L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

01 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Friday Olive Tree Blogging

For some reason our olive trees aren't well laden with olives the way they have been in past years. Still we have some and they are ripening nicely as this photo shows
20080801 Friday Olive Tree Blogging
As always you can click on the image to see it enlarged and are invited to visit the olive tree blogging archives to remind yourself of how nice olive trees are.

01 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

100 Months of Mockery

End of worldI've always felt that Global Warming folks (and enviroMENTALists) of all sorts are related to fundaMENTAList religious folks of all stripes, indeed I talked about that in my essay earlier this week. Gaia is just their Goddess and center of their religion the way that Muslims vernerate Allah, Christians Jesus etc. Further evidence emerges in that the crackpot guy with a sandwich board proclaiming "The End of The World is Nigh" appears to have gone all modern and environMENTALly friendly. (No I'm not referring to the woolly headed blog post I nicked the picture from,) I'm referring to the 100 months website and associated werbling.

Allegedly if we don't repent our evil ways and curtail our cardbon dioxide emissions in 100 months time then the human race if not the entire earth is DOOMED! Or so claims the chief green board holder in the Grauniad today:

Time is fast running out to stop irreversible climate change, a group of global warming experts warns today. We have only 100 months to avoid disaster. Andrew Simms explains why we must act now - and where to begin

And he goes on to say:

Because in just 100 months' time, if we are lucky, and based on a quite conservative estimate, we could reach a tipping point for the beginnings of runaway climate change. That said, among people working on global warming, there are countless models, scenarios, and different iterations of all those models and scenarios. So, let us be clear from the outset about exactly what we mean.

The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere today, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, is the highest it has been for the past 650,000 years. In the space of just 250 years, as a result of the coal-fired Industrial Revolution, and changes to land use such as the growth of cities and the felling of forests, we have released, cumulatively, more than 1,800bn tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Currently, approximately 1,000 tonnes of CO2 are released into the Earth's atmosphere every second, due to human activity. Greenhouse gases trap incoming solar radiation, warming the atmosphere. When these gases accumulate beyond a certain level - often termed a "tipping point" - global warming will accelerate, potentially beyond control.

What I think I understand from the first paragraph is that in 100 months (at most i.e. sometime before 1 Dec 2016) we could start the runaway climate change thing. and the second quoted paragraph is where our greeny starts to explain why. Unfortunately as Tim notes, CO2 is not the most prevalent greenhouse gas either in terms of how much is in the atmosphere or how much greenhousing it does; water vapour beats it on both counts. This is a bit of an embarrassment but it isn't the worst problem.

That would be what seems to me to be the killer issue. If we have the most CO2 in the last 650,000 years then does that mean that CO2 levels were higher before? Err well yes in fact it does. At various points in the dinosaur age and possibly later CO2 is believed to have been much much higher than today and yet we're here in an environment with (relatively) low CO2. So the run-away greenhouse effect probably isn't as irreversable as claimed (see figure 7 in Lord Monckton's aritcle and related text).

Beyond that the models that predict global warming via radiative forcing from GHGs don't seem to be holding up well right now. That same article I linked above also shows the predicted temperature vs altitude/latitude graphs of different forcing mechanisms, shows them combined in 4 different ways and shows how the atmosphere today doesn't actually resemble any of them. One reason for this could be that CO2 is not as evenly distributed at altitude in the way people expected. Anthony Watts has a post about the AIRS satellite detectors where the team writes:

We are still in the validation phase in developing this new product. It will be part of the Version 6 data release, but for now those of us working on it are intensively validating our results using in situ measurements by aircraft and upward looking fourier transform IR spectrometers (TCCON network and others).

The AIRS CO2 product is for the mid-troposphere. For quite some time it was accepted theory that CO2 in the free troposphere is “well-mixed”, i.e., the difference that might be seen at that altitude would be a fraction of a part per million (ppmv). Models, which ingest surface fluxes from known sources, have long predicted a smooth (small)variation with latitude, with steadily diminishing CO2 as you move farther South. [...]

Since our results are at variance with what is commonly accepted by [t]he scientific community, we must work especially hard to validate them.

In other words we can now guess that the reason why the models are wrong is that CO2 is not uniform, hence leading to Garbage In, Garbage Out. And hence if you aren't a global warming true believer, a requirement to get the science right before taking actions that will impoverish the planet.

That kind of logic doesn't deter the true envirMENTAList though and our writer come up with some absolute beauts in the "economically/politically clueless" department.e.g.

In terms of what is possible in times of economic stress and isolation, Cuba provides an even more embarrassing example to show up our national tardiness. In a single year in 2006 Cuba rolled-out a nationwide scheme replacing inefficient incandescent lightbulbs with low-energy alternatives. Prior to that, at the end of the cold war, after losing access to cheap Soviet oil, it switched over to growing most of its food for domestic consumption on small scale, often urban plots, using mostly low-fossil-fuel organic techniques. Half the food consumed in the capital, Havana, was grown in the city's own gardens. Cuba echoed and surpassed what America achieved in its push for "Victory Gardening" during the second world war.

Cuba is one of the worlds less functioning economies. It is also a dictatorship so it can do things like force replacement of lightbulbs that politicians in other countries don't do without getting a certain amount of negative feedback. Somehow one suspects that Cubans grow their own food because they (and their coutnry) are too poor to import it or grow it efficiently. When (not if) there is a crop failire for some reason Cuba is going to starve following in the footsteps of it's fellow communist state - N Korea. It is also
worth noting that Cuba's population density is less thanhalf the UKs (102 vs 246).

And then he proposes a windfall tax on energy companies (who are going to pass this tax onto whom?), a national insulation scheme to enrich polish construction workers and what appears to be a ban on cars with a single occupant. Not to mention a ban on coal power stations, designating some oil as 'nonburnable' and other weirdnesses without suggesting nuclear energy. All very dictatorial but pretty much guaranteed to push the UK into the sort of recession that leads to mass emigration (a la Irish potato famine) or in situ starvation (ditto).

This is the national equivalent of amputating a leg because it might have virulant cancer. When human patients get that sort of advice they ask to see the X-rays and to get a second opinion. Apparently the human race is not allowed to do the same thing. It will be fun to see how things progress over the next 100 months if, as I suspect, the 'science' of global warming proves to have as many holes as I believe it to have.

01 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Topless Sunbathing

The Torygraph had an article yesterday about something close to home, namely the scenic beaches of the Riviera and how the mobile scenery on them is become less picturesque:

According to reports coming from France, sunbathers on the Cote d'Azur, who once adopted a "laissez faire" attitude to nakedness, have turned against displaying too much bare flesh.

Even regulars at La Voile Rouge beach club on Pampelonne's Beach, in St. Tropez, where it all started shortly after the actress' film And God Created Woman, prefer to keep their top on.

If I'd been in town (I was driving to Milano) I'd have been forced to do an onsite inspection to verify the truth or otherwise of this statement. It has to be said that I don't generally go down to the beach in the summer months because it takes forever to get through the traffic jams and the beaches tend to be heaving with humanity when you do make it down there, not to menton the reasons stated by The Remittance Man so I can't comment on it too knowledgably.

However I'm not completely out of touch and in the interests of setting the record straight I will note that although topless sunbathing may be becoming less popular, it isn't dying out. In May there were plenty of breasts to be seen and I doubt that the increase in total numbers will have reduced the proportion. It is true that when I was a wee nipper taken by the parents to Normandy and Brittany there was a lot more bared breasts than you see today but the change seems to have been a gradual one.

The question is why? The Torygraph suggests a combination of fashion, cancer fear and fear of offending muslim immigrants. That latter one should really have the "offending" omitted to stand a chance of being accurate. I suspect the answer is all three. Due to cancer scares fashions are changing to more clothing and less lying on the beach turning into a tomato. Not completely, you still see people with the bonzed skin that means they'll have the kind of leathery skin associated with orangutangs later in life, but in general people are becoming less bronzed.

So how about the fear of immigrants? not their sensibilities that is but the fear that they will decide to follow you down a backstreet and rape you. Possibly. Certainly I note that you tend to get a better scenery ratio in less frequented beaches. But given the revealing nature of your regular bikini I'm not sure this really holds up either. We're not seeing "burkinis" or other tents. Nor am I (at least) noting a lack of bared midriffs or tight skirts/shorts/jeans off the beach. So probably not that either to a great extent.

All in all one suspects the entire tale to be made up by journalists in London working on the "Sour Grapes" principle.

03 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Further Adventures With Search Engines

The latest Jim Baen's Universe is up and, as always, I go to read Eric Flint's ebook/anti-DRM column first. This one is entitled "Adventures with a Search Engine" and is where he explains, as he has done before, why non-DRM ebooks at reasonable price don't get pirated. As always with Mr Flint I recommend reading the whole thing (I'll wait), however if your time is too valuable to click on the link (and if so why are you reading blogs?) I'll summarise the bit I want to discuss.

Eric's Article

One of the strawman arguments made by the enemies of progress is that without DRM if all books are available electronically the entire industry will collapse:

The answer universally advanced by advocates of DRM is that doom would be upon us—unless the most stringent and harsh measures were put in place to protect copyright from the inevitable horde of slavering online pirates who would soon plunder all the works of legitimate authors, drive publishing houses into bankruptcy, and inaugurate a literary Dark Age.

How could it be otherwise? they argue. If books are readily available for free due to the ease of pirating unencrypted electronic text, why would anyone continue to pay for them? Adieu, the livelihood of legitimate authors! Adieu, the profits—nay, the very wherewithal—of honest publishers!

