated--e.g. the response in row 198 should not depend on the response in rows 197 or 199, or (e.g.) if the responses are on an integer scale from 1-10 the probability of respondent N+1 reporting a 7 if respondent N reported a 2 should be the same as that of a respondent reporting a 7 in the data set as a whole. If the behavior of science lab students is indicative, data fabricators tend to like zigzag patterns, avoiding repetition or even lingering above or below the mean.

Schlomach lies about climate--and includes Plimer in bibliography!

Right-wingers and libertarians of the "nutjob" variety have said a lot of stupid things about the "Cliamategate" black-hat hack of CRU's backup mailserver, most of it simply untrue. The Goldwater Institute's Byron Schlomach--there's no affiliation between the Institute and this 'blog--joined in today, a little "late to the party" following the death of most of the right-wing/right-wing-libertarian talking points.

In full:
Does "ClimateGate" expose weird science or political propaganda?
By Byron Schlomach, Ph.D.

Twenty years ago a biologist showed me a graph from a peer-reviewed scientific journal that showed an alarming increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. Then I noticed the graph's scale was logarithmic and made even small increases look exaggerated. I've been skeptical of the science behind global warming ever since.

Weird ScienceNow there's ClimateGate. Somebody hacked the University of East Anglia's e-mail server in England and downloaded e-mails to and from scientists in the Climate Research Unit, perhaps the world's premier climate research center. The messages show scientists engaged in politics over science. One damaging e-mail includes this remark:

"I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e. from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."

"Mike" is Michael Mann, made famous by the "hockey stick" temperature diagram Al Gore helped popularize. It first appeared in a UN report on global warming and purports to show that earth's recent temperature is the highest in a thousand years, using tree ring data to reconstruct past temperatures. Mann apparently grafted in data from unrelated modern sources to get the desired result when ring data didn't cooperate.

Add to this the recent confession that raw temperature data have long been destroyed. These data are the basis of the two main datasets used by the UN for its policy reports. Now nobody can actually check the methodology of the data that's being used to dictate international policy.

Given the lack of reliable, replicable, scientific evidence of global warming, it calls into question the wisdom behind the Arizona Corporation Commission renewable energy standards that will cost Arizona utility customers billions in the coming years. The Commission should rely on more than questionable science before they strike a multi-billion dollar blow to Arizona's already fragile economy. I've got plenty of raw data to back that up, by the way.

Byron Schlomach, Ph.D., is the director of the Goldwater Institute's Center for Economic Prosperity.

Learn More:

Goldwater Institute: Miller v. Arizona Corporation Commission

Power Line: Global Warming Bombshell

TimesOnline: Climate change data dumped

Ian Plimer: Heaven and Earth: Global Warming, the Missing Science

The more important remarks are in bold-face type; I give them from top to bottom:
  1. Signing one's name "Given Surname, PhD" is a practice generally frowned upon as pretentious, and often as an attempt to establish a spurious credibility outside one's field of expertise. Schlomach's training is in economics; mine is in physics. Neither of us are climatologists but I gather from (unpleasant) personal communications with Schlomach that he doesn't read climatology papers and isn't familiar with even the basic science. It's perhaps too much to say that those who do not read the primary literature should not comment on recent science--even though I hold myself to that standard when it comes to both natural science and economics--but we should at least expect someone with the cojones to offer a strong opinion to not make mistakes that would earn college freshmen an "F" in their survey course exam. That should be the end of the story, and the comma PhD thing is thus in this case like putting icing on a turd.
  2. The standard logarithmic scale doesn't exaggerate small changes--it does quite the opposite. But either way, Schlomach is acting as though there was a deceit involved. In physical and natural sciences we use logarithmic scales all the time--and it's nearly always obvious when one is being used from the axis labels, tick marks, and grid lines if present. And since he is trained in a technical field, Schlomach should be able to read a graph.

    This is really just another instance of something common from denialists (more on that term below): a tendency to make standard scientific practices out to be deceitful when they are not.

  3. Schlomach calls himself a "skeptic". I don't see that manifested here; it appears he's caught up in a pitchfork-wielding mob. And no real skeptic would refer anyone to Plimer, nor would a real skeptic argue (as Schlomach did in previous public messages) that (carbon-neutral over relevant timescales) human breath is at issue.

