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On Your World, Neil Cavuto hosted Trent Lott to discuss energy policy but failed to disclose that Lott is now a lobbyist for major energy companies. During the segment, Lott touted specific issues for which he lobbies, including "Algae to Ethanol technology" and offshore drilling.
Fox News' Brit Hume asserted that "climate alarmists certainly did not foresee the cooling trend of the past decade" and, therefore, the Obama administration is premature in implementing cap-and-trade policies to curb global warming because it is merely a "scientific consensus" and "something that is not yet a fact." In fact, according to climate scientists, the temperature data continue to show a long-term upward trend in global surface temperature, and a cooling trend would need to last longer than a decade before it could be distinguished from the natural variability in the Earth's global surface temperature.
Glenn Beck and James Pethokoukis each cited a study by the George C. Marshall Institute to criticize the carbon cap-and-trade system described in President Obama's budget proposal. But neither Beck nor Pethokoukis noted that the Marshall Institute has received funding from ExxonMobil.
In yet another example of what County Fair's own Eric Boehlert described as the press awakening from its slumber "just in time to aggressively press the new Democratic administration," the NYT's controversial science reporter John Tierney --American Progress' Joe Romm called him "easily the worst science writer at any major media outlet in the country"-- has written a column and two blog posts in the last couple of weeks fretting about the kind of advice President Obama might receive from some of his science advisors, most specifically John Holdren (Obama's pick for Science Advisor) and Steven Chu (Obama's Secretary of Energy). If you find it odd that a journalist who did little to no reporting on the widespread and well documented distortion of science and the scientific process during the George W. Bush administration would suddenly find it important to write about the politicization of science in Washington, you are not alone.
After his January 23 column, "Politics in the Guise of Pure Science," Tierney noted that he was asked by critics "[w]hy start worrying now about scientists pushing a political agenda" and isn't it disingenuous "to worry about the politicization of science now instead of during the Bush administration?" In his own defense he writes: "I agree that there were lots of attempts to use science for political ends during the Bush years. I wrote about some of the questionable claims by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the White House drug czar's office." So, while the Bush administration was busy placing unqualified political appointees in scientific positions, muzzling agency scientists, ignoring scientific findings when making federal health and environmental rules, manipulating the scientific advisory system in favor of ideology and industry, and editing reports in way that distorted scientific data, Tierney wrote about some "questionable claims" by the DEA and White House drug czar. Got it.
And just why is Tierney now concerned about "honest science"? Have Holdren or Chu been accused or found guilty of distorting scientific evidence or manipulating the scientific process for political purposes? No, Tierney is "concern[ed] about some of the debating tactics used by Dr. Holdren and his allies" early in Holdren's career, back in the 70s and 80s. Tierney's also concerned that Holdren, as Tierney sees it, has a "tendency to conflate the science of climate change with prescriptions to cut greenhouse emissions." According to Tierney, "There are other ways to cope, and there's no 'scientific consensus' on which path looks best." Of course, Joe Romm -- an actual scientist, as opposed someone like Tierney, who "always wanted to be a scientist but went into journalism because its peer-review process was a great deal easier to sneak through,"-- has noted that the idea that climate change science does not suggest the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions is just absurd.
As for Chu, Tierney cites one comment that Chu made in an interview with the Los Angeles times where he suggested that the effects of climate change could reduce the snow pack in the mountains of California to such an extent that there could be "no more agriculture in California," making it difficult to "keep their cities going." While Chu's comment may strike some as going beyond what the available science would allow us to predict with any degree of certainty, Tierney failed to mention that Chu reportedly was describing a worst case scenario or that the LAT reported that "[a] pair of recent studies raise similar warnings." Moreover, Chu's singular comment hardly provides evidence that we should be worried about whether Chu and other advisors give Obama "realistic plans for dealing with global warming and other threats." But it's good to see that Tierney has his watchful eye on the use of science in Washington, this time around.
From a March 4 Washington Times editorial:
Driving snow froze the hopes of organizers of "the biggest global warming protest in history" Monday in Washington. With the government on a two-hour snow delay and the speaker of the House unable to attend because her flight was grounded by inclement weather, shivering protestors gathered on the west front of the Capitol, the latest victims of a climatological phenomenon known by the scientific community as the Gore Effect.
The Gore Effect was first noticed during a January 2004 global warming rally in New York City, held during one of the coldest days in the city's history. Since then, evidence has mounted of a correlation between global warming activism and severely cold weather.
A year ago a congressional media briefing on the Bingaman/Specter Climate Bill was cancelled due to a cold snap. In October 2008 London saw the first snow since 1922 while the House of Commons debated the Climate Change Bill. That same month Al Gore's appearance at Harvard University coincided with low temperatures that challenged 125-year records. Tellingly, the average global temperature for each of the 366 days in 2008 was below the average for Jan. 24, 2006, the date Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" was released at the Sundance Film Festival.
Critics claim the Gore Effect is mere coincidence, though one could also argue that coincidence is also the basis for the anthropogenic theory of climate change. Alternative theories, e.g., citing the influence of sun spot activity, have gained increasing credence as scientists have noted global warming in recent years on other planets, which presumably have been human-free. Significant data issues have also arisen, such as the recent discovery of a chunk of Arctic sea ice the size of California that satellites had missed (but which in all probability had been known to polar bears).
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Last week, Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said that if people don't like George Will using the Post's op-ed page to spread global warming misinformation, they should debate him rather than expect the Post to stop publishing the misinformation.
