Monday, December 14, 2009

Some helpful graphical information in re Eric Steig's Antarctica paper...

...and Jeff Id's attempted takedown thereof.

Id's point -- and you should read his post so that you aren't victimized by unwitting misrepresentations on my part -- is that there were lots of weather stations in Antarctica to choose from, but GHCN's "value-added" process threw out all but one. I thought I'd help out by pointing out what it's like to use a single thermometer to measure the temperature for all of Antarctica.

First of all, Antarctica is big. Here it is on the same scale as North America:

If you go from the coastal thermometer used by GHCN to the South Pole, that's 1,555 miles, which is slightly less than the distance between coastal Corpus Christi, Texas and...Winnipeg. If you go from that same thermometer to Vanderford Valley, on the opposite coast, that's 3,200 miles. If you start at the point where New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all meet, about fifty miles or so from Trenton, and you go 3,200 miles in the general direction of Alaska, you wind up in Fairbanks.

So let me ask you: if you had a single thermometer in, say, the Catskills, and I told you that that thermometer could tell you what was happening to the average temperature across all of North America between there and much crack would you think I was smoking?

Now I add that there are actually thirty or so other thermometers, but I only took this one. And then I add that the one I picked showed more warming than any of the other thirty. And then I add that since that thermometer was installed, they've built an airport next to it and turned that outpost into a sort of tourist destination complete with a coffee shop...would you begin to have suspicions about my scientific integrity?

Then you point out that maybe global warming's not that unprecedented because people used to farm successfully in Greenland and make wine around Hadrian's wall -- and I respond, "Oh, well, you have to ignore that; that was just a local warming effect."

Hmmmmmmm...Greenland's being farmable for a century or so is a purely local effect of no significance, but a thermometer in the Catskills is a good proxy for Anchorage, Fargo, Cleveland and Seattle...look, I'm not exactly saying there's inconsistency in the standards here, I'm just saying the consistency isn't obvious to the Uninitiated Non-Scientist, like, um, yours truly. Just sayin', that's all.

Here's another thing: looking at this picture of Antarctica, where would you guess this oh-so-representative thermometer sits?

Try right where this arrow points...yes, on that island just off the coast, on the part that sticks out way further north than the rest of the continent.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm.....if there was any grant money or political power-grabbing at stake here I might be suspicious. Good thing it's just our good old trustworthy friends the Scientists...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Al Gore, Poet Laureate of Climate Change (UPDATED WITH VIDEO)

You think I'm snarking with that headline, but I'm just copying the honorific that Vanity Fair gave him in all seriousness. What's that you say? Well, okay, fair point: merely to quote what Vanity Fair says in seriousness, is to be snarky -- kind of like any direct quote of Dubya that involves the phrase "nukyular power."

Here's you an e-mail thread from earlier this week, involving yours truly and a couple of quick-witted co-workers:

From: Pierce, Ken
To: Guidry, Randy; Greer, Chris
Subject: The Poet Laureate of Climate Change

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the one, the only, the incomparable, the red-blooded...AlGore! Whose poetry is, I humbly submit, proof that extraterrestrial life exists, as this is true Vogon poetry if ever I heard true Vogon poetry.

One thin September soon
A floating continent disappears
In midnight sun

Vapors rise as
Fever settles on an acid sea
Neptune's bones dissolve

Snow glides from the mountain
Ice fathers floods for a season
A hard rain comes quickly

Then dirt is parched
Kindling is placed in the forest
For the lightning's celebration

Unknown creatures
Take their leave, unmourned
Horsemen ready their stirrups

Passion seeks heroes and friends
The bell of the city
On the hill is rung

The shepherd cries
The hour of choosing has arrived
Here are your tools

By the way, the Poet Laureate thing is not my gag...Vanity Fair uses it. The “gag” part (in both senses) is that Vanity Fair means it seriously, and goes on at length about Gore’s comic poetic genius. I don’t know which is funnier, the original poem, or the Vanity Fair brown-nosing:


From: Greer, Chris
To: Pierce, Ken; Guidry, Randy
Subject: RE: The Poet Laureate of Climate Change

Ha. And I quote from the article:

“The result is a surprisingly accomplished, nuanced piece of writing. The images Gore conjures in his (untitled) poem turn a neat trick: they are visually specific and emotionally arresting even as they are scientifically accurate.”


