On Diamonds, Honour and High School Fairy Tales

In Canada, high school students receive guidance counselling in their senior year in order to assist them as they decide what to do after graduation. I went to my guidance session and my counsellor asked me what I wanted to do after June. I was a good student — a few A+s, a few B+s, and a few Bs. Not great — I tended to do well in subjects I liked and less well in those I didn’t value. At the time, I was more interested in high school social life than achievement but youth, as they say, is wasted on the young. I told my guidance counsellor that I wanted to go to university and study science.

“Science is hard for girls,” he said. “You do so well in English. You should study English in University.” I won a regional poetry prize for high school seniors in a nation wide competition, so I can understand this advice, but I was determined. I loved my biology and chemistry classes and could not be convinced otherwise. Being the stubborn sort that I am, I went on to study science and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology. My senior project was a genetic study of metabolic mutatations in Physcomitrella patens, a bryophyte better known as your ordinary moss.

Of course, here I am, a non-scientist writing about science instead of doing it. Guidance counsellors…

On to the subject of my post — fairy tales. They are cautionary tales told in order to both entertain and fill the reader full of moral learnings that will help them navigate the human world. Here are a few of my own personal high school fairy tales.

The Diamond Ring

It’s once upon a time and I’m 15.  I have trained as a lifeguard and in the summer, I get my very first job at the local municipal swimming pool. One day, a fellow lifeguard and school chum we’ll call Jane comes to work at the pool and as we girls stand around in the change room before our shift starts, she holds out her hand.  There on her ring finger is a diamond ring.

“It’s a promise ring,” she says, moving her finger and hand around so that the gem catches the light and glitters. We all ooh and ahh at this and listen as she tells us all about it.

.

“John gave it to me last night! We’re engaged to be engaged.”

You have to understand that to many high school sophomores, me included, there is nothing more important than being considered attractive to the opposite sex. It is even more important than being smart or talented. So we are suitably impressed and envious, and most likely each one of us who didn’t have promise rings on our fingers spend the rest of the shift imagining the day we will get our own. Understand that the boyfriend is himself superfluous. He is merely the provider of the “sign” — the purchaser of the ring and it is the ring, and the diamond in its center, that counts as proof of our female worth.

Later, after our shift is over, a few of us go to the local Smitty’s Restaurant to have our usual fare of french fries and chocolate milk shakes — and of course, to discuss the promise ring more thoroughly. I ask to see the ring, and Jane promptly removes it and passes it over. I examine it closely and after a few moments, the reality of the ring’s artifice becomes apparent.

The ring does sparkle quite a lot in the light but I discover the reason and it isn’t to do with the size of the gem. Instead, the jeweller designed the ring to enhance the effect. The band is yellow gold and the setting is in contrasting silver. The setting itself is a concave depression that has been cut into many facet-like planes and in the center of this depression sits the tiny diamond chip. The overall effect is to magnify the tiny chip so that it appears much bigger than it really is – perhaps a dozen times its actual size. In other words, while it is a ring and the gem is a diamond, it is barely above a large piece of diamond dust — the kind of chip that might result from a jeweller cutting a larger gem. The brilliant sparkle is an illusion created by the jeweller’s technique of using silver and multi-faceted cuts in the setting to enhance or exaggerate the size of the actual diamond.

The young couple broke up a few months later and each went on to marry other people as one might expect. Jane continued to wear the ring for quite a while despite the break up, because a diamond is a diamond and even though they were no longer engaged to be engaged, it was still proof that once, she had been a girl who was desired enough to be.

~~~

The recent barrage of posts in the denialosphere about O’Donnell 2010 got me to thinking about illusions and how it’s possible, if you repeat something enough and shine enough floodlights on it, hold it in a certain light, and squint your eyes, that you can turn a bit of compressed carbon into a magnificent diamond ring.

As of this writing, in the past two weeks, there have been a total of 44 blog posts about this gate du jour at the main “skeptic” blogs, such as Climate Audit (11),WUWT (9), The Air Vent (7), The Blackboard (9) and Bishop Hill (8).

It seems that the denialosphere is determined to ensure that this current kerfuffle is turned into a second Hockey Stick.

Meanwhile a quick search on google scholar indicates that there are dozens of new papers that discuss Antarctic temperatures and climate, including the West Antarctic and the Antarctic Peninsula.

What should we really be focusing on?

~~~~~

An Engaged Girl’s Honour Must Be Protected

It’s my senior year of high school and it’s Saturday night in small-town Western Canada. We’re at a party at my best friend’s house. Her parents are out of town and so it’s party central.  The liquor is flowing and the pot is smoking. We’re all feeling quite good. Towards the end of the evening, a small group of friends are sitting in the kitchen.  Jennifer, one of our friends is regaling us with tales of her upcoming wedding. Her boyfriend Dave, a few years older and already a graduate, stands behind her and the guys are all nodding and toasting him while we admire her engagement ring.

