My colleagues and I cannot perform our duties if research or testimony provided to us is influenced by undisclosed financial relationships

Or so says Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat in the colonies. In which case, he’s an idiot1. He’s a politicain. He should be used to, he should expect, daily to be talked to, to be lobbied, by people with strong political motivations, some or many of which will be hidden from him. He should not be relying on the motives of those presenting information to him to be pure-as-the-driven-snow, he should be relying on his own ability to evaluate what’s said. Or if he’s too stupid to do that himself, get some staffers to do it for him. Or in the case of climate science, just read the IPCC report you bozo, its what its here for. Just how dumb are the congress critters?

So as well as chilling to academic freedom, and having distinct echoes of Republican dark deeds that all right-thinking people condemned, his quest is also deeply stupid. Presumably, its nothing but bandwagon-jumping: “hey look, Soon had “undisclosed funding”, I bet I could get some cheap PR by asking questions”. But in fact, whilst Soon indeed didn’t disclose his funding on the Monkers trash paper, his funding was by that point well know anyway.

Andrew Dessler, a mainstream climate researcher and a professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M University, said that he had concerns about “fishing expeditions” by Congress into researchers’ work, especially drafts of testimony requested in the letters from Representative Grijalva.

I like to apply the ‘what if it happened to me test,’ ” he said. And while asking hard questions about funding is worthwhile, “when you start asking for these other documents, it’s more difficult.”

[Update] From Democratic Congressman Draws Backlash Over Climate Funding Probe (h/t M Mann) in the National Journal On Twitter, University of Washington earth sciences professor Eric Steig said that he has Pielke’s back. “Welcome to the new McCarthyism. Congress should not be able to investigate on a whim. You have my *unequivocal* support,” Steig said. Mann, a prominent Penn State climate scientist who has has been subject of Republican-led probes of his work in past years, had a mixed verdict on the letters. “It does come across as sort of heavy handed and overly aggressive,” Mann told National Journal, adding that he is “a little uncomfortable” with the demands for the professors’ correspondence. But he said there’s nothing wrong with seeking information on funding sources. “That is something that no scientists should have any qualms” about providing, Mann said.

Notes

1. Stronger language suppressed because some of my readership are apparently sensitive about words.

Refs

* I am Under “Investigation” – RP Jr. The McCarthy stuff is well OTT though.
* Double standards at WUWT. When is a witch hunt a witch hunt?
* Stop all harassment of all scientists now
* Retraction Watch
* The AMS writes to Dear Representative Grijalva
* Some walk back, but not far

58 thoughts on “My colleagues and I cannot perform our duties if research or testimony provided to us is influenced by undisclosed financial relationships”

  1. Maybe his faux naivete is designed to undermine those ridiculous congressional hearings they have where each side gets to pick 2 or 3 scientists that will reliably provide a few soundbites for their side of the argument. That said, scientists would seem to be a soft target given that there are paid lobbyists whose funding is often under the radar.

    Anyway – must get back to completing my deliverable for the DEFRA research contract…

    [Argh! You’ve used the D-word -W]

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  2. I would rather think that they cannot perform their duties without various paid lobbyists providing them with arguments in support of the policies they wish to pursue.

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  3. When I went to the hill to testify that adding tracers to explosives might advance the goals of the Comprehensive Antiterrorism Acyt of 1995, i was naive enough to express astonishment at being opposed by former head of the FBI’s explosives forensics section, newly retired into more lucrative employment as an ammonium nitrate lobbyist.

    Plus ca change.

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  4. Well, when you get it right you don’t mess around. Considering how much grief I give you it’s only fair to say that your post on the issue is considerably better than mine.

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  5. Just how dumb are the congress critters?

    Famous quote attributed to Mark Twain: “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

    There actually are some disclosure requirements for professional lobbyists in the US. How effective these laws are is another question, but Congressmen are supposed to know that a paid lobbyist is being paid. And any grant application to a US federal agency must include a certification that the money will not be used for lobbying. The latter provision obviously doesn’t apply to Soon, but most US academics with similar positions to Soon’s get most of their funding from government agencies. That’s what made Soon so valuable to his funders: somebody employed by a non-academic institution is reasonably expected to be supporting the views of his employer, so a “global warming is a hoax” claim will be taken more seriously from somebody claiming a Harvard affiliation (as Soon did before this scandal blew up) than somebody working for the Petroleum Institute (who presumably want people to consume fossil fuels) or the Heritage Institute (who will tend to support positions that favor the short-term interests of Big Business). Ditto Wegman, whose affiliation with George Mason University lent him credibility which turned out to be undeserved (Wegman has had his own scandals, but I am not aware of him hiding his funding sources).

    True, Congressmen get constituent letters, the writers of which may have hidden motives. But those letters represent opinions of people whose residence in your district (or ownership of a business that employs residents in your district) can be verified. Grijalva will correctly give less weight to a letter from me (I do not live in Arizona) than one from a resident of Tucson, the largest city in his district.

    Maybe Grijalva is going overboard in requesting correspondence, but he is pointing out a loophole, which Soon was exploiting, in US laws on the subject.

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  6. 1) The real problem is that Congressional testimony doesn’;t even a COI policy up to the level of average medical journals.

