Sunday, January 31, 2016

Undercover journalism and prosecutorial discrection

Given the recent initiation of criminal prosecution against the people who made the defamatory video about Planned Parenthood, I thought I'd quote what journalism says about undercover journalism:


Undercover reporting can be a powerful tool, but it’s one to be used cautiously: against only the most important targets, and even then only when accompanied by solid traditional reporting.
And Society for Professional Journalists:
Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
So they're saying do it rarely, only when necessary, and do it well.

The prosecution against the undercover activists isn't for doing it badly, it's for doing it at all. It would apply equally to many groundbreaking investigations by true undercover journalists. And the line between journalist and activist is a slippery one that maybe doesn't matter (e.g., the people exposing animal cruelty at factory farms).

As a practical matter I don't see a good way to modify the law to say "don't use fake identification unless you're working undercover." That's where prosecutorial discretion comes into play. The grand jury has no role in that discretion and district attorney seemed to ignore her responsibility.

This indictment will be used to keep corporate crimes hidden. Go after these people for doing a bad job via defamation suits instead, but don't ban undercover operations.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


With rapidly approaching retirement and other life altering events, Rabett Run has come perhaps to a fork in the roast.  Eli has questions:

1.  Should RR put up a donation box? After all income is required for trips to AGU, gifts for Ms. Rabett so she allows Eli to go to AGU and housing at AGU.   The holes that the Rabett has been hutching up in San Francisco, are, to put it mildly, very 1950s motelish.  Not quite rent by the hour but not . . .

2.  Or should RR take advertising, which, since it requires that readers actually click on something is not a wealth generating activity either as Eli judges that his Rabett Run Readers are as cheap as he is.  Sou appears to make a buck or two from this, but really, how low can Eli and Brian and John sink?

3.  All in favor Eli's handing the keys over to Brian and slinking into the twittering sunset raise your paws. You will be ignored.

4.  Anybunny interested in a book of RR's best takes showing how Eli was there before there was?  Self publishing is a thing these days and one can pray for an Amazon review by George Taki

Reheating the Michaels rehash

An easy blog post when Pat Michaels keeps reposting the same old thing, every time a new global temperature is associated with El Niño, or simply when the year after a new record happens to be slightly colder than the previous year. It's a recipe for cooking him, dating back to my early blog years of 2006:

How to cook Tim Blair, Andrew Bolt, and Patrick Michaels

1. Place Blair, Bolt, and Michaels in a large, water-filled pot equipped with a step ladder they can use to escape at any time. Set initial water temperature at average levels.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: We're quite comfortable, thank you!!

2. Increase temperature to an unambigous, new historic high.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: No big deal! Not going to last!

MICHAELS: Want to bet it won't be this warm again?

3. Drop temperature back down, but still far above average.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: See!! Vindication!! There is no potboiler warming! Not a problem!

4. Gradually increase temperature to near or above the historic high.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: We deny it's above the historic high! Deny it!

MICHAELS: And, uh, the bet offer is withdrawn.

5. Keep temperature very high, but a tiny bit below Step 4.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: The science behind potboiler warming is bogus, and we'll stay here for as long as it takes to prove it!

BLAIR: I'm not feeling hot - crank it up, people!

BOLT: Me neither!

6. Repeat Steps 2 through 5 until done. Don't worry, they won't use the step ladder to get out. Process will be sped by the fact that their brains were already cooked.

Please, please, please, may some denialist point out to me that we haven't yet repeated Step 2 - just be prepared to put your money where your mouth is about what will happen in the near future.

(Hat tip: Deltoid.)

UPDATE [from 2006]: From RealClimate:

Most bizarre new contrarian claim:
"Global warming stopped in 1998".
By the same logic, it also stopped in 1973, 1983, and 1990 (only it didn't)
So we have repeated steps 2 through 5, multiple times.

UPDATE 2016:  you'd think the Wall Street Journal would want to publish something original, but maybe they're hard up for content.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Summer Reading List

Eli has been going back through the Rabett Run archives fishing out some old drafts and finding this and that.  Here is one of the thats.


