Archive for March, 2012

More on Daisey (Mostly), Plus a Little Russell and Gleick

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

It turns out that journalists have thought a lot about this whole question of whether it is or isn’t cool to lie to make your story more compelling. Weighing in on the Mike Daisey story are a bunch of journalists:

And a few climate-obsessed non-journalists:

Having now listened to This American Life’s Retraction episode, I’m with Ira: Daisey has moved on from fooling his audience to fooling himself, if he thinks his contortions about “it’s theater not journalism, and I stand by it” are anything but self-serving special pleading.

The difference between journalism and theater are important, if for no other reason than this: Audiences have bullshit detectors, and once you’ve activated them you’ve lost the ability to persuade. In a hyper-connected era, going before an audience the size of This American Life’s means that for someone in that audience, your lies will be transparent, and that someone will have access to the same communication tools you used.

Russell to Daisey to Gleick

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

There’s a weird synchronicity in all these stories floating around lately about people, nominally good guys, trying to raise public awareness about nominal bad guys, but doing it by exaggerating or outright lying. When the nominal good guys succeed in raising that awareness, and a wider audience is suddenly up in arms about the nominal bad guys, what does it mean when it emerges that while those bad guys really are pretty bad, they’re actually not bad in the particular way or to the particular extent that the nominal good guys made them out to be?

The nominal good guys should have been more honest, right? Ideally, they would have raised awareness without resorting to deception. But what if being honest about the bad guys means that the narrative exposing their wrongdoing is not compelling enough to go viral and get the kind of traction that leads to real pressure for change? Is it okay in that case to stretch the truth a little, to embellish the storyline? Is it okay to stretch the truth a lot? Where do you draw that line? And if the nominal good guy does stretch the truth, only to have the deception come to light later on, is it all just “pearl clutching” for the nominal good guy’s nominal allies to call foul at that point?

I don’t actually know the answers to any of these questions. I’m curious what you think. In particular, I’m curious about the following three cases:

Jason Russell: This is the guy who made the “KONY 2012″ video via his nonprofit, Invisible Children, Inc.:

I still have not watched KONY 2012, though with 81 million YouTube views (and counting), I’m apparently one of the few who can say that. Among those who have viewed it, there exists a subset of people who have checked into the claims it makes, and pointed out that while this Kony guy really is a legitimately bad guy, the monstrous depiction in the video glosses over or outright misstates some important facts. Like, Kony is not currently operating in Uganda, and hasn’t been since 2005. He doesn’t have an army of 30,000 child soldiers; that number in the video apparently was based on an estimate of his actions over several decades. And so on.

From an article by Demian Bulwa in sfgate.com (Kony video quickly raises awareness, skepticism):

In a response to criticism on its website, Invisible Children highlighted its education and rehabilitation programs in the region and said it had “sought to explain the conflict in an easily understandable format.

“In a 30-minute film,” the group said, “many nuances of the 26-year conflict are admittedly lost or overlooked. The film is a first entry point to this conflict for many, and the organization provides several ways for our supporters to go deeper.”

[snip]

Sean Darling-Hammond, a 27-year-old student at the law school, said he was becoming skeptical about all the skepticism.

“Criticizing the efforts of others has become the currency of relevance in social media,” he said. “If this video had been about the group’s cotton project in Africa, they would have gotten 200 views. The sad reality is that narrative sells, and catch-the-bad-guy is a classic narrative.”

I guess. But apparently the stress of his newfound success in selling a not-quite-factual bad-guy narrative — or maybe the pushback from people who want to hold the video to a higher standard of accuracy — has been having a negative impact on filmmaker Jason Russell. From the NYT (Police Detain Maker of Uganda Video):

SAN DIEGO – A co-founder of Invisible Children, the nonprofit organization whose video “Kony 2012” has become an Internet sensation, was detained by the San Diego police on Thursday, after they said he was found in the street in his underwear, screaming and interfering with traffic.

The police found Jason Russell, the filmmaker behind the video, after responding to calls about a man who was acting irrationally, including one call that alleged he was naked and masturbating, a San Diego police spokeswoman said. He was taken to a hospital for evaluation and treatment, and the police have no plans to charge him.

“It’s our belief that a medical condition would explain his irrational behavior as opposed to criminal intent,” said Lt. Andra Brown, the spokeswoman. “If we thought he was under the influence, we wouldn’t have taken him to a hospital; we would have taken him to jail.”

The 30-minute “Kony 2012” video has been viewed nearly 80 million times on YouTube since March 5. It has thrust a sudden celebrity upon Mr. Russell, 33, who narrates the video and appears in it with his young son, appealing to viewers to bring more attention to the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and advocating his arrest.

That success has brought criticism of Invisible Children for the way it spends its money, for a photograph of its founders, including Mr. Russell, holding rifles, and for other matters.

That criticism took its toll on Mr. Russell, according to his wife, Danica Russell, who released a statement Friday.

While the attention the film has drawn has brought increased awareness of Mr. Kony, Ms. Russell said, “it also brought a lot of attention to Jason — and because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal, and Jason took them very hard.”

Mike Daisey: Because I’ve switched to mostly telecommuting lately, I don’t listen to nearly as much This American Life. As a result, I missed an episode, aired back in January, in which reporter thesbian Mike Daisey gave a first-person account of his investigation into the surreal and horrible working conditions at Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturing company where my iPhone was probably made.

The episode became the most-downloaded TAL episode ever, and apparently played a role in a massive petition campaign that pressured Apple into pressuring (some) of its Asian suppliers into improving working conditions for (some) employees, or (some)thing.

Except it turns out that many of the “facts” narrated by Daisey were not, in fact, factual. This weekend’s This American Life episode consists of an apology, including a detailed account of what went wrong: Retraction. See also this blog post (and attached press release) from TAL host Ira Glass: RETRACTING “MR. DAISEY AND THE APPLE FACTORY”.

Some of the falsehoods found in Daisey’s monologue are small ones: the number of factories Daisey visited in China, for instance, and the number of workers he spoke with. Others are large. In his monologue he claims to have met a group of workers who were poisoned on an iPhone assembly line by a chemical called n-hexane. Apple’s audits of its suppliers show that an incident like this occurred in a factory in China, but the factory wasn’t located in Shenzhen, where Daisey visited.

“It happened nearly a thousand miles away, in a city called Suzhou,” Marketplace’s Schmitz says in his report. “I’ve interviewed these workers, so I knew the story. And when I heard Daisey’s monologue on the radio, I wondered: How’d they get all the way down to Shenzhen? It seemed crazy, that somehow Daisey could’ve met a few of them during his trip.”

In Schmitz’s report, he confronts Daisey and Daisey admits to fabricating these characters.

“I’m not going to say that I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard,” Daisey tells Schmitz and Glass. “My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism, and it’s not journalism. It’s theater.”

Daisey’s interpreter Cathy also disputes two of the most dramatic moments in Daisey’s story: that he met underage workers at Foxconn, and that a man with a mangled hand was injured at Foxconn making iPads (and that Daisey’s iPad was the first one he ever saw in operation). Daisey says in his monologue:

“He’s never actually seen one on, this thing that took his hand. I turn it on, unlock the screen, and pass it to him. He takes it. The icons flare into view, and he strokes the screen with his ruined hand, and the icons slide back and forth. And he says something to Cathy, and Cathy says, “he says it’s a kind of magic.””

