stat counnnter

Thursday, May 31, 2007

"Swindle" To Air Downunder

In his guest essay "Wicked, Hurtful Words" at The Dougout, Ed Cline was pointing out how today's environmentalists' main target is the truth, when he wrote:
For example, observe the peculiar outrage directed against anyone who questions the delusional fraud of man-caused global warming.
Well I came accross an example of such outrage here. Evidently, the Austrailian Broadcasting Co. (ABC) has decided to show "The Great Global Warming Swindle" and some of the leftist staff are outraged. Looks like it isn't just in the U.S. that the alarmists respond to dissent with hatred.

I recommend reading both Mr. Cline's essay and the Herald Sun article by Andrew Bolt.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Why I Side With the Critics Pt. 3

In Pt 2 of this series I posted on the IPCC's lack of credibility. Now I want to touch on another lack of credibility, that of computer models. On September 22nd of 2004 I had the following op-ed published at the conservative web site Although it was the culmination of my initial research into climate change, I used no data from any critic's websites. My sources were solely data from the government science establishment. These are the kind of caveats and uncertainties that science press releases and media reports generally ignore.

Models of Doubt

"Fools rush in" may be an appropriate line for a song, but it should not be descriptive of world governments responding to global warming.

When governments are faced with a problem they usually debate it at length, hold hearings, interview experts on both sides of the issue. At least that's the way you'd think it would work. But that's not what's going on.

Activists, the media, and lately even British PM Tony Blair has been pressing President Bush and Russian President Putin to hurry up and sign the Kyoto Protocol.

This hurried atmosphere reminds me of that commercial where the guys in the office are saying how they must get this parcel to their customer now or they are all "doomed", "doomed" "doomed."

It seems that all this gloom and doom is coming from a single source, computer models. Scenarios run on computers telling us what the future might, could, possibly, may, be like. None of this has been proven though, just guessed at.

I wondered if anyone was questioning the veracity of these models and I found quite a few who are. At the website of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) I found a March 15th press release which states "A NASA-funded study found some climate models might be overestimating the amount of water vapor entering the atmosphere as the Earth warms. Since water vapor is the most important heat-trapping greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, some climate forcasts may be overestimating future temperature increases." (1)

While still at NASA's site I linked over to the Goddard Space Flight Center where a section titled "Modeling Ocean Behavior" said "While lab and numerical simulations have brought to light several key features of DC (deep convection), the translation of this information into a reliable model usable in OGCM's (ocean general cirulation models) has not yet been achieved, with the result that Deep Convection is still poorly understood." (2)

So, should we be passing laws on a theory whose aspects are "poorly understood"?

At the website of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) their section on global warming said "There is much need to refine our understanding of key natural forcing mechanisms of the climate, including solar irradiance changes, in order to reduce uncertainty in our projections of future climate change." (3)

One paragraph later "Climate models are constantly improving based on both our understanding and the increase in computer power, though by definition, a computer model is a simplification and simulation of reality, meaning that it is an approximation of the climate system." (3)

With all that uncertainty they would have to be approximations.

At the site of the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (IPCC) I noticed that the panel was supposed to draw up new modeling scenarios called Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES) and give these to climate modelers in time for the Third Assesment Report. But in their section titled "The Scientific Basis" they admit "Since the SRES was not approved until 15 March 2000, it was too late for the modeling community to incorporate the final approved scenarios in their models and have the results available in time for this Third Assesment Report." (4) They go on to say that they did give the modelers fours draft models, one from each storyline group. But the modelers were still using mostly scenarios from older reports.

At the end of the panel's chapter 14.4 "Outlook":

"In sum, there is a need for:
>more comprehensive data, contemporary, historical, and palaeological, relevant to the climate system;
>expanded process studies that more clearly elucidate the structure of fundamental components of the Earth system and the potential for changes in these central components;
>greater effort in testing and developing increasingly comprehensive and sophisticated Earth system models;
>increased emphasis upon producing ensemble calculations of Earth system models that yield descriptions of the likelihood of a broad range of different possibilities, and finally;
>new efforts in understanding the fundamental behavior of large-scale non-linear systems." (5)

With NASA, NOAA, the IPCC and many others calling for more knowledge and urging caution, it would indeed be foolish for legislators and even presidents to rush into signing Kyoto or any treaty whose estimations of the future are so heavily burdened with uncertainty.


Observe the sentence "Since water vapor is the most important heat-trapping greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, some climate forecasts may be overestimating future temperature increases."

So the next time you hear someone say that CO2 is the most important heat-trapping greenhouse gas, rest assured you are listening to someone who is well, less than informed. Most critics know that NASA is right: water vapor is the most important heat-trapping gas not CO2.