In a recent article, I argued that integrated assessment models (IAMs) “have crucial flaws that make them close to useless as tools for policy analysis.”  In fact, I would argue that calling these models “close to useless” is generous: IAM-based analyses of climate policy create a perception of knowledge and precision that is illusory, and can fool policy-makers into thinking that the forecasts the models generate have some kind of scientific legitimacy. IAMs can be misleading – and are inappropriate – as guides for policy, and yet they have been used by the government to estimate the social cost of carbon (SCC) and evaluate tax and abatement policies.
Pindyck's is indeed an argument for ignorance.  He is quite pessimistic that anybunny, economist or climate scientist knows anything, from discount rate to climate sensitivity to damage functions.  Choice of discount rate, of course can yield any answer the mythical anybunny might wish, but according to Pindyke it is worse because even probability distributions for any of these are improbable.  Thus IAM's become computer driven fantasy

So what to do.  Well, really really bad outcomes are so really bad that it doesn't matter what discount rate you chose if you lose the economy.  Pindyck is an economist.

So Pindyck's idea is get a bunch of wise heads together and figure out what the most probable really really bad thing that might happen is and figure out how bad it really would be. 
I have argued that the problem is somewhat simplified by the fact that what matters for policy is the possibility of a catastrophic climate outcome. How probable is such an outcome (or set of outcomes), and how bad would they be? And by how much would emissions have to be reduced to avoid these outcomes? I have argued that the best we can do at this point is come up with plausible answers to these questions, perhaps relying at least in part on consensus numbers supplied by climate scientists and environmental economists. This kind of analysis would be simple, transparent, and easy-to-understand. It might not inspire the kind of awe and sense of scientific legitimacy conveyed by a large-scale IAM, but that is exactly the point. It would draw back the curtain and clarify our beliefs about climate change and its impact.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Redistribution of Enthalpy

So it snows, and Eli digs into the drafts pile to dig this one out.

Eli understands that the old guy is trying to trash him. Eli would be quite happy to talk it over with him, if the old guy wanted to have a discussion, but he appears to want to talk to others without others talking to him and the Rabett is not interested in that. OTOH, we have been hopping about the net and came across the figures from Mark Jacobson's books on Atmosphereic Modeling (link since disappeared) and came across this interesting figure. Looking at it we see that the difference in absorbed incoming solar energy is about a factor of two higher at the equator than at the poles (100% difference) but the emitted outgoing IR radiation above the atmosphere is only about 25% higher at the equator than at the poles.

As near as the team at Rabett Run can make out the large units on the ordinate are 100 W/m^2, which agrees with these measurements of average solar insolation.

What first caught Eli's eye was the implication that radiation and convection move enthalpy from the tropics to the poles. No surprise there. It's called weather. This, of course, is averaged over the year, different cloud conditions and more.

So the bottom line is that even though the temperature difference between the poles and the equator is ~ 50 K, the solar insolation at the surface is a factor of two higher at the equator and the same is true of the emission from the surface as predicted by the Stefan-Boltzmann relation, the amount of energy emitted by the earth in the polar region is only about 25% less than at the equator. Another hmm . . ..

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hmm. . . That's Suspicious

Eli being a glutton for punishments and carrot was easily led astray by the likes of Barry Bickmore describing a usual Moncktonian perambulation (aka a trip around the mulberry bush). Seeking amusement Eli  was going thru the comments at Willard Tony when this appeared in the LCD from Roy Spencer

"The quoted statement is incorrect as it stands. PRTs are used to measure the temperature of the onboard (warm-point) calibration targets. The cosmic background (cold point) is assumed to be 2.7 K (or something close to doesn’t really matter). PRTs are laboratory standard and highly stable, each one being carefully calibrated before launch. 
Those two calibration points are used to calibrate the Earth-viewing data.and the AMSR-E calibration is a special case of poor design…the warm target was made of a material with low thermal conductivity. The instrument was designed in Japan by engineers just coming up to speed on the technology, and it should never have been approved by NASA in the first place. But, the instrument was “free” to NASA, so there was less scrutiny. I say all this as the AMSR-E U.S. Science Team leader."
Dr. Roy was explaining to the assembled WattKnots how the (A)MSU system works by interpolating the signal between deep space (2.8K) and a hot target.  The hot target has a number of platinum resistance thermometers buried in it and a pseudo black body surface (black is the most difficult color).  The targets are technically complex.  They are not anywhere as laboratory standard nor highly stable as platinum resistance thermometers. Eli's comment which they let through
If the warm target is made of a material with low thermal conductivity the implication is that it could slowly age, e.g. it’s thermal conductivity could change and thus the temperature distribution across the warm target could slowly change. With eight prt’s this should be observable.  If there is a temperature distribution across the warm target, the detector could be looking at a varying emissivity. Just sayin.
Now as the regulars recognize the Bunny has been playing with the idea that there is some sort of long term drift in the microwave sounding units or the analysis of data from these units, so this was a new item in play.