Cathy Lee tells Schmitz that nothing of the sort occurred.

Here’s Daisey’s response, as posted on his personal blog (Statement on TAL):

I stand by my work. My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge. It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity. Certainly, the comprehensive investigations undertaken by The New York Times and a number of labor rights groups to document conditions in electronics manufacturing would seem to bear this out.

What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic ­- not a theatrical ­- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret. I am proud that my work seems to have sparked a growing storm of attention and concern over the often appalling conditions under which many of the high-tech products we love so much are assembled in China.

Peter Gleick: You don’t really need me to summarize this, right? Just go back and read the last 50,000 words of drivel I’ve spewed in this blog. Note that for the purposes of the current comparison, I’m crediting Gleick with having forged the 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy memo. I’m also crediting him with having created at least some degree of heightened public awareness of what Heartland is up to, awareness that would have been less if he hadn’t “sexed up” his document leak with the forged memo.

So, here’s my actual question: Were these guys (Russell, Daisey, and Gleick) in any sense right to do what they did? All appear to have been willing to deceive the public as part of crafting a more-compelling narrative fiction. And in each case it appears to have worked (at least in a certain sense). Their acts of public deception gave their stories “legs,” making it so more people heard about them, were outraged by what they heard, and were motivated to pass the stories on. The fictions contributed to, and may actually have been essential to, the stories “going viral.”

With the benefit of hindsight, was that a good thing? Is the “it’s not journalism; it’s theater” defense valid?

Two Stopped Watches

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Everyone knows the old adage that “even a stopped clock is right twice a day.” Then there’s that saying (which I’d always thought was a quotation from Mark Twain, but which turns out, at least according to some thinly sourced web pages, to be a quotation from someone named Lee Segall):

A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure.

Lately I’ve found both metaphors fighting for dominance as I read various climate change blogs. I’ve got my stopped clocks: blogs by committed partisans on one side (like Joe Romm) or the other (like Steve McIntyre), whom I’m used to reading with a grain of salt, since I recognize that, like a trial, I’m only hearing one side’s case at a time. Maybe they’re misleading me (well, they’re almost certainly misleading me, at least in the sense that they are going to exclude or de-emphasize truths damning to their case), but they still might be right, at least sometimes.

But in my post-Gleickian reading of a wider range of opinions, I’m now the man with two watches. And since they’re two stopped watches, with ideologically embedded opinions resistent to change, those stopped watches are never going to tell the same time.

It’s all quite bothersome, metaphorically speaking. Anyway, here are a few examples from my last few days’ reading.

I’ve been reading about Singer lately as I work my way through Oreskes’ and Conway’s Merchants of Doubt. For decades, according to Oreskes and Conway, Singer has made a habit of taking up contrarian scientific positions (on ozone depletion, the health risks of secondhand tobacco smoke, and global warming), then made use of media “fairness” policies to get himself lots of camera time (and corporate research funding). So yes, I’m sure the extreme denialists make it more difficult for Singer to stake out his contrarian-but-science-y-enough-to-be-credible positions. But I also suspect him of promoting a false equivalence by claiming it’s the extremists on both sides who are wrong, and lonely him in the middle who’s right.

Enough with the fighting over hockey sticks. How about a nice, non-contentious topic?

Breakthrough is the think tank founded by Nordhaus and Shellenberger to push their politically liberal attack on what they view as the failures of environmentalism, more or less. Anyway, they’re big on the idea (also articulated fairly persuasively by Lovelock in The Revenge of Gaia, which I recently read and enjoyed) that environmentalists (and the public generally) greatly overestimate the risks of nuclear power, and that a major commitment to nuclear fission is the only way for us to replace our electrical generating capacity in the short term without wrecking either the economy or the climate. (Not sure if that last is really a Breakthrough position. It’s certainly Lovelock’s position.)

  • Prospects for Nuclear Power – A paper by Lucas W. Davis in the American Economic Association’s Journal of Economic Perspectives (the link is to the abstract, but the full text is available as a PDF).

Davis argues that even if you could overcome the sorts of irrational nuke fears described by Lovelock and exacerbated by Fukushima, nuclear plants would still not be economically viable, due to the recent drop in price for natural gas due to techniques like fracking.

I don’t have an ideologically opposed “second watch” for this item, but I don’t feel like a post is complete these days if it doesn’t have a Gleick link. In this piece, Zasloff makes the case that Gleick’s actions may have been ethically justified under the tradition of people using deception to achieve a good end in cases where those ends can’t be achieved without the deception. I raise a question in a late comment (so far unanswered by Zasloff) as to whether he (Zasloff) was taking the account from Gleick’s confession at face value. That is, would the equation still show Gleick’s actions to be ethical if it turned out that he forged the strategy memo himself in an effort to mislead the public about how bad Heartland is?

So, that’s all I’ve got for now. Time ticks onward (or doesn’t, depending on whether your watches — either of them — are stopped). I’ll see what dissonance-inducing contradictions await me in the new day.

Picard’s ‘Measure of a Man’ Speech

Friday, March 16th, 2012

A comment by shcb made me remember this scene, and it makes for a nice comparison with Valorie Curry’s Kara performance I posted a few days ago. From writer Melinda M. Snodgrass, as delivered by Patrick Stewart:

The (Imaginary) Trial of Peter Gleick – Part 4: Prosecution Witness Donna Laframboise

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

From the beginning: The (Imaginary) Trial of Peter Gleick.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. It features characters based on real people and evidence based on real events, and is as close to reality as my whim and imagination allow. But it’s completely fake.

INT. – AN IMAGINARY COURTROOM – DAY

BAILIFF

All rise. The Imaginary Court of the Internet is now in session. The honorable Judge Mumble K. Mumbles presiding.

The JUDGE enters and sits behind the bench.

JUDGE

Be seated. Prosecution: Are you ready to call your first witness?

PROSECUTION

Yes, your honor. The prosecution calls Donna Laframboise.

DONNA LAFRAMBOISE stands and makes her way to the witness stand.

COURT CLERK

(standing before Laframboise)

Do you swear to tell the truth, or at least something more or less consistent with your public statements, so help you the Internet?

LAFRAMBOISE

I do.

COURT CLERK

Please be seated.

PROSECUTION

Ms. Laframboise, what is your occupation?

LAFRAMBOISE

I am a journalist, author, and photographer.

PROSECUTION

What is your most recent book?

LAFRAMBOISE

Its title is “The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert.”

PROSECUTION

That’s quite a mouthful.

LAFRAMBOISE

Yes. Most people just call it “The Delinquent Teenager.”

PROSECUTION

When was the book published?

LAFRAMBOISE

October 2011.

PROSECUTION

Who is “the delinquent teenager” referred to in the title?

LAFRAMBOISE

The United Nations climate panel, the IPCC. The book is an exposé of the IPCC.

PROSECUTION

And IPCC stands for?

LAFRAMBOISE

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

PROSECUTION

And what does this organization, the IPCC, actually do?

LAFRAMBOISE

It surveys the scientific research on climate change, decides what it all means, and writes an ongoing series of reports. These reports are informally known as the “Climate Bible.”