    2) Eric: re Wegman: as far as I know, he didn’t get fossil funding or anything like it.
    But he did say they were doing it pro bono … and they weren’t., because they claimed Wegman Report as work done for (totally-unrelated) grants…

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  7. William, these Congressional hearings are best seen as political theater.

    [Yes, I agree. Which means that everyone there knows everyone else’s biases already; releasing funding info is irrelevant -W]

    “the amount and sources of outside funding for each scholar, “communications regarding the funding” and “all drafts” of testimony”

    Most of this would be subject to FOIA anyway, although I’m not sure about the drafts.

    The universities obviously would have no records of any direct payments to researchers, but I wouldn’t expect any of that.

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  8. As someone who has been on the receiving end of FOIAs: they are a pain. I think they are important for government oversight, but should be limited to use in cases where it is actually important to understand what is going on, not just for theatre.

    I do not think that the breadth of the requests by Grijalva and co are appropriate here.

    An interesting litmus test (for both sides) would be to see how consistent people’s arguments are re: this letter, and re: Cuccinelli v. Mann. I like the Moran quote regarding the Cuccinelli request:

    “One can only conclude that your investigation is motivated by the desire to silence those with whom you disagree under the threat of having their grants, or lives, scrutinized under the guise of government auditing”

    Does he say anything similar now? And Lowry of the National Review just wrote a scathing editorial about Grijalva: did he say anything similar then?

    -MMM

    ps. Steve, you say, “most of this would be subject to FOIA anyway”: most of the targets are at private universities and therefore not normally subject to FOIA (and it is unclear to what extent even researchers at State universities should be subject to FOIA) (there may be potential exemptions regarding government grants, but the whole point of this request is that it is about private funding). Draft documents even in government are normally considered “draft deliberative” and not subject to FOIA unless they have been shared outside with people outside the government.

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  9. > everyone there knows everyone else’s biases already;
    > releasing funding info is irrelevant

    No, because when a representative is asked at election time why he took a position, and he points to testimony as the basis for his vote — voters deserve to know who paid for that testimony.

    Much congressional testimony is put on record to provide a credible basis for explaining a vote on a proposed law. Not necessarily a good basis, nor a thoughtful one, but an _arguable_ one.

    People who testify based on actual knowledge, rather than for their industry position, really screw up that process.

    Voters next election might say “but you KNEW …” and it’s awkward when that happens.

    Thus the attempt to avoid that happening:

    “Bill H.R. 1422, also known as the Science Advisory Board Reform Act, passed 229-191. It was sponsored by Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT)…. The bill changes the rules for appointing members to the Science Advisory Board (SAB), which provides scientific advice to the EPA Administrator. Among many other things, it states: “Board members may not participate in advisory activities that directly or indirectly involve review or evaluation of their own work.” This means that a scientist who had published a peer-reviewed paper on a particular topic would not be able to advise the EPA on the findings contained within that paper.”

    http://inhabitat.com/house-passes-bill-that-prohibits-expert-scientific-advice-to-the-epa/

    Not just authors, but those cited in their paper, would be precluded.

    No, it won’t pass and get signed into law.
    Not this year.

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  10. IN the same vein would you call people like Ben Goldacre & Peter Gøtzsche idiots? They strongly advocate for full disclosure of pharmaceutical industry involvement inf medical research – and believe (with evidence I understand) that the funding source influence the result of of the research.

    You think doctors don’t need to know the funding source – they should just “evaluate what’s said” in the paper? If so you are sounding a little emeritus

    [I don’t think you’ve got the right model. Doctors – prescribing doctors, GPs – don’t have that level of involvement (actually its worse for them, it was commonplace for them to effectively be bribed by pharma reps, at least until not long ago). I think you’re talking about BG asking for pharma involvement in research to be declared at paper submission time. Which is, of course, exactly what Soon should have done. Don’t muddle that up with the pols -W]

    Soon’s institution seems to subscribe to your viewpoint – signing a contract I understand entailing the funding remain confidential

    [Well, presumably not, since it wasn’t -W]

    The rest of the congressman’s witchhuntt is a bad idea but a survey of other institutions to discovere dif they’ve made similar contracts would be enlightening.

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  11. Progressives in the US in and out of government are zealous in the defense of the old Joe Romm style high sensitivity, high and terrible impacts, happening right now interpretation of the science. They have the erroneous and self defeating belief that only this interpretation can convince people to act politically,

    Now, we have the Lukewarmers. They say that sensitivity is lower. The IPCC lowered its midpoint sensitivity. They say that the models aren’t very proficient. They have a paper. It is somewhere between 0 and 100% correct. It apparently met the criteria of novelty, plausible methodology, and worthy of further discussion.

    [I don’t think it did, which is why they published it in a naive journal -W]

    The political climate warriors are in full attack mode, fearing that if any part of Soon is correct, their ill chosen narrative will be further diminished.

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  12. “I think you’re talking about BG asking for pharma involvement in research to be declared at paper submission time”

    This should be done, and failure to disclose such information is grounds for retraction in many (medical) journals. Science Bulletin, in which soon published actually has a CoI disclosure statement that looks as if it is straight from a medical journal, as you even need to disclose speaking fees or funding for attending conferences.