Well, Chris Mooney has submitted an op-ed refuting Will's claims. It will be interesting to see if Hiatt runs Mooney's column.
Either way, though, Mooney makes clear we'll see the column "in some form no matter what, this I promise."
Tucker Carlson, in a Washington Post online discussion:
Tucker Carlson: I've never been to Daily Kos (the guy who runs it -- Marcos something or other - may be the single most pompous person I have ever met) but for the record let me say that I think global warming is a crock too.
Following the Drudge Report's lead, Fox News hosts Neil Cavuto, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity each suggested that, in Cavuto's words, a "massive snowstorm," which recently hit the East Coast, calls into question the scientific consensus on "global warming." However, climate scientists reject the notion that short-term changes in weather provide any evidence for or against the existence of climate change.
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From Alexander's column, which will appear in the March 1 edition of the Post:
The column triggered e-mails to The Post from hundreds of angry environmental activists and a few scientists, many asserting that the center had said exactly the opposite.
The ruckus grew when I e-mailed readers who had inquired about the editing process for Will's column. My comments accurately conveyed what I had been told by editorial page editor Fred Hiatt -- that multiple editors had checked Will's sources, including the reference to the Arctic Climate Research Center. Although I didn't render a judgment, my response was understandably seen as an institutional defense and prompted an orchestrated e-mail campaign in which thousands demanded that The Post correct Will's "falsehoods." Like they say when the pro football rookie gets clobbered: "Welcome to the NFL."
As the debate continues, questions linger about The Post's editing process. And there are separate questions about how The Post reacted once readers began questioning the accuracy of Will's column.
First, the editing process. My inquiry shows that there was fact-checking at multiple levels.
The editors who checked the Arctic Research Climate Center Web site believe it did not, on balance, run counter to Will's assertion that global sea ice levels "now equal those of 1979." I reviewed the same Web citation and reached a different conclusion.
It said that while global sea ice areas are "near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979," sea ice area in the Northern Hemisphere is "almost one million sq. km below" the levels of late 1979. That's roughly the size of Texas and California combined. In my mind, it should have triggered a call for clarification to the center.
Speaking of Fred Hiatt's absurd claim that people who don't like George Will spreading global warming misinformation should "debate" him, rather than expect the Post to run a correction ...
Yesterday's Washington Post featured op-eds by Henry Kissinger, David Broder, Bill Kristol, David Ignatius, and George Will. Today's brings op-eds from George Will, Michael Gerson, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Kinsley, and Eugene Robinson.
That's ten columns total. One is by a liberal (Robinson), one by a contrarian who may lean left (Kinsley), two by centrist Villagers (Broder and Ignatius - and remember, Village centrists are typically to the right of the actual center.) And six are by staunch conservatives - Will (twice), Krauthammer, former Nixon aide Kissinger, former Bush I aide Kristol, and former Bush II aide Gerson.
Now, who is in charge of the Post's op-ed page? Fred Hiatt. If Fred Hiatt wants to pretend that critics of Will's falsehoods are welcome to debate Will, Fred Hiatt can start by regularly running op-eds by (more honest) liberal equivalents of Will, Krauthammer and Gerson. And no, Richard Cohen does not count.
Journalism is not complicated. Honest. But sometimes people practicing it pretend that it is. They pretend that it's very complicated and that every fact has nine different sides and it's impossible--impossible--to figure out what the truth really is. And because it's impossible, who's to say who's right and who's wrong. Who's to say what's correct and what's incorrect. It's all open for debate.
The Post's Fred Hiatt, busy contorting himself into a pretzel, is playing that (dumb) game with regards to George Will, the increasingly heavy anchor that the columnist has become around the daily's neck. Will and the Post refuse to apologize, or in newspaper terms they refuse to issue a correction, despite the fact that Will's now infamous column last week was built around falsehoods about global warming. But rather than trying to figure out how to fix the problem, Hiatt and Will have apparently been brainstorming on how not to accept responsibility.
The Post and Will are above corrections because they've pored over the available information and they can spot a ray of daylight where they can claim Will was not categorically wrong in his global warming claim. And if there is a daylight toward deniability, they're going to choose that over transparency, and honesty, with their readers.
Hiatt insists Will's entitled to his opinion about the global warming facts because those facts are just too complicated--too unknowable--and who the hell are readers to claim otherwise? Hiatt told CJR:
If you want to start telling me that columnists can't make inferences which you disagree with—and, you know, they want to run a campaign online to pressure newspapers into suppressing minority views on this subject—I think that's really inappropriate. It may well be that he is drawing inferences from data that most scientists reject — so, you know, fine, I welcome anyone to make that point. But don't make it by suggesting that George Will shouldn't be allowed to make the contrary point. Debate him.
That sound you hear is Hiatt digging the Post an even deeper and more embarrassing hole.
I have two favorite parts. The first was Hiatt's insistence that Will has every right to draw inference--to make claims of fact in his column--based on data that most scientists reject. Good Lord, what is Will not allowed to do in a Post column? And does the Op-Ed page maintain any guidelines?
And second, I chuckled when Hiatt insisted that if people disagree with Will's published falsehoods, they shouldn't try to pressure the paper to publish corrections, they should, y'know, "debate him." Right, because Will and Post editors have been so open and willing to address--to debate--the controversy.
Hiatt and Post are hunkered down in serious denial mode. And that's when journalism becomes unnecessarily complicated.
P.S. When is the Post's media critic, Howard Kurtz, going to weigh in on this growing press controversy in the pages of the newspaper, even if it does feature a star Post columnist?