After a bit, we split up as a group to visit with the last remaining guests, stepping over those who have passed out on the floor and tripping over empty bottles. All of a sudden, a commotion erupts in the front yard. We rush out to see what’s happening and there, in the middle of the lawn, is Dave whaling on this much younger teen. I mean, Dave, the groom to be, is just bashing this guy’s lights out. The bashee is younger and smaller and the rest of us try to intervene in order to stop what is obviously a mismatched fight. The young guy isn’t even fighting back. He’s too drunk.

We finally separate the two and someone takes the young man home. Luckily, Dave wasn’t able to inflict enough damage for any charges to be laid and the young man goes home to bed, thoroughly chastened.

What started this late-night battle?

“Why did you beat him up?” I asked.

Dave is an old friend. My boyfriend and I have double dated on and off with this couple for a year or two so I know them both well.

“He made a pass at Jennifer.”

I turn to Jennifer and ask what the boy did.

“He cornered me when I came out of the bathroom and asked me to go on a date.”

I’m incredulous. This younger teen, slight in build, maybe 14, probably stoned out of his mind, made a pass at Jennifer and she runs to Dave to complain. Dave proceeds to beat the kid up.

I am mad and I am not afraid to express it. I point out that the boy was a few years younger and a dozen kilograms lighter than Dave. He was drunk. Jennifer could defend herself easily, and could have, if she had pushed on him with her pinkie finger, probably toppled him he was so drunk.

“Why on Earth would you run to Dave and get him to beat this kid up?” I ask.

Jennifer punches me in the face. I stand there, more shocked than hurt, mouth agape.

“You don’t know what it’s like to be an engaged woman!”