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  13. just read the IPCC report you bozo, its what its here for.

    Would it be a nice innovation to ask scientists reporting to congress to explain to the best of their abilities the position of the scientific literature rather than their own private opinion?

    Would naturally make it less of a circus, but if you do it for all topics, there should theoretically be some benefit for all.

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  14. Mann does seem to be somewhat equivocal in his published statements. I wonder why? (rhetorical question)

    Well, VV’s opinion on this matter has a rather low S/N ratio IMHO.

    So, on that note the 60’s counterculture song War by Edwin Starr comes to mind (some links):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_%28Edwin_Starr_song%29
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterculture_of_the_1960s
    http://www.metrolyrics.com/war-lyrics-edwin-starr.html (lyrics)

    So, from the lyrics link, replace the word ‘War’ with ‘Science’ the 1st chorus only is as follows:

    Science, huh yeah
    What is it good for?
    Absolutely nothing, oh hoh, oh
    Science huh yeah
    What is it good for?
    Absolutely nothing, say it again y’all
    Science, huh good God
    What is it good for?
    Absolutely nothing, listen to me

    (must now go into deep thought and cook some breakfast)

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  15. Everett F Sargent: “Well, VV’s opinion on this matter has a rather low S/N ratio IMHO.”

    A pity your deep humbleness goes so far as to be unable to mention arguments. Science thrives on arguments, rather than on creating a bad atmosphere, maybe that is why you think science is no good. It can also create cognitive dissonance, which is hard for some to endure.

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  16. VV,

    Do you want me to read it again?

    I guess I could fisk it, using other parts of the same text, no less.

    Clarity in communication is what I value, in other words short and sweet (e. g. consider Judith Curry’s overly long rants/screeds/manifestos).

    I’m pretty sure science isn’t holier than thou, most people don’t get to live in ivory towers and then want to listen to those who choose isolation (within said ivory towers).

    Like I said above, I’m currently in deep introspective thought, if I come up with even a braid drizzle, I’ll post an additional comment (or three).

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  17. HR writes: “Much congressional testimony is put on record to provide a credible basis for explaining a vote on a proposed law. Not necessarily a good basis, nor a thoughtful one, but an _arguable_ one.

    The knee-jerk opposition to Grijalva’s request is typically due to a failure to understand the nuances of American politics. As Hank writes, many things are done to get them on the official record.

    At the national level (Congress and Senate) this can forestall or at least limit some of the damage done by lobbyists and their backers. Unfortunately, at the state level similar scrutiny has rarely been done – or when done, receives little attention.

    All one needs to do is look at the success of ALEC in state capital after state capital to see what can happen otherwise.

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  18. http://assets.amuniversal.com/47b2dec08c540132c32c005056a9545d

    and from http://thewayne.livejournal.com/877372.html

    “[I]t has become apparent to me, the single thing that Republican politicians hate and fear the most, and that is when they are forced to tell the truth. It makes their heads explode.”
    –Ted Cruz, R-Texas

    http://washingtonexaminer.com/ted-cruz-establishment-republican-heads-exploded-after-debt-ceiling-ruse-exposed/article/2544010

    He said this on a conservative radio talk show, it was very amusing to hear it snippeted.”

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  19. 42

    Well, the D’s have really screwed the proverbial pooch on this one. As the minority party in both chambers, you would think that someone would have a effin’ clue. As in, don’t do that, it just might cause an Operation Backfire effect and divert attention elsewhere, and it has. Big time.

    The R’s have responded and everyone is talking about academic freedom (but what about all forms of freedom). Way to go D’s you clueless stains.

    Meanwhile, the SmithSoonian has released an official news statement:
    http://newsdesk.si.edu/releases/smithsonian-statement-dr-wei-hock-willie-soon

    And, if you look at the SmithSoonian OIG webpage you find:
    http://www.si.edu/OIG/About

    “The OIG conducts whatever reviews and investigations the Inspector General deems appropriate. The OIG has access to any information available to the Institution.”

    “No one may prohibit or interfere with any OIG review or investigation.”

    So OK so far, but then the D’s pull this stunt, a black swan if you will, talk about poisoning the well, the D’s are ignorant sluts.

    Outcome of OIG investigation? Who knows. But with this crap by the D’s, I’m sort of thinking a reprimand and the SmithSoonian goes back to BAU, Soon get’s mucho $$$ from Donors Trust, but this time with explicit COI statements (I was funded with dark money), or some such.

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  20. Raul Grijalva used to be my Congressman, I’m sorry to say. He’s not very smart. But *full* of bad ideas (not unlike our current President).

    He was gerrymandered into a Hispanic-heavy district in southern AZ, and brings in the $$$ to his district, so he’s pretty much in Congress for as long as he wants.

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  21. VV,

    My tribe? What exactly is my tribe?

    All I know is what the taints in DC do is called politics. Inhofe up to his very old tricks (note Senate vote on natural climate change NOT anthropogenic climate change). In this case D’s are blindingly obvious asshats, the R’s see the all too well and calmly release letters proclaiming academic freedom. I’m pretty sure that this is known as political calculus.

    So you, as an acedemic, or some such, want a law on academic freedom. Go figure.

