Pilfered Emails, Bogus Scandals

Sure enough, the so far only slightly mitigated success of “climategate” has led to imitation.

Perhaps the fact that the latest massive email trawl picked journalists as a target will awaken the journalistic community to the nature of the travesty.

Matt Yglesias summarizes:

I’d encourage everyone to read this Ann Althouse post on today’s bogus Daily Caller story about JournoList. Her bottom line: “The Daily Caller’s article is weak. And I’m inclined to think the material in the Journolist archive is pretty mild stuff.”

What’s maddening about this whole issue is that of course it’s impossible to prove a negative. The closest one can come, however, is reasonable inference. The Caller appears to have access to a very large proportion of JournoList emails and they can’t come up with anything that withstands cursory scrutiny.

Sound familiar? It should.

Thanks to Things Break (in comments) for the pointer, and also to this related item on Salon.

Shirley Sherrod’s Method vs Organized Smearing

Readers outside the US may or may not hear about the Shirley Sherrod controversy, so I’ll summarize.

Ms. Sherrod is apparently a woman of great character. As a black child in Georgia in the early 1960’s, she had to cope with the killing of her father, for which the known killer, a white man, was never arraigned. Apparently, in her youth she had resentment toward white people. This is understandable to say the least. She discussed this at a talk at the NAACP which is embroiled in racial controversy with the “Tea Party”. A couple of things she said were clipped out of context, leaving the casual viewer with the impression that she, in her current post as an executive in the US Department of Agriculture, currently treats black people preferentially to white people. In fact this was exactly the opposite of the point of her talk. This was picked up by a certain rightwing flak by the name of Breitbart who runs some sort of nasty right wing web site; there is no proof either way whether Breitbart himself had anything to do with editing the file. On Monday, with some cover from NAACP itself, she was summarily dismissed (stricly speaking, her resignation was demanded). It’s clear that the Agriculture Secretary was personally involved, and there’s some doubt as to how much direct White House input there was.

I don’t need to go into any more detail. There must be a million words on this on the net already.

Another innocent career casually destroyed by the right wing, right? Ho-hum.

If you ask why the outrage of “climategate” gets no attention, why the Cuccinelli abuse of power gets a shrug, here’s your answer. This is business as usual in America.

So why all the attention to Shirley Sherrod after all? Why the million words? Three reasons:

1) Ms. Sherrod did not take this lying down
2) Ms. Sherrod has some prominent friends
3) Ms. Sherrod tracked down the entire videotape

All of which led to a decisive vindication in a short time.

The first I heard of the story was on NPR Tuesday evening, by which time it was clear that Ms. Sherrod had not just done nothing wrong, but in fact had done a great deal very right. For her to be summarily dismissed by the white house on the word of an iresponsible blogger (who in fact had been responsible for the equally reprehensible, malicious, and misleading destruction of the voting rights non-profit group ACORN) is a bit baffling, but a little bit of panic at the White House and the NAACP is really not the issue. The issue is the reprehensible misrepresentation of well-intentioned human beings by a reputation-destruction industry aimed squarely at responsible decent and talented black people, especially ones from impoverished backgrounds who have had the nerve to actually lift themselves out of poverty and desperation.

Now this particular segment of the reputation-destruction industry is perhaps a bit more sinister than the one aimed at climate scientists, because it preys on old and deep wounds in American society, rather than working assiduously to create new ones.

CNN’s coverage of the matter has been surprisingly solid; the first serious bit of mass media journalism I’ve seen in years. I think they are pissed off, though, precisely because Anderson Cooper is a personal friend of Shirley Sherrod. He said so.

But the similarity of the attack is hard to miss. So one lesson for climate scientists is to have friends in the media; not just contacts (which is easy) but friends. The trouble is, climate scientists live in college towns, not New York or DC. (Notable exceptions: Hansen, Schmidt.) Journalism is like a branch of government, with a pecking order, and the big dogs are in New York or DC; you can’t affect national media very effectively from Boulder or San Diego or Woods Hole or Madison. We may have trouble on that front.