And then he suggests that we could perhaps run an experiment. Since all of Mr Flint's own works are available electronically right now then obviously it will be simple for someone to pirate them and put the free copies up on the web for everyone to download. So he does a google search for "Eric Flint" and finds that apart from places where his books are available for sale (or legitimate free download) there are no outlets his books can be obtained electronically that are within the top 50 or so results.

He also goes into a bit about the cost of an individuals time to show that cheap goods are rarely stolen because it simply isn't worth it. Hence the conclusion should be that if ebooks are made available at a reasonable price without DRM then they won't be stolen.

My Researches

Intuitively all this made sense but I was curious so I went and repeated the search and yes he's quite right, indeed since I get 100 results back at once by default I confirm that even in items 51-100 it holds almost true - a link to "torrent reactor" showed up around item 70 with the following relevant content:

Added Description Size Provider Dl's Section Health
08/03 [100% seeded] Full version download of eri... 549 Mb Usenet 493 Other
Torrent health
08/03 Torrent eric flint 523 Mb DownloadNova 319 Other
Torrent health
08/03 eric flint Full 156 Mb DownloadNova 465 Other
Torrent health
08/03 Full version eric flint 263 Mb Download Professional 396 Other
Torrent health
08/03 eric flint Full download 123 Mb DownloadNova 140 Other
Torrent health

When I narrowed it down a bit with words like ebook and free and download pretty much the same applied. Oh and the listing above? You have to register at the sites the links go to to be allowed to actually get the content. Maybe it works but it's quite a lot of effort and I didn't bother trying.

I also went to yahoo and did similar searches and then to the new cuil engine to search for Eric Flint. In all cases the search engine showed only approved vendors until you got way down (if at all). I went to the Pirate Bay and found one hit for a 1000 book SF compendium that includes some Flint books (I suspect the free ones because that would be easiest).

And just for the heck of it while at the pirate bay I also looked for various other Baen authors and found that most if not all hits were for stuff from the various Baen CDs and the free library, although David Weber's "Armageddon Reef" from Tor did also show up - the sequel to that did not (though given time I expect it will). So I broadened my search. How about someone like Charles Stross? Mr Stross is not a Baen author but has quite a lot of his work available in DRM crippleware at prices ranging from acceptable to are you kidding? Many of his older works were available but his latest couple "Halting State" and "Saturn's Children" were not. I should note that I didn't attempt to download the torrent and see if what it claimed to have was actually what was there in a decent format or even whether the torrent had sufficient seeds to download. Recalling all the fun with scribd last year I searched there - result: no Flint, 2 Stross at least one of which (Accelerando) is publicly available anyway.

So then I tried an author whose work is not legally available as an ebook: J K Rowling. Google shows many hits for Harry Potter ebook. Scribd showed up various Harry Potter books and HP2, at least, seemed to be a decent copy in the quick skim I gave it. Over at the pirate bay there are also many versions including the Harry Potter 1-7 Reference Quality eBook Collection
This is a Reference Quality Electronic Book Version of the American Scholastic Hard Cover books.

Harry Potter Series 1-7 Boxed Set
ISBN-10: 0545044251
ISBN-13: 978-0545044257

Completely NEW OCR scans.
Completely NEW Graphic scans.
EXACT layout and page sizes.
EVERY font, all fonts embedded.
EVERY word on EVERY line.
PROOFED 3 times.
UPDATED with the latest corrections from The Harry Potter Lexicon.
ULTIMATE reference for any Potter fan.

This release celebrates the 1st
Anniversary of the publishing of
The Deathly Hallows
21/07/2007 - 21/07/2008
Assuming the description is accurate (I didn't download to verify) then this is the sort of high quality electronic version that Amazon should be selling for the kindle, but which is in fact available for free and which has at writing 116 seeders implying that it is pretty popular. It is worth noting one of the comments below this torrent:

wow. this is absolutely amazing. Now I can really enjoy my books even when they are at home!


Drawing all this together and what have we learned? Well mostly what we seem to have learned is that there is a demand for ebooks and that if the publisher doesn't meet that demand then others will do so. Furthermore there is probably a continuum. If no ebooks exist then many high quality free versions of popular books will show up, if the publisher sells the ebooks with DRM at high prices then some bootleg copies will occur and if the publisher makes the books available for low cost (and without DRM though it is hard to control for that) then very few if any bootleg copies will be made available. We also note that it is easy to find ebooks the only question is whether what we find is legal or not.

All this is, of course, diametrically opposite to the claims of the "ebook bad" crowd. Contrary to the claims of DRM proponants, not to mention the paper only folks, and agreeing 100% with Eric Flint's hypothesis: the best way to avoid having bootleg ebooks available appears to be to offer them for a reasonable price in an easy to find location.

04 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Climate Change & Late Crops

As far as I can tell harvests in Europe are doing fine this year; taking a look at the FWI site in the UK there are the usual concerns about yields and prices but no real moaning about bad weather delaying harvests etc. etc. On the other hand across the pond in the USA we have a rather different story. Reading the USDA report for last week we find statements like:
Crops are late. And the further north you go the later they are. All of this is due to the nice cold winter and spring our American cousins had. If it turns out that those of us who think solar activity is a likely cause of global climate change rather than humans then we've got problems. As noted by lots of people all over the place the sun has been very very quiet this year instead of bursting with sunspots as it should be.

The sun has done this before and when it has done so it has corresponded with colder than normal temperatures - the Maunder Minimum coincided with the "Little Ice Age" of the 17th century, the Dalton minimum in the early 19th centuty also corresponded with lower temperatures and longer winters (and it didn't help that a volcano erupted causing the "year without summer" in 1816).

All this is worrying for those of us who fear that we may be re-entering a Dalton minimum period and what is even more worrying is that german researchers report that the last ice age 13000 years ago kicked off in a year or so (Hat tip AnEnglishman's Castle):

The word irony would be insufficient to define the situation (portrayed by John Ringo in The Last Centurion) where the world's leaders remain panicked about global warming while the world enters a new ice age.

04 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Even More Adventures With Search Engines

I posted a link to my expansion of Eric Flint's Search Engine experiment at Baen's Bar and have received some interesting feedback. The feedback doesn't really invalidate the original but the picture is somewhat more mixed. It was pointed out that
  1. If you use tools other than standard web pages/search tools (emule, IRC etc.) then again it is easier and that books that I mentioned as not being findable show up
  2. Searching for 'torrent' helps to find bootleg copies using Google etc.
  3. J K Rowling / Harry Potter is perhaps a but too much of a best seller compared to others in my sample
I'm prepared to ignore 1) and to some extent 2) for a couple of reasons. Firstly I believe that the average internet user will not know about BitTorrent, eMule, IRC etc. This may not be completely true but I think it is valid enough when combined with my second reason. That is that the quality of the product available on these parts of the internet is questionable so would-be readers will tend to go elsewhere if there is an alternative.

In other words I'm going to work on the fairly well proven observation that poor students and others with a lot of time and little money tend to head for these areas. Older, richer, busier folks - the ones that tend to buy books as opposed to borrowing them from friends/libraries etc. - will prefer to buy at a reasonable price from a recognized brand/site. I offer as further justification that Amazon has offered browsers the ability to buy new from Amazon or used from various 3rd parties for years without losing out on the deal. Many people really will buy new reputable electrons if they are available at a reasonable price because the hassle of figuring out what less-reputable free version is actually usable is not worth the time and effort it takes.

However I did the following test - a google search for "author name" torrent for a variety of author names to get a feel for how many bootleg versions were around. For the same author I also did a search for "author name" and "author name ebook" to see if the sites selling the works legitimately were present (and I had a quick look at prices). The results are tabulated below (and I took into account point 3 by increasing significantly the number of authors I considered:
Legal Ebooks
Ebook prices
Eric Flint
13,300 All
Free, $5
Much of his backlist available for free and widely torrented
John Ringo
16,400 All
Free, $5
Much of his backlist available for free and widely torrented
Dave Freer
84 All
Free, $5
Torrents mostly of the free Baen CD(s) with his books on
Elizabeth Moon
18,300 Most (all?)
Torrents mostly of books I know to be DRM crippled
David Weber
40,200 Almost all
Much of his backlist available for free and widely torrented
Charles Stross
14,700 Most
Some torrents just include the free Accelerando but many seem to have his other works.
John Scalzi
14,300 2
Cannot buy an ebook. 2 widely available for free. Torrents of others available
Jerry Pournelle
13,100 Most
One obvious ebook omission - Lucifer's Hammer - readily available as a torrent
Robert Heinlein
40,700 Some
Some of his best known works conspicuous by their unavailability as legal ebooks
Isaac Asimov
71,700 Some
Some of his best known works conspicuous by their unavailability as legal ebooks
Francis Hamit
23 Most (all?)
Not sure if more than 3 torrent links are relevant
Nora Roberts
83,500 Yes lots
Best seller. many legal ebooks. Odd google result: searching for "nora roberts" torrent gave 83,500 whereas nora roberts torrent returned just 99
Georgette Heyer
4,580 Very few
Very prolific author. 3 ebook titles for purchase
Kristan Higgins 6
New author very few titles, all (most?) as ebooks. No actual torrents found
Anne Stuart 692  Yes
A lot of legal ebooks available - but prolific author
J K Rowling
127,000 No
Best seller. no legal ebooks

*Torrents is the number N in 'Results 1 - 10 of about N for "author name" torent

So what do we find?
  1. All major authors are already available on Bit Torrent.
    1. In many cases works that are not legally available as ebooks are readily available as torrents (it should be noted that some torrents are of audiobooks not ebooks).
    2. DRMed ebooks were noticeable by their presence on the torrent losts
    3. This applies to new books and older books.
    4. For the most part if you search for author or author ebook then, if ebooks are available, the ebook sites show up first.
    5. Only when legal sites are not visible to the illegal ones show up
  2. If you are a new/little known author then you probably don't have (m)any torrents.


