Posts tagged ‘LGF’

Useful Reset: What Peer Review Is and Is Not

This is from a post of mine last January, long before the Climategate scandal  (though most of us who spent a lot of time with climate issues knew of the Climategate abuses long before the smoking gun emails were found).  The one thing this article does not mention is what we know today -- that climate scientists were actively working to keep skeptical studies out of the literature, even to the point of getting editors fired.

Peer review is not a guarantee of accuracy or a good housekeeping seal of correctness.  It is a process that insures a work is worthy of publication by a scholarly magazine.  Whether a scientific question is "settled" does not end with peer review, it only begins. It becomes settled after it survives decades of criticism and replication work, a process that was stonewalled by the folks at the CRU, which is really the heart of the scandal.

Yesterday, while I was waiting for my sandwich at the deli downstairs, I was applying about 10% of my consciousness to CNN running on the TV behind the counter.  I saw some woman, presumably in the Obama team, defending some action of the administration being based on "peer reviewed" science.

This may be a legacy of the climate debate.  One of the rhetorical tools climate alarmists have latched onto is to inflate the meaning of peer review.  Often, folks, like the person I saw on TV yesterday, use "peer review" as a synonym for "proven correct and generally accepted in its findings by all right-thinking people who are not anti-scientific wackos."

But in fact peer review has a much narrower function, and certainly is not, either in intent or practice,  any real check or confirmation of the study in question.  The main goals of peer review are:

  • Establish that the article is worthy of publication and consistent with the scope of the publication in question.  They are looking to see if the results are non-trivial, if they are new (ie not duplicative of findings already well-understood), and in some way important.  If you think of peer-reviewers as an ad hoc editorial board for the publication, you get closest to intent
  • Reviewers will check, to the extent they can, to see if the methodology  and its presentation is logical and clear "” not necesarily right, but logical and clear.  Their most frequent comments are for clarification of certain areas of the work or questions that they don't think the authors answered.
  • Peer review is not in any way shape or form a proof that a study is correct, or even likely to be correct.  Enormous numbers of incorrect conclusions have been published in peer-reviewed journals over time.  This is demonstrably true.  For example, at any one time in medicine, for every peer-reviewed study I can usually find another peer-reviewed study with opposite or wildly different findings.
  • Studies are only accepted as likely correct a over time the community tries as hard as it can to poke holes in the findings.  Future studies will try to replicate the findings, or disprove them.  As a result of criticism of the methodology, groups will test the findings in new ways that respond to methodological criticisms.  It is the accretion of this work over time that solidifies confidence  (Ironically, this is exactly the process that climate alarmists want to short-circuit, and even more ironically, they call climate skeptics "anti-scientific" for wanting to follow this typical scientific dispute and replication process).

Further, the quality and sharpness of peer review depends a lot on the reviewers chosen.  For example, a peer review of Rush Limbaugh by the folks at LGF, Free Republic, and Powerline might not be as compelling as a peer review by Kos or Kevin Drum.

But instead of this, peer review is used by folks, particularly in poitical settings, as a shield against criticism, usually for something they don't understand and probably haven't even read themselves.  Here is an example dialog:

Politician or Activist:  "Mann's hockey stick proves humans are warming the planet"

Critic:  "But what about Mann's cherry-picking of proxy groups; or the divergence problem  in the data; or the fact that he routinely uses proxy's as a positive correlation in one period and different correlation in another; or the fact that the results are most driven by proxies that have been manually altered; or the fact that trees really make bad proxies, as they seldom actually display the assumed linear positive relationship between growth and temperature?"

Politician or Activist, who 99% of the time has not even read the study in question and understands nothing of what critic is saying:  "This is peer-reviewed science!  You can't question that."

For those interested in the science of the skeptics position please see my recent movie.

Update: Mark Steyn on Climate and Peer Review

Phrase That Needs to Be Expunged From The Political Lexicon: "Peer Reviewed"

Yesterday, while I was waiting for my sandwich at the deli downstairs, I was applying about 10% of my conciousness to CNN running on the TV behind the counter.  I saw some woman, presumably in the Obama team, defending some action of the administration being based on "peer reviewed" science.

This may be a legacy of the climate debate.  One of the rhetorical tools climate alarmists have latched onto is to inflate the meaning of peer review.  Often, folks, like the person I saw on TV yesterday, use "peer review" as a synonym for "proven correct and generally accepted in its findings by all right-thinking people who are not anti-scientific wackos."