But the other lesson is to concede nothing, to take nothing under advisement, to save sensible compromise for honest and decent opposition. They will win some and lose some; when they lose one they will slither away quickly throwing a couple of distracting snarks at side issues. But they will concede nothing. At best they will choose someone else’s life to wreck.

This whole phenomenon appears to be a British import, judging from the egregious Mr. Dellingpole and his ilk. Regardless, it must stop.

Human civilization is at risk directly from these people. We won’t have time for climate change to destroy us if these people continue to have their way. By the time we start running out of food, at this rate we won’t be much worth saving anyway. We’ll just have sunk into barbarism.

In a world like this, it’s such a relief to have a rare victory for the forces of civilization.

So bravo Ms. Sherrod! Congratulations! My hat is off to you!

And to the rest of the world, and to the press, and to other targets of intimidation and slander, and to the White House, and especially to responsible, rational conservatives, please, for God’s sake, grow a spine. Shirley Sherrod can show you how it’s done.

Resources:

Update: Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo:

as disappointing as Tom Vilsack’s first crack at this was, the idea that he or Obama is the bad guy in this story is not only preposterous but verging on obscene. It’s like the NYPD as the bad guy in the Son of Sam saga because they didn’t catch David Berkowitz fast enough. Or perhaps that the real moral of the story is that the woman with the stalker should have been more focused on personal data security. Not for some time has something so captured the essential corruption of a big chunk of what passes as ‘right wing media’ (not all, by any means, but a sizable chunk along the Breitbart/Fox/Hannity continuum) and the corruption of the mainstream media itself as this episode.

I highly recommend the TPM article. This is yet another recounting that, if you read it with climate politics in mind, goes a long way toward putting our own problems into perspective in the contemporary political/journalistic disaster.

Energy Infrastructure

How unpleasant and impractical that these things are $200 a pop. Just the coarse view is interesting.

National Crude Oil Production Sites and Crude Oil Pipelines
Central Gulf Coast Natural Gas Pipelines Wall Map


Well, if anybody owns copies of these things, the University of Texas has to. I wonder how to track them down. Maybe they are next door at the Bureau.

Steve Schneider


I write to mourn the passing of Steve Schneider.

My own participation in the climate field was inspired by reading an article of Schneider’s in Scientific American in the late 1980’s, as I was casting about for something meaningful a mathematically oriented person might do for the world.

I was privileged to spend a day and an evening with Steve in the company of Paul Baer the summer before last. It was a memorable day. So, while I can’t claim to have been close to him, I can personally attest to the fact that Steve’s was a vivid, rational and highly ethical mind. He was the quintessence of the modern intellectual, both bon vivant and a dedicated servant of the common good, an excellent model for the post-scarcity life well and consciously lived.

To those who were close to him, this must be a great tragedy indeed. For what it’s worth, they should know that the thoughts and best wishes of many like myself are with them.

Although his health was not terrific, this is still an unexpected and harsh blow to the community. Let us rise to the occasion and redouble our efforts both in understanding the dimensions of the climate problem and related sustainability issues, and in communicating their scope and urgency to the public.


Resources, via Nick Sundt of WWF:

· Stephen Schneider Home Page.

· Stephen H. Schneider. Wikipedia.

· Interview: Climate Science, Policy and Public Opinion. WWF Annual Report, 2008.

· Interview with Stephen Schneider on climate science expert credibility study. Climate Science Watch, 12 July 2010.

· The Passing of a Climate Warrior. By Andrew Revkin, New York Times blog, DotEarth, 19 July 2010.

· Remembering Stephen Schneider. By Joe Romm, Climate Progress, 19 July 2010.

· Climate Change Expert Stephen Schneider Dies. All Things Considered, National Public Radio, 19 July 2010. Listen to what President Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, says about Schneider.

· A Eulogy to Stephen Schneider. RealClimate, 19 July 2010.

· Stephen Schneider, a leading climate expert, dead at 65. Press release (19 July 2010) from Stanford University.

· TNR Q&A: Dr. Stephen Schneider. The New Republic, 9 November 2009.

· Dr. Stephen Schneider, Climate Warrior . By Peter Gleick in the Huffington Post, 19 July 2010.