The battle to stop bootlegged ebooks has been lost even before many books have an official electronic edition. However if you are willing to pay for ebooks then in many cases they can be bought and most backlist works are available for under $10. Only new releases seem to be sold for $20 or so.

I did some special additional searches. Searches for free versions of reccently published books (e.g. John Ringo's Last Centurion, Stross' Saturn's Children) were successful (thogh I didn't do the download to verify the actual state of the text) but a good bit trickier. I note that Ringo's work has been available as an eARC for some months while Stross' is newly released as an ebook. Ringo's book is currently available for $5, Stross for $20. The DRMness in Saturn's Children does not seem to have been a deterrent. The known $5 pricing of Last Centurion may be a deterrent because it resulted in (almost) no torrents of the eARC despite it retailing for $15.

If you are a new author and/or not a best seller then probably your books won't be torrented. This is probably a bad thing as it means you don't get publicity and hence you also don't get sales.

05 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Environmental Censors

As was picked up by a bunch of people in the British Blogosphere a certain Alex Lockwood, "Lecturer in Journalism at the University of Sunderland, specialising in the practice and theory of environmental journalism" made a rather silly proposal wherein he demanded some sort of censorship on climate change.

He does seem to have realized that this was not perhaps the brightest thing to do and is now recanting but his 15 seconds of blogospheric fame (or infamy?) does mean that interested bloggers with nothing better to do are now looking to see what other idiocies he may have proclaimed (e.g. Bishop Hill here). It doesn't seem to be quite cricket, as it were, to keep kicking the poor man when he's down so I'm not going to, apart from anything else I'm probably at least as guilty of writing utter bollocks.

Instead I'm going to take a few links from his site and other right on locations such as the grauniad to show that the poor man is very far from alone in his initial idea that the climate change argument must be stiffled in favour of the AGW position. First is a CJR piece that talks about how journalists should shape the debate:

These reporters are in the advance guard of an army of journalists around the world who are covering what Time magazine has dubbed the “War on Global Warming.” Journalists will play a key role in shaping the information that opinion leaders and the public use to judge the urgency of climate change, what needs to be done about it, when and at what costs. It is a vast, multifaceted story whose complexity does not fit well with journalism’s tendency to shy away from issues with high levels of uncertainty and a time-frame of decades, rather than days or months. [...]

Climate change will require thoughtful leadership and coordination at news organizations. Editors will need to integrate the specialty environment, energy, and science reporters with other beats that have a piece of the story—everything from local and national politics to foreign affairs, business, technology, health, urban affairs, agriculture, transportation, law, architecture, religion, consumer news, gardening, travel, and sports. “News organizations are increasingly asking what other beats are going to be affected by climate,” says veteran environment reporter Bud Ward, who edits a respected online journalism site, The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media. He notes that even Sports Illustrated has tackled climate change and its potential impact on everything from cancelled games to baseball bats. But, Ward worries, “it will be extremely difficult to explain the policy side of the debate” in the months ahead. Unless editors push hard for it, “there’s generally not the time or space for that kind of explanatory coverage.”

Some of the suggestions are sensible (not hyping things, not simplistically blaming AGW for everything etc.) but there is also:

Choose your experts carefully. Experts are always a minefield, so the Times’s Revkin has a simple rule: when writing about climate science, seek comments from respected scientific experts who have published in major journals in the field, not the experts offered by various policy think tanks and interest groups with axes to grind.

The era of “equal time” for skeptics who argue that global warming is just a result of natural variation and not human intervention seems to be largely over—except on talk radio, cable, and local television. Last year, a meteorologist at CBS’s Chicago station did a special report entitled “The Truth about Global Warming.” It featured local scientists discussing the hazards of global warming in one segment, well-known national skeptics in another, and ended with a cop-out: “What is the truth about global warming?…It depends on who you talk to.” Not helpful, and not good reporting.

This is effectively a recommendation for censorship and precisely what Mr Lockwood picks up on. As various people have noted the idea that "scientific experts" do not have "axes to grind" or conflicts of interest is laughable. If it turns out that we can map Terrestrial climate to some combination of long term oceanic trends and solar output (for example) then a lot of scientists are going to be out of a job. The more outspoken scientists are particularly vulnerable to this claim since many of them have spent a decade or more studying topics that are based on the assumption that AGW is happening. If it isn't then their entire life's work is relegated to the sort of backwater reserved for non-relativistic models of gravity or non-quantum models of the atom. In any number of areas of science it is believed that revolutionary change only happens once the leaders of the previous generation of science have retired, the same could well be true for climatology.

The article also links to a page of called "Everything You Wanted to Know About Climate Change" which totally omits the sceptics side of things. This is bad for the journalists and others who blindly follow it but it is in fact extremely bad for both the environmentalist cause and for media organizations that follow it. The problem is that when you only read one side of the argument you render yourself open to being blindsided by the other picking up on details that are wrong. Moreover you render yourself liable to loss of trust because your audience can use google etc. to find alternative viewpoints. It is worth considering the reaction of biology to the various alternatives to evolution where numerous biologists go and read the alternative viewpoint and then publish articles linking to and mocking its more absurd claims. AGW believers don't do that, they prefer to ignore the skeptics instead.

Another article responding to that CJR piece says:

[...I]n today's media landscape, each is obscured by a choking amount of misinformation and FUD. (If there's a flaw in Russell's analysis, it's that short shrift is given to the web's ability to knit all the kooks, er... skeptics, into a pretty powerful wrecking ball that can really damage public understanding. It's like rabid, Limbaugh–style talk radio, gone virulently word-of-mouth. It'll take a lot of good journalism and a very large, empowered, web-savvy army of climate activists to wrestle this beast to the ground -- but that's another post entirely.) It's my sincere hope that the journalistic profession enjoys its finest moment in the years just ahead -- that all that storytelling talent rises to the challenge, doggedly, relentlessly pursues the truth, and delivers it straight, no chaser, to a public that needs it far more than they currently realize.

Another person who seems keen on labeling all AGW critics as "kooks" and heaping scorn on them without actualyl responding to twhat they say is Mark Lynas. In this article he prefers to call all us skeptics the lackeys of sinister right-wing US think tanks. I don't have a problem with that as a part of the article but the article is a classic of its type in that it doesn't rebutt the arguments these think tanks make (or sponsor) but just calls their impartiality into question. Turn about is fair play. If AGW is exposed as a fraud what will happen to Mark Lynas and other environmental activists? It is perhaps a worthwhile question.

Mr Lynas is not he only Grauniad contributor to prefer to play the man rather than the ball in climate change issues. His colleague George Monbiot recently concluded that he wanted Channel 4 to be silenced in an article that mostly criticised the creators of the Great Global Warming Swindle:

By broadcasting programmes that appear to manipulate and even fabricate evidence, [Channel 4] has impeded efforts to forestall the 21st century's greatest threat. For how much longer will this be allowed to continue? And for how much longer will Ofcom forbid itself to state that a programme is misleading?

To be factually honest through Monbiot does make some attempt to pick holes in the science too so in this case at least he gets a kind of pass. But IMO he would have been better advised to omit the "allowed to continue?" rhetorical question. The answer to that should be obvious: for ever.

Update: This site goes for the charming comparison of climate change skeptics with holocaust deniers in the process of stating that no skeptical comment will be permitted at the site (H/T Devils Kitchen)

06 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Missing Tools for AGW Fools

So I've been rendered ever more curious by the way that enviroMENTAList types get their "end of the world is nigh" story out. Thanks to Alex Lockwood a whole vein of greenshirt propaganda has entred my life and it is quite amusing. Following a link from the charming post of one Alex "AGW=Holocaust" Skiffen, I come to the Grist site where they present arguments to counter skeptics. Some of these arguments are reasonable, it is true that Climate Change Skeptics are a varied bunch and some of them are nuttier than a fruitcake with extra nuts. So countering those arguments is not so bad. But beyond the "Silly" section we move into more serious territory such as that infamous hockeystick. Here the argument comes across a little weaker:

The Canadians, McIntyre and McKitrick, then published a paper purporting to uncover serious methodological flaws and problems with data sets used.

Everything from this point on is hotly disputed and highly technical.

All the claims made by M&M have been rebutted in detail by many other climatologists; M&M insist they are completely in error. All of it fits nicely with the expectations of both sides of the global warming issue, both the conspiracy theorists and the champions of peer review.

The rebuttals have been objected to and the objections denied and the denials rejected. The specific issues are highly technical and require considerable time and energy to fully understand. [...]

If you want to evaluate the issue for yourself, and do it fairly, you must read the copious material at the sites mentioned above. You must also be prepared to dig into dendrochronology and statistical analysis.

Where does that leave the rest of us -- you know, the ones with lives?

I confess immediately that the technical issues are over my head. I don't know PCA from R^2 from a hole in the ground. But the most critical point to remember, if you are concerned about this for its impact on the validity of AGW theory, is that the fight is over a single study, published eight years ago, focused on paleoclimate. It verges on historical minutia. If you feel the study may be tainted, simply discard it.

In other words "Don't let troublesome mathematics trouble your tiny little brain, I never let it bother mine. It's really complicated and you should just trust us instead of actually wasting hours of your precious time actually educating yourself on statistics." In fairness they do at least link to climate audit so you can have a look but they don't make any attempt to explain what the problems were in simple langauge.

The article on Urban Heat Islands is equally ribtickling:

What's more, NASA GISS takes explicit steps in their analysis to remove any such spurious signal by normalizing urban station data trends to the surrounding rural stations. It is a real phenomenon, but it is one climate scientists are well aware of and have taken any required steps to remove its influence from the raw data.