This also demonstrates that the caveats and uncertainties found in the IPCC assessment reports (ARs) are real. But you would not know it if all you read were the Summaries for Policy Makers (SPMs) written by bureaucrats in their capacity as government agents. It must be remembered that the scientists who write the assessment reports are for the most part, not the people who write the SPMs. It is the SPMs that your congressmen and mine get to read, not the actual ARs with all the caveats.

So the next time you hear that "models have shown" or "models predict" or the "models demonstrate" or "models have proven", just know that they are all "models of Doubt."

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Clarification on the Use of "Skeptic"

My readers may have noticed that I changed the title of my series from "Why I'm Pro-Skeptic" in Pt.1 to "Why I Side With the Critics" in the rest. I don't like the words skeptic or denier or doubter. The proper name for those who disagree with the establishment notion of global warming is critic. That's what they are, critics.

I have no respect for anyone who uses those terms whether they are reporters, editors or even scientists. Those words are nothing but euphemisms for "heretic." It is the meaning of heretic the users of those words intend to convey. For more on why those terms are dishonest in a free society see here.

Spotted By Mike's Eyes May 28th.

From is a little good news. It seems an eco-terrorist who set fire to SUVs and a few other things was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Good show! There can be no such thing as a right to violate rights.

Also from JunkScience is this bit of humor:
Climate change activists said yesterday that they expected more than 2,000 people from all over Britain to join west London residents in a mass direct action against plans to expand Heathrow airport.
The activists announced that they would set up a "high impact" climate camp near the airport between August 14-21.

"We are simply not going to sit by and let emissions from binge-flying make dangerous climate change become inevitable," said Leo Murray, a spokesman for the activist group Plane Stupid, one of the groups which is helping to organise the camp.
Steve correctly points out how aptly the group is named. Rest of story here.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Why I Side With the Critics Pt 2

On may 19th I posted Pt 1 of why I usually side with the climate change critics. The reason was the fact that many pro-warmers have been advocating the censorship of the critics. I know of no critics that have tried to censure the warmers. For me, this places the edge of moral and scientific superiority with the critics. The respect for free speech seems to exist with the critics but barely so with the alarmists.

Today I want to present Pt. 2 of why I side with the critics: the obvious decline in credibility of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regarding the first three Assessment Reports. On March 12th of 2005 I had the following op-ed printed at the website of The Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) and I post it here for your perusal.

4. Has The IPCC Lost All Credibility?

The recent resignation of Dr. Christopher Landsea, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, has cast new doubt on the integrity of the IPCC's policies and procedures.

In an article at Tech Central Station (TCS 1/31/2005) titled "A Dishonest Broker?" writer Iain Murray reports that: "Most recently, IPCC Chairman Dr. Rajendra Pachauri publicly endorsed a particular policy agenda that contradicts the IPCC's role as 'policy relevant but not policy prescriptive'" Mr. Murray continues:

" Dr. Landsea's hand was forced by two factors: actions by Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research-who is the lead author of the IPCC's research climate change observations-and Dr. Pachauri's reaction to Dr. Landsea's complaints about those actions. At a news conference last October, Dr. Trenberth said that global warming had made last year's hurricane season worse. This view is contrary to the scientific consensus, represented by Dr. Landsea, that 'all previous and current research in the area of hurricane variability has shown no reliable, long-term trend up in the frequency or intensity of tropical cyclones, either in the Atlantic or any other basin.'"


"But the IPCC leadership dismissed his complaints out of hand, claiming variously that Dr. Trenberth had been misquoted-which Dr. Landsea's investigations showed was not the case-or that he was accurately reflecting IPCC science-which he clearly was not. To Dr. Landsea, this suggested that the IPCC process had become 'both…motivated by pre-conceived agenda and… scientifically unsound' and led directly to his resignation."

Clearly, the IPCC has become a political advocacy group rather than an impartial science group. It now seems the IPCC was a political advocacy group from its inception.

The first report of the IPCC was the 1990 Report and the Summary for Policymakers. The independent, research-analysis think tank Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)( studied the Report and determined that:

"The tone of the two documents, 1990 Summary and 1990 Report, is markedly different. While the IPCC Report proper is a useful compilation of then current knowledge-and filled with appropriate qualifying statements-the Policymakers Summary throws all caution to the winds. By selectively extracting from the often- conflicting statements in the Report that express existing doubts and uncertainties, the Summary's firm tone leads policymakers to believe that the existence of a climate problem has been confirmed by 'scientific consensus.'

The IPCC's action of binding the Policymakers Summary with the full Report gives the misleading impression that it arose out of the full Report. But the Summary is essentially a document of governments not of scientists."