It turns out that there are many opportunities for changes, including changes in emissivity of the target coatings.  One of the secret sauces in analysis of AMSU returns is figuring out on station the non-linear gain of the antenna from the two calibration points.  Scott Church made a long study of the AMSU system which describes the mess best described as TL:DR, but the bottom line has a name, Instrumental Body Effect.  There is certainly enough room for all sorts of mischief.

Tell Eli about the gold standard.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

2015 GISS temp anomaly is .87C, massive record

Presentation here, with NOAA anomaly .90C. In a teleconference this morning they both said well over 90% certainty that 2015 is the warmest so far (NOAA says 99%), and both expect that 2016 is likely to be even warmer.

So at the top of everyone's mind should, of course, be the status of my bet with David Evans. I'm winning - obviously I'm benefiting from El Nino but there was also a (weaker) El Nino in the 2005-2009 baseline period for the bet.

To simplify the over-complicated bets, there are two that bet against different levels of warming and for each the possibility is to win, lose, or void the bet if the result is close to the middle value of a range. I win both bets if the 5-year GISS average is .81C or higher and lose both if its .71C or lower.

We're only one year in to the 2015-2019 bet, but now the last four years' average could be .80C and I'd still win both. To lose both the four-year average can't exceed .67C. My wild guess at this point is I'm slightly more likely to void rather than win the warmer bet, and will easily win the the less-warm bet. And then it's on to our 15-year and 20-year bets.

And then there's James Annan's bet. I'm jealous, although he says his betting counterparts have not been very communicative in recent years.

UPDATE:  David's perspective here (from Feb. 2015, but I expect he'll update it).

Read it and weep

From the NASA/NOAA news conference

And showing how NOAA "fixed the climate record" by making the trend smaller.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What to say. Bob Carter, 1942-2016.

Bob Carter, one of the very few qualified scientific experts who disagreed with the scientific consensus on climate change, died recently at age 74.

It's hard to figure out the appropriate thing to say in this situation. There's what to avoid, first of all. Christopher Hitchens occasionally wrote hate obituaries of people he disliked. The only thing to say in his defense is he probably wanted someone to write a hate obituary for him when he died, but I'm still not going to follow his example. Another example to avoid are denialists (some of them) who attacked terminally-ill Nasa scientist Piers Sellers for his dedication to climate change work.

An example to follow instead is Matt Yglesias' response to being attacked by economic historian Niall Ferguson. Ferguson has written a lot of economic nonsense in recent years heavily seasoned with vitriol, including an attack on Yglesias. Matt responded by highlighting the - apparently - very good work that Ferguson had done in earlier years on World War I and the value of alternative history.

I'm not knowledgeable enough to do the same with Bob Carter, but I have read from people who are that he did good work on marine stratigraphy and was supportive of young scholars.

I hope we address the challenge of climate change quickly, and that in the long run the good that Carter did in building up science will be the most important part of his work.

Mind Bending

Eli and Tamino have posted about the obvious long time deviation of the lower troposphere satellite temperature records often called TLT.  Eli and Steve Mosher, with friends and cynics have been doing a dosy do at ATTP and Rank Exploits.

It looks like either a) there is some aging effect in the AMSU receivers or b) the atmospheric/surface composition has shifted in the last 15 years or so (e.g. less ice/ more water vapor) in a way that biases the returns.

It started with Nick Stokes looking at the trends of various temperature anomaly records

clearly showing that UAH 6.0 trends vary strongly for RSS and UAH 6.0 and the various surface records and UAH 5.6

In the midst of the usual ill tempered fro and to about trends at Rank Exploints, it struck Eli that there were really two questions, the long term trends about which much had been said, and the actual measurements which take place over a day or less and about much less has been said, at least in blogs and Congressional hearing, or even on the radio. 

To get at this Eli compared the monthly variation in CRUTEM4 and RSS, showing that they were a pretty good overlay.  Tamino showed both that on the short term (months) there was a perfect match between the UAH and RATPAC balloon sonde records but that they deviated starting in about 2000

Both comparisons show that while the climate system has a fair bit of variability on a monthly or a yearly basis (Hi Judy), the instrumental noise, e.g. the noise inherent in the measurement process is much smaller by comparison.  