From: Pierce, Ken
To: Greer, Chris; Guidry, Randy
Subject: RE: The Poet Laureate of Climate Change

You did read it aloud, right? You can’t truly savor the full delights of any poetry without reading it aloud...but out of consideration for others, you should do it alone. Preferably in a soundproof room.


From: Greer, Chris
To: Pierce, Ken; Guidry, Randy
Subject: RE: The Poet Laureate of Climate Change

No, I am in full panic mode now waiting for the destruction of our planet. Not by global warming, but due to the construction of a space lane bypass...

From: Guidry, Randy
Sent: Tuesday, December 08, 2009 9:27 AM
To: Pierce, Ken; Greer, Chris
Subject: RE: The Poet Laureate of Climate Change

I know some Vogons and Mr. Gore, you are NO Vogon, Sir!

Is that how the poem ends???? It left me wanting more! What are these tools he refers to at the end? I must know! Perhaps our salvation lies in them! I bet Pelosi knows!

UPDATE!!Thanks to Guy Fawkes by way of Ace, we can now bring you a dramatic reading by the Poet Laureate Himself. And thank goodness, because, if I'm 100% honest with you, up until I heard His Goreness demonstrate how the poem is supposed to be read, I, um, frankly didn't think it was that good...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hey, this is genuinely useful

Rasmussen has come up with a way to attempt to classify the basic emotional orientation of a voter toward the very concept of government. I think this is awesome, and suggest that you ask yourself these questions. (The Perilous answer to each one is not merely obvious, it's obvious with lots of exclamation points / lots of non-Baptist emphasis / ALL CAPS / all of the above means of emphasis plus jumping up and down vigorously in place.)

-- Generally speaking, when it comes to important national issues, whose judgment do you trust more - the American people or America’s political leaders? [The Peril trusts political leaders of any country, as a class, rather less than the Peril trusts the sort of person who advises prostitutes and their pimps on tax-evasion strategies.]

-- Some people believe that the federal government has become a special interest group that looks out primarily for its own interests. Has the federal government become a special interest group? [What do you mean "has become"? When 25,000 years ago the first bossy Lucy-hominid picked up a big rock and threated to hit the other members of the tribe with it unless he did as they were told by their Betters, which is to say himself, goverment "became" a special interest group. And it has stayed one ever since.]

-- Do government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors? [Whenever government and big business work together, which is pretty much all the time except when government is working with big labor unions, it is pretty much always at the expense of consumers and whichever part of the investment community has stocks in companies other than the ones in bed with government. So, um, that's a...


Friday, December 4, 2009

Stay classy, Governor Huckster. And judicious as well.

First of all, we have the letter in which public prosecutor Robert Herzfield objects, in vain, to Happy Saintly Christian Governor Huckabee's decision to commute the sentence of future police-executioner Maurice Clemmons. I would very much like to have seen the earlier letters -- Herzfield appears to have sent a letter providing a "standing objection" to all clemency proclamations in his district, pending an opportunity in each case for him to investigate the facts of the case, and Huckabee appears to have written a somewhat pissed-off response; but I haven't seen either of those two letters. This particular Herzfield letter, however, is impressive and well-argued:
Dear Governor Huckabee,

I've received your letter of January 5th in which you state that you "judiciously" review each clemency application "on a case by case basis, carefully analyzing the merits of each." After reading your letter, I was surprised to hear that your spokesman stated that you "just do what the Post Prison Transfer Board recommends." These statements seem to be mutually exclusive. Do you analyze the merits of each case or do you rubber stamp Board recommendations? [That seems like a very good question to me -- especially since "I review each application on a case by case basis, carefully analyzing the merits of each" sounds like the sort of vague, insincere boilerplate a politician would feed to an inconveniently pestersome prosecutor accusing him of carelessness, while "I just do what the Post Prison Transfer Board recommends" sounds exactly like a politician speaking to the public and trying to disavow any responsibility for his decisions. Can't blame Herzfield for asking the Huckster to make up his feeble mind. I'm curious to see how Huckabee responds to this excellent question.]