The engaged couple were married a few months later. I later found out that a week before they were married, Dave went out of town and Jennifer took the opportunity to have one last fling with her old beau. Because, you know, marriage is forever. Of course, she continued to sleep with this old beau on the side for the two years that she and Dave were married. So much for an engaged woman’s honour.

~~~

The recent skirmish between Steig and O’Donnell reminded me of this incident in my past. It’s reminiscent of the mountain made out of a molehill back when I was a teenage girl trying to understand how a diamond chip could be made to appear like a big deal, and how the honour of being an engaged woman (who cheated on her groom-to-be and future-husband) had to be defended.

Steig was an anonymous reviewer for O’Donnell. If you google Steig O’Donnell, you get over half a million hits.  There are 44 posts in the denialosphere expressing affront and shock and disgust and horror that this could be possible in the peer review system and how it shows that climate science peer-review is broken and that Steig is duplicitous. This, despite the repeated points made by editors and experienced published authors, that it is quite common in other science disciplines for the author of the paper being criticized to be a reviewer – anonymous or otherwise. That it is the editor who has the ultimate power to determine if a critique and response has merit. And that to maintain the custom of anonymity, it is sometimes necessary for the reviewers to maintain the facade of unfamiliarity with the paper.

O’Donnell claims that had to break his word to Steig and break the anonymity of peer review in order to defend his honour in the face of Steig’s criticism. But as Willard has repeatedly said, a man’s word is his honour.

Here is an excerpt from the offending comment that started all this:

At the end of my post last month on the history of Antarctic science I noted that I had an initial, generally favorable opinion of the paper by O’Donnell et al. in the Journal of Climate. O’Donnell et al. is the peer-reviewed outcome of a series of blog posts started two years ago, mostly aimed at criticizing the 2009 paper in Nature, of which I was the lead author. As one would expect of a peer-reviewed paper, those obviously unsupportable claims found in the original blog posts are absent, and in my view O’Donnell et al. is a perfectly acceptable addition to the literature. O’Donnell et al. suggest several improvements to the methodology we used, most of which I agree with in principle.Unfortunately, their actual implementation by O’Donnell et al. leaves something to be desired, and yield a result that is in disagreement with independent evidence for the magnitude of warming, at least in West Antarctica. [my emphasis]

“…a perfectly acceptable addition to the literature.”  “…suggests several improvements to the methodology we used, most of which I agree with in principle.”

Sounds pretty positive. Indeed, if you read Steig’s review comments, as I have, he did praise the paper and stated that it should be published — with some major revisions.

O’Donnell, at least as I understand it (which is admittedly that of a layperson), was intended to review the methods of Steig and show the method to be erroneous and the results based on the methods incorrect. That was the gist of their submission.

However, Steig wants them to present not only the correction to methods, but also the “most likely results” since he is primarily interested in Antarctic climate change trends, rather than only in methodological debates. If the authors do have a more likely result for Antarctic temperature trends, Steig appears to argue that they shouldn’t tease the reader with mere mention of them, but should present them along with the improved methods.

Steig writes:

My recommendation is that the editor insist that results showing the ‘mostly likely’ West Antarctic trends be shown in place of Figure 3. While the written text does acknowledge that the rate of warming in West Antarctica is probably greater than shown, it is the figures that provide the main visual ‘take home message’ that most readers will come away with. I am not suggesting here that kgnd = 5 will necessarily provide the best estimate, as I had thought was implied in the earlier version of the text. Perhaps, as the authors suggest, kgnd should not be used at all, but the results from the ‘iridge’ infilling should be used instead. The authors state that this “yields similar patterns of change as shown in Fig. 3, with less intense cooling on Ross, comparable verification statistics and a statistically significant average West Antarctic trend of 0.11 +/- 0.08 C/decade.” If that is the case, why not show it? I recognize that these results are relatively new – since they evidently result from suggestions made in my previous review – but this is not a compelling reason to leave this ‘future work’. [my emphasis]

It seems to me that a science paper proper published in a major science journal should do more than just comment on or correct methods used to study a phenomenon. Science is moved forward by applying improved methods to the issue at hand in order to better understand the world. Steig seems to want O’Donnell to show the relevance of improved methods to the issue of Antarctic temperature trends, not just that the old method was incorrectly used or produced incorrect results.

This seems to be the core difference between auditors and scientists. Auditors don’t seem to care about the world being studied. They seem preoccupied with proving that those studying that world are wrong. They want to find flaws in methods and conclusions based on those flawed methods. Scientists want to use new and improved methods, not because they’re fun to use or because they like to solve puzzles, but because they want to better understand the world.

Scientists are actually interested in understanding the world.

Methods are only interesting if they help to understand that world.

Fancy that.