Eli's original POV was that the drift is most likely in the AMSU satellites or the processing of the AMSU data. Unanticipated aging of the receiver or the internal hot calibration target seems to Eli most likely, although there might be something involving orbital decay (less likely now because this caused a lot of trouble early on) or even changing land/sea/ice patterns which affect the AMSU response.

However, upon reflection it appears equally likely that there has been some change in the atmosphere (humidity was suggested) or surface emissivity (Mosher's idea) that has befuddled the atmospheric model used by RSS and UAH. That the same effect is seen in RSS and UAH 6.0 indicates that the atmospheric models are idempotent or close.

That the break between the RSS and UAH records and the balloon sonde/surface temperature anomaly records come at the same time as the change over from the MSU to the AMSU, A standing for advanced, makes it hard to choose.

It is well known that the (A)MSU sensors have trouble with ice and snow as well as measuring over high land, so Eli, in his naivety, thinks that point by point comparison with temperatures measured by the (A)MSUs at specific locations might be useful and Mosher has a project moving in this direction
also the weighting function relies on an assumption of a constant emissivity for earth. gimme a few days and I may be able to tell you if gridded delta’s between RSS and BE are correlated with changes in emissivity.
But, rather than go much further into this, Eli would like to point out how this discussion has been mind bending.

A principal attack on RSS and UAH has been that the measurements are five km or so up there and we live on the surface.  The short term global comparisons that Eli and Tamino have done shows that the precision of the (A)MSU measurements as estimates of immediate global temperature are pretty good.

The question now is whether the long term drift is engineering or science

Extending the comparisons between surface, balloon sonde and satellite measurements to specific regions and a daily basis will really nail the precision and maybe the source of drift.  Opportunity exists for using aircraft platforms (research and commercial) to even improve on this and, of course there is the Taiwanese/US COSMIC GPS occultation program.

Closing the loop on temperature anomaly measurements is within our reach.  At that point each of the methods will support confidence in the other and the strengths of each will allow a deeper understanding of the climate system.

ADDED:  In the comments Eric Swanson posted a table which Blogger could not handle really well, of trends.  Here it is prettified.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Wise, Terrifically Eloquent, Modest, Momentous

Piers Sellers has written about his terminal cancer and how he is dealing with it.  Perhaps not the sort of thing often seen in the New York Times or commented on at Rabett Run.

Sellers, a former astronaut, Deputy Director of Science at Goddard Space Flight Center and Acting Head of the Earth Sciences Division, has lead a full life likely to be cut short.

Having read the article Eli takes away the same feeling that one of the writers to the Times, nick fras did.  An amazing piece, wise, terrifically eloquent, modest and momentus.

I have never read anything that captures so well the joys, privileges and responsibilities of being a scientist.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

And then there was one. So, one more to go.

Arch Coal files for bankruptcy, joining a half-dozen other major American coal companies going bankrupt over the last year. Arch is the second biggest coal producer, after Peabody.  And Peabody is now worth 0.4% of what it was valued five years ago. The main, direct business effect is to make it very unlikely that coal corporations will be able to finance much anything, either through bonds or stock issuance. The political impact seems more important - the chart above shows what people think of coal's future.

And in political news, Obama has suspended new coal leases on federal lands for a three year review period. If a Democrat replaces Obama then this suspension will be permanent. While the administration claims current leases can sustain production for 20 years, the suspension reduces the flexibility to shift production between different leaseholders. Production level also depends on price, so the suspension eliminates the chance to switch to newer and cheaper coal sources on federal land, especially after the cheapest coal gets mined from existing leases.

Obama also has a $10 million program to assist economically-declining coal areas of Appalachia, assuming the Republican Congress passes it. That assumption isn't guaranteed, even though Republicans dominate the area, because the program helps people and not the coal corporations that fund the Republican Party.

Hillary Clinton has a much bigger $30 billion proposal specifically targeting assistance to present and retired coal miners. This relates back to the bankruptcies - the companies are using them to void pension obligations and to transfer ownership from stockholders to lenders, and among the stockholders are miner pension funds. Again coal companies and Republican leadership reject the help, arguing instead for trickle-down benefits of increasing coal company revenues and expecting miners to get some of the money.

