Wash Post Hits Cuccinelli Once Again

By Chris Mooney | May 13, 2010 2:03 pm

UVA is filing an extension in response to Cuccinelli’s egregious request–but it should be fighting back in court, writes the paper:

Mr. Cuccinelli, apparently, speculates that Mr. Mann defrauded taxpayers by obtaining research grants to study global temperatures. It’s clear from his statements that the “Climategate” controversy — in which hackers stole records of e-mails between climate researchers that global warming skeptics then distorted — inspired his witch hunt. Is there any doubt that the attorney general is trying to restoke that row with a fresh batch of e-mails?

In the process, he would deal grave harm to scientific inquiry throughout Virginia’s public higher education system. Science progresses when researchers can propose ideas freely, differ in their methods and argue about the interpretations of their results. The commonwealth should nurture that process, not make scientists fear that they will be subject to investigation if a politician dislikes their conclusions.

There comes a time when one has to stand up to bullying tactics–not to mention fundamental assaults on the ability of scientists to do their work. This is one of those times.

UVA needs to stand up and be counted in defense of reason.

Comments (58)

  1. moptop

    You want to talk about “bullying tactics”? Read the climategate emails. Oh I forgot, right thinking people are not allowed. Well Mann and Jones claimed to have gotten people fired as journal editors for the sin of allowing publication of papers that had passed through the peer review process, but that did not agree with Jones and Mann’s interpretation of the state of the science.

  2. steve

    No, they didn’t. Read the emails again.

  3. Nullius in Verba

    “…not make scientists fear that they will be subject to investigation if a politician dislikes their conclusions.”

    You keep on repeating that, but doing so doesn’t make it any more true.

    It’s not about whether a politician dislikes conclusions, it’s about whether a scientist deliberately and knowingly lies about those conclusions in order to wrongfully obtain other people’s money.

    Scientists are not and should not be above the law. It doesn’t require compliance, only honesty. So if you’re going to commit scientific fraud, do so on your own dime. No need to ‘fear’, then.

  4. kirk

    moptop,
    I’m sceptical you can live up to all three:
    1) The claim “Mann and Jones claim to have gotten people fired” demands a cite.
    2) the claim “people were fired” demands a cite.
    3) the claim “Mann and Jones caused the firing(s)” demands a cite.

    And, no I didn’t read the emails.

  5. Nullius in Verba

    moptop,

    Strictly speaking, they claim it is possible for them to get a journal editor fired for being a sceptic.

    And they propose starting to collect the evidence needed to do so, and I believe he was later fired. But that could be a coincidence.

  6. Nullius in Verba

    kirk,

    The claim that “hackers stole records of e-mails” “demands a cite” to evidence (even the police don’t appear to know whether it was a hack or a leak), as does the claim about Climategate emails “that global warming skeptics then distorted”. Some have, but many others have not.

    It’s best not to use double standards so blatantly.

  7. moptop

    kirk,
    I never said 2 or 3, you did.

    “I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they
    rid themselves of this troublesome editor. A CRU person is on the editorial board, but papers
    get dealt with by the editor assigned by Hans von Storch.
    Cheers
    Phil” About a journal called “Climate Research”

    Then they talk about GRL:

    ” It’s one thing to lose “Climate
    >> > Research”. We can’t afford to lose GRL. I think it would be
    >> > useful if people begin to record their experiences w/ both Saiers and
    >> > potentially Mackwell (I don’t know him–he would seem to be
    >> complicit w/
    >> > what is going on here).
    >> >
    >> >
    >> > If there is a clear body of evidence that something is amiss, it
    >> could be
    >> > taken through the proper channels. I don’t that the entire AGU
    >> hierarchy
    >> > has yet been compromised!”

    Then later they remark:

    ” The GRL leak may have been plugged up now w/ new editorial leadership there,”

    But whatever, kirk.

  8. ChrisD

    @Nullius in Verba #3:

    It’s not about whether a politician dislikes conclusions, it’s about whether a scientist deliberately and knowingly lies about those conclusions in order to wrongfully obtain other people’s money.

    If this is really what you think, all I can say is that you don’t know Ken Cuccinelli. This has nothing to do with things that were done “to wrongfully obtain other people’s money.” It has everything to do with Ken Cuccinelli being a crazy person. And I don’t say that because of his apparent climate skepticism. It was apparent that he was a crazy person long before this.

  9. ChrisD

    @moptop #1

    Well Mann and Jones claimed to have gotten people fired as journal editors for the sin of allowing publication of papers that had passed through the peer review process, but that did not agree with Jones and Mann’s interpretation of the state of the science.

