Archive for May, 2012

Appelbaum on T. Mills Kelly’s (and Students’) Failed Reddit Hoax

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

From Yoni Appelbaum writing in The Atlantic: How the Professor Who Fooled Wikipedia Got Caught by Reddit.

But it took just twenty-six minutes for a redditor to call foul, noting the Wikipedia entries’ recent vintage. Others were quick to pile on, deconstructing the entire tale. The faded newspaper pages looked artificially aged. The Wikipedia articles had been posted and edited by a small group of new users. Finding documents in an old steamer trunk sounded too convenient. And why had Lisa been savvy enough to ask Reddit, but not enough to Google the names and find the Wikipedia entries on her own? The hoax took months to plan but just minutes to fail.

Garner and Molina in ‘Serena’

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

My online existence seems to be increasingly YouTube-centric. There’s the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Guys Who Watch Girls, and the newest from Pomplamoose, Let’s Go for a Ride, including a brief (but awesome-sounding) tease of the new “electronicky” sound they’ve been working on.

But the most-compelling thing I’ve seen on YouTube lately is a one-off short film featuring Jennifer Garner and Alfred Molina called “Serena”:

Laden and Romm on Goldenberg on Gleick

Monday, May 21st, 2012

I’m not sure that anyone else besides me actually cares about the angst I suffered during the whole Heartland/Peter Gleick saga. But for me at least, it was fairly angsty. One of the main things I took away from it was this: Some of the people I’d considered credible sources, people on my “side” of the issue, were revealed to me as being willing to peddle bullshit in the name of scoring points against their ideological opponents.

I’m not just talking about Gleick, though his dishonesty was the most prominent example. I’ve been giving the whole “mock trial of Peter Gleick” thing a rest, but I may revive it. It sounds like there are going to be some new developments to hash over.

Suzanne Goldenberg has an article in The Guardian today alleging that Peter Gleick has been “cleared” of forging the strategy memo: Peter Gleick cleared of forging documents in Heartland expose. The article itself is quite thin on details, but as best I can tell Goldenberg is claiming to have access to the results of an investigation commissioned by the Pacific Institute (the think tank Gleick previously headed, and from which he stepped down in the wake of the scandal), and the investigation reportedly will conclude Gleick did not forge the strategy memo.

A review has cleared the scientist Peter Gleick of forging any documents in his expose of the rightwing Heartland Institute’s strategy and finances, the Guardian has learned.

Gleick’s sting on Heartland brought unwelcome scrutiny to the organisation’s efforts to block action on climate change, and prompted a walk-out of corporate donors that has created uncertainty about its financial future.

Gleick, founder of the Pacific Institute and a well-regarded water expert, admitted and apologised for using deception to obtain internal Heartland documents last February.

He has been on leave from the institute pending an external investigation into the unauthorised release of the documents, although it is not entirely clear what the investigation entailed. That investigation is now complete, and the conclusions will be made public.

It was not immediately clear the findings would allow Gleick to make an early return to his job at the Pacific Institute. However, despite the official leave, Gleick has remained professionally active, appearing at public events and accepting speaking engagements. He delivered an Oxford Amnesty lecture on water in April.

It seems likely, given Goldenberg’s willingness to run with the story, that there is a report, and that it will offer the conclusion that Gleick did not forge the memo. But how strong will the report’s actual language be on that point? What evidence will it cite? Who are the report’s authors? What is their relationship to the Pacific Institute, and how credible are they as representing an independent perspective, given the Pacific Institute’s interest in findings that minimize Gleick’s wrongdoing?

All this is obviously very preliminary at this point. But you wouldn’t know that from Greg Laden’s blog post: An important revelation regarding Heartland Gate (global warming denialism). I’m not going to bother excerpting from Laden’s post. It’s basically anti-Heartland, pro-Gleick propaganda, treating the Goldenberg article as an excuse to trot out a one-sided recapitulation of the whole affair.

Similarly, Joe Romm (and Rebecca Leber) at Think Progress go for maximum spin: Heartland Institute Hemorrhages Donors And Cash For Extremist Agenda, As Coal And Oil Step In. Their piece begins with the following triumphant banner linking to the Goldenberg article:

Peter Gleick cleared of forging documents in Heartland expose

Sigh. I’m not a defender of Heartland (far from it). But this stuff reinforces a decision I made recently to remove Laden and Romm from my newsfeed. It’s not that I’m in the denialist camp that disputes the science of global warming. But just because one champions scientists doesn’t make one’s own assertions scientific. Laden and Romm have let their adopted role as advocates carry them past the point of being honest brokers of information. They’re peddling self-serving spin as truth, selecting what to pass on not on the basis of skeptical inquiry, but simply on the basis of which untested hypotheses paint their enemies in the worst light.

With a universe of information sources available and my own time a scarce and precious commodity, I don’t need their bullshit polluting my information stream.

Pushing Back in the Comments

Monday, May 7th, 2012

I will always love Jack Hitt for his story about taking his daughter to lunch on Martin Luther King day, which featured in what may be my favorite episode of This American Life ever, Kid Logic. I liked that story so much I stole it and included it in podcast #21, the first of the “modern” podcasts, in which I get all derivative and remix-y (and illegal).

So yeah, sorry about the lack of those lately. I have a batch of things I’d like to get to, but just haven’t been able to scrape up the time. But in the meantime, do check out this article from Hitt that appeared over the weekend in the NYT: Science and truth: We’re all in it together.

I learned about it from Roger Pielke, Jr. in Ignore the gloss at some risk, which is also recommended.

Rounding out the interesting pushback is this item from Dan Kahan: Some data on CRT & “Republican” & “Democratic brains” (plus CRT & religion, gender, education & cultural worldviews). Heh. Includes welcome pushback on Chris Mooney, whose recent book The Republican Brain, is also sitting around waiting for me to find the time for it. I was so excited about The Republican Brain when I first heard about it. But that was before I’d heard the title, and (more) heard Mooney detail the premise. As it turns out, the actual book has been a disappointment to me (which I guess I shouldn’t really be able to say until actually reading it). But I’m disappointed nevertheless. I was hoping that Mooney would really dig into what was going on with motivated reasoning and why people believe the wacky things they do. Instead, it seems what we’ve got is the liberal equivalent of an Ann Coulter book, bashing the other side so we on our side can feel good about how right we are.


Anyway, no time to obsess over this, or even write a proper blog post. If I were going to write a proper blog post, I’d probably write something similar to what I wrote five years ago in Debugging the Bush administration. So I’ll just quote myself:

A famous truism from the world of open source software development is that “with enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” In other words, if you get a large enough pool of people examining a malfunctioning piece of code, there’s going to be someone for whom the solution is obvious.

Go eyeballs.