Secondly, it seems clear that you did not finish reading my December 29th letter. As I stated last month, if you have a case which merits clemency, I requested that you contact me with the reasons you believe clemency is appropriate for persons incarcerated and allow me to research the facts and then determine whether I would withdraw my objection. I did not -- as you stated in your letter -- declare that everyone from Saline County "is beyond any consideration for extra-judicial relief, no matter the facts." Perhaps your anger at having your judgment questioned prevented you from reading the entire letter. [Let's see: a prosecutor asks, "Before I agree to go along with granting clemency to some convicted murderer or rapist, I'd like to have a chance to check the facts," and the governor responds, "You don't want anybody to get clemency and you don't care about the facts." That does seem to imply either that Herzfield is lying to Huckabee on a point where Huckabee would certainly know that he's lying, or else that Huckabee has a reading disability. It would be very interesting to see the previous two letters in the series, wouldn't it? Can't wait to see how Huckabee responds to this point, which doesn't seem very easy to respond to in any way other than with an apology.]

Finally, I believe your administration's policy of granting clemency is fatally flawed. You would be wise to take the time to re-evaluate your rocedures. I suggest an approach that is more public, and that you announce specific reasons for granting clemency at the time you announce your intent. [Note: the Governor was obliged at the time to publish and "intent to grant clemency" thirty days before actually granting it, in order to allow for public comment; Herzfield's suggestion is that the government provide his specific reasons for wanting to let this particular murderer or rapist get out of jail sooner, so that the public commentary could be better informed. Can you think of a reason not to do this, other than that you, as Governor, were afraid that if people knew what your reasons were, they'd crucify you as an ass for granting clemency on such weak grounds? Me either.] An open system along these lines would be more respectful to the people of Arkansas, and allow them the opportunity to understand why a convicted murderer (or rapist) should be set free. [Do you see any problem with this, Gentle Reader? I certainly don't, and am very interested to see Huckabee's response to these seemingly well-thought-out suggestions.]

It is inevitable that citizens will question the motives of public officials who take such dramatic action without offering the slightest explanation or justification whatsoever. This type of situation damages the credibility of everyone in public service, and is harmful to our democracy. [Seems a trifle overwrought at first reading...but then he's a prosecutor who's watching murderers and rapists set free, and I imagine the families of the four dead Washington cops don't find it overwrought at all.]

I hope you will consider updating your policy to reflect the suggestions above.

Sincerely, etc.
Well, I certainly can't wait to read Huckabee's response to this letter. How will he clarify his position on the degree to which his decisions are his own doing rather than mere rubber-stamping? Will he apologize for carelessly mis-reading Herzfield's original letter? Will he give careful consideration to Herzfield's seemingly excellent suggestions for improving the clemency process? Let's see, shall we?
Dear Robert,

The governor read you [sic] letter and laughed out loud.

He wanted me to respond to you. I wish you success as you cut down on your caffeine consumption.

Sincerely yours,

Cory Cox,
Deputy Legal Counsel and Adviser on Criminal Justice
Ladies and gentlemen, the front-runner for the Republican Party's Presidential nomination in 2012...and you wonder why, in a country where more people self-identify as conservatives than liberals, the Republican Party has trouble getting its candidates elected.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sometimes it takes wives a little while to get a clue

Michelle is out for a walk in the Rose Garden when she sees Barack pacing back and forth, in apparently intense concentration, muttering under his breath. She grows concerned and goes over to check on him.

MICHELLE: Barack, honey, is everything okay?

BARACK [looks up a bit distractedly]: Sure, there's no problem, babe, I'm just praying.

MICHELLE: Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize...I thought you were talking to yourself.

BARACK [trying hard to bear her obtuseness with patience]: Well, yes, like I said...