    While I, as a nobody, or some such, want a law on legal gay marriage, and other laws of freedom (e. g. right to die), not just academic freedom.

    See the difference? Didn’t think so.

    [My suspicion is that you two disagree much less than the somewhat inflated language suggests; so please both calm down a little -W]

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  22. [My suspicion is that you two disagree much less than the somewhat inflated language suggests; so please both calm down a little -W]

    Pretty much.

    I’ve been a D my entire life (only because there is no party to their left that has a rat’s ass chance in hell of gaining a majority). I’m originally from Vermont, the land of Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders, he was the Socialist mayor of my hometown Burlington, VT. There’s a lot of historical water under that political bridge (transformation of northern (Lincoln) R’s to D’s, and vice versa wrt the southern (Civil War) D’s transformation to hardcore R’s).

    As to my comment #24, playing the part of Captain Hindsight (South Park), I do sound a ‘bit’ PO’ed and I do need to calm down. Thanks.

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  23. Once again I find myself irritable and possibly mildly incoherent about your (Wm Connolley’s) presumptions about US politics as she is practiced in our legislative bodies. You seem to assume a level of competence, intelligence, and honesty which may cohere in England, but are totally absent here. You presume to judge us by standards that do not apply in this gallimaufry.

    Roger Pielke Jr., whose main qualification is political science, exploited and been exploited by governmental bodies who have no idea what science is and does. He makes a good living and earns a fine reputation promoting general ignorance in a situation that requires ethical and intelligent work if we are all to have a future.

    I will apply myself to the evidence for these claims later, but, I cannot remain silent when you choose to ignore the atmospherics surrounding the tissue of lies that now prevails on this side of the pond. You do not know how bad things are, and you and everything you care about is threatened by the massive ignorance about which you quibble.

    Unwisdom and ignorance remain a threat to the future of civilization, and defending integrity requires a definition of integrity that includes the truth, inclsuding an understanding that scientific endeavors are an honest effort to discern how our only home works. Traducing science in favor of politics is not going to work out well in the end.

    [Its not entirely clear what you mean by that. I’ve just called one of your pols an idiot, so I don’t know why you think I think they’re competent. I do have a far higher opinion on RP Jr than you do, but he’s not a pol -W]

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  24. Thanks, I did realize I was not backing my point up properly; life is full of other demands, but I will try in the next few days to do so. My more radical colleagues are very hot under the collar about RPJr’s influence and tactics, but I need to speak for myself which means going back and finding the source materials.

    I enjoy being challenged and appreciate your tolerance, and have a suspicion you relish the argument, so continue to exercise my right to be the fool who steps in where angels fear to tread. I also appreciate your emphasis on more moderate scientific evidence.

    Here are a couple of things that might indicate the general line of country:

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-mysterious-mr-revkin.html

    [725 comments! Ah, I see, that’s because Eli let BK have free rein. Well, each to their own, but I doubt it was productive -W]

    (a search on Pielke found several opinionated comments, and though I am unable today to articulate the exact way in which RPJr is used to solidify solid opposition to reality in our congressional hearings, I’m relatively sure of my ground on this)

    [That’s mostly about Revkin. I think if you want to complain about RP Jre, you’ll need to be more precise. Plenty of people don’t like the sum total of what he says, and dislike even more that they can’t find any flaws in the detail, so resort to getting annoyed. But that’s no substitute for thought -W]

    This guy is somebody different, but the lethal approach is familiar:
    http://grist.org/politics/dr-evil-is-defending-big-oil-is-anyone-defending-climate-the-same-way/

    Though I’d recommend reading the original, for the majority who will not click through, here are some extracts:

    “Berman’s genius lies in exploiting what is legal. If a business or industry wants to fight off a public-interest campaign … it can hire PR firms itself. But that leaves it open to negative public opinion. No business wants to be the face of a controversial campaign.

    “What Berman does is start nonprofit “educational” groups as a thin front for his business.

    [I don’t see what that’s got to do with RP. AFAIK no-one has accused RP of starting any front organisations -W]

    ….
    “For a taste, you can check out his BigGreenRadicals.com, which is worth your time if only to appreciate the hilariously evil-looking picture of Bill McKibben they dug up.”

    “1. Always be on the offensive.
    “The key is to shape public judgment. “If you want public judgment on your side, you have to start the conversation,” Berman says. “You’re on defense if you’re responding to somebody else.””

    “2. The best offense is ad hominem.”
    “He goes after the people and groups running public-interest campaigns and tries to “reposition” them in the public’s mind as unelected, greedy, meddlesome nanny-staters.”

    “4. A tie is a win for the status quo.
    “When you are defending the status quo, you don’t necessarily need to convince the public that your side is right. You just need to confuse the issue.”

    “5. Humor works. (And so does scorn.)”

    “6. Emotion works better than facts; negative emotions linger longer.”

    “My strong suspicion is that if a Dr. Evil did pop up fighting for progressive causes, liberals would line up to disown him, thus demonstrating their precious independence and moral superiority. My further suspicion is that, of the vast amount of money being spent by left-leaning foundations, green NGOs, and clean energy industry groups to shape public opinion about climate change, approximately zero of it is being deployed with the same ruthless, unscrupulous ferocity that Berman brings to defending the status quo. Is that a good thing?”