Last, world coal consumption may have peaked in 2013. China and India may both be ramping down their coal imports. I'm not sure I believe their claims that they'll end imports in two years, but it's more evidence that the international market is in decline, which can affect the love affair with coal and climate denialism in places like Australia and the US.

Some very good news.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ups and Downs

So Eli was slumming over at Lucia's where Steve Mosher was doing his best tipsy Richard Tol imitation and the subject was the Cruz Pause 18 year no trend in the satellite record, when a thought occurred. (Ear tip to Tamino, also look at his follow on, Drift)

If the changes in temperature over short periods (like days or months or even annually) track each other, even just in direction in the satellite and surface records (so) then that is pretty convincing evidence that the problem is a long term drift in one or the other and that on the short term they are measuring the same thing.

So Eli hit Wood for Trees and compared the RSS land only record with CRUTEM4 between 2005 and 2015.  (RSS offset by 0.25 K)

If there was significant random (not actual) variation in either record, one would expect that there would be many months when the two curves moved in opposite directions.  There are a few, but it's a lot like finding the panda.  From this we conclude that MSU and CRUTEM4 are consistent on a monthly and even an annual basis.  It might be even more interesting to look at this on a daily basis and even match times and AMSU footprint areas

Thus if (see Nick Stokes) the long term trends diverge, and the short term anomalies agree, that is pretty good evidence of systematic drift.
The surface record analysis is simpler and a drift would require correlation between drifts at many stations using different instruments that are calibrated on site.
Eli concludes that the drift is most likely in the AMSU satellites or the processing of the AMSU data. Unanticipated aging of the receiver or the internal hot calibration target seems to Eli most likely, although there might be something involving orbital decay (less likely now because this caused a lot of trouble early on) or even changing land/sea/ice patterns which affect the AMSU response.

Since there are four or five satellites carrying the AMSU units and there is a newer ATMS system, analysis of where the discrepancy enters would not be simple.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Peter Ward Is Very Confused

An old volcanologist by the name of Peter Langdon Ward (ed note:  John McCormack points out in the comments a possible confusion with paleontologist Peter Douglas Ward an entirely different bunch of bones) is holding forth at various places on his theory of everything.  Now Eli's considered judgement is that, as Walter Hannah puts it "His Theory Is Garbage".  But as Ray Pierrehumbert said some garbage is more amusing than others, mostly because it exposes things that have to be explained to the naive, and occasionally because the mistake is subtle enough to deepen Eli's own thoughts about this and that.

Hannah (and Eli) spot the G&T, a common mistake amongst phenominologists 

Greenhouse warming theory also assumes that the heated air radiates energy back to Earth’s surface, and that this return flow of heat energy warms Earth. The problem with this is that the [lower atmosphere is] colder than Earth’s surface. Heat cannot physically flow from cold to hot. You do not stand next to a cold stove to get warm.”
OTOH, you could put on a coat which limits the rate at which your body radiates heat just as greenhouse gases limit the rate at which the Earth radiates to space.  Hmm, Eli did talk about that, but so does Hannah
Heat “flows” in a few different ways, but heat is radiated in all directions. In a way, he is correct that the net “flow” of heat is always from warm to cold, but the downward radiation from the atmosphere slows this net cooling of the planet considerably. This downward radiation is actually really important, it is a key reason why Earth is not a lifeless ball of ice. He is obviously confused about how global warming works, because no one is proposing that there is a net gain of heat from downward radiation. Instead, the idea is that the net loss of heat from the surface is slowed by CO2, which naturally results in a net warming.
 What greenhouse gases do is hinder the cooling of the surface.

Let's go a bit further today. Ward writes in a 2010 paper
Note that a body can only be warmed by radiation from a warmer body that contains higher frequencies and higher amplitudes. The dashed black line shows Wien’s displacement law, the frequency (ν) of peak spectral radiance as a function of a body’s temperature (T) where ν = 5.88 x 1010 T. Radiation consisting of a narrow band of frequencies close to this value or larger could warm a body to temperature T if absorbed in sufficient quantity. Radiation with peak spectral radiance less than ν can only warm a body to a lower temperature. This means that it is physically impossible for Earth to be warmed by its own radiation as assumed, for example, in energy budget calculations for greenhouse gases
So Eli is a simple bunny, and for the hell of it he substituted 300 K into that equation and got 1.76 x 1013 Hz, and then if you divide by the speed of light 3.0 x 1010 cm/sec, the frequency in wavenumbers is ~590 cm-1 real close to where CO2 absorbs and emits (670 cm-1).  The Bunny is not going to sign on to this, but by Ward's own reckoning CO2 emission could warm the surface to 340 K which is higher than 300 K.

