Take the Global Warming Taste Test

by Henry Farrell on May 5, 2005

There’s been a minor “controversy”:http://www.chriscmooney.com/blog.asp?Id=1774 recently over Naomi Oreskes’ literature study in _Science_. Oreske found that of 928 paper abstracts on climate change, taken from the ISI database, precisely none disagreed with the consensus view that anthropogenic climate change is real. Now Benny Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University says that after searching the same database, he’s found 34 article abstracts that “reject or doubt the view that human activities are the main drivers of the “the observed warming over the last 50 years.”” Peiser wrote a letter to _Science_, putting forward his alternate findings, which Science declined to publish; in Peiser’s view using “a contrived technicality as an excuse.” This has gotten some “attention”:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/05/01/wglob01.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/05/01/ixworld.html from the Telegraph, which hints at skulduggery and low standards in high scientific places.

Now, however, Tim Lambert has gotten Peiser to cough up the goods – the 34 (now, for some mysterious reason, 33) scientific abstracts that cast doubt on anthropogenic global warming. Tim is “inviting readers”:http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/science/peiser.html?seemore=y#more to go through the abstracts, and record their own conclusions. My take after reading them: the claim that Peiser’s 33 abstracts “reject or doubt the view …” is completely unsustainable. There’s one undoubted rejection of the anthropogenic case (no. 27) – but it comes from that well-known arbiter of peer-reviewed scientific neutrality, the ‘Ad Hoc Committee on Global Climate Issues’ of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. There are a few others that could be construed as scepticism (the explicit ones appear to be either outdated or else personal views), but the vast majority of the papers that Peiser cites don’t even begin to make any general arguments about global warming, let alone claims that the anthropogenic argument is bogus. Abstracts no. 12, 13 and 25 aren’t even _scientific research_; they appear to be postmodern inquiries into the construction of scientific authority. If I’d been asked (while wearing my hat as a member of GWU’s Center for International Science and Technology Policy) to review Peiser’s letter and evidence for possible publication in a peer-reviewed journal, I’d have rejected them summarily, and made some fairly warm comments in my rejection letter. I’d have done exactly the same if it had been making the opposite argument (that is if Peiser had used similar evidence to argue that there was support for global warming). Simply put, I don’t think Peiser’s evidence even begins to provide proper support for his claims. But, in fairness to Peiser, he’s made the evidence that he’s using publicly available, so you can go over to Tim’s place and take the taste-test for yourself.

Twilight of the Gods

by Chris Bertram on May 5, 2005

Nearly a week has passed since I endured the finale of Phyllida Lloyd’s Ring for the “English National Opera”:http://www.eno.org/home/index.php . I wrote up earlier episodes on CT, so I ought to complete the job. Kathleen Broderick was just amazingly good as Brunnhilde and the orchestra — under the direction of Paul Daniels — played very well. But producer Phyllida Lloyd should be shot, or worse.

Wagnerphobes are going to be mystified at the complaint that a production of the Ring was silly. “Isn’t it always?” Kieran might say. Well, up to a point. This production of Twilight of the Gods was really very silly indeed, but also trite, one-dimensional, incoherent and offensive. I have no objection to modern dress productions of opera or Shakespeare, to radical changes of location or period. That’s fine. If a producer can give us a new insight into a work of art, or make it come alive for a modern audience, that is ok by me. But this wasn’t anything like that.

It was gratuitous and exploitative. (This was signalled before the performance even started by the programme, which contained photographs of the Twin Towers burning, a severed hand amidst post-Tsunami debris, and cows being burnt in Britain’s last episode of foot-and-mouth disease.) The culmination of this urge to grab hold of any random news image or bit of popular culture for shock value was the portrayal of Brunnhilde as a suicide bomber in Act 3. In between we were treated to Siegfried as rhinestone cowboy and Brunnhilde as Judy Garland (opening of Act 1) and Hagen as game-show host (wedding in Act 2). Why does Judy Garland metamorphose into a Palestinian suicide bomber?! I have absolutely no idea.

Utter crap.

Horowitz and SUNY

by Jon Mandle on May 5, 2005

A few weeks ago, in the midst of the – um – mis-communication over his debate with David Horowitz, Michael Bérubé speculated:

I think we’re finally getting to the real reason David hates professors so much. It has nothing to do with our salaries or our working hours: he hates our freedom. Horowitz knows perfectly well that I can criticize the Cockburns and Churchills to my left and the Beinarts and Elshtains to my right any old time I choose, and that at the end of the day I’ll still have a job – whereas he has to answer to all his many masters, fetching and rolling over whenever they blow that special wingnut whistle that only far-right lackeys can hear. It’s not a very dignified way to live, and surely it takes its toll on a person’s sense of self-respect.

