25 February 2010

Red Meat

James Inhofe (R-OK) is an irresistible attraction to many in the climate debate. A commenter has pointed out that the Senator has released a report -- his latest of many -- in which he indicates that his staff will be looking at whether climate scientists have broken any laws, based on the CRU emails. In my view this sort of announcement is what you do when you don't think that the law has in fact been broken. If he had any evidence of law breaking he'd be acting not via announcement. So I think that it is just a bit of clown-like bluffing, serving up red meat for the partisans, but little else.

Senator Inhofe is not alone in serving up red meat for his partisan followers. Over at ClimateScienceWatch, Rick Piltz focuses on the Inhofe report to also use these scientists for his own partisan purposes. In his comments he adds a good deal of intensity to the issue, writing about "trials" and "possible referral to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution." This is just as over-the-top as the Senator's report, and just as unhelpful -- if Piltz's concern is to improve the role of climate science in policy and politics (I assume that such improvement is not high on Senator Inhofe's agenda).

Talking about the prosecution of scientists is a good way to get a debate going, and this thread will meet that demand (keep it respectful, please). However, it should be realized that the actions of Senator Inhofe and those who take his bait miss what matters most here, and that is not individual scientists and their personalities or characters, but rather, the integrity of the institutions in which they reside. Those who wish to discuss issues of science policy as related to climate science, please use the comments in the post on my debate with Bob Watson. Those wanting more of a food fight can use this post. I know where I'll be paying most attention.


  1. Waterboarding would be cheaper and more effective. ;-)

  2. Even if he believes a crime has been committed, does a senator have a right or special status to initiate a criminal investigation or prosecution under the US system?

    In the UK if there's a crime, you report it to the police (or similar bodies such as SFO), they investigate, and refer to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who decide whether to prosecute, and then bring the prosecution (private prosecutions are technically possible but incredibly rare). This is the same whether it's an MP or Joe Bloggs reporting a crime (although I imagine an MP might be listened to more closely).

    In any case, it seems like blow hard grand-standing, that will turn most people off. Just like when some warmists have called for a war crimes trials of skeptics. In both cases, such things appeal to a core irrational constituency on a particular side, but are fundamentally pointless and even counterproductive in terms of persuading people.

  3. Roger:

    If not an infringement issue, where do you primarily get your graphics? Some of them have been keepers, and I would explore for more. Thanks.

  4. -3-Brian

    Graphics come from the web, and linked/captured via the (clumsy) Blogger interface. I have in the past 6 years had only 2 complaints about infringement, which I simply responded to by changing images when asked.

  5. Who else is taking care of the sceptic views in the Senate?

  6. Copner, if there has been an attempt to manipulate (falsify) data or deliberately perpetuate known errors in order to gain federal funding, then yes a crime has been committed.

    As has been posted on CA, there is a remarkable similarity between Climategate and Enron.

  7. Roger-
    I think you have this pegged. Inhofe staff has already hunted around some. They can't find anything really plausible. So, Inhofe announce that they are looking into things and have identified laws that might, hypothetically be violated by someone, somehow. There's probably no particular evidence to make a plausible case-- but that doesn't mean his staff can't keep "looking"!

    You are also correct that what matters is the way institutions are constituted. I would add how funded programs are run also matter. Much of science is funded by a federal agency, but then conducted by a PI at some non-federal institution. Contractual stipulations that are enforced could improve things like transparency.

  8. There are several issues here. First, copner, just in passing, Senators can't themselves initiate criminal prosecutions, but they can refer a matter to DoJ for investigation; that's what Jim Inhofe has done. However, Inhofe isn't just looking at criminal charges, although that's the way it seems to have gotten reported by many sources. He has also asked for an IG investigation and has been pursuing a Congressional investigation, both of which can lead to criminal charges, civil liability, or administrative punishments like debarment.

    As to Roger's other points, Inhofe is rightly pointing out that there appear to be some factors in this that are criminal. The most obvious one is possible FOIA violations; the Brits have already confirmed that they believe there were criminal offenses committed in the UK, although statutes of limitations may prevent prosecution.

    This isn't criminalizing the science though, any more than prosecuting a researcher who used a grant to remodel their kitchen for fraud would be.