Yet it is late, there are students to work with tomorrow, and Ms. Rabett is hot to pick up the special extra Christmas present tomorrow.  So to bed

Boston 1906 video and an alternative history

Intriguing video:  8 minutes of riding through traffic on the front of an electric streetcar in 1906 Boston:

More info here.

Besides being a scene from a different world, I'm amazed by the number of electric streetcars you see - we'd love to have that kind of public transit coverage in modern American cities.

I've been interested in an alternative history where the Golden Age of electric vehicles in the 1910's prevailed and how it could have affected climate change, but this video shows another possibility of urban life based on electric street cars. Obviously electricity wasn't very clean back then, but it still had a lot more possibility to clean up.

Anyway, cool video.

VW faces the music (and just the first part)

The feds started their first lawsuit against Volkswagen recently, along with many private class action suits filed previously. The Department of Justice press release is here, with a link to the complaint.

In related news, VW has refused to turn over internal emails to American investigators, citing German privacy laws. Americans were less than pleased.

Paragraphs 92 and 93 from the complaint should be chilling to VW -

92. The United States’ efforts to learn the truth about the emission exceedances and other irregularities related to the 2.0L Subject Vehicles, including whether VW had committed the violations of federal law alleged herein, were impeded and obstructed by material omissions and misleading information provided by VW entities including at least VWoA and Volkswagen AG. 
93. VW entities including at least Volkswagen AG knowingly concealed facts that would have revealed the existence of the dual-calibration strategy utilized in the 2.0L Subject Vehicles to regulators when they had a duty to share such information, and also engaged in affirmative misrepresentations and took affirmative actions designed to conceal these facts.

I've argued that the time between May 2014, when published results indicated VW had a problem and September 2015, when they admitted they installed defeat devices will get the company in even more trouble than it originally had, and these two paragraphs are the start.

This federal lawsuit is a civil action not a criminal complaint, but the feds haven't ruled out a criminal lawsuit, and in addition to criminal violations of the Clean Air Act, those claims sound like obstruction of justice charges. Here in this civil case, they can provide the justification for punitive damage multipliers of the civil damages (complaint doesn't specifically call for punitives, however).

The lawsuit calls for over $30,000 in damages for each violation (car), plus other damages. The total is over $40 billion, although that's more likely a starting point for a negotiated settlement.

Some claim the large amount is unfair and could make VW regret ever coming to America. I think if it were possible to identify and communicate with the relatives of the estimated 59 people killed so far by the illegal NOx emissions, they'd say the best situation would've been for VW to have never come.

As I mentioned earlier, no criminal cases yet, but take a look at the video posted above where two hackers show how they hacked into VW's electronics to understand how the defeat device software worked (and thanks Eli for the video tip). Many people may like the hacking-focused second half of the video, but as a lawyer I'm particularly interested in the first half, where the apparently-former-VW-engineer speaker describes the amount of documentation and top-down control that is involved in everything the company does (UPDATE:  per the comments, he's from BMW and not VW).

So it's interesting to see the company resisting requests to turn over internal emails, while at the same time claiming it was a small group of bad-apple engineers and designers below the board management level that was responsible. In other words, our company VIPs weren't involved and we're not going to turn over the documents that would test that statement.

Given the 16 months of obstruction, I assume VW's position is that it unluckily handed control of the response to the investigation in May 2014 to the same bad apples that created the problem, and those people fought a two-front war, lying both to the outside world and upper management, presumably while trying unsuccessfully to come up with a software hack that would erase both the defeat device software and evidence of its existence. In other words, VW is throwing these people under the VW bus hard, reversing and running over them again, and saying they are intentional criminals. There absolutely has to be a criminal investigation under VW's theory of what happened. Whether that theory, even if correct, keeps VW from corporate criminal liability is a separate question.