To that list, I’d like to add an item and especially to draw it to the attention of those who think the climate science mainstream is closed-minded. Please look at the annals of Climatic Change, the journal that Steve Schneider edited from its inception.

Climatic Change is dedicated to the totality of the problem of climatic variability and change – its descriptions, causes, implications and interactions among these. The purpose of the journal is to provide a means of exchange between those working on problems related to climatic variations but in different disciplines. Interdisciplinary researchers or those in any discipline, be it meteorology, anthropology, agricultural science, astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, geography, policy analysis, economics, engineering, geology, ecology, or history of climate, are invited to submit articles, provided the articles are of interdisciplinary interest. This means that authors have an opportunity to communicate the essence of their studies to people in other climate related disciplines and to interested non-disciplinarians, as well as to report on research in which the originality is in the combinations of (not necessarily original) work from several disciplines. The journal also includes vigorous editorial and book review sections.


Update
:

. Climatologist Stephen Schneider calls for cooler heads as temperatures, and tempers, rise. Stanford Magazine

. Steve on Johnny Carson’s Show, 1977

Greenland Eemian Ice Core Nears Completion

I received a tweet apprising me of the near-completion of the field work of NEEM, the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling project. This will give us new information about the previous interglacial, when most of Greenland in fact melted.

Fair warning, though, there’s an embedded auto-play movie of no real interest on the “about” page that is obnoxiously loud. The page is otherwise interesting, but either turn your sound down or turn Flash off altogether.

Huitres aux Petrole

Oysters love crude oil! It’s true!

Actually, the thing I found most interesting (among several interesting things) about this oddity is the distinction between “business” and “industry” in the concluding statement.

I think that “business” has been bamboozled into thinking they are the same thing as “industry” and that it’s “big government” that is the enemy. The enemy of small, local, human-scale socially beneficial businesses, of course, is “government” largely to the extent that it is under the thumb of “industry”. Now that coffee and cheeseburgers, haircuts and oil changes are “industrial” processes it’s easier to lose track of that.

via reallyseriously.org h/t @sejorg

Schneider, 1979

Thanks again to greenman Peter Sinclair and thanks always to Steve Schneider.

Resources, via Nick Sundt:

· Stephen Schneider Home Page.

· Stephen H. Schneider. Wikipedia.

· Interview: Climate Science, Policy and Public Opinion. WWF Annual Report, 2008.

· Interview with Stephen Schneider on climate science expert credibility study. Climate Science Watch, 12 July 2010.

· The Passing of a Climate Warrior. By Andrew Revkin, New York Times blog, DotEarth, 19 July 2010.

· Remembering Stephen Schneider. By Joe Romm, Climate Progress, 19 July 2010.

· Climate Change Expert Stephen Schneider Dies. All Things Considered, National Public Radio, 19 July 2010. Listen to what President Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, says about Schneider.

· A Eulogy to Stephen Schneider. RealClimate, 19 July 2010.

· Stephen Schneider, a leading climate expert, dead at 65. Press release (19 July 2010) from Stanford University.

· TNR Q&A: Dr. Stephen Schneider. The New Republic, 9 November 2009.

· Dr. Stephen Schneider, Climate Warrior . By Peter Gleick in the Huffington Post, 19 July 2010.

To that list, and especially to the attention of those who think the climate science mainstream is closed-minded, I’d draw your attention to the annals of Climatic Change, the journal that Steve Schneider edited from its inception.

My own participation in the climate field was inspired by reading an article of Schneider’s in Scientific American in the late 1980’s, as I was casting about for something meaningful a mathematically oriented person might do for the world.

I was privileged to spend a day and an evening with Steve in the company of Paul Baer the summer before last. It was a memorable day. So I can personally attest to the fact that Steve’s was a vivid, rational and highly ethical mind. He was the quintessence of the modern intellectual, both bon vivant and a dedicated servant of the common good, and excellent model for the post-scarcity life well and consciously lived.

Although his health was not terrific, this is still an unexpected and sudden blow. Let us rise to the occasion and redouble our efforts both in understanding the dimensions of the climate problem and related sustainability issues, and in communicating their scope and urgency to the public.