Except that when you look at Surface Stations, Climate Audit etc. you realize that these stepts to remove UHI are, to be kind, less than completely error free. Furthermore UHI is only one of the problems with the global surface temperature records but they don't bother to mention (as far as I can see) all the other problems with the raw data that have become apparent such as canvas buckets, non-existant stations, poor siting, sloppy measuring etc.

The article concludes with two pictures, one shwoing night lights, the other a GISS(?) temperasture anomaly graph showing that the heating is taking place outside the most urbanized places. This is good propaganda at first site but not so good when you look at the details. What neither picture shows is where the measuring stations are and what the grid sizes are. Even in mostly empty bits of terrain there are towns and villages and it seems that many surface measuring stations are placed near such bits of human habitation rather than out in the middle of nowhere. Combine this with the simple observation that towns and villages frequently expand to surround weather stations that were previously outside the built up area and we have a situation where the UHI effect could occur even in "rural" areas. Furthermore it isn't quite as simple as counting the number of street lights. Growth also tends to combine with an increase in traffic and of things like sewage plants. Since both airfields and sewage works seem to popular places to put weather stations the increase in their throughput and hence subsequent tarmaccing, expansion etc. may well adversely impact the weather station. In other words the UHI article is just as shoddy when it comes to looking into the details and relies on the broad brush.

The article on "Warming stopped in 1998" could stand a little updating. Written in November 2006 it therefore fails to mention the dramatic cooling of the last year or so and fails to mention all the recent scientific findings that show that current global temperatures are somewhere around 1980. This is amusing because the article goes on about cherry picking start dates and suggests that 1978 is a good date (because it's the start of UAH/RSS satellite measurements). If then trend was up to 1998 then down it is quite possible that we'll shortly see that global temperatures that are about the same as or lower than they were 30 years ago and that means that the satellite trend will soon show a negative trend over the whole timespan.

I could go on but I think I've pointed out the problems in that site so I'll move on to the Climate Change Education site which offers teachers things they can do to get their victimsstudents involved. I'll ignore all the fluffy areas and go straight for the area where the best chance of finding tools to do your own analysis should be found: the university level math section. Unfortunately there is only one statistics related topic and that has to do with risk calculation. It's not a bad investigation (and the initial statement on "Post Normal Science" has a section that I think we can all agree on:

Post-normal science, on the other hand, acknowledges that while we’re doing our normal science, some groups want or need to know the answers well before normal science has resolved the deep inherent uncertainties surrounding the problem at hand. Such groups have a stake in the outcome and want some way of dealing with the vast array of uncertainties, which, by the way, are not all equal in the degree of confidence they carry. Compared to applied science and professional consultancy, post-normal science carries both higher decision stakes and higher systems uncertainty[...]

The climate change debate — particularly its policy components — falls clearly into the post-normal science characterization and will likely remain there for decades, which is the minimum amount of time it will take to resolve some of the larger remaining uncertainties surrounding it[.]

However while cost-benefit risk analysis is interesting it doesn't help us grow new minds that can investigate the data and analyses we have seen so far. Statistics is a complex field (as a studious amateur I get lost in some of the more complex reasoning about PCA although unlike the Grist writer I do know the difference between it and a hole in the ground) and it is very easy to make serious errors. Surely it would be sensible for climate change activists to create a bunch of statistically educated folk who do know the difference between PCA and a hole and who could therefore take the arguments of McIntyre, McKitterick & co. on. Indeed the total lack of statistical topics at that site (a google search shows that this is the ONLY statistics topic anywhere on the site) simply adds to the impression that enviroMENTALists are far from interested in validating the dire predictions that they rely on to get their agenda accepted by the rest of us.

Indeed almost all the mathematical topics on the site are about calculating carbon emissions, footprints etc. In other words they work on the principle that we've already accepted that a) global warming is happening, b) it is caused by CO2 and c) the CO2 comes from humans. Since b) and c) are definitely debatable and a) is questionable concerning its extend and whether or not it is cyclical this is a great example of "post normal" science teaching ahead of its facts.

Statistics and statistical analysts are in fact the area where almost all enviroMENTAList sites fail to go. Consider the Society for Enrionmental Journalists' list of scientific contacts. There is just one statistician listed and in the section where skeptics are mentioned there is absolutely no sign of Climate Audit and other statistics/data quality parts. Insetad in a damning with faint preaise section, before listing the 'tainted' skeptical groups (those who accept oil money or are religious nuts) there is this:

Some of the most vocal skeptics have done relatively little recent peer-reviewed scientific research on the topic, and some have had their voices amplified via financial support from industries opposed to any government regulation or taxation of greenhouse gas emissions. Others do have training and experience, at least in some aspects of the wide-ranging issue, and are not bankrolled by industry. But overall, their number represents a distinctly minority position in the ongoing and normal colloquy among scientists about the evidence of climate change and its likely impacts.

Climate-change modeling is less certain in forecasting impacts on a regional scale, and in assessing warming's role in extreme weather like hurricanes. But the regional resolution of the models is improving, and the 2007 IPCC report offered more detail than previous ones. Researchers also are busily assessing regional vulnerabilities to possible climate-change scenarios. So while there remain more robust debates in these areas, new research is constantly adding new layers of understanding. One needs to try to stay current on the latest published studies, on who's doing them and who's funding them.

There are a number of climate-change skeptics, less-often quoted perhaps than some more vocal ones discussed later, who have more substantial climate science research publications and who have accepted little or no fossil industry and advocacy group money. These typically include:...

Followed by a mere three names (Christy, Lindzen, Grey).

Indeed to bring this back to Mr Lockwood and something he wrote, the problem here is that anyone who comes to these pages having read stuff by the more scientific/statistical skeptics immediately notices the gaping holes in the coverage. As the MSM has found out to its cost in many areas ignoring your competition/opponents is a poor strategy in the Internet world. And being proud (as the Grist guy is) of your ignorance is just as bad. If you really want to have the tools to justify the greenshirt plan of impoverishing all of humanity then you need to understand the foundations of the AGW debate and to understand (even if you prefer the arguments of the 'consensus') the arguments of the critics.

06 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

The Overblown Skeptic and the Critic Thereof

City View Magazine, who or whatever that may be, has an article called "The Greatest Hoax ever Perpetuated" which is a fairly good diatribe about global warming. Unfortunately, and no doubt for rhetorical effect, it goes over board on the "NOT HAPPENING" arguments. It starts off with a very silly statement

GOOGLE "RECORD HEAT" and you will get 3,180,000 hits. Google "record cold" and you will get 5,110,000. Yes, that’s right; and it’s just the tip of the proverbial (not melting) iceberg.

I'm sorry this is junk research of the highest order. A few lines later on we have gratuitous personal attacks:

You’re really going to implicitly equate me with a holocaust denier because I don’t believe that your faulty computer models (designed by James Hanson, et al., a liberal NASA scientist with an agenda) prove that the globe is warming, or if it is, that it’s our fault?

which then ruin the valid point he makes in the next sentence:

You swear by the models, why don’t you swear by the corrections that NASA very quietly released last summer that show the warmest year on record was not 1998, but in fact is 1934, and that five of the top 10 hottest years on record were all before World War II?

This is in fact true. Thanks to detective work by Anthony Watts and then Steve McIntyre it is indeed the case that Hanson and NASA did indeed retract their claims about the hottest years in recent US history but deliberately did not make a fuss about it - see this LA Times report. The reason why I point this out is not just because it is a fact and not a rhetorical flourish but because a scientist called Arianne Balsom got very worked up about the article and mentioned in her critique:

The "quiet way" that NASA released corrections about its temperature data that the author mentions, may have been by publication in a leading scientific journal.  This would seem very quiet to the millions of people that would never read those journals (which are prohibitively expensive for an individual, but you can spend a few hours searching in the university library stacks for an issue that may be on the shelf or in some satellite storage facility somewhere), and therefore they would not know about the revised data until somebody reported on it.

This sentence is clearly written on the assumption that NASA found the mistake itself and then quietly fixed things. Firstly a search on Google Scholar fails to show a paper by Hanson, Schmidt etc. on this subject and secondly as noted above Messrs Hanson, Schmidt etc. had to be prodded into making the change because some bloggers noted something odd, reverse engineered a non-published calculation and determined the error. The scientist assumes that other scientists will behave in a clear transparent, dare one say, scientific, manner and unfortunately Hanson & co. seem to fail that assumption.

To go back to the City View article (I'll return to Dr(?) Balsom afterwards) the writer then perpetuates the Pope/Galileo myth:

The Pope once had a problem with a "denier." His name was Galileo, and he thought that the earth was round and that it was not the center of the universe; that it actually revolved around the sun, not the other way around. The Pope did the same thing that Al Gore is doing now. With faulty data and conjecture, the Pope declared that the debate was over and that anybody who disagreed would be burned at the stake.

Actually the pope mostly defended Galileo from his critics. The problem was that Galileo was a cantankerous loudmouth who wouldn't shut up. After he opened his mouth once too often the inquisition basically insisted that he explain why he thought the earth rotated around the sun (we already knew the earth was round thank you very much), unfortunately Galileo couldn't actually explain his theory and just insulted everyone much like a modern environmentalist when asked a mathematical question.

The writer then mixes the personal with overstated facts about the CO2 is not causing global warming argument:

OK, I am a skeptic. When every lunatic liberal leftist on the face of the planet says we need to close down the carbon emissions of industry (carbon caps) and spend trillions of dollars trying to fix something that (1.) we don’t know if we caused it (the factual evidence says we didn’t), and (2.) if we did cause global warming, is it really in our power to fix (reverse) it, red flags go up.