    It's worse than what is in this e-mail alone. In what appeared to be seriousness, Schlomach once asked me to debunk a very bizarre graph without referring him to scientific literature. Don't think it takes much: there's no scale on the Y axis, no indication of what is plotted on the Y axis, no explanation of methodology on the source website, and the whole thing appears to be made up of clerverly arranged cubic splines. But it isn't clear what they're trying to argue in the first place. "Hey Kalafut, tell me what's wrong with this squiggle" is a Rorshach test.

    This is why I call Schlomach a "denialist". He doesn't consider--doesn't even bother to read--the solid evidence in favor of the mainstream scientific position, but he will hold up the weakest of evidence--including an unlabeled squiggle--in favor of his seemingly predetermined conclusion. "Skeptical", my ass. The scientists are, by and large, the skeptics. As libertarian commentators go, Bryan Caplan, Megan McArdle, and Tyler Cowen (for example) are acting like skeptics in the wake of "Climategate". Schlomach and co are credulous--that's the opposite of skeptical.
  4. When proxy data and instrumental data disagree, which would you trust more? Michael Mann and co-authors plotted the instrumental record along with their proxy reconstruction, were honest and up-front about it in their paper, and it becomes an issue now for what reason? Objection to "shop talk" diction in private e-mails?

    If nothing else, the divergence problem--the mismatch with the instrumental record beginning in about 1960--means proxy reconstructions should be taken cum grano salis The case for anthropogenic global warming never depended on paleoclimatology, anyway, despite the emphasis put on it by right-winger, so if plotting two data sets on the same graph and being honest about it is an issue, it's really a sideshow. Schlomach isn't so much making a point about the scientific case here as he is trying to create an "aura" of doubt on science.

  5. Schlomach's claim that raw temperature data were destroyed is an outright lie. A lie that has become "social truth", like the Emperor's clothes, on the Right, but a lie nonetheless. Representatives of CRU recently remarked that they deleted their copies of raw data and kept only their derived data sets. Each of these derived data sets was accompanied by a paper explaining methodologies and listing data sources. The only exception is CRU TS 3.0, the latest gridded time-series, for which the paper is "in preparation". As far as one can tell, the raw data are still available if one contact the original sources, who provided it to CRU. There have been no reports in the press or in the scientific community of these groups also deleting their data, consequently, we cannot even say here that Schlomach is understandably mistaken.

  6. "Given the untimely death of Byron Schlomach, Kalafut's allegations cannot possibly be answered." See what I did there? Even supposing that Schlomach were right about CRU, there is plenty of other evidence for global warming. This begins with the spectral properties of gases and the application of modern physics to them, culminating in general circulation models (GCMs), although there are plenty of simpler treatments which give less precise results. In principle the case for global warming need not be founded on an historical record at all. If a cartridge is in the chamber and the gun is put to the temple, we can predict brain damage if the trigger is pulled; we do not need position and velocity measurements of the bullet in the barrel. Having temperature data helps us to refine models and do historical attribution studies, and there are other temperature measurements independent of CRU data sets, from GISS, from the raw data, from satellites, etc., and other evidence such as long-term decline of sea ice extent, moving of tree lines, and changes in seasonal behavior of animals and plants.

    So even if Schlomach were right about CRU, what he says is "given" is not so: lie number two. But he's not right about CRU: whatever evidence has emerged about misconduct pertaining to FOI requests, there has been no evidence that could lead to the retraction of a single scientific paper or that otherwise calls CRU science into question. That a few thousand bad-faith Internet ideologues are playing "let's pretend it does" and maybe tenfold more nincompoops and illiterates believe them doesn't change that. Science runs on reason, not on memes.

  7. Schlomach's bibliograhy exposes him as someone who either can't tell the difference between good argument and bad, or doesn't care. Ian Plimer's Heaven and Earth is the most discredited academic monograph since Bellesiles's Arming America, and its recommendation by Schlomach should be taken as nothing short of evidence that Schlomach's intent is to deceive. In the age of Internet search engines, it takes a downright creative selection of keywords to find information on Bellesiles or especially his book without finding an account of the deception contained therein. A naïve search will not do it. It is likewise for Plimer. Ian Enting's list is a good place to get started, but just search yourself if you want to know what I mean.