But in fact peer review has a much narrower function, and certainly is not, either in intent or practice,  any real check or confirmation of the study in question.  The main goals of peer review are:

  • Establish that the article is worthy of publication and consistent with the scope of the publication in question.  They are looking to see if the results are non-trivial, if they are new (ie not duplicative of findings already well-understood), and in some way important.  If you think of peer-reviewers as an ad hoc editorial board for the publication, you get closest to intent
  • Reviewers will check, to the extent they can, to see if the methodology  and its presentation is logical and clear -- not necesarily right, but logical and clear.  Their most frequent comments are for clarification of certain areas of the work or questions that they don't think the authors answered.
  • Peer review is not in any way shape or form a proof that a study is correct, or even likely to be correct.  Enormous numbers of incorrect conclusions have been published in peer-reviewed journals over time.  This is demonstrably true.  For example, at any one time in medicine, for every peer-reviewed study I can usually find another peer-reviewed study with opposite or wildly different findings.
  • Studies are only accepted as likely correct a over time the community tries as hard as it can to poke holes in the findings.  Future studies will try to replicate the findings, or disprove them.  As a result of criticism of the methodology, groups will test the findings in new ways that respond to methodological criticisms.  It is the accretion of this work over time that solidifies confidence  (Ironically, this is exactly the process that climate alarmists want to short-circuit, and even more ironically, they call climate skeptics "anti-scientific" for wanting to follow this typical scientific dispute and replication process).

Further, the quality and sharpness of peer review depends a lot on the reviewers chosen.  For example, a peer review of Rush Limbaugh by the folks at LGF, Free Republic, and Powerline might not be as compelling as a peer review by Kos or Kevin Drum.

But instead of this, peer review is used by folks, particularly in poitical settings, as a shield against criticism, usually for something they don't understand and probably haven't even read themselves.  Here is an example dialog:

Politician or Activist:  "Mann's hockey stick proves humans are warming the planet"

Critic:  "But what about Mann's cherry-picking of proxy groups; or the divergence problem  in the data; or the fact that he routinely uses proxy's as a positive correlation in one period and different correlation in another; or the fact that the results are most driven by proxys that have been manually altered; or the fact that trees really make bad proxies, as they seldom actually display the assumed linear positive relationship between growth and temperature?"

Politician or Activist, who 99% of the time has not even read the study in question and understands nothing of what critic is saying:  "This is peer-reviewed science!  You can't question that."

Don't Be Afraid to Let Your Enemy Speak

In this post, when I said that I thought the university had a duty to
intervene with protests only when the protests had the effect of
silencing or preventing invited speakers from speaking, this is the
type of thing I was talking about

Students stormed the stage
at Columbia University's Roone auditorium yesterday, knocking over
chairs and tables and attacking Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the
Minutemen, a group that patrols the border between America and Mexico. 

Mr. Gilchrist and Marvin Stewart, another member of his group, were
in the process of giving a speech at the invitation of the Columbia
College Republicans. They were escorted off the stage unharmed and
exited the auditorium by a back door. 

Having wreaked havoc onstage, the students unrolled a banner that
read, in both Arabic and English, "No one is ever illegal." As security
guards closed the curtains and began escorting people from the
auditorium, the students jumped from the stage, pumping their fists,
chanting victoriously, "Si se pudo, si se pudo," Spanish for "Yes we could!"

I don' t think such thuggery is protected by the first ammendment, and
certainly a private institution should be able to make sure their
invited speakers actually get to speak.  Columbia really needs to rethink its free speech policies, if it allows this behavior to occur but shuts down the hockey team for this.

By the way, I am a strong detractor of the Minutemen, their goals, and
the activities.  It's good for the soul - everyone should take the time
to defend the free speech of someone they disagree with.  Mr. Gilchrist should have been allowed to speak.  This is unfortunately yet
another example of where I am horrified by the actions of people who
agree with me.  I mean, from a PR standpoint alone, the Minutemen could not have scripted a protest that would have done more than this one to enrage and energize its supporters.  STUPID!  For my fellow travellers in the pro-immigration
movement, I would suggest you read this:  Why its good to let your enemies speak.

Update:  I was correct -- immigration foes are using this stupidity as a rallying cry.  While I often disagree quite strongly with LGF on this issue, they have a good quote from the perpetrators of this protest that highlights exactly the "free speech for me but not for thee" logic that I hate.  First they say, as all free speech opponents say:

We celebrate free speech.