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  25. Well, I realize that in picking excerpts from scientific papers, you can’t quote the entire document, and have to leave something out. Whitehouse there points out two examples of what I have learned to watch for in any invited testimony by a scientist or political scientist — trimming of what’s quoted so it fits the agenda of the politician who invited the testimony, leaving off the qualification or limitation that, in the original, changes the meaning.

    I used to challenge that sort of quotation when RPJr. posted on his old blog, but I gave up long ago. It’s how he spins.

    Thing is to remember, when he’s writing something that will be used in a political context, he’s not writing as a scientist, he’s writing as an advocate, making the best case for the side he’s invited by.

    [I doubt that, though I admit I can’t prove it. Its more that people know what he will say, so invite him to say it (just like all the other invitees. Which is why the entire process is pointless, scientifically, and purely theater). The Dems could invite him to answer the question “do you basically accept the IPCC WG I report?” and he’d happily answer yes. But you could invite any number of people to say that, so why bother? -W]

    You always have to check the original source — which is normal due diligence. Expect spin.

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  26. [Plenty of people don’t like the sum total of what he says, and dislike even more that they can’t find any flaws in the detail, so resort to getting annoyed. But that’s no substitute for thought -W]
    Well, this is my issue with RPJr. He says things that are probably correct, but that have little – IMO – value. What does that damages due to landfalling hurricanes in the USA haven’t inreased really tell us? It’s probably not that surprising, given that we probably wouldn’t have expected to find a signal in the actual climatological data itself, so why would it be surprising to have not found one in the economic data?

    [People (no, don’t force me to look up who, unless you really really want to) have asserted that increasing hurricane costs are associated with GW. Pointing out that isn’t true is valuable -W]

    So, from what I’ve seen RPJr says things that are defensible (call it true, if you want) but easily misinterpreted. You could argue that it’s not his fault if people don’t interpret what he says correctly, and I might even go with this. I’m not a huge fan of blaming people when what they say is misused. I would argue, however, that my impression of him would be better if he tried harder to not say things that could be quite so easily misinterpreted, since this does seem to be quite a common theme. Maybe he’s incapable of doing so, but I’m not sure why that would be a good defense. Maybe I’m missing something obvious, of course, so this is just my impression.

    [I would at least partly agree with that -W]

    Of course, it maybe doesn’t help that one of the few times he interacted with me, he managed to quote mine me in a way that rather mis-interpreted what I had said. To be fair, I did rather set myself up. That he choose to do so anyway, doesn’t necessisarily reflect well on him, though.

    I’ll add, that I am quite interested in why you seem to have a reasonable impression of him (although, you did say “higher opinion” so that doesn’t necessarily mean a good opinion). I’m struggling to think of why one would, so would be interested in why you seem to.

    [Partly past history (Prometheus was a giant in its day). Parlty because, as I say, I value some of what he says. Partly the way he so easily wipes the floor with people like Romm any time they interact. Partly because we shared a drink in the Fowl and Foetus a few years back -W]

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  27. [People (no, don’t force me to look up who, unless you really really want to) have asserted that increasing hurricane costs are associated with GW. Pointing out that isn’t true is valuable -W]
    I’d largely agree with this. My personal preference, though, would be for people to do so in a way that didn’t then allow other people to say “see, nothing to worry about” (again, don’t make me look this up 🙂 ). Of course, that is just my personal preference.

    [Partly because we shared a drink in the Fowl and Foetus a few years back]
    Okay, this I can identify with.

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  28. Yes, I’m not making my point properly and note that you are being tolerant and almost kind about this. It’s partly because I am in the process of trying to think through and regroup for myself so I can be more straightforward (which you rightly point out I have not done).

    RPJr works in symbiosis with a system that need only confuse to prevent action.

    [I disagree with your use of the word “symbiosis” -W]

    It’s hard to pin down if one is bent on being honest. He’s also very very good at making his opponents look bad (that he persuaded you he was more honest than Holdren is a case in point).

    [No; I didn’t say he made H look bad -W]

    ATTP also makes the point well.

    Hank Roberts is meticulously ethical, and not prone to exaggeration. His experience is common to anyone who takes a close and honest look at the tactical results of the apparently honest but misleadingly framed material RPJr provides. That RPJr and Judith Curry are employed by our unskeptical “skeptic” legislators leaves at best a suspect shadow.

    [You’re confusing two different meanings of the word employed; in the current Soon-type environment, that’s not good. RP Jr is not “employed” in the sense of “being in the pay of”, which is the most usual meaning of the term. I think you mean “employed” in the sense of “used by”, which is a less usual use; and is not particularly to his discredit -W]

    The reason I used Roberts on Berman, aside from it being ready to hand, is that it is hard to make an ethical counter to an unethical attack.

    [If you think that has any relevance to Pielke, you haven’t demonstrated it. You may be assuming a commonality of shared worldview that doesn’t exist -W]

    Meanwhile, the decades are going by, the opposition determined and successful, and doing nothing is dangerous.

    As for Revkin, he appears to be buddies with RPJr, is a Breakthrough invitee, and is constantly on the hunt for moderate voices.