Finally, no mention anywhere so far about environmental consequences of VW's violations. We'll see about that.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Questions, Bunnies Got Questions

The US primary season is upon us and the question occurs what would the bunnies ask the clowns?  And indeed this time there are a number of clowns although the density function appears sadly to have moved completely to the right. YMMV

For a long time, an organization Science Debate has been trying to shame the gatekeepers into asking a question or three about science, tech, health and environmental issues in their candidate debates, In 2008 and 2012, they got written answers but ones straight from the elephant or donkey's mouth would be more interesting and less structured.

Key questions of the future are based on an understanding of these issues, and even the kids want to know.

Eli's POV is that he doesn't want candidates to debate science, tech, health and environmental issues, he wants them to outline the policies they would institute and how those policies fit in with the scientific consensus in each of those areas.  If they don't agree with the consensus, and they should be aware of it, why not?  Who would be their scientific advisers and why do they trust them?

Never mind, Eli inquires what would you ask. You can sign the Science Debate petition and show them your question.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Eternal Grift

With the political season upon Iowa, the grift is as high as a Republican's eye, the Democratic version being more sedate, but there is no denying that mailboxes, virtual and metal are filled with appeals to save the nation, or maybe cut it to pieces.  Amongst the chaff Jeb! has had the best success with the classical model of separating the billionaires from their bucks.  The Carson campaign stands out, following the tradition method elucidated by Rick Perlstein in the Long Con  

The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.
Carson's campaign is a masterful combination.  Is the point is to promote a candidate for office or support a money raising operation which casts off riches to those doing the shilling?  Carson spends about 54% of every dollar raised to raise more dollars. Carson's business, after he gave up neurosurgery, at which he was quite good, became self-promotion, at which he is also quite good. and the Father, if not Mother of Self-Invention.

Self invention delusion is (watch the pea here) the lodestone of many classical grifts.  Who amongst the bunnies has not accepted received an invitation to have one's sterling biography listed in Who's Who in the Burrow? and is not LinkedIn the online versions of this?

By way of Lucia's blog, Eli just became aware of a rather, to Eli, more pernicious version.  JD from Ohio wrote:
My 9th grade son was invited to a conference sponsored by “National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists” in late June. Among the speakers are Buzz Aldrin, Dean Kamen and 2 Nobel prize winners in physics. ….

I don’t expect that actual attendance at the conference, in itself, will be overly helpful to his academic career. (He scores roughly, in the top 5% in science with disciplined work but without a lot of stress) However, I think it might be a fun experience and that he might make friends/connections that would be worth the $1,500 cost. Online, a number of people call this a scam. Personally, if the speakers are as stated, I find it is hard to believe it is a scam. Whether it is worth doing is another question, and I am wondering what your opinion and that of others is.
According to the solicitations, only the best students have been selected for this honor.  The standards judged by many comments on line from students and parents who have been solicited are a bit elastic

To many it was clear that this was a variant on Who's Who, seeking to capture money from parents trying to give their kids a leg up.  Eli, being a more perhaps obsessive through type turned a few rocks over, and soon realized that this was not an isolated thing.  Back in 2009 Diana Schmo wrote about these schemes in the New York Times under the headline of Congratulations! You Are Nominated.  It's an Honor.  (It's a Sales Pitch).

The Richard Viguire of this money maker appears to be one Richard Rossi starting with a creature called Envision EMI. a private company (at least now) which, as Schmo writes it
While the council’s (Congressional Youth Leadership Council) stated goals are educational, Envision has gone after profit openly: a vision statement adopted after 9/11 called for it to increase profits tenfold within eight years. “This big hairy audacious goal has ignited us to think completely out of the box when assessing potential opportunities,” the statement said. “Halfway through this eight-year vision, we are on track to achieve our goal.”

 The company adopted that goal, Mr. Rossi says, as tourists fled Washington in 2001 and the company’s survival was in doubt. Newly energized, the company branched out into new markets and bought out the nonprofit council, which aimed to grow “incrementally, or not at all,” Mr. Rossi says.
Envision runs dozens of programs from K-gray having now completely absorbed the Council but the Foundation Center has the Form 990 tax return from the Council.  Lest anybunny think this is small beer, revenue was north of 56 million back in 2007 before they went private.  Where did it go?  Well 18 million of that went to Envision, the Viguiere model to a T 

Rossi appears to have moved on to more of the same.  As JD found out the current pop stand is the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists but wait, there is more the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists and the National Academy of Youth Leadership

All of these share the same leadership, Richard Rossi and Pat McLagan.