The IPCC's 2nd assessment report was published in 1996. In this report the IPCC leadership made changes to the crucial chapter 8 after the scientists had signed off on it, going behind their backs so to speak. The SEPP website shows where chapter 8 was changed. Some changes were made for allegedly editorial clarity while others were obvious changes in meaning.

For example, in Section 8.2.5 the sentence "Current pattern-based detection work has not attempted to account for these forcing uncertainties." was changed to "Current pattern-based detection work is now beginning to account for these forcing uncertainties."

"(H)as not attempted" and "is now beginning" are different meanings. To change the meaning of someone else's writings without their consent is, I think, dishonest.

The third assessment report TAR, published in 2001 is even wilder. It relied heavily on a study done by Mann et al 1998 and 1999 which featured the now highly suspect "hockey stick" graph that purports to show our current global warming to be "unprecedented" --- which, of course, it isn't.

Still at the SEPP website I found an article by Richard Muller titled "Global Warming Bombshell: Hockeystick Broken" Feb 8th 2005. In it he reports:

"But now a shock: independent Canadian scientists Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick have uncovered a fundamental mathematical flaw in the computer program that was used to produce the hockey stick. In his original publications of the stick, Mann purported to use a standard method known as principal component analysis, or PCA, to find the dominant features in a set of more than 70 different climate records.

But it wasn't so. McIntyre and McKitrick obtained part of the program that Mann used, and they found serious problems. Not only does the program not do conventional PCA, but also it handles data normalization in a way that can only be described as mistaken.

Now comes the real shocker. This improper normalization procedure tends to emphasize any data that do have the hockey stick shape, and to suppress all data that do not. To demonstrate this effect, McIntyre and McKitrick created some meaningless test data that had, on average, no trends. This method of generating random data is called "Monte Carlo" analysis, after the famous casino, and it is widely used in statistical analysis to test procedures. When McIntyre and McKitrick fed these random data into the Mann procedure, out popped a hockey stick shape!"

In sports a predetermined outcome is called a "fix" and is illegal. Evidently the IPCC thinks it's ok in climate science.

McIntyre and McKitrick have been gaining some prestigious supporters. In an article at Natuurwetenschap & Techniek ( a Dutch monthly science magazine) which was picked up by Canada's National Post ( titled Breaking the Hockey Stick, Marcel Crok, in a Special to the Financial Post, writes:

" Even Geophysical Research Letters, an eminent scientific journal, now acknowledges a serious problem with the prevailing climate reconstruction by Mann and his colleagues. This undercuts both Mann's supposed proof that human activity has been responsible for the warming of the earth's atmosphere in the 20th century and the ability to place confidence in the findings and recommendations of the influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The political implication is a serious undermining of the Kyoto Protocol with its worldwide agreements on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases."

According to the same article: "On Oct. 22, 2004, in Science, Dr. Zorita and his colleague Dr. Hans von Storch, a specialist in climate statistics at the same institute, published a critique of a completely different aspect of the 1998 hockey-stick article. After studying McIntyre's finding at our request, Von Storch agrees that 'simulations with red noise do lead to hockey sticks. McIntyre and McKitrick's criticism on the hockey stick from 1998 is entirely valid on this particular point.'"

I can't say whether the IPCC is suffering from dishonesty or incompetence or both. But the bottom line is; the IPCC can no longer be trusted. Mr. Murray calls for the IPCC Chairman, Dr. Pachauri, to step down. While I think that would help, I don't think there is much doubt that the IPCC has become politicized and no longer capable of objective scientific judgment.

As more and more reputable scientists distance themselves from or become critical of the IPCC, it's becoming ever clearer that the IPCC needs to be shut down and the study of global warming commissioned to an existing scientific agency whose existence does not depend on finding ever more life-threatening "scenarios" just to keep the grant money coming in. If we're giving grant money away, some should go to make public all those studies that show global warming to be a good thing. The studies are out there. Americans need to hear about them and they won't from the IPCC.

Sources: here

Obviously this does not include the just released AR4 and its Summary. Some pretty good criticisms of that report are all over the net on the critic's sites which I'll post on soon.

For now I want only to say that the IPCC has zero credibility with me. I don't see any critics trying to alter the words of other scientists behind their backs. I don't see any critics putting together charts with a computer program that can't fail to produce a hockey stick. That's like a pair of dice that always roll sevens. Nor do I see critics publishing summaries of reports that aren't done yet. The more establishment science I see, the more sloppyness, fog, evasion and outright dishonesty I see and that's why I side with the critics.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Roundup May 24th

Galileo Blogs has a good post on the ridiculousness and injustice of "price gouging" legislation recently passed by the U.S. House. Like he says, "price gouging" is an undefinable term. Actually, all it means is that the so-called gouger is charging a price some people would prefer not to pay. Politicians then cater to these whims by promising to punish the evil gougers by hitting them with a windfall profits tax (WPT) and giving some of it (crumbs) back to the whim worshipers. Of course the whim worshipers can't see they are being had by the politicians. Read the whole thing.