    It's fuzzier when Inhofe considers whether obstructing a Congressional investigation might have been obstruction of justice; it's seems to me, though not a lawyer, that proving intent would be real tough. After years of people in the last administration conflating "lie" with "disagrees with me" or "believed something that proved later to be false", it gets harder to talk about.

    Still, just thinking about the issues Roger has reported here, we know that Pachauri has many very questionable connections and apparent conflicts; we know that some IPCC authors have violated their own procedures to get in references they wanted and eliminate references that didn't serve the overall goal; we know that Roger Sr was forced out when his version of the chapter wasn't sufficiently oriented to the CO2-forced hypothesis.

    And we know that the IPCC report was used as the "gold standard" to make policy decisions.

    It seems to me that at some point this is at least misconduct, and should have consequences.

  9. Inhofe is giving in to the same tendency to demonize one's opponents that led to the criminal investigations of John Yoo et al. for giving legal advice political opponents did not like, and for the widespread global tendency for incoming governments, sometimes even democratic governments from countries we consider civilized, to put the most hated members of the last government on trial. The tendency to criminalize political or scientific or other dissent is one that we all need to fight. As a registered Republican, I am ashamed of Inhofe, and will say so to him directly.

  10. Yes, Inhof is a politician! Politicians use politics to achieve their ends! We owe Inhofe a great deal of thanks for almost single-handedly keeping some semblance of a DEBATE going on the AGW issue in our terribly misinformed Congress.

  11. In my most humble opinion, this is the best post title of the year so far.

  12. I don't remember anyone on the AGW side complaining when Al Gore 'embellished' facts.

  13. The biggest story is yet to be told. Who hacked the emails. If it's an insider this could really explode.

  14. #2 copner said

    "Even if he believes a crime has been committed, does a senator have a right or special status to initiate a criminal investigation or prosecution under the US system?"

    Senate and congressional committee's have subpoena powers...they can compel testimony from anyone for anything.

    Senator Inhofe is currently the ranking minority member. Which doesn't give him all the much power to schedule hearings. Of course that could change in 10 months time depending on the mood of the electorate.

  15. Who do you trust most on the climate change debate.

    1. Al Gore: "The planet is in distress and all of the attention is on Paris Hilton."

    2. James Inhofe: "Much of the debate over global warming is predicated on fear, rather than science."

    3. Homer Simpson: "Looks like I'm going to have to shovel 10 feet of global warming in the morning."

  16. If any individual or institution knowingly uses faulty, or fraudulent data in order to enact a regime that confiscates wealth from either individuals or organizations, then that individual or institution should be charged. This applies equally to scientists as it does to anyone else.

    The mistake many are making, is that scientists are somehow exempt from this notion ... that they can’t be found liable for wilfully ignoring data, or fabricating data, in order to meet ends that involve taking money from others.

    Imagine, if you will, that J&J lied about research in order to legalize drug X. When caught, heads would roll, fines would be levied, and possible jail terms handed out.

    Toyota is, as I write this, being savaged by a number of inquiries, some which may lead to criminal charges.

    Now consider what the IPCC and warmists have already managed. They have set up a trillion dollar carbon trading system. They have bilked Europeans out of billions of Euros. And, they have flooded sympathetic scientists, NGOs, and corporations with more money than any other scientific cause has ever received in the history of the world. I wonder; how far along would cancer research be had it received the billions taken in by “climatechange” sciences.

    Inhofe is just scratching the surface ... I can't wait until after November 2010.

  17. With images, the best thing is to make sure that there is a link back to the originating source if you click on the image. Like anything, there is the difference btw practice and theory esp if you modify the figure.

    That being said, Eli has a message to relay here from Maple Leaf

    "Roger, I find your wording on this intriguing. You are seemingly critical of Inhofe, but at the same time you do not explicitly state that what he is doing or proposing is ridiculous in the extreme. Does he even know that several of those scientists on his list do not reside in the USA? This is McCarthyism all over again.

    You also say that "Senator Inhofe is not alone in serving up red meat for his partisan followers".

    True, but you have been engaging in similar (dog whistle) tactics for some time now. Not for "partisan followers", but for so-called "skeptics". And don't try and deny it; the evidence is on your very own blog and elsewhere on the web.