Eli is not the first to have figured this out.  From Delphi Listener @ college confidential
Who is behind it? It is a FOR PROFIT Educational company founded by Richard Rossi who is well known for his burgeoning stable of for profit educational companies that make lots of money from high school students and their families.

He is behind: National Young Leaders Conference, NYLC see: ; National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists, Congressional Youth Leadership Council, and many others.

He's been at this marketing to aspiring college students for 26 years.

Since the organization has no track record, let's look at the founder's track record. See Envision, EMI LLC, in particular THE CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST another one of his for profit companies that he ran until 2011
To sum these things up, in spite of the come on, they are mostly working from pretty non selective lists, parents pay the money and there is a program, you might get a nice certificate grandma can hang in her living room but, contrary to the promotional literature no college admissions office pays the least little mind. 

The pattern is obvious and dispiriting.  Eli awaits the expected delivery of astroturf.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Some jerks are on the left side of the spectrum. Who knew?

Today, a grab bag:

* Color me unimpressed with this review of Alice Dreger and her book, Galileo's Middle Finger, although I haven't read the book so I'm unsure if the problem is the book or the review. The review discusses two (2) cases of white male researchers being treated unfairly for saying something that contradicts academic orthodoxy in their field. (I had known previously about the Changnon/Yanomami issue and agree with the author; I didn't know anything about the Bailey/transgender issue other than what I just read.) Two cases do not make a counterpart to Mooney's Republican War on Science.

What's odd is I'm aware of the argument that much of sociology (and anthropology outside of paleo) is hopelessly politicized in academia along a left axis. I don't know enough to make a final conclusion but it seems like there's some good evidence for that. In particular, it seems ludicrous to argue that hunter-gatherer societies were essentially peaceful, and to argue the abundant evidence of violence by modern hunter-gatherers and from those in the historical period is due to "contamination" from developed civilizations. A book that wrestled with this would be interesting; one that points out a few jerks is less so. For more, see some of the nuanced comments at the LGM post on the issue.

Skeptical Science has a good rundown on what Alberta is doing to address climate. Alberta has one of the worst per-capita emissions in the world, making the US looking like Denmark by comparison. It's a good start, but only levels off rapidly-increasing emissions rather than lower them. It also shows the real-world political complexity of a carbon tax - the sausage-making of politics gives you something different from the economic ideal.

* A good-news article about financing solar energy in remote villages in India. We need more of this stuff, but 5 million solar home systems isn't nothing, even in India. Creating a credit history for people making a few dollars a day is also incredibly beneficial.

A bad-news article about incredible methane leak in California, constituting the biggest single source of greenhouse gases in the state (depending on how you weigh methane). I didn't believe it when I first heard a radio talk show caller mention it, thinking it must be exaggerated. It wasn't. I'm not sure how California cap-and-trade should affect this, but I'd want the leaker forced to buy permits as just one part of the punishment.

* Know the flow! Niagara Falls is maintained at 100k cubic feet per second in the daytime (2800 cubic meters per second), with excess diverted for hydropower:

For comparison purposes when water is running down your street.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Missing the Lede

Skeptical Science reports on a new survey of 365 economists.  Interestingly, the name of the report from the NYU Institute of Policy Integrety is Expert Consensus on the Economics of Climate Change.  The Skeptics (tm jcook) reproduce a key figure from the report

but interestingly while tearing it apart miss the lede.  Let Eli give a hand.  In answering the question about Whether the US Government should commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions only 1% answered Under No Circumstances.

That means of 365 economists who know about the issue of global warming and climate change less than 4 (maybe 6 with rounding) were firmly against further governmental limitations of greenhouse gas emissions either by taxes or regulation.

Oh yes, Eli would not be Eli if he did not show the Nick Stern memorial figure showing that the ecotools who attacked the Stern Report for choosing a low discount rate were the 1%.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Bunnies Can't Statistically Prove. . .

With the exceptionally concerning weather the world has been gifted for Christmas and New Years, the Statistical Trolls have been on the Net and the Tweets, proclaiming that "no one can prove that"

Eli has been alerted to the appropriate response, and calls upon the Bunnies for more
No bunny can prove that any race won by Lance Armstrong was caused by doping
No bunny can prove that any home run that Barry Bonds hit was caused by steroids
No bunny can prove that Ben Johnson ever won a race because of "medicines"
OTOH, wanna bet?