Abandon Caution has a link to the Dennis Miller Show on which Dr. Yaron Brook was interviewed on the subject of environmentalism and Iraq on May 22nd. As usual, Mr. Brook was quite good.


At a new site "The One Minute Case" is the one minute case for individual rights. I would urge readers not familiar with man's moral and political need of rights to take advantage of the recommended reading at the end of the post.


Myhraf has a good post on an example why a picture is not an arguement. I remember that photo from the Vietnam days and I'm glad she's still alive and happily married in Canada.


Diana at NoodleFood has a notice that
Thanks to an exclusive permission generously granted by the Estate of Ayn Rand, is now able to offer its registered users, free of charge, an expansive collection of Ayn Rand audio and video recordings. This unprecedented selection includes lectures, interviews, and the complete series of Ayn Rand's Ford Hall Forum lectures.
She also has info on the ARI lecture series.


Ed Cline has a guest editorial at Rule of Reason on recent attempts at censorship via so-called "hate speech" laws. Of course, hate is an emotion and emotions are the result of values held and values are acuired by a process of thought. Attempts to outlaw hate are attempts to outlaw thought and that is the goal and only possible outcome of hate speech laws.


Lastly, I want to say thanks to all our military men and women all around the world for risking their lives in return for the continued safety of their loved ones and their country.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Univ. of Michigan's Disgraceful Military Policy

The May 23rd Detroit Free Press has a troubling article on University of Michigan's apparent policy of not giving Michigan residents the standard in-state discount if those students have parents in the military who have been transferred to another state by that military.

If U-M were a totally private university receiving no taxpayer money whatsoever, I would say they have a right to any policy they want. But U-M gets lots of taxpayer money and should not be displaying any kind of bias against students of military people. According to the article, a student's residence is determined by the residence of his or her parents until that student is 24 years of age. So, if a student has parents in the army say , and they get re-stationed to an out of state base, the student, even though he continues to reside and work in Michigan, loses his in-state discount.

Evidently, some Michigan colleges have policies like U-M but others don't. These others seem to understand that military families can and do get transferred but as long as the student remains in the state he gets the discount. I think this is a good policy. But I wonder how Michigan military families feel about having their tax dollars given to a University that is not very friendly to military families?

I think this is a disgraceful policy and U-M should abandon it post haste.

Monday, May 21, 2007

What? Al Gore Ignored?

I know this is about a week old but I had to comment. It looks like Al Gore is being totally ignored by his former bosses. The New York Post reports that the Clintons just bought beachfront property in the Dominican Republic. Seems like they're not at all worried about Alfie's dire divining that all such property will soon be under 20 meters of water. So why should anyone else "be worried, be very worried"?

Another reason I usually side with the global warming critics: the global warmers aren't even taken seriously by their own people.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Why I'm Usually Pro-Skeptic, Pt.1 of Many

Paul at Real Truth About Global Warming has a post on one kind of censorship:
Recently, another incident of man-made global warming ideologues suppressing the scientific facts about global warming occurred in Washington State. Associate State Climatologist and climate scientist Mark Albright was fired because he sent e-mails to other scientists containing the true scientific facts about the Cascade Mountain snow pack. These facts refuted the publications of his boss, State Climatologist Philip Mote and the speeches of Seattle’s Democrat Mayor Greg Nickels who claimed the Cascade Mountain snow pack declined 50% from 1950 to 2000 due to man-made global warming.

Before the firing, University of Washington atmospheric scientist Dennis Hartmann tried to referee and resolve the dispute between Albright and Mote by doing an objective analysis of the data, but this failed when Hartmann found that Albright was right and Mote was wrong. This led to Mote trying to censor Albright’s e-mails. When Albright refused to allow this censorship, he was fired.
Ayn Rand once said that "Government encouragement does not require men to believe the false is true, it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood." We can clearly see there are at least two people, State Climatologist Philip Mote, and Mayor Greg Nickels, who share this indifference. Normally I wouldn't jump to this conclusion but when an outside, independent scientist (Mark Hartmann) confirms that Albright was right, I have no choice.

If Mr. Mote were devoted to the truth, I would think, he would never have issued papers that Mayor Nickels would be embarrassed about later because they turned out to be false. And if I were the Mayor I would be fuming at such embarrassment. I would call for an investigation into the office of State Climatologist with a view towards getting Mr. Mote fired and promoting Mr. Albright. This way I could at least demonstrate to my constituents that I'm still devoted to the truth.