PROSECUTION

Ms. Laframboise, by your book’s title do you mean to suggest that this important and prestigious international organization is somehow similar to a “delinquent teenager”?

LAFRAMBOISE

Yes, I’m afraid it is.

PROSECUTION

But the IPCC is made up of the world’s top scientists, isn’t it?

LAFRAMBOISE

I used to think so. But in researching my book I discovered that the truth is very different. Some of the people in charge of writing the Climate Bible are no better than graduate students. I found examples of people who at the time they were working on it were 10 years or more away from completing their PhDs. Others were employees of activist organizations, like Greenpeace or the World Wildlife Fund.

PROSECUTION

But Ms. Laframboise, how is it possible that such people would be in charge of writing such an important report?

LAFRAMBOISE

Well, what you have to realize is that the IPCC is a political organization. As a result, many of the people occupying these important positions in it were appointed for political reasons. Do they represent the right country? Are they of the right gender? Insiders at the IPCC, in an anonymous survey, used words like “they’re not qualified”, “not competent”, “out of their intellectual depth.” Those are the sorts of people being tasked with writing IPCC reports.

DEFENSE

Objection, your honor. Hearsay.

PROSECUTION

Ms. Laframboise has conducted extensive investigation of the IPCC, and has direct knowledge of how its membership is selected.

JUDGE

Objection sustained. The jury will disregard the witness’s last response. Ms. Laframboise, please refrain from offering testimony on behalf of people not present at trial.

PROSECUTION

Let’s try again. Ms. Laframboise, as a result of your research, how would you characterize the process whereby the IPCC members are chosen?

LAFRAMBOISE

It is a very political process. The selection criteria include things like the member’s nationality or gender. Leading scientists may be excluded simply because their views about climate change differ from those of the IPCC leadership.

PROSECUTION

Were you surprised to learn these things about the IPCC, Ms. Laframboise?

LAFRAMBOISE

I was. The reputation the IPCC enjoys in the media, and in the public mind, has been quite high. The reality, sadly, is very different.

PROSECUTION

Why do you think these shocking facts about the IPCC are not more widely known?

LAFRAMBOISE

Well, I think going back to the 1970s, many in the media have basically seen themselves as being on the side of the environmental movement. Journalists have tended to be very uncritical of anyone working on behalf of the environment. So an organization like the IPCC, which is perceived as being part of that tradition, has not been subject to any real scrutiny.

PROSECUTION

So your book represents the first time such scrutiny has been applied to the IPCC?

LAFRAMBOISE

Yes. As an investigative journalist, every time I’ve taken a look at one of these claims about the IPCC, every time I’ve turned over a rock, I’ve found a scandal under that rock. It really is quite amazing.

PROSECUTION

You said your book was published last October, Ms. Laframboise. What sort of response did it receive?

LAFRAMBOISE

Overall, I would say the response has been positive.

PROSECUTION

But not universally so?

LAFRAMBOISE

(smiles)

No, not universally.

PROSECUTION

Which brings us to the defendant, Peter Gleick. Didn’t he write a review of your book on Amazon.com?

LAFRAMBOISE

Yes, he did.

PROSECUTION

Your honor, I would like to enter into evidence Prosecution Exhibit #1, Peter Gleick’s review of The Delinquent Teenager at Amazon.com.

DEFENSE

Objection, your honor. Prosecution has presented no reason for believing that this review, by Amazon user “PGleick”, was actually written by the defendant.

PROSECUTION

Your honor, if you will refer to the exhibit, you will see that the review is associated with a user identified as Peter Gleick of Berkeley, California. The account is associated with a “Real Name” badge, which according to Amazon is an indication that they have verified that the user possesses a credit card in that name. In addition, as will become clear later on during our case, this review played a prominent role in interactions between the defendant and members of the climate-science skeptics community, during the course of which the defendant never sought to disavow authorship of it.

JUDGE

For the purposes of this imaginary trial, I will accept that this item was, in fact, written by the defendant. Objection overruled.

PROSECUTION

Ms. Laframboise, at the time he posted his review of your book, what did you know about the defendant, Peter Gleick?

LAFRAMBOISE

Well, I knew he was a climate scientist. He is president of the Pacific Institute, an organization in Berkeley, California, where he has been involved in climate research for some time. My understanding is that his particular speciality is water issues, but he has also been a prominent voice in advocating for government action on climate change.

PROSECUTION

This review by the defendant: When was it posted? Was it relatively soon after your book came out?

LAFRAMBOISE

Yes, in the first few days, on October 16, 2011.

PROSECUTION

And what did the defendant say about your book?

LAFRAMBOISE

(smiling)

He didn’t like it.

PROSECUTION

Really? What were his objections?

LAFRAMBOISE

He called it “a stunning compilation of lies, misrepresentations, and falsehoods about the fundamental science of climate change.” He wrote that no one need bother to read it, since it contained nothing new, simply lots of “pseudoscience and misrepresentations of science.”

PROSECUTION

But I thought your book was an exposé about the role of politics at the IPCC, not about climate science itself.

LAFRAMBOISE

Yes, that is correct.

PROSECUTION

It sounds like Gleick, a prominent scientist, did not take a very scientific approach to reviewing your book. How do you account for his making such an inaccurate attack on it?

LAFRAMBOISE

I really can’t account for it.

PROSECUTION

Tell me, Ms. Laframboise, how do you respond to these inaccurate charges Gleick made against your book?

LAFRAMBOISE

We need to have a professional, courteous, grown-up conversation about the IPCC. I think it is remarkable that this organization has been around for 22 years, has won a Nobel Peace Prize, is so important and influential, and yet mine is the first book to take a close and critical look at it. If others wish to follow in Gleick’s footsteps and declare that no one needs to read my book, they are welcome to do so. But I don’t think the average person is impressed by that sort of behaviour.

PROSECUTION

Ms. Laframboise, as you are probably aware, this trial concerns a number of actions -- dishonest, unethical, and perhaps even criminal in nature -- that the defendant is alleged to have taken some months after his harshly negative and inaccurate review of your book. Some of those actions he has confessed to, calling them “a serious lapse of professional judgement and ethics”; others he denies. This trial will focus in large part on whether or not those denials are believable. But setting that question aside, what conclusions do you draw from the actions to which he has admitted?

LAFRAMBOISE

Well, I think there are many ways to win the hearts and minds of the public. But anyone who feels the need to resort to dishonesty and unethical behavior would seem to have little faith in their own evidence.

PROSECUTION

In the wake of this scandal, some climate activists have argued that what Gleick did really wasn’t that bad. They say he acted dishonestly and unethically only because he cares so much about global warming, and that the importance of his cause excuses his actions. How do you respond to that?

LAFRAMBOISE

I’m horrified by the moral vacuity demonstrated by those who argue that Gleick’s behaviour is no big deal. An alarming number of them appear to be employed in the sciences. But regardless of their background, I have a question for each of those people: Where do you draw the line? I understand that you think things like lying and stealing and misleading are OK so long as they help advance a good cause. What else is acceptable? Old fashioned burglary? Arson? Car bombs? Where is the line?

PROSECUTION

Thank you, Ms. Laframboise. No more questions, your honor.