What Schlomach has yet to come to appreciate is just how much this matters. "Haha...I lied to boost popular support for our Corporation Commission lawsuit, so what?" The "so what" is that not only will being caught in a lie hurt support, but also that if I know I cannot trust him to be honest and competent (separate issues, but both are at work here) when it comes to topics I know about, how can I trust him to be honest and competent on topics where he is presumably the expert? There is no compartmentalizing of trust.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

How I spent the morning of November 22.

I made it into the newspaper police blotter for the morning of November 22:
Football fan battles bicycle to lose his blues

UAPD officers were dispatched to the Arizona-Sonora Residence Hall on Nov. 22 at approximately 4:20 a.m. in reference to a report of two unidentified men kicking and jumping on a bicycle near the northeast corner of the residence hall. En route, officers observed two men matching the descriptions given by the man who reported the incident. Officers made contact with the two men and detected the strong odor of intoxicants coming from both of them. The men stated that they were on their way to the Villa Del Puente Residence Hall from the Coronado Residence Hall. When asked about the report, both men denied being near any bicycles or bicycle racks at any point during the evening.

At that point, the man who reported the incident arrived on scene. He identified the two men as the same men he had seen jumping on a bicycle in front of Arizona-Sonora. Officers asked the men if they had been drinking and both men admitted that they had. One of the men further admitted that he had been upset because of the football team’s loss to Oregon and had taken his frustration out on a random bicycle. He further stated that his friend had not participated in the event. The man then led police to the area where the damaged bicycle was located. Officers observed that the rear fender was severely damaged. Officers cited the man on charges of minor with spirituous liquor in the body and criminal damage. His friend was cited on charges of minor with spirituous liquor in the body. Both men were released on scene.

Of the three mans in that article, you can probably guess which one I was. I thought it'd be better to follow them and identify them to police--cell phones are fun!--than to tell them to knock it off. That way, the owner of the bicycle could identify them and sue for damages.

Charles Murray is right: we should not use a college degree as a signal for all that we use it for in our society. It is no longer a proxy for middle-class values--not clear to my Chicagoan working-class-origin self that it ever was--nor is it a near-sufficient indicator of good sense. It's stupid enough to be angry about a loss in a sporting match--especially if you weren't one of the players!--but to be angry eight hours later and to let the anger drive you to kick and jump on a bicycle, that's just plane ridiculous. It's too bad the paper didn't release the culprit's name for future employers to Google.

I'm pleased to see that one of them confessed; I couldn't say for sure whether it was one or both of them who was damaging the bicycle.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Deputy Stoddard did not pass "Go", did not collect $200

Last week (via Matt Brown), Sheriff Joe was blustering that Detention Officer Adam Stoddard, who helped himself to a defense lawyer's privileged documents, would not be going to jail.

He's in jail now, albeit probably at the 'Mesa Hilton' facility.

The ABC 15 article contains Stoddard's statement to the press:
Recently, Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe ordered me to hold a press conference to publicly apologize for doing the job I have been trained to do.

Part of my job in providing security to the court is to inspect documents brought into the courtroom. On October 19th, I saw a document that I had not yet screened, and that raised security concerns. I retrieved that document in plain sight and had court personnel copy it to preserve it as evidence in case it was a security breach.

It was a split second decision and I do not regret my actions.

If the job Stoddard was trained to do includes taking privileged documents from defendants' attorneys, the problem is much more serious than just a "bad egg". And there's no reason for split-second decisions in that context. Defendant attacks a witness, that's time for split-second thinking. Removing a paper from an attorney's file after a split-second of consideration, that's called "kleptomania".

Word is that twenty officers of the MCSO engaged in a solidarity sickout this morning. Solidarity with violation of attorney-client privilege?--as in "we'd do it too!"? And on the taxpayer dime? Pink slips all around are appropriate. But in Sheriff Joe's Maricopa County, that'll never happen.

Note that Stoddard is being represented by an assistant county attorney. Maricopa County voters: What are you paying to keep Sheriff Joe? Add this to the total.