This event illustrates on a mini scale what is happening nation wide and even globally regarding the relationship between Attila and the Witch Doctor so eloquently identified by Ayn Rand in the title essay of her book "For The New Intellectual." In this case, it is a politician wielding political force, a mini-Attila, who needs the State Climatologist, a mini-Witch Doctor, to provide him (the politician) with the justification for the continued looting of the people of Seattle. By looting I mean passing laws that force his constituents to give up this or that or to pay this or that new carbon tax or force them to obey this or that nutty regulation like exposing their kids to increased amounts of mercury using politically correct light bulbs because they'll allow people to live longer if the mercury doesn't get them first. Sigh.

To ignore the facts of reality that are contrary to one's own scientific findings is dishonest and I see a lot of it on the pro-global warming side of this controversy, a lot more of it than I see on the critic side. To me, a scientist must include an evaluation of all known data on his specific topic. This means that if there are 27 studies supporting one position and 10 against it, he must explain the contrary evidence in some way, either refute that evidence or show why it may be insignificant. But to ignore evidence as if it doesn't exist, or in this case to refuse to disclose to the public why 1950 was chosen as a baseline, to be indifferent to the truth, is wrong. That is why putting an end to government encouragement of science is so urgent.

Monday, May 14, 2007

News Slanting by Package Dealing

Back in Dec. of 05 I did a post on how the news media slants news reports. I used an article by AP reporter Terence Hunt on Bush responding to democratic critics. I pointed to the technique used by Mr. Hunt which was to use violent and negative adjectives and adverbs when referring to Bush and using peaceful and civilized terms when referring to Democrats.

Another came to my attention recently when Sandy Szwarc at Junkfood Science posted on a new government study which in fact reports mostly good news on dental health. Unfortunately, that's not how the MSM reported it in their headlines and lead paragraphs. She tells us:


"Associated Press headlines proclaimed:

“Too much sugar putting too many cavities in baby teeth, study says”

“Cavities on rise in baby teeth; too much sugar, experts report”

Tooth decay in young children's baby teeth is on the rise, a worrying trend that signals the preschool crowd is eating too much sugar, according to the largest government study of the nation's dental health in more than 25 years....One reason is that parents are giving their children more processed snack foods than in the past and more bottled water or other drinks instead of fluoridated tap water, [Dr. Bruce Dye of the National Center for Health Statistics] said. “They're relying more on fruit snacks, juice boxes, candy and soda (for the sustenance of preschoolers)."


There is only one problem with this media report says Ms. Szwarc:
"It is equally unbelievable that none of the reporters appear to have read the CDC report because if they had, they would have seen that sugar was never even mentioned in the 104-page report.

Not once.

Neither were processed foods, snacks, sugary juices or sodas"
I urge my readers to read the whole lengthy post. It is excellent in its own right. Although the reporter does cite some good news, my concern is mainly with the distorting of the facts by the media and mainly with the AP story even though she cites other media reports. Since that was my focus I decided to double check. I looked up the study and read all 104 pages myself. Ms. Szwarc is right: there are no references whatsoever to sugar or sugar-containing foods and beverages. None.

So, the technique being used here by the reporter, Mike Stobbe, is obfuscation, a blurring of what came from where. For example, The first AP headline in The Seattle Times "Too much sugar putting too many cavities in baby teeth, study says" is false. The study does not say that. In fact the study does not deal at all with specific causal connections.

The second AP headline at the AZ Central site "Cavities on rise in baby teeth; too much sugar, experts report" is true as far as the "experts report" notion is concerned. Experts did say that, even though the study didn't. Since the actual study says nothing about sugar, one has to conclude that Mr. Stobbe solicited these causal opinions from the scientists. He does quote the lead author as claiming that sugar is the culprit. Now that would normally be fine with me if he had put it in that context. If for example he had said something like "the study says cavities are increasing in babies but offers no reasons so I asked the lead author if he knew why and he offered sugar as a cause even though it was not addressed in the study."
There would be no misleading of the public had he done something like that.

But, you might object, reporters don't always do headlines, editors often do. True enough. However, editors don't make up headlines willy-nilly. They get them from the reporter's article. The first paragraph of Mr. Stobbe's article says:
Tooth decay in young children's baby teeth is on the rise, a worrying trend that signals the preschool crowd is eating too much sugar, according to the largest government study of the nation's dental health in more than 25 years.
Notice what's being packaged here. The true statement that cavities in baby teeth are rising and that a government study says so is packaged with the unsubstantiated opinion that sugar is the cause. The reader will then believe the study has found that sugar is the cause of these cavities when in fact no such determination was made.

(In fact, Ms. Szwarc points out that this study and others have found a correlation between increased dental problems and low economic status. Poor people often can't afford a continuous dental monitoring regimen and good insurance.)