Auditors, apparently, are interested in proving scientists wrong. They may claim to care about the world, but they don’t show evidence of this in the kind of work they choose to do.

That, my friends, sums up both this current skirmish and the larger war, at least according to this writer.

I wonder if we’ve advanced beyond high school.

About Policy Lass

Exploring skeptic tales.

82 Responses to “On Diamonds, Honour and High School Fairy Tales”

  1. I have the notion that the “auditors” are much like a tribute covers band who after a few gigs have started imagining that they are Led Zep or The Beatles or the Pistols or whoever, if not better.

    But of course back in reality, they have next to zero creativity and will never produce anything themselves apart from a similar sounding noise to that of the real talent.

    I’d bet we’ve already seen the highpoints of the puppets’ careers.

  2. This new paper was flagged at CP:

    Deep ocean warming assessed from altimeters, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, in situ measurements, and a non-Boussinesq ocean general circulation model. Song & Colberg (2011)
    JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, VOL. 116, C02020, 16 PP., 2011
    doi:10.1029/2010JC006601

    Look for comment (currently) #12 by Paul K2 for a description after reading:
    http://climateprogress.org/2011/02/19/weekend-open-thread-14/#comment-326807

    That’s interesting. In the meanwhile, the auditors just wear big hats but got no cattle.

  3. I’m looking for something new on this:
    Geol 37(9):835-838 (2009)
    Major perturbation in sulfur cycling at the Triassic-Jurassic boundary
    Kenneth H Williford, Julien Foriel, Peter D Ward and Eric J Steig

  4. Well, there’s this:
    The Flooded Earth: Our Future in a World Without Ice Caps
    PD Ward – 2010 – books.google.com
    “… I was seeing with my own eyes the evidence of a study authored by Eric Steig, the man in the tent next to mine….”

  5. Nice analogies. What’s happening is like trolling on a major scale. Put up nonsense and distract from the main issue. Vilify individual scientists by telling lies. Make a lot of noise and hope it’s enough to stop any action to reduce CO2 emissions.

    (I’m annoyed because I’ve just come from what started as an excellent and informative thread that has been brought pretty much to a standstill by a Tom Fuller hijack. Tom manages to get under people’s skin enough that they respond to his nonsense and jibes.)

    Though I agree it’s important to show that these people are spouting rubbish, at the same time we have to focus more on becoming better informed ourselves and informing the public – with influencing society’s decision-makers so they act now/soon as a primary goal.

      • I think that discussion would be at Bart’s place.

        And I agree with Sou – your analogies are spot-on Lass. The recent outbursts and pettiness provided by McIntyre et al have seemed to be very high-school-like. They flood the intertubes with references to duplicity and dishonesty (McIntyre has been prolific in his efforts), and hope that next time Steig publishes anything it will become chum for the general public.

        • It is at Bart’s place, and I’m one of those guilty of responding to Fuller’s hijacking, after having pointed out that he was hijacking (an earlier thread).

          • Don’t take the blame for TF, dhogaza. It all rests solely with him. Even when no-one responds Fuller floods threads with inordinately long post after post of total rubbish.

            In this case, Bernard J. has responded with a useful post filled with information. So some good has come of it. I don’t think we’ll see Jeff Harvey back, unfortunately.

            • I just read the thread and agree. Bernard J really has a lot of great info in his comments. Sad that someone like Fuller has the hubris to do a fly-by denial of stuff he has no real idea about. It’s awe-inspiring. These are the kinds of people who we have running things. Doesn’t bode well.

            • Even I succumbed after reading Tom’s latest post, which showed him up for the fool that he is :)

        • Yeah, Life’s too short for Fuller, but his spouting memes like a machine is just too inviting sometimes. One day I’ll realize that correcting Fuller makes no difference at all.

          Perhaps Skeptical Science can do a Fuller’s meme page to go with Monckton’s myths.

        • Oh, I disagree with the characterization as “high-school” like. They are more like nursery school like. Think: “but mommy! he made me do it!”

    • Sorry about that, Sou.

      • Hey, don’t apologise, J, and anyway, I’m no angel by a long shot! Like I said, it wouldn’t make any difference to Fuller if he got a response or not. He’d just keep posting longer and longer bits of nothingness whether anyone replied or not.

        And I agree with Gavin’s Pussycat – Bart is nice (too nice?) and doesn’t moderate enough. I think he’s trying to ‘bridge the divide’ and hasn’t yet realised that it’s futile.

        • I’ll be contacting the Nobel Institute to see if I can get a copy of that 1906 paper. A G&T snippet ain’t good enough in my book. And now I’m derailing this thread :/ Sorry Shewonk.

  6. I gave up on Bart after noticing the effective absence of meaningful moderation. I’m sure his has his heart in the right place… but, life is short.

  7. New word to me: Disunderstand.

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Disunderstand

    Disunderstand

    verb//(dis-un-der-stand)- to fail to comprehend or understand why something is the way it is, when it is obvious that the situation should be otherwise or the situation defies logic or common sence. Similar in meaning to misunderstand, however it implies that the speaker blames the sourse, often a person or group of people, for intentional causing confusion or simply being too lazy to clarify the situation.

    I just got a soda from the machine and it’s flat. I disunderstand; I just saw the soda man stock the machines.

    H/T to Lionel A Smith
    http://climateprogress.org/2011/02/19/weekend-open-thread-14/#comment-326972

  8. Nice article.