Well I'm a skeptic too and I tend to agree with the characterization (although I think lunatic liberal leftist has at least one redundant word), but that crude insult again means we lose the impact of points (1) and (2). Oh and the factual evidence is "mixed". OK I think it leans towards the idea that GW is not primarily due to man but it isn't proven and won't be until we have a few more decades of solid reliable data.

After that the article settles down for a bit and gets some reasonable digs in about Al "BS1" Gore that I can't disagree with although, while they are entertaining and do illustrate the Inconvenient Hypocrisy, they don't really explain why GW is "the greatest hoax". Then there is some quotes from John Coleman that essentially accuse climatologists of scamming public funds for their research. In my opinion this kind of full on personal attack is counterproductive because it is quite clear that most (and in this case I do more more than half) of them are honest and earnest, if perhaps blinkered, seekers after knowledge.

Then we get back to the science, briefly, and McIntypre etc. are mentioned as further digs are got in against Hanson. Then we return to political arguments with reports of lists of scientists writing letters questioning the consensus. This is fine and dandy except that it kind of contradicts the nice Einstein quote a couple of paragraphs earlier that "the consensus of a 100 scientists is undone by one fact".

Eventually we return to science with discussion of the Solar warming theory (one I'm partial too I have to admit) but the author seems incapable of keeping the personal and the professional separate. Even I, as someone who basically agrees with him, find this offensive. In fact it reminds me of the attacks made by the greenshirts when they want to attack someone who dares criticise their position. He also diverts into the funding issue claiming (with no supporting evidence) that Big Oil spend $20M on climate change while the governmetn etc spent $50B over the same 20 year period. It may well be true but I'd like a "blah blah institute found that..." sort of line here. Still he's dead on about the idiocy of corn based ethanol as a reasonable biofuel although I fear he failed to get the message from KKKarl Rove about how biofuels aren't pushing the price of food up really.

And then we reach the concluding paragraph:

For those of you not willing to swallow the methane-producing manure that is shoveled at you everyday by a liberal and biased media, and would like to educate yourself, there are a seemingly countless number of websites and papers to read on this subject. I recommend starting your education by going to www.climatedebatedaily.com and www.climatepolice.com. Another great resource for "exposing liberal media bias" is www.newsbusters.org. Look at the science, not the dogma. Trust in what they can prove, not what they predict.

Thanks mate. That's really going to win over the uncertain middle. Stop weebling on about liberal media bias. Yes I know it exists and I've criticised it often enough myself but banging on about it like this doesn't help you with the wider public. In fact it makes you look like a wingnut conspiracy theorist, unable to see anything except through the prism of your paranoia. And for an article like this one that is the problem, because climate change need not be a political left-right issue. In fact it shouldn't be and just because on the greenshirt side there are plenty of "watermelons" (green on the outside, communist red in the middle) doesn't mean that only 'conservaties' can be on the opposing side. In fact what we want is for some of our less radical and more reasonable liberal opponents to educate themselves on this issue and "Trust in what they can prove, not what they predict." Unfortunately these folks are not going to be persuaded to do this if they come across a rant like this.

So now we go back to Dr Balsom's critique. I find myself in agreement with chunks of it:

The fact that City View magazine published this article with the teaser "Instead of relying on predictions and faulty models, [the author] supports his argument with exhaustive research" is extraordinarily misleading and it makes me want to go find the editor, give him or her a really hard noogy followed by an atomic wedgie, and last but not least, a purple nurple.  Or rather, I would if I wasn't stuck on an icebreaker 10,000 miles away from him or her. It really disappoints me, particularly since it was published in the "green" edition of the magazine.  This is an opinion piece, not a science news article, and it should not be touted as such.


Keep your eyes and ears open about climate change, about organic baby food, about how best to groom your toy poodle, about the future comeback of spandex - any topic that interests you and you are forming an opinion about. Be a cynic.  Be a skeptic.  Don't believe right off the bat what someone who is trying to sell you something at the grocery check-out or in the airport gift shop is saying in their headlines.  If everything that was published in popular magazines was true, then we would have all lost those twenty pounds in twenty days a long time ago with the watermelon/grass clippings/yogurt sort of diets that they also advertise on the covers.

But then again I have trouble because now she implies that the author's research was limited to the google search in the first lines. I agree the first line was a horrible introduction but the author did rather more than that. If he hadn't he would not have been able to describe the solar warming theory, mention correctly the four main monitors of global temperature (HADCRU, GISS, UAH, RSS) and so on. I agree it is a polemic not a measured article but while I criticised (see above) the polemic bits it did contain enough actual scientific reporting bits that deserve more of a response than a combo of "google" and

There is nothing nerdier than getting a group of us together to watch movies like The Day After Tomorrow and An Inconvenient Truth; you can barely hear the dratted movie over all of the guffaws and errors being pointed out by the audience.

Indeed looked at it one way her response is validation of my "we don't need this attitude" lines up above. Hence, although I pick holes in little bits I find that her attitude is rather better than the "censor it!" greenshirt attitude I've written about in the last few posts. Indeed I agree completely with the science communication problem she then gets on to describing:

This is partly the fault of the science community; an entity that often only communicates amongst its own members until a grant requires some sort of outreach project to show the world what they are finding out.  If we act like the research we are doing is an exclusive club or is classified like Area 51, it's only a matter of time before people start speculating about UFO's because that's much more exciting than thinking about someone in the top secret building correcting databases.  And then someone starts publishing articles about the UFO's and it continues from there.

Scientists tend to cling to their data like Gollum and his Precious until it is published, for fear of someone else taking credit for it or beating them to the publication punch line.

I truly believe that Hanson, Briffa, Mann and co. do themselves and their position enormous damage by not clearly and openly providing their source data and algorithms when they publish things. In the halls of, say, classics or lit crit it probably doesn't matter if the data iis squirreled away and swapped between researchers. In areas such as bacteriology or biochemistry such secretiveness may well be important for blatant commercial patent reasons. In climatology neither excuse counts. It is hard to understand how someone could benefit from the IP rights to a series of tree ring or icecore data but unlike non-scientific fields in climatology the data is time critical. If we really have only 100 months to stop CO2 emissions (as some claim) then it is in fact a crime against humanity to hide the data that may or may not prove such a dire threat. Hanson talks about oil executives being tried for crims against humanity because they aren't interested in reducing CO2. He ignores his own culpability in obscuring how he and his colleagues come to the dire conclusions that they do. What if, for example, the world's political leaders decide that 100 months isn't enough time and so decide to do nothing and then we discover that actually we had 150 months and that would have been long enough if only we'd known now and not 100 months later? Or what happens if we start wrecjing our economies to reduce CO2 and then it turns out it was the sun all along? I could imagine lynch mobs of those who were bankrupted stringing up the climatologists who dogmatically refused to let others recheck their models.

08 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

20080808 Friday Olive Tree Blogging

It's hot out even under the shadow of the olive tree these days on the Riviera
20080808 - Friday Olive Tree Blogging
As always you can click on the image to see it enlarged and are invited to visit the olive tree blogging archives to remind yourself of how nice olive trees are.

08 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Illogical Nonpartisan Greenshirts

The Center for American Progress Action Fund describes itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. I'm curious if "nonpartisan" has a different meaning on the West of the Atlantic. Over on the British side, nonpartisan would mean something that was not aligned with one political party. Mind you, as far as I can tell from this online definition check, it seems our N American colleagues would agree.

Oddly enough though our nonpartisan organization seems particularly prone to criticise politicians and policies from one party, and oddly enough the party isn't the Libertarion party or the Green party or the Democratic party. Funny that.

This nonpartisan organization has a environmental blog called climate progress which is an excellent example of the Greenshirt censor issue that has been discussed around the blogosphere. These greenshirts make it very clear that anyone who does not confess to the creed that "Global Warming is to blame" are heretics and infidels. The fun is they have a problem with logic as in this bit where one of their contributors criticises an utterly reasonable article by Joel Achebach:

Achenbach writes:

Weather alarmism” gives ammunition to global-warming deniers. They’re happy to fight on that turf, since they can say that a year with relatively few hurricanes (or a cold snap when you don’t expect it) proves that global warming is a myth. As science writer John Tierney put it in the New York Times earlier this year, weather alarmism “leaves climate politics at the mercy of the weather.”

You cannot be serious. The best you can do is quoting Tierney, a well-known climate doubter/denier/delayer? And deniers don’t need to look for any ammunition — they just make up stuff. You could waste a lot of time trying to figure out what you should or shouldn’t say based on a fear of how deniers might twist it or take it out of context.

This is simple stuff. As the climate changes because of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, the weather becomes more extreme. That’s what climate change is. I understand why deniers don’t want the rest of us talking about the connection between global warming and the surge in extreme weather events that has been documented statistically by scientists — including NOAA’s National Climactic Data Center (NCDC). That would shut down most discussion of current climate impacts. But I don’t understand why Achenbach falls for that spin.

There are two errors in this piece. Firstly even granted that the average global temperature has risen in the 20th century and that the NCDC's extreme weather survey is correctly controlled for greater population more observers etc etc and that therefore a reasonable correlation between temperature rise and extreme events is plausible, the statement "the climate changes because of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions" has two unproven assumptions in it:
  1. Greenhouse gases are the cause of the global warmig
  2. Humans are the emitter of GHGs
Now I know that this mantra is the credo of modern day environmentalism but it isn't clearly backed up by science.

If that weren't enough there is this. Here is the NCDC graph showing events increasing during the 20th century
Here is a plot of the GISS anomaly data for the 48 contiguous US states:
GISS 48 state US data
You are invited to use the mk 1 eyeball to note the clear 1930s hump in the GISS data and its absence in the NCDC graph.