JUDGE

The defense may cross-examine.

DEFENSE

(standing)

Thank you, your honor. Ms. Laframboise, if I understand you correctly, one of the shocking things you have discovered is that the IPCC, an international body, includes people from various parts of the world, and of various genders. Is there anything wrong, in your view, with not being from North America, or not being a particular gender?

LAFRAMBOISE

Of course not, as long as the individual is qualified. My sense, though --

DEFENSE

(interrupting)

Please just answer the question, Ms. Laframboise. And would you agree that given the wide-ranging potential impacts of climate change, and the fact that all parts of the world and all genders are at risk from it, that having those groups represented on the panel is important?

LAFRAMBOISE

As long as the panel includes the most-qualified people, yes. In this case, though, it does not.

DEFENSE

Yes, you’ve made your opinions about that clear. Another of the shocking things your investigations have uncovered, I believe you said, is that the IPCC’s membership has sometimes included one or more graduate students who had not yet received their PhDs. Is that correct?

LAFRAMBOISE

Yes.

DEFENSE

You are certainly aware, Ms. Laframboise, that the IPCC does not actually do any climate research itself. It merely summarizes the work that has been done by the world’s climate scientists. Given that, why do you believe that a graduate student, who might well have many years of relevant scientific experience, could not perform that role?

LAFRAMBOISE

The IPCC authors do not just summarize. Climate science is a complex and rapidly evolving field, and the IPCC’s authors, in particular the lead authors, are deciding which research is the most compelling. They have the power of saying, in effect, “this is what the world’s climate scientists believe, this is what we think is going to happen in the future, and this is what we as humans should do in response.” We are depending on their judgement, which makes their qualifications absolutely crucial.

DEFENSE

Let’s talk about this question of qualifications, then. Let’s talk about the expertise needed to reach valid judgements about this “complex and rapidly evolving” area of science. I believe you described yourself as a “journalist, author, and photographer.” Is that correct?

LAFRAMBOISE

Yes.

DEFENSE

Do you have a PhD, Ms. Laframoise?

LAFRAMOISE

No.

DEFENSE

But you at least have a graduate degree of some kind? A Master’s degree, perhaps?

LAFRAMOISE

No.

DEFENSE

Well, do you at least have an undergraduate degree in some scientific field?

LAFRAMBOISE

No. I have a college degree, but not in a scientific field. But I also have have many years of experience as an investigative reporter researching government --

DEFENSE

(interrupting)

What? Not even an undergraduate degree in science? Any science at all? Please tell us, Ms. Laframboise, what field was your degree in?

LAFRAMBOISE

I graduated -- with honors -- with a degree in women’s studies from the University of Toronto.

DEFENSE

Women’s studies. Women’s studies. A reasonable person might conclude, Ms. Laframboise, that your own opinions about climate science are significantly less expert even than those of this hypothetical IPCC graduate student of whom you are so critical.

LAFRAMBOISE

Not hypothetical. There have been graduate students --

DEFENSE

Yes, yes. I am willing to stipulate that among the many scientific experts who have authored the IPCC reports there have been at least a few who had not yet completed their PhDs. But I’m more concerned about this question of your own expertise. Isn’t it true, Ms. Laframboise, that despite your characterization of your book as merely being about the politics of the IPCC, that in fact your book makes numerous claims that the IPCC has got the climate science wrong? And isn’t it true that it is these opinions of yours, based on no scientific background at all, that have caused many experts -- including Dr. Gleick -- to dismiss your attacks on the IPCC as scientifically naive?

LAFRAMBOISE

No.

DEFENSE

No?

LAFRAMBOISE

No, it is not true that it is my lack of scientific credentials that causes them to dismiss my book.

DEFENSE

Well then, please enlighten us, Ms. Laframboise. In your view, what is it that causes them to dismiss it?

LAFRAMBOISE

It is their own arrogance, their own belief, like the delinquent teenager of my title, that their lofty position makes them immune to criticism. The belief that they can do what they want, say what they want, with no accountability, and the rest of us must simply accept it.

DEFENSE

You find that objectionable.

LAFRAMBOISE

Of course. Anyone would, and should.

DEFENSE

Well, at least we’ve established that you find it objectionable. Tell me, Ms. Laframboise: You described yourself as an author. I believe your attack on the IPCC was referred to earlier as your “latest” book. How many other books have you written, besides this one?

LAFRAMBOISE

One.

DEFENSE

Just one? In all the time since you graduated with your degree in women’s studies, all that time as a journalist and author, you’ve written only one other book? When was that book published?

LAFRAMBOISE

In 1996.

DEFENSE

More than 15 years ago. What was its title?

LAFRAMBOISE

“The Princess at the Window: A New Gender Reality”

DEFENSE

Well, at least it sounds like this was a book closer to your own area of expertise. Isn’t it true, Ms. Laframboise, that that book, not unlike your latest one, consists of a lengthy rant in which you take prominent people to task for a long list of failings that you, with your women’s studies degree, feel qualified to lecture them about?

LAFRAMBOISE

I would not call it a rant. The book was critical of what I saw at the time as the failings of feminist leadership.

DEFENSE

Saw at the time? Has the passage of time changed your views about the failings of feminist leadership? Perhaps you have realized that the things you asserted so stridently were more the product of your own need to take down those in authority, to show that you were better than them, than with any actual wrongdoing on their part?

LAFRAMBOISE

The person who wrote that book has continued to evolve. I’m sure there are passages I’d write differently today. Nevertheless, I stand by the book’s main argument: that the North American women’s movement of the 1980s and 1990s had become “extremist, self-obsessed, arrogant and intolerant.”

DEFENSE

Well, perhaps your argument in that case did have some merit. Certainly the feminist movement, and the women’s studies programs it has spawned, have produced their share of arrogance and intolerance. No more questions, your honor.

Defense counsel sits down.

JUDGE

Prosecution? Do you wish to redirect?

PROSECUTION

Yes, your honor. Ms. Laframboise, the defense seems to be of the opinion that you are claiming that your academic achievements studying the role of gender in society are directly relevant to a scientific understanding of climate change. Is that, in fact, a claim you are making?

LAFRAMBOISE

Of course not.

PROSECUTION

In fact, Ms. Laframboise, haven’t you spent much of the last two decades working as an investigative reporter, uncovering wrongdoing by powerful institutions?

LAFRAMBOISE

Yes.

PROSECUTION

For example, you wrote extensively about the case of Guy Paul Morin, a Canadian who had been convicted and imprisoned for a horrific murder. After years in prison, Morin was proven innocent by DNA testing, released, and compensated financially by the Canadian government. Isn’t that correct?

LAFRAMBOISE

Yes.

PROSECUTION

And isn’t it true that in that case, a government inquiry eventually vindicated your reporting, revealing that, in fact, there had been police and prosecutorial misconduct, and misrepresentation of forensic scientific evidence?

LAFRAMBOISE

Yes.

PROSECUTION

And isn’t it true that the skills you acquired in investigations like that are what have allowed you to uncover and document the political failings and misrepresentations of scientific evidence at the IPCC that are described in your book?

LAFRAMBOISE

Yes.

PROSECUTION

Thank you, Ms. Laframboise. Nothing further for this witness, your honor.