    Anyhow, what I want to know is *exactly* do you stand on this persecution of scientists by Inhofe? For example, Do you denounce or approve of what he is proposing?

    I would like to see you do a post on why what Inhofe is proposing is so wrong and to take him to task on it. Anything less can easily and reasonably be construed as support for Inhofe by you.


  18. -17-MapleLeaf

    Do I think that climate scientists should be thrown in jail? No, that is absurd. But the only people who have specifically mentioned that are Rick Piltz and Joshua Halpern (maybe I missed something from Inhofe?).

    Are Inhofe's tactics both wrong and wrongheaded? Yes, see above.

    Are Inhofe's tactics McCarthy-esque? Probably a bit, and especially so since he is a Senator. On the other hand he is waving around allegations about breaking the law, rather than some litmus tests of loyalty or patriotism or the like. Even if it is not strictly McCarthy-esque, it sure is bad politics and bad for science.

    I hope this helps to clarify.

  19. -17-MapleLeaf

    Don't know what you are saying about dog whistles, but if it is an ad hom, please take it elsewhere.

  20. "Even if it is not strictly McCarthy-esque, it sure is bad politics and bad for science."


  21. If lying about climate science was a crime, wouldn't, oh, just about every Republican in American be guilty?

    Wow! Holding you guys to your new standard is going to be fun. Can your heroes Rush, Sean, and Hannity broadcast from prison? All of them lied about Snowmageddon, for example. Thanks for proving that they need to be locked in a cage forever.


  22. Yes, this is turning out to be all rather McCarthy-esque. You can't get them on the science (because any criticism is effectively rebutted) so you get them on procedures. It's the old institutional trick to suppress someone inconvenient - "he didn't fill in the right form and so disciplinary action has been taken". Or as in the case with Inhofe - "we're instigating investigations of whether rule X was not complied with".

  23. @Chad 21-

    It seems you are blowing a dog whistle here.

  24. @ chad-
    My congressional rep, Judy Biggert is republican, and thinks climate change is real.
    Biggert and Daley turned off the lights while diners ate by candlelight and showcased the efforts of local students to raise awareness of climate change, including creative posters. Homer Glen was one of the first communities to sign on to support Earth Hour, and Biggert is the sponsor of a resolution, H. Res. 268, in the U.S. House of Representatives recognizing the initiative.

  25. I only ran into the term "dog whistle" today. From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog-whistle_politics):

    Dog-whistle politics, also known as the use of code words, is a term for a type of political campaigning or speechmaking which employs coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has a different or more specific meaning for a targeted subgroup of the audience. The term is invariably pejorative, and is used to refer both to messages with an intentional subtext, and those where the existence or intent of a secondary meaning is disputed. According to blogger Ian Welsh,
    When you speak in code(...), most of the time the only people who hear and understand what you just said are the intended group, who have an understanding of the world and a use of words that is not shared by the majority of the population.[1]

    The term is an analogy to dog whistles, which are built in such a way that the high-frequency whistle is heard by dogs, but appears silent to human hearing.

  26. -25-UAN

    Thanks ... new one to me. I wonder what my code words are, and who are my dogs;-)

    I figured it was pejorative ...

  27. Roger I'm old enough 62 to remember McCarthy and Senator Sam Ervin (Watergate). This is much closer to Watergate than McCarthyism. In Watergate there was a group of insiders who stonewalled and hid their dastardly deeds. McCarthy simply threw a net over anyone who he deemed a communist. BTW the Ervin help bring down McCarthy. The emails are deep throat. There is more to come. Where are Woodward and Bernstein when we need them. Using government money to perpetrate fraud is a crime.

  28. Mike says:

    "Using government money to perpetrate fraud is a crime."

    Spot on. And so is deleting emails to avoid FOI. And so is lying to Congress. And so are ponzi schemes. And.... In short, there are many reasons why Inhofe's call for investigations makes very good sense, despite the opinion of some of the liberals here. I see no intent to "punish" bad science or scientists who produce junk science.

