Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Climate Change Data Scandal You Won't Read Much About in the Telegraph, Mail or the Express

This is a very techey story and much of it is above my knowledge but from what I can understand, but it is very, very interesting. It also shows the inner workings of a denial home-goal. Here's the background. There is this statistics professor Wegman who gets commissioned to write a report examining the famous Hockey Stick (that's the graph that shows global temperatures with a sharp and scary rise at the end of the 20th Century.) Now, climate deniers hate the Hockey Stick and they hate it's most prominent author, Michael Mann. I guess because it's an easy to understand graphic that communicates the serious situation we find ourselves in and also became Mann speaks his mind.

So they went after it. They commission Wegman who produces a big report and it's conclusions tear into the Hockey Stick and all the denialists cheer! Woo! Woo! The meat of the report is an allegation that the computer code that Mann and others used to error-correct the data for the Hockey Stick was doctored to produce a hockey-stick shaped graph, whatever the data that was input. In short they are saying that Mann faked it and the Wegman report proves it.

Except that there a murmurings of problems with this report. Murmurings that wont die. First there is an accusation of plagiarism; the unattributed copying of somebody else's work. This is a serious charge in academic circles. Second the data analysis that 'proves' the fake Hockey Stick result itself looks, well, fake...

[George Mason University] spokesman Daniel Walsch confirms that the university, located in Fairfax, Va., is now investigating allegations that the Wegman report was partly plagiarized and contains fabrications. Last month, a 250-page report on the Deep Climate website written by computer scientist John Mashey of Portola Valley, Calif., raised some of these concerns. Mashey says his analysis shows that 35 of the 91 pages in the 2006 Wegman report contain plagiarized text (with some of the wording taken from a book, Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary, by Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts) and contain erroneous citations of data, as well.

Some denialists have argued that this is just about a missing attribution and it means nothing. Now remember that a couple (out of thousands of studies) of incorrectly attributed references to a study in an IPCC report was blown out of all proportion by the denialosphere. But now they argue we should not worry about a couple of attribution errors.. (Can't have it both ways!)

Here's the interesting bit; about the Hockey Stick. In essence the data analysis used by Wegamn, which was copied uncritically from the work of a couple of other denialists, generated some noisy data (but meaningless) data then feed it into a version of Mann analysis and out pops a Hockey Stick-like result.

Except that the generation of the input data was far from random - oh no! It generated 10,000 sample sets of data - then selected the 100 from that huge pool that were the most hockey-stick like! These 100 cherry picked results are then fed into the replication of Mann's analysis. Wegman's analysis is far from an objective analysis. It would appear that far from being a random test, Wegman was using loaded dice. It seems the Wegman report may be a huge fudge. (You can read a very detailed breakdown of the full fudgey nature of the fudge here.)

Forget the so-called 'climategate' - this is the Climate Change Data Scandal You Won't Read Much About in the Telegraph, Mail or the Express

Student Plan to 'Decapitate' LibDems - Stephen Williams is on the 'chopping block'

After the big demo and as the dust still settles (somewhat) on all that, the NUS has decided to leave moaning about some smashed windows and instead concentrate on a 'decapitation' strategy of ousting some LibDem MPs.

Its great news that they are opening up new fronts in the war on the LibCon cuts, however my local MP Stephen Williams is one of those targeted to removal. Now I voted for him a few years back as a protest against Labour (yes I vote, I agree with Ian Bone on this issue). Now he's unhappy about all this attention:

Stephen Williams, MP for Bristol West, accused Aaron Porter, the NUS president, of playing partisan politics rather than engaging in the debate, as it emerged that students planned to try to oust him from his seat.

“It is not going to change my mind on any issue,” said Mr Williams, who has yet to say which way he will vote on the issue of increasing tuition fees.

“I don’t think students are im­pressed with it either. Rather than the NUS engaging with the issues and talking about what we are doing, they are playing partisan politics, and Aaron is playing to the Labour party gallery rather than standing up for students.”

He added: “I don’t recall them having a decapitation policy against Labour MPs who introduced tuition fees in the first place.”

His comments came as the NUS said it would make use of a coalition idea for holding MPs to account, dubbed the “right to recall” initiative, to try to force by-elections in targeted sets.

Get a grip Stephen, any campaign group must be expected to campaign for their constituents and you so publicly opposed tuition fees that a U-turn on that is just pure hypocrisy, and if you can't be trusted to vote on the basis of what you stood for in the election, then it's bye-bye time as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Government harassing and intimidating Wikileaks Supporters

Typical. Back to the dark Bu$h days and so much for free speech...