JUDGE

You may step down, Ms. Laframboise.

Laframboise leaves the witness box.

JUDGE (CONT.)

I think we could all use a break. Unless I hear any objection, I’m inclined to adjourn for the day. No one? Very well.

The Judge bangs the gavel.

JUDGE (CONT.)

Court is adjourned until the operator of this blog has time to write the next installment.

Exhibits:

Sources used for Donna Laframboise’s testimony:

Latest Gleick Links

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

A couple of interesting items from the last few days:

  • Gleick and the Watergate burglars – Steve McIntyre at his Climate Audit blog gives a nice history lesson on Watergate, and points out some interesting parallels with the Gleick affair. I think McIntyre probably has an overly optimistic view about the likelihood of a criminal prosecution against Gleick. He seems perplexed by the incongruity of Watergate having bought down the government, while so far the affair of Peter Gleick is mostly of interest only to a few obsessive bloggers, with no federal indictment for wire fraud having happened, despite his (McIntyre’s) exhaustively argued case for it.
  • Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick Breaks Silence – KQED’s Climate Watch blog covers the appearance by Peter Gleick last weekend as the keynote speaker at an L.A. water policy conference. Gleick apparently alluded to recent incidents, while refusing to address them directly.

From the latter article:

“I should make it clear that today I am speaking as an individual, which I am always speaking as,” Gleick told the audience. “I will not be addressing the recent contretemps between me and the Heartland institute. At this point I am going to let my last Huffington Post piece and the Heartland documents speak for themselves,” he said. “And if you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about you’re better off.”

[snip]

“I am a scientist by training and it isn’t always clear that the public, or even colleagues, appreciate it when scientists stray too far into the public arena. But I am a concerned and interested citizen as well, as are all of you,” he told the audience.

Gleick would not discuss the specifics of his leave with me but hinted in his talk that he would continue to oppose those who seek to discount mounting scientific evidence of human-induced climate change.

“Those who deny this science and this evidence are becoming increasingly desperate in their efforts to attack the science and scientists and fool the public and prevent any rational discussion of a climate or energy policy from being adopted,” he said in his remarks.

It’s interesting to contemplate what he said, and try to infer his mental state and fit it into the various theories of his recent actions. It’s not much to go on, I realize, but that’s all we’ve got at this point.

The (Imaginary) Trial of Peter Gleick – Part 3: Defense Opening Argument

Monday, March 12th, 2012

From the beginning: The (Imaginary) Trial of Peter Gleick.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. It features characters based on real people and evidence based on real events, and is as close to reality as my whim and imagination allow. But it’s completely fake.

INT. – AN IMAGINARY COURTROOM – DAY

We join the court session already in progress. The prosecution has just finished giving its opening statement.

JUDGE

Defense counsel? Will you be making an opening statement at this time?

DEFENSE

Yes, your honor.

JUDGE

Please proceed.

The Defense Counsel remains seated. He or she stares straight ahead, hands laid flat on the surface of the defense table. The jurors are silent, watching. The silence lengthens; five seconds, ten seconds.

DEFENSE

(still staring straight ahead)

The earth... is flat.

The Defense Counsel, still sitting, lays his or her head on the table and sights along it.

DEFENSE (CONT.)

That’s a simple explanation. Right? Nice and simple. Just take a look. Sure looks flat to me. Done.

The Defense Counsel slaps a hand on the table, then brushes both hands together in a gesture of finality.

DEFENSE (CONT.)

Or how about this: The earth is the center of the universe, and the sun and stars revolve around it.

The Defense Counsel points at the ceiling, tracking the path of an imaginary celestial body across the sky.

DEFENSE (CONT.)

Simple. Obvious. I mean, look: There it goes.

The Defense Counsel turns, and for the first time, looks at the jury.

DEFENSE (CONT.)

This case... is simple.

The Defense Counsel stands, then walks into the well in front of the jury.

DEFENSE (CONT.)

The flat earth, the sun and stars revolving around it, the prosecution’s simple explanation for the case of Dr. Peter Gleick: All of those are things that, from a certain perspective, are easy to believe. But in each case, that belief is wrong. Because the earth is not flat. It is not the center of the universe. And the case of Dr. Peter Gleick, when you look at it with an honest and open mind, is anything but simple.

The Defense Counsel turns and walks slowly away from the jury for a few paces, then turns and faces them again.

DEFENSE (CONT.)

William of Ockham. William of Ockham was an English friar who lived in the 1300’s. He’s remembered today for one thing: a principle of logic called “Occam’s razor.” Basically, it says if you have two explanations for something, you should prefer whichever explanation is simpler.

The Defense Counsel smiles, and gestures toward the Prosecutor.

DEFENSE (CONT.)

The prosecution is a big fan of William of Ockham. Because the explanation they want you to believe is a simple one: You’ve got this one guy, the defendant, Dr. Peter Gleick, who admits doing a bad thing. So he must be the bad guy. The people he did the bad thing to, the Heartland Institute? They must be the good guys. So if you’ve got anything else you need to explain, you just find a way to fit it into that theory. There’s a mysterious strategy memo that paints Heartland in a bad light? Well, they’re the good guys, so the memo must not be true. Who would fake such a thing? Oh, right: the bad guy, Dr. Gleick. Easy!

The Defense Counsel brushes his or her hands together and walks briskly away, then slows, stops, and turns back toward the jury.

DEFENSE (CONT.)

Or is it? Albert Einstein once said, “Everything should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler.” What he meant was, you have to get the facts of the situation first, before you try to come up with a theory to explain those facts. Using Occam’s Razor before you know the facts is a good way to cut your own throat. It’s a good way to come up with a theory that says the Earth is flat, or the sun and stars revolve around it. Sure, it’s simple. But it’s wrong.

The Defense Counsel walks up to the jury box and stands directly in front of it, looking the jurors in the eyes by turn.

DEFENSE (CONT.)

The prosecution has a theory of what happened in this case. Their theory is simple. But it doesn’t account for all the facts. Facts like these:

The Defense Counsel ticks off “one” on his or her fingers.

DEFENSE (CONT.)

Fact: The organization whose internal documents Dr. Gleick obtained, the Heartland Institute, is not some innocent victim, a poor little think tank promoting research and education. They are sophisticated liars, with an extremist ideological agenda and a history of pushing misleading information intended to confuse the public about things like the health risks of cigarettes and the dangers of pollution.

The Defense Counsel ticks off “two.”

DEFENSE (CONT.)

Fact: At least one person associated with Heartland publicly identified Dr. Gleick as the likely source of the leaked documents days before Dr. Gleick admitted doing so. How did that person know Dr. Gleick was the source? Was it from a remarkably astute reading of clues in the strategy memo itself, as the prosecution would have you believe? Or was it that the accuser knew Dr. Gleick was the source, because the accuser had forged the strategy memo himself and intentionally leaked it to Dr. Gleick beforehand?

The Defense Counsel ticks off “three.”

DEFENSE (CONT.)

Fact: Dr. Gleick is not a stupid man. By his own admission he showed bad judgement under pressure, but that’s not the same thing as being stupid. Yet the prosecution’s so-called “simple” explanation requires us to believe that Dr. Gleick, having obtained Heartland’s internal documents, was stupid enough to think it would be a good idea to forge an additional document that made Heartland look worse, even though that additional document contained almost nothing new that was not already present in the legitimate documents.