    [“on the hunt for moderate voices”? [sarc]Well, say no more – clearly that condemns him to the deepest pits of hell[/sarc]. Do you really want to stand by that? -W]

    In his eagerness to discredit scaremongering he seems unwilling or afraid to look directly at where we are going.

    As with my strictures on what it is like to be part of the underclass, here again you lack direct experience of what it is like to live through something like Sandy or the current winter in Boston (it has been warmer in Alaska). The broken Arctic circulation, size of storms, frequency of hybrids and out-of-season events are evidence to thinking meteorologists of more energy in the system, exactly as predicted from accumulating heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

    [No. Its isn’t “exactly as predicted”. All the things you mention are compatible with projections, but that’s different -W]

    Most people, told you cannot directly attribute any single event to CC, will hear only that there is no attribution.

    [Well, most people are wrong. But we knew that anyway. You don’t fix most people’s wrongness by asking RP Jr to lie to them, or even to fail to tell them the truth -W]

    Intellectual honesty only works for a small segment of the population. More accurately, CC is now part of all our weather. The care with which these “experts” skirt this issue is not honesty but legerdemain.

    “wiping the floor” is easy if that’s your stock in trade. On the whole, I prefer honesty to tactics.

    [See response to ATTP -W]

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  29. Susan,
    “wiping the floor” is easy if that’s your stock in trade. On the whole, I prefer honesty to tactics.
    Yes, that’s my position too. I might have to give some kind of grudging respect to someone who can win such battles, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it or think that it is how we should behave in such a situation.

    [You, and SA, have both misunderstood me.

    RP Jr wipes the floor with Romm fairly and justly. Not by using debating tricks. He isn’t like some of the better creationists, who can wipe the floor with atheists using debating tricks; he merely points out the flaws errors and illogicalities in Romm’s positions -W]

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  30. > he’s not writing as a scientist

    Expanding that, I mean: writing for political use doesn’t include all the evidence on all sides of the question. That’s how advocacy works — it presents support for the desired interpretation. Read something and check the sources and decide — is it advocacy? If it’s one-sided, it’s advocacy.

    The quotes Whitehouse checks are examples — and that’s how it’s done. The advocate presents the evidence supporting a position. Those listening are expected to check whether something important was left out of the advocate’s statement and correct it.

    I pay attention to this particular one because I’m living in the area affected by the drought, which continues.

    As Whitehouse put it (link above):

    ” I will show, first, that the indicated quote from the US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) about U.S. droughts is missing a crucial adjacent sentence in
    the CCSP report, which supports my position about
    drought in the American West. I will also show that Dr. Pielke’s statements about global drought trends, while irrelevant to my comments about drought in California and the Colorado River Basin, are seriously misleading, as well,
    concerning what is actually in the UN Panel’s latest report and what is in the current scientific literature.”

    Now, that’s politics. You have to check what Whitehouse says Pielke Jr. left out, and assess whether, in fact, the underlying facts as written in the original source are misrepresented by leaving out what Pielke Jr. left out.

    That’s what I found to be, ultimately, an endless and tiresome exercise reading Prometheus. It read as advocacy. It required checking every quote — not just the words and punctuation, but also the surrounding text to see what might have been left out that affected the sense conveyed.

    “Trust, but verify” works for a while.
    Eventually, failure to verify degrades trust.
    I lost mine, after enough checking wore me out.

    You have to check every quote against the original text.

    There is, let me say clearly, nothing right or wrong here. I’m observing how the world works and how people present information to others — and there are two very different styles, advocacy or science. Both have reviewers and editors and cite-checkers. What differs is the author’s draft, and the author’s ability to do more than spin when writing.

    We learn from science, not from spin.
    Learning would be a good idea.

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  31. @Hank,
    But but RPjr is the Honest Broker! Surely he wouldn’t swerve into unbalanced advocacy! He’s the only one who can tell us What’s Really Happening!

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  32. RP Jr. is clever. William likes clever. RP Jr. has libertarian leanings. William like libertarian leanings (although not out-and-out libertarianism). This allows him to ignore the reality of RP Jr. somewhat. See this post and the comment thread for how that works. The post title was rather a hostage to fortune, and fortune did not smile on the Stoat in this case. Indeed, the scene was more like this.

    The drink too, I suppose. Was that by any chance when RP Jr. was in town to collaborate on the entirely crap Hartwell Paper but had time to swing by the Beeb to trash the IPCC.? A three-fer if so!

    For further enlightenment, see this Romm deep dive into the RP Jr. pool. But I’m sure the latter must have wiped the floor with the latter afterward. Link for that wiping, William?

    [That Romm piece you link to is the kind of thing I’m thinking about, yes. Its trash. You need to be a Romm partisan or very anti-Pielke to think otherwise, I’d say. I got as far as “I respect him,” Pielke says. “I disagree with him, but I respect him.” before giving up. Ad-homs, innuendo, rubbish cartoons – you just have to change a few names and it would fit right in at WUWT. I wouldn’t expect Pielke to bother refuting any of it – it refutes itself -W]

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  33. hmmm. I don’t have time to do my homework until Friday or later, but you prove my thought, which is that on your side of the pond, you have more respect for intellect and less understanding of influence.