Why would a reporter say that something is in a study when it is not? The only reason I can think of is slanting. The reporter has bought into the idea that sugar products are unhealthy and sees an oportunity to advance this idea by pretending a government study supports it. He is mixing the facts found in a study with the unsubstantiated opinion of that study's author and is pretending that both have equal credibility.

There is something even more troubling though. Why would the study's lead author, a Dr. Bruce Dye, allow a reporter to say that something is in his (Dye's) study when it was not? Why isn't he objecting to such an addition? I surely would. But I'll leave that up to my readers.

I mainly want readers to be aware of this method of slanting: of packaging arbitrary assertions with some truth. Half-truths like this are more evil than outright lies. Lies can be uncovered with checking but half-truths use the credibility of the true aspects of a phrase to smuggle a false idea into the mind of the reader. The reader then is disarmed by the true parts and is defenseless against that which is false. He now believes something to be true that is not.

Let the reader beware.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Little Educational Good News

In the Tuesday, May 8th Detroit News is an article on how some Michigan "Schools bring back penmanship classes" by News writer Jennifer Mrozowski. The article starts out by identifying the new reality:
In the age of e-mails and text messages, penmanship may seem like a thing of the past, but students shouldn't throw away their pencils just yet. Handwriting is gaining new credibility as high-stakes exams, like the SAT college entrance test and the Michigan Merit Exam, couple impromptu writing and essay sections with multiple-choice questions. Michigan also spells out handwriting requirements, along with a greater emphasis on writing and reading, as part of the state's revamped content standards.
There is a problem however:
But despite a renewed spotlight on the subject, primary school teachers say they feel ill-equipped to teach handwriting -- whether it's cursive or printed -- and that could spell d-o-o-m for some students.

"It's something they don't teach you in college," said Jeanine Diener, a second-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary school in Fraser. "It's a skill, and it's something we should practice to learn."
So why aren't teachers taught how to teach handwriting?
Decades ago, schools devoted hours to teaching penmanship. Children diligently traced and then repeated letters on lined worksheets. Districts pulled back on handwriting in the 1970s, as state and federal mandates increasingly dictated what must be taught. The increase of computers, cell phones with text messaging capability and other electronic devices made handwriting take a back seat.
For me, the key phrase here is "federal mandates increasingly dictated what must be taught." This needs to be put on a banner on all schools in response to teachers who insist that it is the parents who decide what gets taught. I've heard this many times in the past and while it is true that if parents form a large enough gang and scream loudly, local boards can make some small changes to some curriculum, what gets taught is largely determined at the state level and in Washington by the Dept. of Ed and their chief lobbyists the NEA. Also, federal mandates by implication mandate what doesn't get taught. (I would have been willing to forgive Ronald Reagan a lot of things if only he would have followed through on his promise the abolish the Dept. of Ed.)

Before applauding the return of handwriting classes, the article gives us this hint as to how bad writing education actually became:
But some districts, like Birmingham and Northville, have revamped and updated their handwriting programs in the past two years as part of their overall English Language Arts curriculum. Like Fraser schools, the districts use a program called Handwriting Without Tears.
Now, does this mean that handwriting was so bad it drove students to tears? If so, how can teachers, their teachers, politicians and even parents claim to be concerned about the proper education of children? They can't be. They may have strong emotions but a rational concern would require a thought process, not just feelings.

Supposedly, this problem is now coming to an end and if so I'm glad of it. I'm not a teacher so I really don't know how much good this program will do for kids not taught any phonics. I've always believed that the ability to hand write is critical to not only communication but for the entire thought organizing process.

Now if we can only get education out of government hands there might be a chance to reincorporate phonics back into reading curriculum and devise a more structured math curriculum.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

On The Lighter Side

Blogging has been light this week due to busy schedule. But I did force myself to take a few minutes to get caught up on my email and check out a few blogs. On one of them Pat Sajak has uncovered letters sent home from school to parents of kids who became famous. I especially like the one sent home to the parents of Harry Reid:

"We’re afraid we must ban Harry from all school sporting events. Every time one of our teams falls behind, he starts yelling, “It’s over! The game is lost!” It really is harming the morale of our players. I hope we can count on your cooperation."

(Blogging should resume Friday, hopefully.)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Ecosystems Must Be Permanent?

The Detroit Free Press of April 9th had a front page story titled "It's a wild, wild state of Warming" by Free Press writer Tina Lam. The whole article is a roundup of all the creatures in Michigan and elsewhere that are now enjoying an expansion of their habitat due to milder and somewhat shorter winters. Naturally, all of this is being framed as undesirable and blamed on man made global warming. The article makes a lot of unwarranted assumptions in my opinion and some of these by scientists.
Usually cautious scientists are using words like "dramatic" and "startling" to describe the changes.