Uh, OK.  Then they continue:

for that reason we allowed the Minutemen to
speak

Mr. Gilchrist was an invited guest of a private institution.  Your permission is not required or relevant.  The implication is that you somehow have a veto over everyone's speech, and they speak at your sufferance.  And finally this:

The
Minutemen are not a legitimate voice in the debate on immigration.

This is the key, absolutely dangerous assumption that all-too-many people hold in this country.  That somehow speech can be parsed into "legitimate" and "illegitimate", with the clear implication that illegitimate speech has no first amendment protection.  But who decides what is legitimate?  Of course, implicit to anyone who says this, is the assumption that "why, me and my guys would decide."  It is for this reason I have opposed "hate speech" laws in the past.

 

Heads You Win, Tails I Lose, Part 2

In my earlier post, I lamented the fact that "progressives" who criticize Bush for being undemocratic, illiberal, overly dependent on the military, and theocratic are proposing alternatives that are much, much worse.  In that post, they were championing Hugo Chavez of Venezuela as their savior.  Now, they seem to be latching on to Muslim countries like Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran as their champions of liberal values. In this interview of George Galloway, recently feted by liberals and progressives on both sides of the Atlantic:

M.B.H.S.: You often call for uniting Muslim and progressive forces globally.

How far is it possible under current situation?

Galloway: Not only do I think it's possible but I think it is vitally necessary

and I think it is happening already. It is possible because the progressive

movement around the world and the Muslims have the same enemies.

*Their enemies are the Zionist occupation, American occupation, British

occupation of poor countries mainly Muslim countries. * * *

*They have the same interest in opposing savage capitalist globalization which

is intent upon homogenizing the entire world turning us basically into factory

chickens which can be forced fed the American diet of everything from food to

Coca-Cola to movies and TV culture*. And *whose only role in life is to consume

the things produced endlessly by the multinational corporations.* And the

progressive organizations & movements agree on that with the Muslims.

Otherwise we believe that we should all have to speak as Texan and eat McDonalds

and be ruled by Bush and Blair. So *on the very grave big issues of the

day-issues of war, occupation, justice, opposition to globalization-the Muslims

and the progressives are on the same side*.

By the way, this is the movement that calls itself "reality-based".

Can't someone today emerge as a rallying point for those of use who are classical liberals and libertarians?

Hat Tip LGF.

Do US Soldiers Need Better Weapons Training?

Italian communist Giuliana Sgrena claimed to have been specifically targeted by US troops, and had hundreds, perhaps thousands of rounds shot at her oncoming vehicle from a US checkpoint.  She even claims to have been shot at by a tank.  We mourn the loss of and the needless death of her translator, but must observe that, based on her story, US soldiers don't seem to be able to hit the broadside of a barn.  Courtesy of LGF, here's her car:

Sgrenacarap1lgclick to enlarge image

Note that the front end, which should have taken the brunt, looks almost pristine.  One hit in the windshield, one in the left-front tire, and one or more in the drivers side window.  More pictures here.  More too at Captains Quarters.

Further, Ms Sgrena

said her car was hit by 300 to 400 bullets from an armored vehicle. She said she
was picking up handfuls of spent rounds from the seats.

OK, maybe I was wrong.  If hundreds of rounds went into the car, they must have all gone through that same single hole on the windshield.  That's GREAT shooting.  So I guess what is really needed is better weapons penetration.  Its a pretty pathetic bullet from an armored vehicle that would enter a car and have so little energy left that it would just land on the seats in piles.

Look, here is some advice.  Take it from the CBS memo forgers.  If you are going to make something up, know your subject.  If you are going to forge a memo from a typewriter, make sure you know how typewriters worked.  And if you are going to exaggerate a story about military weapons, make sure you understand weapons.  Rounds entering the car would not build up in a pile on the seat so that she could scoop them up - they would have embedded in things.  And, if enough rounds were fired that they started building up on the seats, then no one would be alive to scoop them up. 

I have no doubt that this was a harrowing experience for all concerned, especially in the midst of their exhilaration at being released.  It was a tragedy that neither the drivers nor the Italian government knew enough about the rules of engagement on that road to recognize that speeding toward a checkpoint might be dangerous.  But it is also clear that Ms. Sgrena is exploiting the death of her comrade for personal and political gain, just as the Italian government is exploiting the incident to take attention away from the fact that they basically just established a bounty for kidnapping westerners.