    I have to repeat: the post is a good one. Giving compliments, it seems, is very difficult.

    The last time commenter Paul Middents wrote an entertaining (and according to him insightful) comment, he seemed to interpret my compliment as sarcasm.

  9. Susann, as soon as someone complains Steig reviewed the O’Donnell paper, ask them whether they made the same comments when McIntyre reviewed Wahl & Ammann (which he openly admitted he did).

    Expect three different answers:
    1. (silence)
    2. Gish Gallop
    3. Whitewashing that particular case in one way or the other

    Note the absence of a fourth option, the “yes, I also complained at that time, see here [link to comment]“. The hypocrisy is blindingly obvious, but don’t expect them to notice.

  10. Must read: Sir John Beddington goes on the offensive and lashes out at pseudo-science.

    http://www.researchresearch.com/index.php?option=com_news&template=rr_2col&view=article&articleId=1032320

    Dellingpole’s upset, so Beddington must be saying something right ;)

  11. As my (lack of) moderation came up: Guilty as charged. I have decided to leave the comments open to all kinds of opinions, subject only to some common decency guidelines. When last year my blog got flooded by Bishop Hill readers, it took more time than I have to moderate the comments section. During times of lively discussions (as also is now the case) I have to make a choice: Moderate more tightly (which takes a ton of time) or not. There are times when I chose other things in life over blogging, and then moderation suffers. I’ll reconsider my moderation style, but don’t have the time necessary to put in it at the moment. But if people would just stop the endless bickering, hardly any moderation would be necessary in my book.

    Sorry to be OT…

    • It’s not really your problem. Fuller, in particular, is a serial thread hijacker and a pathological liar, who baits people into responding.

      So the real answer if for folks to man up and ignore him, which I’m trying to do at the moment.

      Without Fuller, your place is OK IMO. Jeff ID doesn’t really make a habit of showing up various places and making a PITA of himself.

      • I would have to say that many of the responses to Fuller’s nonsense are of particularly high quality. Unfortunately, Fuller has been especially insolent and D-K-ian in the last few threads at Bart’s place. I finally had to ask if that was really him; I had a faint idea that someone was making a mocking his posting persona.

        It’s sort of funny – every so often he makes some sense, but it’s as if he can’t help but revert to his baser instincts. At times it’s sort of funny to watch.

  12. Bart, I sympathise, and when I first started out, I hoped that serious skeptics would come and discuss issues in good faith. A post over at Climate Progress, about which I will be doing a longer post later, suggests we should be very wary of letting “self-identified” skeptics post at their leisure and hijack the comments. I quote from it below:

    Daily Kos, reposted at Climate Progress: Denier-bots Live! Why are online comments sections over-run by the anti-science pro-pollution crowd?

    Acording to an embedded MS Word document found in one of the HB Gary emails, it involves creating an army of sockpuppets, with sophisticated “persona management” software that allows a small team of only a few people to appear to be many, while keeping the personas from accidentally cross-contaminating each other. Then, to top it off, the team can actually automate some functions so one persona can appear to be an entire Brooks Brothers riot online.

    Persona management entails not just the deconfliction of persona artifacts such as names, email addresses, landing pages, and associated content. It also requires providing the human actors technology that takes the decision process out of the loop when using a specific persona. For this purpose we custom developed either virtual machines or thumb drives for each persona. This allowed the human actor to open a virtual machine or thumb drive with an associated persona and have all the appropriate email accounts, associations, web pages, social media accounts, etc. pre-established and configured with visual cues to remind the actor which persona he/she is using so as not to accidentally cross-contaminate personas during use.
    And all of this is for the purposes of infiltration, data mining, and (here’s the one that really worries me) ganging up on bloggers, commenters and otherwise “real” people to smear enemies and distort the truth.

    The take home? The corporate world is trying to create a the appearance of / false sense of nonconsensus / consensus (depending on the topic) by taking over your blog comments sections by clever automated use of social media. Don’t fall for it. Moderate your blog to keep the threads from being highjacked. If they want to spout their propaganda dreck let them do it on fake denialist blogs.

    • That’s a valuable warning, but Tom Fuller is not a sockpuppet. The man is sui generis, as is Jeff ID.

      I think the “personas” tend to congregate at much more high-impact blogs, like Huffington Post. I’ve yet to see them at elite climate blogs like this place, Bart’s place, Eli’s place, etc. I’m not so sure about RealClimate.

    • Maybe the online comments are full of deniers because the pro-consensus crowd has lost the game and slunk aways from its lost cause. A more simpler explanation too.

  13. At the risk of being a broken record, I can almost guarantee that reasonable blogs, if unmoderated, will suffer the fate of some one-fine USENET groups (I go back to ~1985), where worsening signal-to-noise ratio drives good people away.

    1) Blog software *has* to get better, so that a moderator can with one click:
    OK a post
    move it to an open thread (RC’s Unforced Variations)
    move it to a “shadow thread”
    move it to a “Bore Hole”, “Very Deep Hole”, “Dunce Corner”, or whatever.
    delete it

    Some of the above might benefit from creation of standard set of “reason” codes.

    2) See some related ideas here.