The Defense Counsel scowls.

DEFENSE (CONT.)

According to the prosecution’s theory, Dr. Gleick was stupid enough to think it would be a good idea to release this forged document along with the legitimate ones, even though Heartland would immediately know it was a fake. Even though he would be handing Heartland a made-to-order way to cast themselves as victims and shift attention to the forgery, rather than to the embarrassing information in the real documents. According to the prosecution’s “simple” theory, Dr. Gleick was stupid enough to think it was a good idea to include a direct reference to himself in the text of the memo, in effect planting a neon sign of his own guilt. Now I ask you, does that sound like the kind of thing that an intelligent man, intent on exposing his enemies’ wrongdoing without revealing himself as the source, would do?

The Defense Counsel walks to the front of the defense table and gestures toward the empty chair left for the defendant.

DEFENSE (CONT.)

The prosecution pointed out for us that Dr. Gleick is not in the courtroom today, and that under our system of justice he is under no obligation to testify against himself. What the prosecution didn’t mention is this: That rule comes from an even more fundamental principle of our system of justice: The presumption of innocence. In a criminal trial, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. They must make their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Defense Counselor walks back to the area immediately in front of the jury box and faces the jury.

DEFENSE (CONT.)

The prosecution’s “flat earth” theory, the theory that Dr. Gleick forged the strategy memo himself, is simple. I think it’s too simple. Your job as jurors will be to listen to the facts, all the facts, that are going to be presented in this trial. To weigh those facts honestly, with an open mind. And only then, only after you’ve considered those facts, to decide whether the prosecution’s “flat earth” theory still makes sense, or whether there might be some other theory, not as simple, maybe, but better at explaining what actually happened. And if there is a better theory, or even if you end up deciding that we just don’t know enough to say with confidence what actually happened, well, then your job will be to be honest about that, too.

The Defense Counsel smiles at the jury.

DEFENSE (CONT.)

I don’t know what you’ll end up deciding. I know what I think, but what I think doesn’t matter. It’s what you think that matters. All I ask is that you consider the facts with an open mind. And remember: The earth is not flat. And this case is not simple.

The Defense Counsel sits down.

JUDGE

Very well. I see it is late, and we could all use some rest before the next installment. Next up will be the opening of the prosecution’s case, and the calling of their first witness. For now, though...

The Judge bangs the gavel.

JUDGE (CONT.)

Court is adjourned.

Next: Part 4: Prosecution Witness Donna Laframboise.

The (Imaginary) Trial of Peter Gleick – Part 2: Prosecution Opening Argument

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

From the beginning: The (Imaginary) Trial of Peter Gleick.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. It features characters based on real people and evidence based on real events, and is as close to reality as my whim and imagination allow. But it’s completely fake.

INT. – AN IMAGINARY COURTROOM – DAY

BAILIFF

All rise. The Imaginary Court of the Internet is now in session. The honorable Judge Mumble K. Mumbles presiding.

The Judge enters and takes his or her seat behind the bench.

JUDGE

Prosecution? Are you ready to make your opening statement?

PROSECUTION

I am, your honor.

The Prosecutor stands and approaches the jury.

PROSECUTION (CONT.)

This is a simple case. Now, don’t get me wrong; parts of it will be complicated. For one thing, we’ll be looking at some questions involving climate science, and that stuff can be hard to understand. Especially for someone like me, who isn’t a scientist.

The Prosecutor turns from the jury box and walks toward the defense table, stands in front of it, and lays a hand on it, fingers outstretched.

PROSECUTION (CONT.)

We need scientists. People drawn from our best and brightest. People who have trained for years under the supervision of other scientists, mastering the knowledge and techniques of their field. Demonstrating the quality of their intellect. Demonstrating the quality of their character.

The Prosecutor turns from the defense table and walks back toward the jury.

PROSECUTION (CONT.)

Because character is crucial for a scientist. Absolutely crucial. In that sense, scientists are like doctors, or high public officials, or priests. We trust scientists. We have to. They do their work outside the public eye, using equipment and techniques that we don’t -- and can’t -- understand. And then they bring us the results, and they say, like a doctor: “This is what’s wrong, and this is the course of treatment that can best help you.” Or like a public official, “These are the challenges we face, so this is how we’re going to spend your tax money.” Or like a priest, “This is what God intends for us, so this is how to live a life in accordance with His law.”

The Prosecutor pauses for a moment before continuing.

PROSECUTION (CONT.)

Trust is crucial for scientists, because they come to us and say those sorts of things. They say, “This is how the universe works. This is what is going to happen. So this is what we must do.” We need to be able to trust that advice. To trust that they’ve done the science right, that they’re being honest with us. That they haven’t let something prejudice their conclusions, that there isn’t some all-too-human failing that has compromised their judgement.

The Prosecutor looks at the ground, gives a low chuckle and shake of the head, then looks up at the jury again.

PROSECUTION (CONT.)

The truth, of course, is that just like doctors and scientists and priests, scientists are human beings. Just like the rest of us. They make mistakes. And just like the rest of us, when they make mistakes they don’t like to admit it. Not to themselves, and not to us. They get caught up in clashes of personality. They disagree. They get angry. They want to prove the other guy wrong, not just so they can be right, but so they can win the argument. And sometimes they can get so caught up in a scientific debate that they lose sight of the need for openness, and honesty, and humility. They find themselves wanting to shut down debate, to come in like a dictator and say, “No more talk. I’ve decided what the answer is, and you’re not qualified to question my judgement. So sit down and shut up.”

While talking, the Prosecutor returns to the defense table. This time, though, the Prosecutor walks behind it, past where the Defense Counsel is seated, to where an empty chair has been left for the defendant. The Prosecutor stops behind the empty chair.

PROSECUTION (CONT.)

Unfortunately, as you will learn in the course of this trial, this isn’t a hypothetical scenario I’m describing. This is exactly what the defendant, Peter Gleick, has done. As you will learn, he used to be a respected scientist. But over time he gradually became the sort of person who wanted to be right, to win the argument, regardless of the truth. Peter Gleick became an activist, an advocate, a True Believer, someone so committed to his cause that he lost sight of all other truths. He became so convinced of his own rightness that he was willing to use his authority to try to silence others, to shut down debate. Worse than that, he was willing to engage in willful, deliberate deception. He admits to assuming a false identity to obtain private information, then leaking that information to others under false pretenses. He wanted to trick those others into publicizing the information, hurting his enemies while allowing him to remain concealed behind a smokescreen of scientific respectability.

The Prosecutor puts a hand on the defendant’s empty chair.

PROSECUTION (CONT.)

As you can see, Peter Gleick isn’t here. He’s being tried in absentia. He’s chosen not to participate in this discussion. Now, no one is required to give incriminating testimony against himself. That’s an important principle in our system of justice. Peter Gleick is completely within his rights to be absent as we consider the question of his guilt. And really, it doesn’t matter.

The Prosecutor steps away from the defense table and walks back toward the jury.

PROSECUTION (CONT.)