"The speed of the change is provocative and somewhat frightening," said Myers, who has studied small mammals at the University of Michigan since the 1980s.
The assumption here is that climate is not supposed to change fast. According to this NAS 2005 report: "Large, abrupt climate changes have repeatedly affected much or all of the earth, locally reaching as much as 10*C change in 10 years. Available evidence suggests that abrupt climate changes are not only possible but likely in the future, potentially with large impacts on ecosystems and societies." They can happen in the future because they have happened in the past, i.e. they are a natural aspect of Earth's climate systems.

And, the same page (15) says: "We do not yet understand abrupt climate changes well enough to predict them." Are you listening Al Gore!

This idea that change should only happen slowly is repeated later in the article when the reporter says: "Creatures evolve over centuries as parts of complicated ecosystems. Take a link out of that system and bad things can happen." Bad? According to what standard? Droughts kill off lots of plant life as do floods and lightening burning down forests. Nature herself not only takes out links but destroys entire systems. To say that these events are "bad things" is to deny the most essential aspect of nature--change. That is irrational.

The expansion of species is in fact the creation of new and more ecosystems. This is not a bad thing. It is a very good thing, that is, if one really values life. Some may be long lasting but no ecosystem is permanent. The idea that all ecosystems that exist today should be preserved just as they are is unrealistic and immature.

It is true that some creatures take centuries to evolve. Why? Because they must learn how to survive sudden climate changes. Those that don't, perish.

This whole idea that ecosystems are some kind of super delicate idol that must be worshiped at all costs and that nothing must interfere with them is utter nonsense. Much hand wringing is made of creatures expanding their habitat and bringing disease with them. This is a dishonest statement since disease goes wherever other organisms go. It is condemning a species expansion on the grounds that it can't migrate disease free!

And what is disease? It is the existence of deadly pathogens which want to make an ecosystem of your and my bodies. This is not a good thing normally. It is the job of modern medicine to destroy such ecosystems.

Despite all the alarmism, about halfway through the article is this paragraph:
Most of the change is in winter and spring night temperatures, which have risen 3 to 5 degrees. Although the numbers are still within the range of natural variation, what has happened in Michigan matches changes globally. Researchers say they believe carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have led to the temperature change.
So the temperature changes are within natural variability and this article is supposed to be evidence that those numbers are not going to stay there. But no causal connection is demonstrated. They just "believe" man made global warming is the culprit.

There are other inanities in that article which I won't go into but there is one that demonstrates the level of scientific acumen of today's intellectuals.
Mice are food for larger animals; they distribute seeds and transport fungi that benefit trees and keep pests like gypsy moths and sawflies in check. If one species dies, the one that replaces it may have characteristics just different enough to throw the ecosystem out of whack.

One type of mouse could be a better distributor of maple seeds and the other may be better with acorns that produce oaks. One may carry diseases, like hantavirus and Lyme disease, more effectively than the other.
What is the scientific meaning of "out of whack"? What is in whack? What reporter Lam doesn't seem to understand is that these kind of alterations to ecosystems are happening all the time. They are natural. It is ludicrous to think that any given patch of nature must maintain the same number of Maples and Oaks all the time.

I also object to scientists and reporters who cater to the least educated of the public with sloppy unscientific phrases like "out of whack" and so on. If an educated public is a value, intellectuals should raise their own communication standards when addressing that public.

An article like this clearly shows why both science and education desperately need to be removed from the influence of government.

(Update 8pm, Lubos at The Reference Frame has a good post on global warming. In particular, a focus on Michael Mann's response to the claim that CO2 lags behind temperature increases by 800 years. I tend to agree with RF because I have heard of studies that show a 1900 and 2600 year lag.)

Friday, May 04, 2007

Ignorence of Capitalism

Another indication of how misunderstood capitalism is was observed when on Monday April 30th I turned on the Animal Planet station and saw a show called the Jeff Corwin Experience. I've never seen it before but he seems to have some enthusiasm for his work. Anyway, he was talking about a kill made by a Cheetah on the plain in Tanzania. He was explaining that the Cheetah and her cubs had to eat the kill as fast as they could because all around the fringe of the area were plenty of capitalistic predators coming in to steal the kill.

Mr. Corwin may know a lot about animals in general but he sure doesn't know much about the one at the top of the food chain, man, and his social requirements, laissez-faire capitalism. Stealing the property of another is not part of capitalism.

Too Much Time On His Hands

Evidently, Canadian Members of Parliament are getting bored. Yahoo News reports that MP Mike Lake has introduced legislation to put Bigfoot on the Canadian endangered species list. According to the article: (ht tip
"The debate over their (Bigfoot's) existence is moot in the circumstance of their tenuous hold on merely existing," reads a petition presented by Lake to parliament in March and due to be discussed next week.