However that, while fun, is merely illogical. How about something that is both self contradictory AND non-nonpartisan. Take this critique of McCain's energy policy. Firstly you note that we are told that McCain's policies will raise energy prices while this fawning review of his opponent's policies doesn't mention the price tag. Secondly there is this lovely contradiction (exceprts of three ranty bullets):
  1. First, McCain supports a cap-and-trade system. That raises coal prices significantly, and coal generates 50% of US electricity.
  2. McCain’s energy and climate plans include no substantial energy efficiency efforts
  3. McCain, like virtually all conservatives, has consistently voted against efforts to advance renewable electricity ... McCain in fact has been a strong opponent of renewable energy.
You see there is this thing call "market forces". Obviously the folks at climate progress aren't clear on the concept of markets and basic economics like supply and demand but I look at point 1 and see immediately that if correct it will immediately inspire points 2 and the renewable energy that point 3 thinks he doesn't like  with no need for the government to throw money at it. It must be noted that we KNOW that market forces work in the energy sector. Just ask the CEO of BP:

Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP, said last week that the oil company had detected a drop in demand of up to 10 per cent in countries that are members of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

I personally don't think McCain's energy policies are the best but at least he's identified the basic one - get some nuclear ebergy going. Even if it takes 12 years to come on stream in 12 years the US is going to need it. In fact is a certain W Clinton or his predecessor had pushed nuclear ebergy when they were presidents the US would have some nice nuclear energy plants coming on stream about now - only they wouldn't because "Climate Progress" and its allies would have spread the usual myths about radiation to scare the world into no nukes.

10 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Quote of the Day

From Obsidian Wings in re: John 'Beverly Hills' Edwards:

Foolish me -- I thought it was impossible for someone running for President to be that monumentally stupid. I was wrong. Lesson learned.

10 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Climate Change in the Australian

The Australian newspaper had an article yesterday about climate change skeptics. It does a fairly good job of explaining why many of us are skeptical but does a poor job of explaining the facts in a "skeptic friendly" way. For example discussing UHI and  surfacestations.org it gives the last word to Hanson and doesn't really explain that many skeptics are very suspsicious of the GISS adjustment techniques:

"Land-based temperature readings are corrupted by the urban heat island effect," he says. "Urban areas encroaching on thermometer stations warm the micro-climate around the thermometer due to vegetation changes, concrete, cars and houses."

As such, he alleges that the GISS figures - which are enormously influential in the climate change debate - are "hopelessly corrupted" and may even be manipulated to suit Hansen's views on global warming.

A group of weather buffs in the US also has attacked GISS's methodology, putting together an online photo gallery of US weather stations at website www.surfacestations.org that shows some thermometers situated next to asphalt runways and parking lots where they would pick up excess warming.

But GISS says the distorting impact of this urban warming is negated because data from these stations is modified to remove these effects and give a true reading. Hansen acknowledges there may be flaws in the weather station data because temperature measurement is not always a precise science. But he says this does not mean big-picture trends can't be drawn from the data.

He says: "That doesn't mean you give up on the science and that you can't draw valid conclusions about the nature of earth's temperature change."

Then in discussing the GISS Y2K correction it says merely before quoting Rush Limbaugh:

Hansen has been infuriated by the attacks on GISS by climate change critics. Last year Canadian blogger and retired businessman Stephen McIntyre exposed a minor mistake in Hansen's figures that had caused GISS to overstate US temperatures by a statistically small 0.15C since 2000.

The point is not the overstatement directly but the fact that this overstatement meant that the "hottest year" leader board now became heavily dominated by the 1930s instead of 1998-2006. In other words contrary to various greenshirt screaming US temepratures are essentially unchanged over a 70+ year cycle (see below for more). Given that, as the article notes elsewhere, atmospheric CO2 levels have risen significantly during this period this looks like evidence against the CO2 causes global warming argument.
Contiguous 48 state US temperatures
If we look at the GISS US temperature chart for the last 100 years we see that it has some clear phases. A rise during the 1920s peaking in the 1930s then a general decline bottoming out in the 1970s followed by a rise again in 1980s and 1990s. If various predctions are correct we will now see a decline in the 2010s. The question is going to be whether that decline continues into the 2020s and 2030s before reversing or whether it reverses earlier.

The same goes for the general cooling period we are in now. We get the skeptic case made poorly and then a climate scientist saying 10 years isn't long enough to draw conclusions. I'm glad the Australian published the article and provided links and names so that readers can investigate bit I'm a bit annoyed that the objections appear like strawmen targets that global warming believers can easily debunk (e.g. the picking of temperatures from 1998). On the other hand it would be churlish to complain too much. The Greenland is less green now than it was c. AD 1000 point is made without any good rebuttal from a global warming believer and is made early so those who skim the article are likely to take that point away.

21 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Tor Encourages Ebootlegging

It has come to my attention thanks to this post from the excellent John Scalzi that Tor are offering electronic editions of some of their recent works through channels other than the Webscription one that many of us have been waiting for.

However there is just one problemette, highly inconsistent pricing depending on where you buy / what format you want. Scalzi's Zoe's Tale is available as follows
Amazon (Kindle)
Sony Store (Sony Reader, PC)
Mobipocket (PC, Cybook, Iliad etc.)
Amazon (Dead Tree)
This is, to be blunt, nucking futs. Selling electrons for more than stacks of processed cellulose is something that I bitched about the clueless morons of Harper Collins doing and it amazes me that Tor, which usually appears to be slightly more clueful, would do the same thing. And then even looking purely at electronic editions there is the outrageous price difference between Kindle and Mobipocket. Recall that
  1. Amazon OWNS mobipocket
  2. the format difference is a minor DRM tweak
This is not an isolated example. Take another recent release, David Weber's By Schism Rent Asunder. This is available for $25.95 from Mobipocket, $18.16 from Sony and $17.13 from Amazon in paper (for some reason there is no Kindle edition yet). In addition to the questions raised above which also apply here there are a couple of others.
It may be worth noting that BSRA's predecessor (Off Armageddon Reef) is available for $12 or so from Fictionwise, Mobipocket and Sony and $5 from Amazon's Kindle store. It's OK to charge a bit more for the new release but why charge more for electrons that the paperback edition? and why make this one available for the Kindle when the sequel isn't?

I hope this is merely a cockup (possibly aided and abetted by the ebook shops) because there seems to be no logical reason to be this inconsistent unless Tor actually want people to feel like they are being treated like idiots. You may like to recall that both ZT and BSRA are either currently available in various bootlegged editions or will be shortly.  When you see a publisher doing stuff like this in a way that is reminiscent of the music industry then you have to wonder whether they are deliberately encouraging widespread bootlegging or not.

It isn't the only mistep Tor have made recently with regards to ebooks. As summarized at Teleread, referring to this Tor.com comment thread and this Mobileread thread (see especially page 3), there is considerable annoyance at the fact that in the build up to the launch of Tor.com numerous first ebooks in series were released for free. The problem is that there is no way to (legally) obtain the sequels, hence yet another incentive for people to go off to the dark side.

I'm sure Tor are genuinely trying to get their ebook strategy sorted behind the scenes and I hope they (and Baen and whoever else is involved) have prioritized the issue but as an outsider looking in it looks like Tor are doing their best to alienate the early adopters that they should be coddling.

23 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Belated Friday Olive Tree Blogging

For various reasons I really like this particular tree and the flowering yucca
Belated 20080822 Friday Olive Tree Blogging
As always you can click on the image to see it enlarged and are invited to visit the olive tree blogging archives to remind yourself of how nice olive trees are.

25 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Harvests, Glaciers and Climate Change

First (via WattsUpWithThat) a report about the UK harvest that indicates that it is late this year and thanks to august rains is also relatively low yielding (the FWI harvests page is dismal reading today with lots of rain delay stories). This seems to be similar to the US harvest that I wrote about three weeks ago.

Interestingly though the FWI site reports that in many continental European coultries harvests are hurting due to heat and drought.

However these and other signs that 2008 is colder than most recent years don't affect the BBC where, despite all the claims of neutrality, they seem unable to subtly hint that global warming is our future. Take this article about archeological finds in Alpine glaciers. There is a lot of discussion about how the glaciers have retreated in the past and then there is:

Martin Grosjean [said] "But what we do know is that the climate has fluctuated throughout history; in the past the driving force for the changes was the Earth's orbital pattern, now the driving force is green house gas emissions."

For Martin Grosjean, the leather items found on the Schnidejoch, dated at over 5,000 years old, are proof, if any more were needed, that the Earth is now warming up.

"The leather is the jewel among the finds," he says. "If leather is exposed to the weather, to sun, wind and rain, it disintegrates almost immediately.

"The fact that we still find these 5,000-year-old pieces of leather tells us they were protected by the ice all this time, and that the glaciers have never been smaller than in the year 2003 and the years following."

All these finds do indeed make clear that the glaciers are now retreating/melting and (duh) that hence the earth is warmer now than it was before. But you note that previous bouts of global warming are pinned on the earth being in a certain orbital pattern whereas the current one is blamed on mankind. I'm not sure why this is. We are given information in the article that the alps have been warmer and that this occured (roughly) 1000 and 2000 years ago [actually the article doesn't say that it just mentions warming in Roman times (i.e. 2000 yearas ago) and in the Middle Ages (1000 years ago)]. The article also mentions things that are 3000, 4000 and 5000 years old.

Now there could be a subtlety here that I'm missing because the article is glossing over large amounts of information but what I take from this article is that there is a 1000 year warming cycle and that this has nothing to do with mankind.

I'll also note one other interesting point. My post from 3 weeks ago had a link to a document that decribed how cooling spells could apparently occur very quickly. In the exceprt above we have

"The leather is the jewel among the finds," he says. "If leather is exposed to the weather, to sun, wind and rain, it disintegrates almost immediately.