It doesn’t matter. Because again, at its heart, this case really is simple. Peter Gleick, by his own admission, has been dishonest and deceitful. And once we realize that, and look carefully at the evidence, it all becomes clear. It becomes clear that his sins run deeper than the things he’s admitted to. In his confession he claimed to be a victim. He said he’d been tricked by some unknown person into committing disgraceful and dishonorable acts. In fact, the evidence will show that this was just another layer of deception, that even as he made his confession, Gleick continued to lie.

The Prosecutor strides toward the jury, voice rising.

PROSECUTION (CONT.)

The facts of this case will make it clear that this entire affair, from the beginning, was his idea, and his idea alone. Peter Gleick found himself caught up in a public argument with the Heartland Institute, an organization that does research and education based on free-market principles. He was losing that argument. And he couldn’t accept that. Angry, embarrassed, desperate to hang onto his credibility and prestige, he came up with a risky strategy: He would use deception to obtain private documents from Heartland, then release those documents to the world.

The Prosecutor sighs.

PROSECUTION (CONT.)

His deception succeeded -- but then he suffered the worst shock of all: The documents for which he had risked his professional career, the documents that were going to bring down his enemies, were unremarkable. They revealed that the evil cabal he had been fighting really was just what its supporters had been saying it was all along: a small and not very scary organization promoting research and education.

The Prosecutor shakes his head.

PROSECUTION (CONT.)

And here, Gleick showed his worst judgement of all. Faced with these facts, what did he do? The evidence will show that he then forged a new document, the so-called “2012 Heartland Climate Strategy” memo. He used information from the legitimate documents to give it an air of authenticity, but he embellished that information, enhanced it, coated it with a layer of sinister intent. In effect, Gleick forged the document he wished he had found. Like an experimenter willing to falsify data in order to get the results he wanted, he twisted reality to make it match his theory. Then he leaked that fraudulent information to the world, and sat back and watched the firestorm of controversy it created.

The Prosecutor walks slowly back behind the defense table, and grasps the back of the defendant’s empty chair with both hands. There is a pause. The courtroom is silent.

PROSECUTION (CONT.)

What Peter Gleick did was wrong, obviously wrong. But the mistakes he made offer a lesson to the rest of us. That lesson is this: No one is immune to human failings. Scientists -- like doctors, priests, and holders of high office -- need our trust if they are to do their jobs. But they must earn that trust. They must prove themselves worthy of it. And when one of them proves himself unworthy, as Peter Gleick has, we need to call him on it. We owe it to the people he serves. We owe it to his colleagues, the men and women who do meet that standard of honor and integrity every day. And we owe it to the perpetrator himself. We owe it to Peter Gleick to be honest about what he did, to look him in the eye and tell him it was wrong. Only in that way can we honor the truth. Only in that way can we give him the chance to begin a journey to real redemption.

The Prosecutor steps away from the empty chair, gesturing toward it.

PROSECUTION (CONT.)

If Peter Gleick were here today, that’s what I would tell him. With your verdict, you can tell him the same thing.

The Prosecutor sits down.

Next: Part 3: Defense Opening Argument.

Valorie Curry’s Kara

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

I avoid running stuff straight from Boing Boing, since I figure you’ve already seen it (just like I used to avoid running stuff from Slashdot, before I got tired of wading through the junk and stopped following them myself). But I’ll make an exception for this one, since it’s so cool:

One of the most impressive things about Avatar, for me at least, was Zoe Saldana’s acting. And maybe the technology of live rendering on a PS3 doesn’t allow for quite the same level of realism for Valorie Curry’s Kara, but it’s a powerful performance.

AMPAS sure better figure out how to start bestowing some acting Oscars on actors whose bodies aren’t actually visible on-screen. Acting has always been about making the unreal believable, and whether it’s John Hurt as The Elephant Man or Andy Serkis as a chimpanzee, it doesn’t matter whether you see their actual skin as long as the performance works. Motion capture clearly has reached the point where that can happen.

From Martin Robinson’s article at Eurogamer.net (Introducing Quantic Dreams’ Kara):

“In the past I was the main actor,” says [Quantic Dream CEO David] Cage. “In Fahrenheit I was Lucas Kane – I did the motion capture myself, but I’m not a very good actor. In Heavy Rain the quality in what we were trying made that impossible. We needed real actors, because we needed people with talent because the technology’s reached the point where you can tell if someone’s an actor and someone’s not an actor.

“In Heavy Rain that was definitely the case. In Kara, you can’t imagine the same scene having the same impact as someone who’s not a talented actor. Technology becomes more precise and detailed and gives you more subtleties, so you need talent now. I’m not talking about getting a name in your game – I’m talking about getting talent in your game to improve the experience and get emotion in your game.”

I didn’t realize at first why this scene looked so familiar, but Robinson’s article pointed out the obvious connection to Chris Cunningham’s video for the coolest woman on the planet:

Oh, and speaking of cool young women, and Avatar, I’d be remiss if I didn’t pass on this clip, called to my attention by yet another extremely cool young woman (and depicting still yet another):

Untitled from rachaelwsz on Vimeo.

Heh.

Update: Since Nickelodeon has seen fit to yank the Korra video, I’ll make it up to you with this: David Cage of Quantic Dreams talking about the making of the Kara demo:

Still Yet Another Batch of Climate-Change Links

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Noteworthy stuff I’ve been reading over the last few days:

No time for more commentary at the moment; I’m focusing my available time on the ridiculous imaginary trial of Peter Gleick.

Kahan on the Debiasing Effect on White Jurors of Racially-mixed Juries

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Dan Kahan is really excited by a 2006 study in which white jurors were placed on both all-white and racially mixed (mock) juries in order to measure the effects this had on the quality of their analysis of a racially-charged case: Coolest debiasing study (I’ve) ever (read).

I submitted a comment (currently in the moderation queue; hopefully it will be live at some point) explaining the parallel I see between an aspect of the study and my own recent interactions with climate change skeptics.

The CJR on Gleick

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

From the Columbia Journalism Review, here’s a nice article that goes into detail on both journalistic ethics and legal issues as they relate to Gleick’s actions: Heartland, Gleick, and Media Law.

Thanks to nomatter_nevermind for the link.

Annan on McPhaden on Gleick

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Good stuff from James Annan on James’ Empty Blog: His transgression cannot be condoned, regardless of his motives. Includes a link to, and quote from, Mike McPhaden, president of the AGU, in his comments on Gleick: We must remain committed to scientific integrity.

See especially Annan’s comments in his blog post’s discussion thread, where he expands a little on his current thinking.

The biggest impact of this incident on me personally has been to shake up my taxonomy of the climate change debate. Before, I had just two boxes: scientists (the well-informed, rational, good guys) on one side, and deniers (the deluded, stupid, and/or bad guys) on the other. The former accepted that climate change was real. The latter didn’t.

Unfortunately, to paraphrase von Moltke, my taxonomy could not survive contact with the enemy. I now realize that the climate change landscape is more complicated. There are some intelligent, rational people who nevertheless question the mainstream scientific view. And there are some real bozos who accept it. I’m not making any particular assertion about the number of people in either of those categories. But they’re definitely there.

I liked this post from Tamsin Edwards’ blog, All Models Are Wrong: The Sceptical Compass. It includes this diagram:

Regardless of where I or the people I’m reading fall on the vertical axis, I want to spend less of my time on the left side of that graph, and more on the right.