 

Conservatives and the Oscars

I really didn't want to go here again, but after some thought, I am really amazed at all the disdain for the Oscars coming out of the conservative blogs(CQ,Powerline,LaShawn Barber,LGF).  As I posted here, I thought Rock did an OK job, and for once all the awardees kept their speeches focused on movies rather than their own lame political views. 

However, conservative blogs have pointed out that most conservatives probably got turned off during Rock's monologue, particularly his jabs at GWB, and tuned out.  I am confused just what Rock said that was so horrible.  First, it is expected that monologues like this take some shots at whoever is in the White House.  And Rock certainly did so, but he also took shots at prominent liberals and Hollywood luminaries as well.

Second, just what did he make fun of?  He made fun of going to war and not finding WMD.  Now, I am certainly bright enough to know that the argument for war was more nuanced (heh heh) than just WMD's, but if I was a conservative, I would LOVE it if someone made fun of GWB every day for our WMD intelligence.  If such jokes at his expense occur frequently enough, maybe he will get mad enough to do the real thorough house cleaning of the CIA which is desperately overdue.

The other thing Rock poked fun at Bush for was the growing deficit.  Hey, conservatives out there, what's wrong with that?  Again, I am smart enough to understand there are valid reasons for deficits - wars and recessions are two of them.  Also, I understand that if you want to cut spending, you usually have to cut taxes first, drive the budget into deficit, and use that as a lever for getting spending cuts.  However, Bush has done NOTHING in four years to try to reign in domestic spending, and has done several things (e.g. prescription drug benefit) that greatly increase spending.  Reagan ended up with large deficits but only after putting up a valiant fight with a Democratic-controlled Congress to cut spending.  GWB has a Republican Congress and hasn't even tried.  So what's wrong, even for conservatives, with taking a poke at GWB on deficits?

Oh yes, the blogs have one other complaint - that he said "ass".  You know, whenever I hear this kind of complaint, it just reminds me of Beavis and Butthead going "heh, heh heh, heh -- he said ass -- heh, heh"

Free Speech is for Idiots Too

Support for free speech is generally tested at the margins -- everyone supports free speech for themselves, but the real challenge is to support free speech for your enemies.  It is for this reason that I force myself not to get worked up about the American Nazi party adopting a highway in Oregon.  LGF is wrong in this post to cheer the illegal removal of this sign.  And a state government cannot be put in the position of screening out groups eligibility based on their political views - where would it stop?

Besides, since Nazis unfortunately don't seem to be going away, what better use for them than cleaning litter off of highways?

Update:

The next step on the slippery slope.

Tsunami Before and After

A whole peninsula, wiped clean.  Ugly.  Thanks to LGF for the link.

Beforeafter

Update:  The wider angle view of these photos are even more dramatic - note the new bay where there used to be farms:

Beforeafter1a  Tsunamibeforeafter1b

More of these side-by-side tsunami before-after photo pairs are here.

Update #2:  We are getting a lot of Google hits on this.  For more before and after images, look here and  here and here (in this last link see the powerpoint download in the lower left).  This site has a ton of tsunami blog links, including pictures and video.  Here is a link-filled roundup (new 1/4) and an older one here, and another here.  And here is a dedicated blogHere is a 1/5 roundup of Indian blog posts about the tsunami and its aftermath.  And here is a local blog with news.  And here is the Amazon Red Cross donation page.

Sarin Gas in Fallujah?

See Updates Below -- Update #1: Sarin test kits, most probably. Update #2: MSM still waddling along, left in the dust by blogs

This is not a huge surprise, but it is still bad news.  Sarin find announced a few days ago confirmed in pictures, and it sure looks legit.  Memo to Republicans:  This is bad news.  Do not make the same mistake as Democrats in deciding what is good and bad news based on how it vindicates or hurts Bush.

Sarin

Larger version is picture #2 in USA Today Slideshow

Story courtesy of Powerline and Captains Quarters

Update #1

More information in the link above at Captains Quarters.  The betting line now is that these are Sarin test kits, rather than Sarin, which makes more sense anyway given how they were found.

It is amazing to me that USAToday and others could have this story now for days, and make less progress on what is really in this picture than amateur blog readers can in a couple hours in a comment thread.  Interesting.

UPDATE #2 (1AM EST Thursday): 

It has been well over 8 32 hours since readers at a number of sites, including Powerline and LGF, deconstructed this photo and concluded that these were Sarin test kits.  USAToday has still not changed their story or their caption.