  29. Rick Piltz unpiles the dog whistles: Inhofe

    "... is now using the resources of the Senate committee to seek opportunities to criminalize the actions of 17 leading scientists who have been associated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports. A report released by Inhofe’s staff on February 23 outlines this classic Joe McCarthyite witch-hunt: page after page of incorrect and misleading statements, a list of federal laws that allegedly may make scientists subject to prosecution by the U.S. Justice Department, and a list of names and affiliations of 17 “key players” in the “CRU Controversy” over stolen e-mails and their connections with IPCC reports."

    So Roger, how many communists are in the State Department?

  30. There is a clear difference between "bad science" and fraudulent science. "Bad" science can get one into trouble via the civil courts while fraudulent science can get one into trouble via criminal law. Bad science can become negligence; fraudulent science can become crime.

    Congressional or Senate investigations are designed to root out either "bad" or "fraudulent" processes. It is, in fact, the fear of hearings that keeps many potential fraudsters in check, and prevents many practitioners from simply doing “bad” work; be they car manufacturers, or scientists, or NASA space program project managers.

    I am frankly quite shocked that it is lost on so many in the scientific community that the misconduct by some scientists in this case, be it "bad" science, or fraudulent science, has cost the tax payer hundreds of billions of dollars globally in schemes, grants, kick backs, graft, and carbon trading simply because AGW was said to be an established fact. I don't think the propeller heads have wrapped their very keen brains around just how ugly this can get if, and when, "fraud" or even "bad" science is exposed in the public arena ... which is what Inhofe intends on doing. I think that sometimes scientists get so involved in the academic debate, that they forget that tax payers and entire economies have already been impacted by the AGW issue and that yes, scientific chicanery that involves the public purse can land one in jail ... and it should, no matter what side of this issue you fall on. Scientists who take public money need to be sobered up ... and I hope that by the time Inhofe is done, there is a lot of “sober” to go around. Perhaps then, and only then, will those who pay the salaries and buy the beakers trust scientists with their hard earned dollars. Grants, don’t grow on trees, they come right out of the pockets of ordinary people.

  31. Roger-
    I figured it was pejorative ...
    I had to look it up; it is definite pejorative. Lower down in the wikipedia article you'll find

    One group of alleged code words in the United States is claimed to appeal to racism of the intended audience. The phrase "states' rights", although literally referring to powers of individual state governments in the United States, has been described as a code word for institutionalized segregation and racism.[6] Other terms that some people say are used to indicate alleged veiled racism are "crime in the streets" and "welfare queens".[7]

    I have no idea what about your article was supposed to be the "dog whistle" or who was supposed to here it. Maybe the accusation of "dog whistle" was, itself a dog whistle?

  32. Chad #21 --

    Are you the climate-blogger Chad who does statistical analysis of temperature data at Trees for the Forest?

  33. > code words
    Well documented.

    Remember James Watt, Secretary of the Interior, saying he was going to do everything he could to help out the American Indians, "without reservations."

    More here:

    "The comma was really a dog whistle

    That's the theory of Ian Welch at The Agonist. According to him, when President Bush said that the Iraq war would "look just like a comma" to future historians, he wasn't using a creative and unexpected metaphor-- he was evoking a well-known proverb that urges steadfastness, "Never put a period where God has put a comma."


    This kind of writing that seems clever if you think you're the first one to invent the idea, and that only your target audience will get the hidden meaning.

  34. There should be a law, similar to Godwin's Law to cover illogical allusions to McCarthy. Here is one attorney's perspective on "climate crimes:" http://www.climategate.com/how-i-now-debate-a-climate-fraud-denier#more-5383

  35. Even more to the point of Inhofe's action:


  36. OK, Hank, MapleLeaf, anyone ... re: dog whistles ...

    So then what are my secret words/allusions? I have used commas before ;-)

  37. Roger--
    I'm still trying to figure out how in a comment 29, Eli can characterize Inhofe's speeches as dog whistles. Is Eli under the impression that Inhofe's clearly audible calls to use the criminal code to pursue a list of climate scientists is said in language only people with special hearing can understand?

  38. -37-Lucia

    Good question. I am assuming that the reference to dog whistles on this thread refers to some secret subtext that is supposed to be in my writings and those of Inhofe.

    However, no one has been yet willing to explain that secret subtext;-)

  39. Eli's protege Maple Leaf wrote,

    "You [Roger] also say that 'Senator Inhofe is not alone in serving up red meat for his partisan followers'.