The (Imaginary) Trial of Peter Gleick – Part 1, Preliminary Hearing and Arraignment

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

I’ve been thinking about how cool it would be (strictly from a gossipy obsessive’s self-interested point of view) if the Peter Gleick / Heartland affair were to end up in court. It would be great to have all the arguments laid out pro and con, with a referee and rules of evidence and all that.

It seems unlikely we’ll be getting that any time soon, so I thought I’d pretend. This is the result. I put it in screenplay format, since that seems as good a way as any to represent a fake courtroom drama.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. It features characters based on real people and evidence based on real events, and is as close to reality as my whim and imagination allow. But it’s completely fake.

I plan to use public writing (magazine articles, tweets, blog posts, comments, and online reviews) by the various witnesses in an attempt to have them give testimony that is more or less true to their stated views, but I assume I’ll also be taking some creative liberties. I’ll provide sources for the witnesses’ statements, so you can verify how well (or poorly) I’ve done at keeping things real.

I’ll send the witness testimony to the witnesses themselves privately, via email (assuming I can find their email addresses) prior to posting it, so they’ll have a chance to correct anything they think is being incorrectly attributed to them. I’m also willing to correct testimony after the fact if any witnesses object to the words I’ve put in their mouths. No idea if anyone will actually want to take advantage of that.

Anyway, here goes.

INT. – AN IMAGINARY COURTROOM – DAY

BAILIFF

All rise. The Imaginary Court of the Internet is now in session. The honorable Judge Mumble K. Mumbles presiding.

The JUDGE enters the courtroom from a door behind the bench. He or she is imaginary, and looks more or less like you would expect a judge to look, depending on how judges look in your part of the world. The Judge takes his or her seat.

JUDGE

Be seated. Bailiff, what do we have on the docket today?

BAILIFF

Your honor, preliminary proceeding and arraignment in the matter of the Internet vs. Peter Gleick.

JUDGE

Are the parties present? Prosecution?

PROSECTION

Here, your honor.

JUDGE

Defense?

DEFENSE

Defense counsel present, your honor. The accused is not in court, and will not be appearing today.

JUDGE

Will not be appearing?

DEFENSE

That is correct, your honor.

JUDGE

(frowning)

Hm. Given that this proceeding is imaginary, I suppose I must allow it. Let the record show that the accused is being tried in absentia.

The Judge glances down and goes through some papers.

JUDGE (CONT.)

Defense counsel, please rise.

DEFENSE

(stands)

Yes, your honor.

JUDGE

Your client, Dr. Peter H. Gleick, stands accused of the following charges: That on or about January 27, 2012, your client did knowingly and with malice aforethought impersonate a board member of the Heartland Institute, entering into an email correspondence with a person or persons within that organization. That as a result of that deception, your client caused a representative or representatives of Heartland to email your client confidential Heartland information, including documents relating to the organization’s donors, activities, and budget. That your client subsequently used that illicitly obtained information to forge an additional document, the so-called “2012 Heartland Climate Strategy”, taking the form of an internal Heartland memorandum but with language specifically crafted to paint the organization in a negative light. That on or about February 14, 2012, your client sent these documents via email to a group of recipients, identifying himself only as “Heartland Insider”, with the intention that the recipients would publicize the documents, including the forged strategy memo, leading to public outcry against Heartland and embarrassment for its board members, staff, and supporters. Defense counsel, do you understand these charges as I have read them?

DEFENSE

I do, your honor.

JUDGE

Are you prepared to enter a plea on behalf of your client at this time?

DEFENSE

I am, your honor. My client, Dr. Peter H. Gleick, pleads not guilty.

JUDGE

Very well. I accept your client’s plea of not guilty, and hereby set a court date of some date in the future when this blog’s operator has time to write the next installment. A quick procedural note: In keeping with the imaginary nature of these proceedings, we will be skipping all that boring pretrial stuff: no witness lists, pretrial motions, or jury selection. I assume there are no complaints about that. Anything else?

The Judge glances around the courtroom. No one speaks.

JUDGE (CONT.)

(bangs gavel)

Court is adjourned.

Next: Part 2: Prosecution Opening Argument.

Recent Heartland/Climate Items

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Here’s a roundup of the newest cruelty:

Kloor writes:

The views (the facility overlooks the Hudson River) are stupendous, the food is excellent (mostly vegetarian and locally produced), and the vibe is … well, weird: Part new age, part science, and part rah, rah, as in, let’s all pool our brain power and figure out a way to get people to pay more attention to climate change and reduce their carbon footprint.

From Kahan’s summary:

I was also genuinely shocked & saddened by what struck (assaulted) me as the anti-science ethos shared by a large number of participants.

Multiple speakers disparaged science for being “materialistic” and for trying to “put a number on everything.” One, to approving nods of audience, reported that university science instruction had lost the power to inspire “wonder” in students because it was disconnected from “spiritual” (religious, essentially) sensibilities.

  • Polluter Arguments Rebuffed In ‘Scopes Trial’ On Climate Science – Josh Israel writing at ThinkProgress. A panel of federal appeals judges is hearing a consolidated challenge to the EPA’s 2009 endangerment finding (and related rule-makings, which would, if left unaltered, lead to the regulation of atmospheric CO2 as a pollutant). Apparently the judges’ questions during the first day of oral arguments do not bode well for the industry groups and conservative politicians arguing that the EPA is being ridiculous.

I’m interested by this idea that by putting issues like this into a court setting, we can bring to bear the mechanisms we have evolved for determining truth in difficult circumstances. More on that in a future post, maybe.

Moutal appears to be buying into the “strategy memo is authentic” meme (or maybe the “Joe Bast forged it personally” meme; hard to tell). At least, he (Moutal) quotes the infamous “dissuading teachers from teaching science” line from the strategy memo without mentioning the problems with its provenance. I find that unfortunate, for the same reason I find it unfortunate that DeSmogBlog maintains that the strategy memo is legitimate: I can no longer trust their information without independently verifying it.

Moutal:

One of the most troubling aspects of the leaked Heartland Institute documents was the revelation that they were planning to create a school curriculum for K-12 students that “that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science“. This was seen by many as the most controversial aspect of Heartland’s attempt to ‘influence’ the debate on climate change, because it is one thing to confuse political leaders (they almost seem to enjoy it), but quite another to spread misinformation to students.

Update: In response to a question I raised in the item’s comments, Michael Tobis said he had contacted Moutal, verified that the inclusion of the quote from the strategy memo was accidental, and revised the text accordingly. “P3 takes no position on the origins of the disputed memo,” wrote Tobis in his comment.

Laframboise summarizes some of the most excessive Glieck apologists, and concludes with this:

It will be fascinating to see how this story develops. In the meantime here is a question for all of the above apologists. For Greg Laden, Michael Tobis, John Horgan, Stephan Lewandowsky, Patrick Lockerby, Mark Alan Hewitt, and James Garvey. Here is a question for all of those individuals who expressed similar opinions on news websites and blogs during the past two weeks. Where do you draw the line?

I get it. Lying and stealing and misleading are OK so long as they help advance a good cause. What else is acceptable? Old fashioned burglary? Arson? Car bombs?

Where is the line?

Good question.