In July of this year, U.S. citizen Jacob Appelbaum, a researcher and spokesman for WikiLeaks, was detained for several hours at the Newark airport after returning from a trip to Holland, and had his laptop, cellphones and other electronic products seized -- all without a search warrant, without being charged with a crime, and without even being under investigation, at least to his knowledge. He was interrogated at length about WikiLeaks, and was told by the detaining agents that he could expect to be subjected to the same treatment every time he left the country and attempted to return to the U.S. Days later, two FBI agents approached him at a computer conference he was attending in New York and asked to speak with him again. To date, he has never been charged with any crime or even told he's under investigation for anything; this was clearly a thuggish attempt by federal officials to intimidate any American citizen involved with or supporting WikiLeaks.

That campaign of intimidation is now clearly spreading to supporters of Bradley Manning. Last Wednesday, November 3, David House, a 23-year-old researcher who works at MIT, was returning to the U.S. from a short vacation with his girlfriend in Mexico, and was subjected to similar and even worse treatment. House's crime: he did work in helping set up the Bradley Manning Support Network, an organization created to raise money for Manning's legal defense fund, and he has now visited Manning three times in Quantico, Virginia, where the accused WikiLeaks leaker is currently being detained (all those visits are fully monitored by government agents). Like Appelbaum, House has never been accused of any crime, never been advised that he's under investigation, and was never told by any federal agents that he's suspected of any wrongdoing at all.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Students Get Angry, Media Does Same-old, same-old

So at the demo against the cuts to education and the ramping up in fees - making education something only for the rich, people got angry and stormed the Tory Party HQ.

The predictalbe media coverage follows focusing of the 'violence' (in the main some broken windows) and not the issue (the cuts). Lots and hand wringing follows and complaints about the 'violence' and how it 'spoil it' for the majority.

Look Mainstream media; you can't have it both ways. If the march had passed off peacefully it would have got little to no coverage. If trouble happens, it gets coverage - though mainly of the trouble itself. Protesters can't win.

If the media vowed never to cover an event where trouble kicked off, and always covered peaceful demos, that might send a message that is consistent with their claimed views. But that is not what happens; all sensationalism.

Where is the handwrining of the coverage over the Wikileaks revealed violence in Iraq? Now that is real violence. Ten of thousands of dead and tortured people, not a few windows. Yet pundits bang on about the realease of the info instead. Assemble these words into an order: point, You, missing, the fucking, are.

I'm with the message from UCU Goldsmiths: The real violence relates not to a smashed window but to the destructive impact of the cuts and privatisation.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Rightward Drift of Politics

It has been claimed that there is a right-ward drift in US politics. I don't know enough about it to say either way, but the Republican gains in the recent US election are depressing. Not that the White House under democratic rule was doing much to be happy about. As ever the US elections have implications for us globally and again I'm depressed that political parties there to represent the working people are either so hamstrung or so two-faced due to the corporate funding they get, that there seems little hope for mainstream politics. Here's a couple of examples of what I mean:

In the US:

The Democrats aren't preparing to stand up for anything, either. They're already talking about backing down on the repeal of the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military. I didn't vote for the Democrats so that they could turn tail at every Republican whim: they're supposed to work for the policies Democrats claim to stand for.

In the UK:

Thirteen years ago, I had my defence epiphany on the lay committee for Labour's first and only strategic defence review in 1997. This was under George Robertson. I vividly remember our first meeting when we were given our terms of reference. Such was the radical mood of those euphoric early Blair days that were told to think the unthinkable and discuss everything, no holds barred.

This lasted about five minutes. It turned out we could not discuss the nuclear deterrent; we could not question the Trident programme and its submarines; we could not discuss the Eurofighter contract; nor could we discuss the need for two or perhaps three new aircraft carriers. I remember the smug look on the faces of service chiefs in the room. Our excluded items had nothing really to do with Britain's defence. They were political. Robertson and his colleagues were under instructions not to give an inch to the Tories on defence procurement, lest they be seen as soft on defence. We could think the unthinkable – but not the thinkable.

Thanks Labour, 'cos it's worth spending billions of crappy weapons systems of little use to us to keep the Daily Mail and crew of your back... Thanks Democrats, your inability to fight for things you believe in and push to compromise with people only willing to compromise to the right has now given us a man running for House Energy and Commerce Committee, John Shimkus, who thinks we don't need to worry about climate change because God says it's all ok.

And behind all this pumping out piles and piles of shit is the rightward media...

Secret Meetings to Control the World...

Sort of. This is a great post about a couple of secret(ish) meetings that are claimed to impact us. One is called by a couple of billionaire oil magnates who gather right-wing politicians and executives to plot election strategy and the other is a group of climate scientists who talk science...

It must be wonderfully liberating to be a hard-core conspiracy theorist, casting off the limiting constraints of reality - common sense and facts be damned! [climate scientist] Mike Mann is plotting the socialist takeover of the globe using tree-rings and obscure statistical techniques to control the UN while naive, mind-their-own-business, successful capitalists are in danger of being tossed out of their hard-earned mansions just because they want all of us to be as wealthy as they are. Or something.

Yet those spending millions to derail climate legislation and roll back welfare, they all about freedom and shit.