    RPJr is a peddler and profiter of influence. That is not to his credit.

    ps. His credentials are in political science, not climate science. He is influential and effective at attack. That is not to his credit. You have failed to make your case, except you are right that my arguments are sloppy.

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  34. No wiping? Oh well. But do keep reading to get to the good stuff. There’s definitely some innuendo mixed in, but haven’t we established that RP Jr. richly deserves that?

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  35. oh: “employment” and “symbiosis”. These arguments are academic and in a narrow sense you are correct.

    RPJr assists the Republican establishment’s denial of science by attacking all and sundry as an “honest broker” (yuck, “honest”?). That is not “symbiosis” it is knowing on which side your bread is buttered.

    And as to money, of course it’s not direct. You fail to appreciate how easy it is to earn a reputation if you are willing to confuse the public. It doesn’t need to be overt. Hence Berman.

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  36. I was, when I bothered with either of them, critical of Romm’s writing as I was of RPJr.’s, and for the same reasons. While both of them truly believe what advocating is right, they both could — in my minority opinion — benefit from having an honest and aggressive scientific reference librarian on call 24/7 to check their drafts, because they’re both prone to going beyond what they can cite to published science.

    Attitude, style, snarkiness, archness, whatever — don’t impress me or put me off all that much, they don’t count.

    The grandchildren will know who was right.

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  37. I feel that there is a deep difference in the way certain people are perceived from within or without the USA and this derives from the context.
    Climate change / science in the USA has successfully been classified in terms of ideologies, and is thus highly schismatic and polarised, more so than in some other countries.
    There is a tendency in the USA to link an individual to an ideology and thereby to a political position. The political position exists in a package in which a point of view on one topic implies certain positions on others by implication.
    So you get ‘sides’ – ‘our’ side, ‘their’ side; not much room for middle ground. It boils down to advocates for intervention and advocates for passivity. Irrespective of fact or other exonerating factors, once a person has been identified as being one of Us or Them, everything they do/say/write is judged in that specific context and frame.
    For the average Brit (okay, me), this is evidently a foolish way to deal with people and what they say. For the average American, it is a simple piece of understanding linked to the nexus of all things public. Hence the diversity of opinion here – what RPJr does/says is within an understood context in one place, and not in another.
    This seems a bit waffly but I’m trying to make a point…

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  38. “…increasing hurricane costs are associated with GW.” IMO that is not a particularly worthwhile metric. It seems to me that there are too many factors open to chance to make it useful. You could have an increase in strong hurricanes, but if they stay out to sea or miss built up areas/high value infrastructure or hit areas that have been rebuilt stronger after a previous hurricane etc, then the costs could be lower than an early year where fewer hurricanes hit more valuable/vulnerable areas.

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  39. http://alterslash.org/#article-7049251
    Technology’s Legacy: the ‘Loser Edit’ Awaits Us All
    An anonymous reader writes: The NY Times Magazine has an insightful article …. about a phenomenon dubbed the “loser edit.” The term itself was born out of reality TV — once an outcome had been decided while the show was still taping, the producers would comb back through the footage and selectively paste together everything that seemed to foreshadow the loser’s fall. When the show actually aired, it thus had an easy-to-follow narrative.

    But as the information age has overtaken us, the “loser edit” is something that can happen to anyone…. It usually becomes a self-reinforcing chain of evidence…. using their social media posts, public records, leaked private records, and anything else available through search.
    … Any time the internet gets outraged about something, there are a few people who happily dig up everything they can about the person they now feel justified in hating — and thus, the loser edit begins.

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  40. Fergus Brown: There is a tendency in the USA to link an individual to an ideology and thereby to a political position.

    Good comment, and I’d add that it’s more than a tendency – it’s a method. I haven’t been following climate in the UK media very much, but it seems to be catching on there too.

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  41. Whom to pick? RPJ or Romm. Hopefully, those are not my only two choices. False dichotomy much? Cassandra or Chicken Little.

    That’s (not quite but) ALMOST like asking whom do you believe on the issue of AGW, Watts or Romm. Close call, but IF those were the only two choices, very reluctantly, I’d choose Romm.

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  42. “It boils down to advocates for intervention and advocates for passivity.”

    Yes, noting that people who try to place themselves in the middle on that one are actually part of the latter group.

    And of course the advocates for climate policy passivity are very strong advocates indeed for continued destabilization of the climate system.

    Just to note, the obvious difference between the UK and US is that in the former a major political party hasn’t overtly embraced climate denialism. Not having that does indeed tend to make for a less polarized atmosphere.

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  43. since my name shows up in the Update to the post, I read through the comments. #50 got me. Do you really think, Everett F Sargent, that it’s a close call between Romm and Watts? Romm may over-the-top and even exaggerate the facts. Watts doesn’t even get near the facts (other than the “facts”) he’s makes up. This sort of “I can’t tell the difference between smart people and idiots” stuff really drives me nuts.

    Incidentally, my saying my support of RP Jr was “unequivocal” was true, but also intended to be a bit of a friendly dig, since RP was so equivocating in his claimed support of Mann re Cuccinelli. Too subtle, however.