    True, but you have been engaging in similar (dog whistle) tactics for some time now. Not for 'partisan followers', but for so-called 'skeptics'."

    Therefore Eli/Maple Leaf's Dog Whistle charge is --

    "Roger has been engaging in Inhofe-like tactics for some time now. At his very own blog and elsewhere on the web, he has been serving up red meat for his so-called skeptic followers."

    1. While the evidence against you is overwhelming, "Dog Whistle" alludes to the fact that you have subtly served up your writings so that they seem innocuous to naive readers unschooled in what constitutes "red meat" to so-called skeptics.

    2. Don't try and deny it.

    3. Anything less than you devoting a post to Inhofe, explaining why he is so wrong, taking him to task, and denouncing him should be construed as support for Inhofe by you.

    4. Roger, do you still beat your wife? Anything less than you devoting a post to the subject should be construed as support for wife-beating by you.

  40. Let's see. Roger claims that Piltz saying, "possible referral to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution" is just as over the top as Inhofe's "clown-like bluffing". However, Lucia describes Inhofe's "clearly audible calls to use the criminal code to pursue a list of climate scientists" as being obvious to everyone. Everyone but Roger, it appears?

  41. The only dog whistles are the specious and wildly wrong attempts to compare calling for investigation of how scientists receiving public money apparently misused it and McCarthyism.
    The list of scientists, unlike McCarthy's list, is pretty much open. The potential crimes are not fabricated crimes of association, as were McCarthy's. The specific questions are clear: did climate scientists defraud the public in any way in trying to hype the perceived threat of AGW?
    Now if AGW community members and suporters are OK with fraud, so be it, But that does not make investigating AGW promoters McCarthy-eque.

  42. Jeff Freymueller #40 -

    Roger's description in this post is consistent with what is written in the first two links he supplies in support of his interpretation, and with Inhofe's press release as well.

  43. "Roger Pielke, Jr.

    Do I think that climate scientists should be thrown in jail? No, that is absurd."

    The real question is 'have you ever deliberately misrepresented data in a publication?'.
    If the answer is yes, then you should never get a grant again. Scientists, like myself, have a duty to the profession, their funding bodies and to the public at large.
    Manipulating data sets to give an image you want is at the very least unethical and possibly, illegal. If you submit a piece of data to a journal, knowing it does not represent your full data, you have defrauded the scientific body, the journal and the people who pay your salary.

  44. AMac #42, Let's not be naive. Inhofe is probably just bluffing here, but a US Senator has considerable power and he is sending a message -- a threat -- in addition to throwing red meat to his partisan followers. Piltz, on the other hand, is writing on a blog. There is simply no equivalence between the two.

    Judging by the comments here, I'd say most of the commenters recognize what is going on.

  45. Here's another possible rationale for Inhofe to release sensationalist claims and further whip up a frenzy. The lawsuit challenging the EPA's proposed CO2 limitations faces an uphill challenge. The report aims to support the claims made in that lawsuit (check out bullet #3 of the summary of findings). So I now count two reasons beyond buffoonery and throwing red meat.

    Recall that there is also a bill in the Senate to strip the EPA of its power to regulate CO2 as a pollutant.

  46. Jeff:

    ?? "The lawsuit challenging the EPA's proposed CO2 limitations faces an uphill challenge."

    Are you an attorney?

  47. Jae, no I'm not an attorney. I've read a couple of different pieces that describe the standard needed for overturning proposed regulations, and pointed out it is not easy to reach. Maybe they can hope to get a conservative activist judge and boost their odds. Have you read a different analysis?

  48. Jeff: No. You may be correct, since the courts usually defer to the Agencies on matters of the agencies' expertise. However, this may be way different, because I think a very strong case can be made that EPA failed to carry out the required analysis of the scientific basis for their "finding." They relied almost totally on IPCC. They virtually ignored all the scientific literature that has been published since the 2007 IPCC report. Moreover, they ignored and tried to silence some staff members that produced some very convincing counter-evidence (see: http://www.carlineconomics.com/ ). Evidently, a lot of lawyers think EPA is vulnerable, since I understand that there are at least 16 major lawsuits in progress challenging the endangerment finding. It will be interesting to watch, that's for sure.