With respect to the issue of self-respect, here’s the giveaway: think about how often Horowitz complains that the intellectual left doesn’t take him seriously, doesn’t read his books, and so on. What’s weird about this, you’ll probably have noticed by now, is that American left intellectuals are just about the only thinkers who pay any attention to Horowitz at all.

I’ve tried to do my part by not paying attention to him as much as possible. But I did read the Chronicle’s article about him (previously subscription only, now free – I think). [Update: The Chronicle circulated a special link to make this article available free.] There were several chuckles, some of which others have noted –

“For 20 years, when I have written books on the left, the left has ignored me,” he says. “It’s just what Stalin did to Trotsky.”

He claims he would make more money as a liberal, too, “at least three times,” what he earns now. According to the center’s most recent available tax form, Mr. Horowitz received an annual salary of $310,167 in 2003. He declines to give his current income, but in addition to his salary, Mr. Horowitz receives about $5,000 for each of the 30 to 40 campus speeches he gives each year.

“Someone would have made a film out of it [his autobiographical Radical Son] if I was a leftist,” he says bitterly.

Bérubé’s speculation receives some support: “If he were liberal, he contends, he could be an editor at the Times or a department chairman at Harvard University.” And the author summarizes Horowitz’s outlook this way: “While he wants desperately to be included in the academy — for professors to assign his books and invite him to speak in classes — he seems eager to punish it, in part, for turning a cold shoulder to his work.”

But the real news to me was this tidbit:

The academic bill of rights may have its genesis back in Mr. Horowitz’s grade school, but it really started to take shape after a December 2002 meeting with some fellow Republicans in New York. He met with Thomas F. Egan, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York System; Peter D. Salins, the system’s provost; and Candace de Russy, a member of the board, to discuss the problem of leftist indoctrination in college classrooms and how to solve it.

“I was among sort of friends,” Mr. Horowitz says. “It allowed me to think aloud.”

No surprise that Candace de Russy recently urged the SUNY Board to adopt a version of Horowitz’s “Academic Bill of Rights.” I can’t wait until our own aggrieved creationists come out of the woodwork.

Janice Rogers Brown Revisited

by Kieran Healy on May 5, 2005

Judge Janice Rogers Brown is back in the news, with “Mark Schmitt”:http://markschmitt.typepad.com/decembrist/2005/05/the_fortas_fili_2.html and various members of the “Volokhs”:http://www.volokh.com discussing her promotion prospects. Henry has already “noted her fondness”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/05/04/happy-days/ for self-help guru Sam Beckett. Below the fold I reproduce a post of mine from 2003 about “Brown’s rant”:http://www.constitution.org/col/jrb/00420_jrb_fedsoc.htm — there’s really no other word for it — to the Federalist Society, delivered at the University of Chicago Law School in 2000. Mark Schmitt links to a “similar outing”:http://www.communityrights.org/PDFs/8-12-00IFJ.pdf from around the same time. She should have taken it on the comedy club circuit.

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Election prediction

by Daniel on May 5, 2005

Quickly quickly, here’s my prediction. I’m using vote shares from the IG betting market, because I think that “The Wisdom of Crowds” probably works quite well for mass estimation problems like this, but maybe not so good at projecting the results of its mass estimation onto a difficult electoral college problem. So I’m working on the assumption of 32.5% Conservative, 37% Labour and 24% LibDem and using my own Allocated Regional Swing model, documented here last week.

That gives me the following seat predictions:

Labour: 388
Conservative: 190
LibDem: 53.

Labour majority 130, and presumably Blair decides that it was a referendum on the war (and the lying about the war) after all.

Note that the LibDems get royally screwed by first-past-the-post; they get a swing of 5% and pick up three seats. I have a really ace triangle plot showing this but I don’t know how to upload images on the new WordPress site (Update: thanks Henry!)
Excel rules ok
I’ll do a proper post after the election explaining how I got it so wrong. Meanwhile, below the fold is my list of possible seat changes; it’s longer than Martin Baxter’s, but this is mainly because the list is drawn from a slightly different model; I wanted one as long as would be possible consistent with my overall predictions to be a bit more interesting.

Now I’m off to vote (LibDem, if anyone cares. Sorry Dobbo, you’re a really nice guy but you’re not standing for the Frank Dobson party. You’re standing for the Labour Party and that means Blair).
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