    3) People (like Bart, perhaps) are reluctant to just delete messages, and in any case, getting the junk out of the main threads not only improves the SNR, but as important, collects the junk elsewhere, which actually turns out to be very useful in calibrating identities.
    (Read RC’s Bore Hole some time, which works fine, except that I’d love to have back-links so you could see the original context.)

    4) The right software could make this easy, otherwise, it is a lot of work. it is clear that some people (or bots) purposefully *try* to degrade SNRs, and they often succeed. The old USENET KILLFILE feature was very helpful, and Greasemonkey+killfile helps, but is nowhere near as useful, but in any case, the wishes above are orthogonal, as they represent *moderator* judgement. Of course, a similar thing for moderators might be useful, i.e., recognize a poster and assign a default classification.

    5) Again, I’ve seen great newsgroups succumb, and as far as I know, that was not even from malice. Please, bloggers, bug your software providers for better software.

    • I should say that not all blogs are the target of this kind of attack, but the big ones might be. On the smaller blogs like mine, there are only a few self-deluded skeptics who post out of commitment to an ideology rather than being fake sock puppets. But the take home is that the corporate world negatively affected by any potential climate legislation will no doubt be using every means they can of protecting their own interests – they have to by law.

  14. 5) Again, I’ve seen great newsgroups succumb, and as far as I know, that was not even from malice. Please, bloggers, bug your software providers for better software.

    Well, really, IMO, what ruined Usenet was wide access to the Internet, because obviously killfiles and moderation didn’t save it.

    Mostly, I think it’s a *good* thing that everybody and their pet dog and lurking cockroaches can access the ‘net.

    But it blows the basic paradigm of Usenet (and by extension, blogs) that communities of common, *educated*, and to some degree *professional* interests can run on some sort of anarchist ideal. That fell apart when the Vandals were allowed free access.

    So I think Mashey is too sanguine when he suggests that smarter blog software can rein in the Vandals.

    Sometimes I think a test … something like “2+2=??” … as a gateway might help.

    But I don’t really know.

    The mob approach we see today, combined with bots/cut-and-pasters on the right (just a natural extension of Fox etc) … I don’t see an easy technical fix.

    But maybe Mashey does. If so, forward it, fond memories of killfiles aren’t sufficient, because killfiles weren’t dealing with the flood of crap we see today.

  15. Usenet totally fell apart from spam, more so than trolls, as I remember it. The most successful discussion groups survive because of very heavy moderation – ie, 24 hour mods plus a way of commenters flagging items to be modded, plua compulsory registration and duplicate registrations not permitted.

    On blogs it’s different because most don’t have the high volume of posts that discussion boards have, no registration and no 24 hour modding. So it’s more a matter of using software that will allow you to delete, move or edit other people’s comments. And it does take time on the more popular blogs. Bart’s second to last thread has more than 500 comments. (I believe Tom has been barred from some other boards for totally unacceptable behaviour. He is erratic, that’s the problem – and seems to lose the plot more at certain times of the day. There are signs that he’s not even aware of the fact, but then again it could be deliberate. Who knows. He’s not quite as crazy as some people I’ve come across, but annoying as all heck just the same.)

    • “Usenet totally fell apart from spam, more so than trolls, as I remember it.”

      Sure, but spam was a side-effect of the ‘net becoming available to all. Back when it was mostly academics, students and high-tech industry types, nobody was spamming because it didn’t really occur to anyone to do so.

      Remember when spamming started? How surprised everyone was?

      Remember the lawyer dudes?

      In April of 1994, the term was not born, but it did jump a great deal in popularity when two lawyers from Phoenix named Canter and Siegel posted a message advertising their fairly useless services in an upcoming U.S. “green card” lottery. This wasn’t the first such abusive posting, nor the first mass posting to be called a spam, but it was the first deliberate mass posting to commonly get that name. They had posted their message a few times before, but on April 12, they hired an mercenary programmer to write a simple script to post their ad to every single newsgroup (message board) on USENET, the world’s largest online conferencing system. There were several thousand such newsgroups, and each one got the ad.

    • Let me get this.

      You used Usenet and can even remember it. And you think the deniers are fuddy duddies.

  16. I don’t have any magic solution. What I observe is that:
    1) Some people do moderate, and moderated blogs have higher SNRs, and in some places, trolls just finally give up. Moderated USENET groups were better.
    There was of course, the invasion of the AOL newbies.

    2) But many have expressed reluctance to just delete posts except in extreme cases.

    3) However, if it cost no more time to consign a post to one or more other buckets, I think many more people would do it.

    4) I’ve suggested some improvements, with no claims of perfection.
    You seem to be urging not to try any of this, which seems strange.
    I simply mention killfiles to observe that SNR problems are hardly new and in some ways we’ve regressed with blog software. Even killfiles and therad were not enough to keep good people in a newsgroup, even without malice. Incompetence was adequate to drive people away.