  49. Roger has a long history of avoiding inconvenient truths, for example, way back in '06 he wrote that
    In the battle over smoking efforts to deny a link between smoking and health risks seems to have been completely a lost effort.

    completely neglecting, as Al Gore pointed out today
    . . .tobacco companies blocked constraints on the marketing of cigarettes for four decades after science confirmed the link of cigarettes to diseases of the lung and the heart.

    and as Eli pointed out then
    The tobacco industry has used advertising, public relations campaigns, Potemkin science, litigation, and any other method it could find to maintain revenues. Deaths were collateral damage. This is no secret to anyone who reads the newspapers let alone science journals. The mortality data and the data on tobacco use and its relationship to advertising both pro and con is readily available to anyone who makes the smallest effort to search.

    Why Roger does this, that is another question. The straightforward answer is that he opposes any regulation of emissions. The breakthrough fairy is not going to wave her majic wand and he knows that.

  50. -49-Professor Joshua Halpern, Howard University aka Eli Rabett

    Let me first say that your continuing obsession with me is a more than a bit scary and weird.

    Let me state clearly and unambiguously that I am not opposed to the regulation of emissions.

    On the earlier exchange that we had about smoking here is what I wrote at the time:

    "Hank, Eli- Thanks for your comments. But you grossly misread my post if you think that I am trying "to argue that nothing happened as a result of the long battle to dig out the fake science."

    Let's be clear -- I am not trying to argue this point. I am trying to understand WHAT exactly has been the effect on societal outcomes of the long battle over smoking science. Cutler and Glaeser take a swing at part of this question, imperfectly in my view. So I am looking for more science on this subject. It seems from the literature I have seen that this question has not been rigorously answered.

    From your replies it appears that you don't have the answer either. But if you do come up with specific references to peer reviewed literature, please do share them.


    Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at April 30, 2006 06:25 AM"

    Is it too much to ask for you to act in a manner consistent with your position as a faculty member at a US university?

    Is it too much to ask that you engage in discussion respectfully and openly?

  51. > RPJr.:
    > ... WHAT exactly has been the effect on
    > societal outcomes of the long battle over
    > smoking science.... not been rigorously answered.

    The dogwhistle words in that bit -- "exactly" and "rigorously" -- are "Sound science" ploys.

    Give an example of any question about societal outcomes you believe has that kind of an answer.

    You do know what you're talking about.

  52. -51-Hank

    Sorry, but what you are suggesting is utter bunk. In academia we actually use words precisely to express what we mean.

    For instance, we (social scientists) know, exactly and with rigor, that the effect of partisan bickering results in a loss of public support for action on health care. In fact, if you take a look at the literature on public opinion, you'll find that some things are known and somethings aren't, and these are described in terms of statistical significance using actual methodologies. Imagine that

    I am sure that you can probably also find some sort of numerology messages in my writings, and if you play my speeches backwards I discuss devil worship ;-)

    Are coded "dog whistles" really the level of your objections to my writings? Seriously, if so, then there is less there than I thought.

  53. You might appreciate this comment from Thers, which lays out why Inhofe is dangerous
    This is all, in a word, appalling. And while Inhofe is surely grandstanding, playing to the Crazy Choir, let’s face it: if the GOP regains the Senate, Inhofe will once more be chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. With subpoena power.

    It sounds crazy — and it is. But, frankly, it really could happen here, scientists compelled by law to appear before a Senate committee to answer the question “are you now, or have you ever been, someone whose research said humans are making the planet warmer?”

    This is, quite frankly, precisely what James Inhofe says he wants us to do, and I think it would be a dangerous mistake not to take him at his word. Because, then, who would there be to stop him? His party? Centrist Democrats? Sensible Opinion Writers for Respected Publications?

  54. "I don't remember anyone on the AGW side complaining when Al Gore 'embellished' facts."

    Aside from the astonishing asymmetry in comparing Sen. Gore committing some errors in his movie, and Sen. Inhofe calling for the *prosecution of climate scientists*, your post fails for the simple reason that AGW-believin' climate scientists did, indeed, point out errors in Sen. Gore's movie.

    So I guess you *just weren't listening*. Maybe because they didn't bray loudly about it in the manner skpetical bloggers prefer?