"Therefore, the petitioners request the House of Commons to establish immediate, comprehensive legislation to affect immediate protection of Bigfoot," says the petition signed by almost 500 of Lake's constituents in Edmonton, Alberta.

A similar appeal has been made to the US Congress.
I predict that if a U.S. congressman takes up the cause he'll be not from Washington or Oregon but from California. Just a hunch.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Science Channel Announcement

The Science Channel has a week-long series starting this Sunday May 6th. called Space Week. Some photos and schedule are here. It will be on at 8PM ET and last three hours every night till 11PM. It looks like it'll be an in-depth look at space science.

You Tube has 2min videos here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

When "A" Should Be "Non-A"?

When A should be non-A or, when things should be other than what they are. I have never burdened my readers with a list of things that irritate me but recent sightings have Mike's Eyes reaching for the Visene.

First, there is an awful commercial on TV right now for Chrysler vans which shows a school bus loaded with wild and unruly kids. The lady bus driver flops down the screen to a DVD player on the ceiling and all the kids shut up and watch. A voice-over then says "When the kids get what they want you will get what you want." I wanted to scream at the TV "WANNA BET? I'll get what I want or those little brats aren't going anywhere. You got it backwards idiots!"

The theme of the commercial is, adults should cater to the whims of children and the best way to do that is with a Chrysler van. Yuk! If I wrote that commercial it would show a bus full of well behaved, polite children sitting mannerly in their seats. The bus driver would observe the manners and say something like "Your good behavior will be rewarded by watching this video during the ride." The theme of the commercial would be, the best way to reward your kids is with a Chrysler van. Instead of a commercial which shows adults how to avoid something they don't want, riotous brats, it would appeal to their desire for something they do want, well behaved kids. But I suppose that's why I don't write commercials.

Second, I have seen this a few times while standing in line at retail establishments and thought "How rude." Mrs. Eyes who works in retail, says it drives her crazy. It is the practice of customers who want you to wait on them while they are talking on a cell phone! Mrs. Eyes says she intensely wants to tell them "Please step aside until you are done talking on the phone." Alas, she can't do that. Management would take a dim view of it. Instead, she must stand there, smile and pretend she is not looking at a crude, ill mannered, sniveling, groveling, unwashed, uneducated, mindless chunk of a worthless human being. In short, she must pretend that A is non-A. I have a renewed respect for retail workers.

Lastly, what do you think would be my chances of getting Major League Baseball to get rid of the concepts 'sacrifice bunt' and 'sacrifice fly' and start calling them trades or maybe even concessions? Neither concept is a sacrifice. Both are in fact trades.

In the case of a sacrifice bunt, a runner is on first base with less than 2 outs, the batter bunts the ball, a weak hit so the ball doesn't go out of the infield, forcing the infielders to field the ball and throw him out at first base. This usually enables the runner on first to get to second base which is considered scoring position. The transaction here is the trading of an out in return for a scoring opportunity. It is a trade, not a sacrifice. The greater value is the scoring opportunity. We must remember that a sacrifice is the surrender of a value in return for a non-value, i.e. nothing. If the batter, with no one on base, were to bunt the ball in order to get thrown out at first, that would be a sacrifice. (And a short career)

The same is true of the sacrifice fly. With a runner on third base and less than 2 outs, the batter wants to put the ball in play, preferably to the outfield not caring if the ball is caught because the runner on third will score. The transaction is trading an out for a run scored. The greater value here is the run scored. It is a trade, not a sacrifice. Besides, the batter gets an RBI (run batted in).

There is another similar play in baseball that is not called a sacrifice and properly so. It is when there is a runner on third with less than two outs and the infielders play back. It is said that the defensive team is conceding the run in order to get a valued out. The greater value here is the out. Also, this is just the other half of the fly out trade mentioned above. The defensive team is agreeing to accept the offensive teams' trade of an out for a run scored.

So, the sacrifice bunt should be recorded by scorekeepers and broadcast by announcers as conceding an out for a scoring opportunity. The sacrifice fly should be identified as conceding an out for a run scored.

But some people may object that the first part of the transaction is a sacrifice because the batter is hurting himself by lowering his batting average due to deliberately hitting into an out. Not true. He is trading a slightly lower average in return for playing on a winning team. It's a trade.

Besides, it is wrong to divorce half of a transaction from the other half. If I bought a nice shirt for $40.00, could I say honestly that I sacrificed $40.00? (never mind your taste might move you to do so). Could the shirt maker honestly say he sacrificed a $40.00 shirt? No, you would tell me that honesty requires that I identify the entire transaction as a trade of value for value and no sacrifice took place.

Well, MLB needs to be as honest.