Is it just me or is that not further evidence that glaciers can grow very very fast and hence that ice ages and other cooling events can be very swift?

All I can say is that Ringo's "The Last Centurion" is looking ever more prescient about
  1. the likely direction of actual global climate change (colder)
  2. the likely direction of political worries about global climate change (warmer)

26 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Two Americas

It seems to me that the 2008 presidential election is going to be nasty. Not just in campaign rhetoric but in what happens after the election has occured in November. There are two scenarios (likely scenarios anyway, it is possible that we wake up to President Barr or Nader but it's almost as unlikely as Micheal Moore producing an unbiased documentary) and either could spell trouble.

President Obama

Trouble would start if Obama wins and starts trying to implement some of the more moonbatty of his campaign positions. Read Tom Kratman's "A State of Disobedience" for what might happen next. Important note: non-Obama voters are (in general) the ones who grow the food and own the personal weapons. Obama is, IMHO, not going to appeal to the rural voter in so many ways that it seems unlikely that he would get many rural votes. On the other hand he may well get a sufficiently massive number of urban votes to overcome that deficit. The question will be whether the (more) rural inhabitants get annoyed enough to start considering civil disobedience after he starts his term as president, and how many (sub)urban inhabitants agree with them. This may sound like scaremongering but note that on Baen's Bar there has been a thread noting that prices of "scary black guns" and ammo are increasing at gun shows. Currently this is merely anecdotal evidence but someone could do the research to see whether sales/prices of guns and ammo are increasing.

President McCain

Should Obama not win then we can expect the nutroots part of the US to go even more nuts. They are already making noises about how people won't voting for Obama because of racism. I've met a number of Americans who seem convinced that the only way Obama can lose is via a combination of racism and evil republican tricks. If this is representative of a significant fraction of the US population (primarily the young and the black) then it seems likely that we could see lots of protests, riots and so on as these people take their anger to the streets and try to force a new vote/recount whatever. This could be even more serious if we have a vote which is as close as the one in 2000. If, as is quite possible, we end up with one or more states going 50.1%:49.9% then these protests may indeed attract support from more than the radical fringe. And if the Democrats (I count this as less likely) also fail to make gains in the Senate/House races this could help inflame passions and accusations of election rigging.

Election Irregularities

Although I've noted the possibility of perceived election irregularities leading to Lefty dissatisfaction it is quite possible that it could also lead to Righty annoyance too. Unless there is a crushing defeat for one candidate (and at the time of writing this is unlikely) then the losing side may well look to dispute the result and the disputes could well escalate from the courts to the streets. This would seem to be particularly likely if electoral fraud is identified/reported by someone who is perceived as biased themselves.

It worries me that US society seems to be getting more polarized and that in large part due to tit-for-tat retaliation the various tribes are now beginning to see each other as the enemy instead of the opposition.

26 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

DMCA Good for Something

other than stifling communication (that is). The Register reports that the DMCA has been used successfully to countersue for damages after one of the usual suspects played the thug with a DMCA takedown notice on something that wasn't a copyright viokation.

Yes it seems that despite the efforts of people like Joe Biden, the DMCA retained language that provided for redress when the act is misused (my bolding):

Any person who knowingly materially misrepresents under this section

(1) that material or activity is infringing,

(2) that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification,

shall be liable for any damages, including costs and attorneys' fees, incurred by the alleged infringer, by any copyright owner or copyright owner's authorized licensee, or by a service provider, who is injured by such misrepresentation, as the result of the service provider relying upon such misrepresentation in removing or disabling access to the material or activity claimed to be infringing, or in replacing the removed material or ceasing to disable access to it."

According to the US District Court for the Northern District of California this means you have to do some due dilligence and apply some common sense before you fire off the takedown notice, lest you violate the "fair use" part of US copyright law. I would not be surprised if this (or a similar case) does not get appealed the US Supreme Court because I'm sure that the lawyers won't accept "use common sense" as a valid instruction unless the US SC orders them to stop being so idiotic and nitpicky.

26 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

UKIP sense on the UK

Thanks to kev, I took a look at UKIP's proposal for UK parliamentary reform. The solution to the West Lothian problem is elegant:

[C]reat[e] four national assemblies including a new English Parliament in Westminster, but replacing all national level politicians with Westminster MPs – MSPs with MPs etc – meeting one week a month nationally. There would be English departments and an English First Minister.

Not only does this cause a significant saving in salaries to politicians it also means that it is quite feasible to have different parties ruling the UK and any or all of its constituent parts. One week in four sounds about right for UK affairs vs local affairs and it would also force the government(s) to clearly delineate equal devolution to all parts of the UK.

Some of the other ideas such as Swiss style referenda and the House of Lords reform also seem good, although the devil is in the details and I confess I haven't read them all to see if there are some nasties that I've missed. Still overall this seems to be the sort of policy that UKIP needs. In addition to being "right" it also has the benefit of being simple to explain/understand, obviously fair and (thanks to the referenda bit) a way to let the UK electorate actually have their say in things that they care about.

Finally I can't help agreeing with David Campbell Bannerman though when he says:

David Campbell Bannerman, UKIP Deputy Leader and Head of Policy, added: "There is only room for one union – the British Union or the European Union. The EU is undermining the UK, and the two are incompatible. UKIP strongly supports the British Union.

"Devolution isn't working. The SNP with their bogus independence claims are running rings round Labour. It's time for radical reform of devolution.

"It is about time England was treated fairly. UKIP will create an English Parliament, insist on fair treatment for all UK citizens, scrap regional government and end the unfair Barnett funding formula. We'd end the messy divisiveness and bind the UK back together."

27 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Jenna Delich Links to KKK Related Site

Harry's Place, a group blog on my blogroll that I read from time to time is currently unavailable. This is because it seems some person or people have complained to their ISP claiming libel or similar.

There is a Harry's place backup site named after the likely source of their internet access troubles, however it would seem worthwhile pointing out to Jenna Delich and the UCU (University and College Union) that using Messrs Sue, Grabbit & Runne to silence a blog is a counterproductive exercise. The offensive post is entitled UCU and the David Duke fan
and describes how a certain Jenna Delich wrote the following message on the activist UCU mailing list in order to support a boycott of Israeli academics:

In support to your link this may be a long but also an interesting


No comment necessary. The facts are speaking for themselves.


David Duke is, as HP point out, well known for being a former KKK leader and all around racist/anti-semite etc. etc. In fact precisely the sort of person that one might have expected to be excorciated by a liberal/progressive of the sort that Jenna Delich appears to be. However as the email above shows she thinks he's got good arguments and that she must knowingyö read his site because

[t]he article itself was originally posted on an extremist conspiracy nut website, but appears only on David Duke's website. It is therefore reasonable to infer that Jenna Delich reads and takes her information on world events from neo Nazis.

Whether it is JD herself or some of her activist buddies in the UCU that has complained is unclear. But it occurs to me that HP could potentially have a countersuit sinilar to the DMCA one I mentioned yesterday since having one's site summarily removed from the Internet for stating what seem to be indisputable (and undisputed) facts looks like something that causes damage, loss of reputation, loss of potential advertising revenue etc. for no vaid reason.

29 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

20080829 Friday Olive Tree Blogging

A hot day, azure skies, golden dry grass and green olive tree, what more could you ask for in a Mediterranean picture?
20080829 Friday Olive Tree Blogging
(Apart from sea, women in bikinis that is ...)

As always you can click on the image to see it enlarged and are invited to visit the olive tree blogging archives to remind yourself of how nice olive trees are.

29 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

Sarah Palin for VP

So I get to join the swarm of blogospheric commentary. Since I've bearly heard of the lady (except as a possible VP pick) my commentary here is going to be based on what I read elsewhere. First off Ginmar (a Clinton supporter) writes some words of truth:

What [McCain's messages of support for Clinton] do is point out what Obama hasn't been doing. The things he's said about Clinton that are supposed to be compliments have been vague, forced, and patronizing. McCain's, while clearly motivated by wedge-driving, have struck the right tone. Palin's more of the same.

Ginmar thinks some republicans won't be able to stand voting for a woman but she notes that the result of this election will definitely break the "white male" monopoly on power in the USA no matter who wins. In a subsequent post she also links to another feminist who has started to track Democrat sexist smears on Governor Palin. I may disagree with feminists like these in policy prescriptions but I admire them too for having the umm overies to write things like this:

For the record, there is plenty about which to criticize Palin that has absolutely fuck-all to do with her sex. She's anti-choice, against marriage equality, pro-death penalty, pro-guns, and loves Big Business. (In other words, she's a Republican.) There's no goddamned reason to criticize her for anything but her policies.

And I'll go ahead and put it right in the fucking inaugural post in this series: I will defend Sarah Palin against misogynist smears not because I like or support her, but because that's how feminism works.

Riffing of that post where Palin is summed up as "anti-choice, against marriage equality, pro-death penalty, pro-guns, and loves Big Business" I can see how much of this will appeal to all sorts of republicans and independents. McCain has been rather less clearly pro-gun, pro-death penalty and anti-choice which are the sorts of things that will tend to appeal to conservatives of any number of stripes. Gay marriage is a wash, I doubt many in favour of that would vote republican anyway. Big Business loving is interesting because the Instapundit points out that she's been pretty anti-pork and that is certainly an issue that helps with some including this correspondant:

As a conservative, disenfranchised from the Republican party due to their pork barrel spending, I find myself excited at the prospect of Sarah Palin as VP. Her stands against corruption, her focus on fixing issues affecting America, instead of political manuevers to gain and hold power for power's sake, make me excited to vote for her.