    5) One of the reasons for wanting to *capture* more of the junk is to build data, especially about the bot-generated stuff. We already have spam detectors, and good expert systems and data mining tools can actually get fairly good if they get data to work on. [The first production expert system at Bell Labs was offshoot of a project I ran; when at SGI I sometimes helped sell big multiprocessors used for various kinds of data mining, fraud detection, and {stuff done inside NSA}.

    • You seem to be urging not to try any of this, which seems strange.

      No, I think you’re just remembering a nicer usenet than it became, and underestimating how much work it is to moderate a forum or blog, regardless of software help. Yes, better software helps, but a moderator still needs to read posts, decide whether or not someone posting crap is doing it constantly and therefore deserves banning, or perhaps has just had a bad day and should simply be told to hold themselves to a higher standard, etc.

      I used to be one of three moderators of what was then the most popular photo site on the web (it’s still very popular). I did it as a volunteer as I liked the guy who started the site, and I spent two to three hours a day doing nothing but read and moderate. So did the other two moderators.

      It’s extremely time consuming and, to be honest, wearing.

      • To illustrate what Dhog just said:

        http://redwing.hutman.net/~mreed/warriorshtm/nanny.htm

        PS: You should talk more about that stuff, Dhog. It shows where you’re from and it makes your fierceness more understandable.

      • I don’t think I’m underestimating the work [as noted elsewhere, this is among the reasons I do not have a blog.]

        I go back to ~1985, and once upon a time there were in fact some very good groups (like comp.arch) that brought out serious experts, over many years … but indeed, it became worse than I could take, which is when I finally departed.

        I assert that there are vast differences in the usefulness of blogs, and that tight moderation at least helps, and I’d just like to see that made less time-consuming for people who *do* moderate. If they don’t moderate, I know what to expect. But again, you are not exactly offering ways forward, just saying NO.

  17. It’s sort of funny – every so often he makes some sense, but it’s as if he can’t help but revert to his baser instincts. At times it’s sort of funny to watch.

    If I were to guess I’d say he relies a lot on what other people have said about an issue, as a journalist it’s likely a natural mode of thought for him.

    Unfortunately he tends to form his opinion by listening to severely biased non-experts. If Jeff Conlon makes a statement about biodiversity I suspect Fuller and others absorb it as factual without recognising he has no expertise or knowledge in the area.

    Later when they’re challenged with data or actual expertise they evade since they didn’t form their opinion on real data or expertise in the first place. In reality Fuller’s responses are a defence of his confidence in Conlon (and others) whether he realises it or not.

    • (Nice unnecessary repetition, Deech – my kingdom for a preview function.) And he seems to confuse selective absorption of knowledge with expertise. His comment about the primacy of the “lukewarmer”position (here) seems to show his desire for identity with the contrarian group (that which enjoys the slings and arrows from both sides). Sort of like a blustery Mosher.

      • Possible bad link – here’s the time stamp: February 21, 2011 at 04:24

      • I’m always amused by people who think they must be somewhere in the centre if they’re being attacked by both sides (and that the centre is a desirable places between any two groups)

        If someone is really in a centrist position then that should be defined by agreement with both sides on core issues. Otherwise all you have some sort of ridiculous compromise that manages to upset everyone and miss the point entirely e.g. “Old Earth creationists” who manage to simultaneously ignore both the bible and science in their attempts to find middle ground.

        An example of someone who can somewhat legitimately claim middle ground is Steven Mosher – unlike other “auditors” he can at least be found disputing the various silly arguments about temperature data. Others like McIntyre, Fuller, Curry etc claim the middle yet spend their time exclusively attacking one side (and in Curry’s last post she actually tried to create an equivalency between Morano and the IPCC! That’s way out on the fringe, not middle ground).

        Fuller’s position seems more like that of a concern troll – sure he likes the environment and wants carbon taxes but he has “concerns” because of the entirely fraudulent and made-up nature of climate science and related topics! It’s impossible to reconcile those.

        • Sharper00,

          Excellent observations. The evidence shows that “lukewarmers” or people who claim to hold the “middle ground” are nothing but frauds, pure and simple.

          they have retreated to the only corner they have left available to themselves, but they can’t even pretend to be “lukewarmers” without their true ideological underpinnings coming to the surface, and frequently too.

          What a farce, and some ideologues are gobbling it up like candy. God, how sad it is that people can try and justify anything (email hacks, inciting violence, libel, harassment etc.) when they put their mind to it.

  18. In my opinion, the philosophy and attitudes expressed here – concerns about potential critics being on “the scent” – and the associated conduct – withholding adverse information about verification r^2 statistics and big misses – are far more repugnant than revealing the identity of a peer reviewer.

    They’re much worse than us, he says!

    http://climateaudit.org/2011/02/21/on-the-scent/

    Besides the fact that this type of communications happen all the time when people have to communicate an uncertainty, this is actually quite funny in the context of these people acting like high schoolers.