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  44. Eric Steig,

    Absolutely!

    The center-of-gravity is orders of magnitude more heavily weighted to the Deniersville side of the faux ‘debate’ all you have to do is look at the total posts at RealClimate versus WTFUWT? or Climate Etc. as a function of time (and similarly between other nutter blogs and.other real climate science blogs).

    Why is that so? Truthers. Birthers. Deniers.

    Now 99.44% of the world’s population doesn’t read blogs about AGW and they all are much more likely to get their ‘science’ from Twitter (140 characters being the limits of most of humanity’s thoughts) or The Daily Show or the TV. Go figure.

    In other words, Romm wipes RPJ’s A$$, it’s not even close.

    As to Watts, assume an uninformed viewer, err voter, were to Google anything about AGW or climate change or climate disruption. They honestly don’t have an opinion on said matter, but in the Google search results, they get a vastly disproportionate list of results (several orders of magnitude even) from the likes of Watts, Booker, et.. al. do they really care or know? No, of course not (remember the 140 character limit).

    That group of people are what one would call independents, they are not hardcore/softcore D’s or R’s or Tea Baggers. Do you want them to vote? Because AGW isn’t the issue that will drive that group to the polls, that’s for sure. It will most certainly drive R’s and Tea Baggers to the polls though and not in the way we would like.

    Romm is paid full time to misinform, heck Romm use to be a registered lobbyist in DC, Watts is not paid full time to misinform (well relatively speaking), Watts has never been a registered lobbyist in DC (AFAIK). So where and how do people want to be misinformed, tough call, if it were between Romm and Watts, those two Venn diagrams don’t overlap at all, and given those two, as my only choices, I’d simply walk away shaking my head. Go figure.

    So at the end of the day, let me ask you this, who are the ‘smart’ people (Inhofe) and who exactly are the ‘idiots’ (humanity)?

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  45. @51 Steve,
    About a third of the Tory back bench (the rank and file MPs are overtly on the denial side, blocking any legislation to decarbonise and actively persecuting environmental efforts – see Monbiot on this. Since practically nobody gives a s**t what they think, the flavour of regulation, spending and progress is tainted without most of the public knowing what’s going on.
    Note, though, that most of our political types are ideologically flexible at times, when it suits, and never seem to be accountable either for their conflicts of interest, second jobs or idiocy, and will lie through their teeth to avoid having to be honest about their prejudices.

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  46. Well speaking of the Devil as it were:

    Google works to rank sites based on ‘truthfulness’

    “I worry about this issue greatly… My site gets a significant portion of its daily traffic from Google,” Anthony Watts, who runs Watts Up With That, a popular blog that is skeptical of global warming claims, told FoxNews.com.

    “It is a very slippery and dangerous slope because there’s no arguing with a machine,” he added.

    http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2015/03/05/google-works-to-rank-sites-based-on-truthfulness/

    There’s also no arguing with a nutter (who has the brains of a 19th century machine).

    This has been going on for years.

    Every time I search for anything dated (e. g. a start and stop date), webpages that include sidebars with recent news items listed etceteras, Google always gives me false positives, a lot of false positives, to the point of almost being useless (all old webpages get attached with the current sidebars) .

    If it happens to have anything to do with climate science, BINGO!, WTFUWT? is all over the place. Same goes for a Google image search on anything remotely related to climate science.

    Google should know this and should stop this, because Willard Anthony Watts has been doing this for years.

    Truthers and Birthers and Deniers oh my.

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  47. I said when I had time I’d find evidence of how RPJr is used by our Congress to divert attention from the truth; I’m not going as much in depth as I had intended for various reasons. I think others have made my point about the way the argument is altered to create bias, and how he both exploits and is exploited by this effort, which is political rather than scientific. Citation of Lomborg and Pielke occurs between 1:20 and 1:40. The rest of the argument is characteristic, but not news to us:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/03/05/the-gops-climate-change-skepticism-in-one-groan-worthy-video/

    The rest of this clip is so appalling it might feel that I am doing some special pleading here. It’s one of many; the way in which it is used (which is the motivation for employing RPJr in the first place) is our primary concern. It is always easier to argue for inaction than for action.

    Supporting an argument because the debater is more successful does not address political distortion of reality. I am not disputing that he is good at winning arguments, considered on the merits of debating skill (and assets as a drinking buddy) rather than the substance of scientific portrayals of reality.

    A couple of people above have done a better job than I at indicating the subtle changing of context and selective distortion of source material (including one’s own words) that is used to change the argument. This is used on me a lot, and of course I’m vulnerable because although I know what I am talking about I sometimes don’t put it as precisely as might be desirable and prefer to leave science to scientists. OTOH, they often underestimate me, but you will not have that problem, and I am well aware that I am frequently sinning above my station here.

    A brief search provides some further resources from which I have arbitrarily selected this dated item:
    “Dr. Pielke’s work on climate change effects has been criticized by Dr. Stephen Schneider, who said that with Pielke “one consistent pattern emerges-he is a self-aggrandizer who sets up straw men, knocks them down, and takes credit for being the honest broker to explain the mess-and in fact usually adds little new social science to his analysis ”
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Roger_Pielke_Jr.

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