Interestingly the Powerline bloggers are less impressed citing her lack of experience and worried that she's just there to play identity politics. On the other hand Beldar is all in favour and Hugh Hewitt seems reasonably happy as well. Intriguingly I've seen pointed out in a number of places what HH points out:

When the Dems come after Palin for inexperience in foreign affairs, the reply will be obvious --the GOP vice-presidential nominee is as experienced as the Democratic presidential nominee but also has executive decision-making that Obama lacks.  

Indeed I'll go further, as the only US state to be bordered by two nations (Canada and Russia), she's been involved in foreign affairs on a practical day to day level like very few recent presidents and between them, she and McCain cover all three of the USA's naighbours.

It could be a "Hail Mary" pick like Geraldine Ferraro 24 years ago, but it could also be inspired if Governor Palin is as tough and clever politician as Beldar seems to think. One thing seems sure. Unlike Ferraro, Palin is unlikely to have a husband with tax problems beyond the usual ones of how to pay them. Indeed with Palin the republican ticket can make a far better case of being reformers from outside than the democrats can.

29 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

The Science of The Last Centurion

John Ringo's "The Last Centurion", as I have pointed out before, makes some controversial points regarding climate change. Over at Baen's Bar a commenter claims that the science is bad. I replied by pointing out that Ringo's predictions of cold are not his alone and linked to this recent article which makes the case for the sun impacting terrestrial temperatures more than humans do in an easily accessible fashion. The article proposes that cooling is caused by increased Cosmic Ray incidence caused in turn by a weakening solar wind.

The response was to point to a realclimate post on Cosmic Rays and Total Solar Insolation and an attempt at credentialism. My response to his response is below.

Firstly I'm going to play the ball not the man. Hence I shall treat your meteorologist crack with the contempt it deserves except to point out that another metoerologist Anthony Watts has done more to clarify the (mostly abysmal) quality of the US Surface Station network than any climate scientist.

OK back to the sun issue. There are two things at issue here
  1. Whether the sun is in a low sunspot mode at present
  2. Whether low sunspot count correlates with cold earthly temperatures
Taking 1. We are currently in between cycles 23 and 24 and have some 400 non cintiguous days without sunspots. There have been some small shortlived c24 spots but nothing compared to the number of spots that were predicted.

As well as the link above see also the links from it as well as http://www.solarcycle24.com/ and the amusingly wrong predictions from NASA's David Hathaway a couple of years ago.

Dr Hathaway has more recently said that

"It does seem like it's taking a long time," allows Hathaway, "but I think we're just forgetting how long a solar minimum can last."

To me this looks a lot like wishful thinking although I think he is right when he says that we are not yet in a Maunder or even a Dalton minimum. To summarise: I think it is pretty clear that the sun is a lot less active than it used to be a few years back. Arguably Mr Ringo makes his predictions for the big solar switch off one solar cycle later than reality.

2. The question of whether sunspot minima effect earthly temperatures is of course a bit trickier. We've only been observing sunspots systematically for 250-300 years and even though the telescope-less Chinese did record before that the records are limited and hard to compare. For example many of the sunspots observed during this inter cycle minimum are small enough that they would probably not have been observed a century or more ago.

In other words as earthly temperatures have risen we have also become more able to track sunspots. But on the other hand both the Dalton and Maunder minima involved cold terrestrial weather while sunspot maxima have been observed in warmer times. Furthermore there are other links e.g. those noted in this paper from 1999 with the following abstract:

It has been suggested that the length of the solar cycle (SCL) is related to solar forcing of global climate change [Friis-Christensen and Lassen, 1991]. Although no physical mechanism had been proposed, the relation seemed to be supported by interesting correlations with several paleoclimate records and, separately, with the 20th century

Northern Hemisphere instrumental record. Actually, what has been correlated is the quasi-sinusoidal Gleissberg cycle which is slightly greater in the 18th century than in the 20th century. Using the pre-industrial record as a boundary condition, the SCL-temperature correlation corresponds to an estimated 25% of global warming to 1980 and 15% to 1997.

Another paper of interest is http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=1123803

It seems to me that whether or not cosmic ray incidence is the cause (more research needed one suspects) there is likely some correlation between solar activity and earthly temperature. A theory that is strengthened by recent reports that temperatures on other bodies in the solar system have also risen in tandem with the past decade or
two of increase in solar activity.

In summary John Ringo may well have skated over the scientific backing for the book and he has certainly taken a "non-consensus" position but with regards to the climate it isn't quite as unfounded as one might imagine.

30 August 2008 Blog Home : All August 2008 Posts : Permalink

VPILF and More

As a follow up to yesterday's post on Sarah Palin I figure it is worth pointing out that the site VPILF.com exists and is filled with relevant content. Tim W and Clive should do some research. Although strangely enough no pictures of Sarah Palin in a Swimsuit seem to exist either there or  anywhere else on Teh Intertubes (maybe that's because she always goes skinny dipping?).

What is there is her acting as a "Naughty Librarian" in the words of Craig Ferguson (whoever he is)

I can't help but note that Craig Ferguson seems to have learned classic Democratic sneering at rural hicks. I really hope this YouTube segment gets played A LOT because it seems likely to cause all those bitter hicks clinging to their religion and guns (S Palin is certainly one of those that cling to both) to get another look at the sneering elitists of the Urban Democratic party.

Moving onto slightly more serious ground. When it comes to being pro-life she has not only talked the talk she has walked the walk by giving birth last May to a Downs Syndrome son. From the evidence it seems like she was informed by her Ob-Gyn that the baby was likely to be a Downs Syndrome child in plenty of time for her to have aborted it had she wanted to. She didn't. Instead she's mothering him now. It occurs to me that even pro-choice folks may feel a certain respect for her willingness to live up to her principles.

In other cool news. She sold the Alaskan State Governor's jet on eBay. One can't help but wonder if sometime in December we see this:
Air Force 2 on Ebay?
Given the democratic party leadership's apparent love for government provided private jets this could not only trump the "no experience" tag but also play it right into a Republican advantage. First for being against waste, secondly for actually doing something as governor and thirdly for actually living up to campaign promises.

In other positive news the greens are already circulating a set of talking points that show (IMO and that of the Flopping Aces prop) just how out of touch the greens are with mainstream America:

Here are some quick snapshots of Palin's record on issues related to energy and the environment:

  1. Opposed a statewide ballot initiative to prohibit or restrict new mining operations that could affect salmon in the state's streams and rivers
  2. Has pushed to build a natural-gas pipeline from Alaska's North Slope
  3. Got the state legislature to pass a bill to provide each Alaskan $1,200 to help with energy costs
  4. Sued the Interior Department over its decision to list the polar bear as a threatened species
  5. Has proposed eliminating Alaska's gas tax
  6. Has pushed to open Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling
  7. Has created a committee to forge Alaska's climate-change strategy, and has made Alaska an observer (but not a member) of the Western Climate Initiative
  8. Opposes a windfall profits tax on oil companies
  9. Was the ethics commissioner of the Alaska Gas and Oil Conservation Commission from 2003 to 2004
  10. Lifelong angler and hunter
  11. Husband is an oil production operator for BP on Alaska's North Slope
  12. Started Alaska's Petroleum Systems Integrity Office, an oversight and maintenance agency for the state's oil and gas equipment, facilities, and infrastructure
  13. Chairs the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a multistate panel "that promotes the conservation and efficient recovery of domestic oil and natural gas resources while protecting health, safety and the environment"
  14. Believes intelligent design should be taught along with evolution in science classes
Issue 1 is probably a wash.
Issues 2,3,5 and 6 seem like positives for Americans who don't like paying $$$ for gasoline and like the idea of using American oil instead of buying it from various Mullahcracies and other quality dictarorial regimes such as Russia and Venezuela
Issue 4 is a a minor negative amongst the people who like the idea of polar bears without thinking of the consequences but since the polar bear listing seems likely to end up meaning that Americans all pay more for fuel this can be spun around. Especially since the polar bear doesn't seem to be very threatened.
Issue 7 is actually something that the greens should like
Issue 8 gets her the economist's vote
Issue 9 is part of her attraction for porkbusters along with the jet sale:

Palin finished a strong second in the 2002 primary for lieutenant governor and was being groomed by the party for higher office when she clashed with state Republican Party chairman Randy Ruederich. They both had seats on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, appointed by Gov. Frank Murkowski, the Republican she would later depose. She accused Ruederich of misusing the job for political chicanery and eventually resigned in frustration. Ruederich was forced to resign the job as well, though he remains head of the state party.

Issue 10 is what locks up the bitter rural votes
Issue 11 helps, along with the VPILF factor, to lock in the working male vote.
Issue 12 helps to derail claims that she's in bed with "big oil"
Issue 13 sounds like sense to people who think that waste is a bad thing
Issue 14 is worrying but the same biographical article linked in 9 above points out that:

But as governor, she has not pushed any big-agenda items of social conservatives. She spoke favorably in her campaign of schools teaching the creationism debate with evolution, but lived up to her pledge to do nothing as governor to push the idea. Her first veto was of a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships -- she said she supported the idea but accepted legal advice that it was unconstitutional. This year, she declined to call a legislative special session on two abortion bills because they would have interfered with her top priority, a measure promoting a new natural gas pipeline.

In summary she knows how to pick her battles and to prioritise, something that is also noted by Kate Granju regarding this picture of cloying cuteness. A picture which also shows that VPILF or not, no one with sense is going to try to cuckold Mr Palin.

The only negative seems to be "Troopergate" and this seems more like a her making a bad initial pick for the job of Public Safety Commissioner and then firing the jerk for incompetance. Jerk then claims that he was fired for not himself firing an Alaskan State Trooper who doesn't sound like someone I'd like to have in the police force and who happens to be Palin's sister's ex- husband (I think).