    Little did the scientists realize that the email – one they sent about their results possibly being twisted for political purposes – would be twisted for… well, it seems he brought this up to show that scientists are worse then him. Is anyone else seeing the bizarre behavior here? Is this really the chief intellectual rival of science, whining and giving everyone else ethics lessons? In essence, ‘but they are bigger meanie-poopie heads than us!’ Wow.

    And of course, as always, “but will discuss more from this email on another occasion.”

    At what point to the people who report this stuff to the non-bloggery public that these people are devoid of substance?

    • Ever since Bradley had the cheek to complain about his work being copied and modified to say the opposite he’s been a target.

      • And now he’s back on the “1700″ thing he tried a while back in his next installment of ‘attack Ray’. I have no idea how this email changes what has already been said a million times by a million people. That the no-dendro recons only verify back to 1760. Now it was apparently unethical for Ray not to specifically report a failed verification of sorts, and this somehow means something important when it is pretty easy to deduce it from what was said. I remember this from a CaS Curry/Schmidt thread. Tim Lambert argued what was really said on this and other things. I have no idea how this email changes it. I guess I have yet to adjust my confirmation bias before reading too much into what is reported at CA. I need to stop that.

    • I don’t go to CA normally but I went to see what this was about. Is this really what these guys spend their waking hours doing? Poring over someone else’s emails twisting words or taking them out of context to try to make them sound nefarious?

      What a sad lot they are, and what a waste of a life.

      Do you think that McIntyre is serious? Could this be some kind of twisted amusement to stir up whacko conspiracy theorists. Or is he himself really that paranoid. (If the latter, I wonder if he it flows into other aspects of his life and whether he has sought help.)

      I suppose, going with statistics, and given there are now 7 billion people in the world, it just looks as if there are more unhinged people around. It’s probably just the same proportion of the population as it ever was. Watts gathers lots of crazies, and there are other conspiracy sites that attract many more crazies than the CA site.

  19. Do you think that McIntyre is serious? Could this be some kind of twisted amusement to stir up whacko conspiracy theorists. Or is he himself really that paranoid.

    You should check out Bradley Copies Fritts to see just how serious he is about attacking Bradley in any way possible.

    • So you think it’s a malicious vendetta rather than paranoia.

      What prompts a person to act in such an irrational manner? I gather it’s not political ideology in the case of McIntyre. And I don’t believe he knows personally the people he tries to smear.

      Is he trying to quell his fear of global warming in a twisted kind of way? (I know, it’s useless to speculate – but it seems so completely irrational and an utter waste of his ‘golden years’. And worse, for many people, he will only ever be known for such activities, even if he once did something good during his life.)

      • >What prompts a person to act in such an irrational manner?

        I don’t believe he is being irrational, he knows exactly what he’s doing and he’s behaving perfectly rational relative to his goals.

        The question you might ask is: Why does he need to discredit Bradley? Why does he need to present him as an evil “team member” keeping good science down? Why does he need to “normalise” plagiarism within climate science?

        The answer becomes obvious when you consider the importance of Wegman for political haymaking. There’s a new Congress in town and it’s hay season.

  20. Software. I hate the stuff. Just quote the string in the search; you see the brief spike followed by — no further interest — in mention of ‘fraud’

  21. And then do the same search with – climate mcintyre. A very short spike followed by absolutely nothing.

  22. OT, but if you ever wanted a concise history of organised AGW denialism, prepared for a lawsuit, this might be of use (p47 onward):

    http://www.climatelaw.org/cases/country/us/kivalina/Kivalina%20Complaint.pdf

    COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

    NATIVE VILLAGE OF KIVALINA and CITY OF KIVALINA, Plaintiffs,
    v.
    EXXONMOBIL CORPORATION; BP P.L.C.; BP AMERICA, INC.; BP PRODUCTS NORTH AMERICA, INC.; CHEVRON CORPORATION; CHEVRON U.S.A., INC.; CONOCOPHILLIPS COMPANY; ROYAL DUTCH SHELL PLC; SHELL OIL COMPANY; PEABODY ENERGY CORPORATION; THE AES CORPORATION; AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER COMPANY, INC.; AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER SERVICES CORPORATION; DTE ENERGY COMPANY; DUKE ENERGY CORPORATION; DYNEGY HOLDINGS, INC.; EDISON INTERNATIONAL; MIDAMERICAN ENERGY HOLDINGS COMPANY; MIRANT CORPORATION; NRG ENERGY; PINNACLE WEST CAPITAL CORPORATION; RELIANT ENERGY, INC.; THE SOUTHERN COMPANY; AND XCEL ENERGY, INC.

    • J Bowers – It looks an excellent narrative. Something to build on and wave about in public. Maybe a few more people will understand what has been happening if they read it. A popularised version as a book or even better, a television show, would be great (but I expect fears of litigation might preclude that, unless or even if the court rules in favour of the people of Kivalina).

      Maybe a good basis for a futuristic novel.

    • Surely the other place to go for relocation costs is the country and its taxpayers? After all, all of us who have been happily using fossil fuels all this time share some responsibility? Or would it be too socialist to make the populace pay for the expenses of things that occur due to their actions?

      On the other hand, since we didn’t know fossil fuel use was going to cause such problems, I don’t quite see how suing specific companies is really the way forwards. It’s a shame you can’t sue every government on the planet at the same time for failing to act properly on AGW.

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