    Because they didn’t agree? How do you know that? Where do the emails say that? How do you know that they were talking about this because these were skeptical papers and not because they were bad papers?

    Also, please show where it is that they “claimed to have gotten people fired.” No such claim is made in what your subsequent quotes (#7).

    You want to talk about “bullying tactics”? Read the climategate emails.

    Oh, please.

    In one case you have an official government investigation, run by a state Attorney General, with the explicit threat of criminal prosecution.

    In the other case you have two guys mouthing off in a private email about something over which they have no authority or power, and about which there’s no evidence that they ever actually did anything.

    And you think these are comparable? Seriously? Gov’t criminal investigation vs. kvetching private emails? You think these are comparable? I mean, seriously?

  10. Nullius in Verba

    #9,

    If you say so. But he’s a crazy person who is crazily looking for evidence that Mann knowingly told lies in order to obtain taxpayer’s money, as part of a crazy strategy to support his EPA suit, not a crazy person simply making trouble because he doesn’t like somebody’s conclusions.

  11. Nullius,
    What, in your opinion, is the difference between a scientist who knowingly told lies to obtain taxpayer funded grants, and a scientist who got his math wrong but had the bad math published after strenuous peer review? Do the reviewers and the journal also deserve the stain of “Fraud?” And how do you reconcile the back and forth, the trashing and then acceptance, of many scientific theories with the the clear political implications of the Atty. Generals actions in VA?

  12. ChrisD

    @Nullius in Verba

    [Cuccinelli’s] not … making trouble because he doesn’t like somebody’s conclusions.

    See, that’s just it. You don’t know that. It’s your assumption, and that’s all it is.

    Now, my assumption is not the same as yours. My assumption is that this wouldn’t be happening if Mann had come to a different conclusion.

    And my assumption is every bit as valid as yours. Maybe more so, since I live in Cuccinelli’s area and share his media market, which means that I’ve been hearing and reading about him for a long time. My guess is that I’m much more familiar with this clown than you are.

  13. Nullius in Verba

    #11,

    “What, in your opinion, is the difference between a scientist who knowingly told lies to obtain taxpayer funded grants, and a scientist who got his math wrong but had the bad math published after strenuous peer review?”

    Or indeed a cursory and inadequate peer review?

    Science progresses by explanations being proposed, tested, and rejected whenever they fail the tests. It is an unavoidable part of the process that a lot of work published will be wrong, and everybody accepts that. However, it is likewise essential to science that explanations that fail the tests be rejected.

    Publishing results that are later shown to be unsupported is acceptable. But refusing to acknowledge the demonstration, and instead publishing paper after paper trying to prop up the wrong result, verbally attacking the critics, and producing additional output that is wrong for many of the same reasons is a different matter. And when it turns out that there is evidence that you had actually done the test yourself, seen that your proposal failed, and then published the incorrect claim anyway, carefully concealing the adverse results, blocking any outside attempts to investigate or perform the tests… well, I fail to understand how anyone with even a passing knowledge of the scientific method can react other than in horror.

    (I am referring here mainly, of course, to the adverse R2 verification statistics; but it’s not the only issue of which this could be said.)

    However, it only comes within the Attorney General’s jurisdiction when you use the reputation your fake results bring you for the purposes of getting your hands on other people’s money. If you are being paid to advance climate science, and instead you deliberately retard it by knowingly making false statements about your work and obstructing the errors being discovered, then the people paying you have a legitimate complaint.

    That said, I’m quite sure that Cuccinelli has ulterior motives for doing this. He’s a politician, doing what he was elected to do, by the sort of methods politicians use. I’m also not convinced that he’ll find anything, as the most interesting bits that we currently know about are outside his jurisdiction. I suspect that it will flop, but that Cuccinelli will get what he really wants in the process.

    I agree that the scientific question ought to be settled through the scientific debate, and I consider it a matter of abiding shame that scientists have failed, and that we have to fall back on a grubby little politician to do what the scientific community ought to. Nevertheless, it has proved necessary, is legal, and will I am sure eventually prove to be justified. I don’t expect you to believe me, but we’ll just wait and see.

  14. Nullius in Verba

    #13,
    “Now, my assumption is not the same as yours. My assumption is that this wouldn’t be happening if Mann had come to a different conclusion.”

    Mann did come to a different conclusion. It’s just that he left it in that directory labelled “Censored”, and didn’t tell anybody.

    But I agree that Mann’s stated conclusion is a part of it, and had he said the opposite, Cuccinelli would not be nearly so interested. However, elected officials cannot do whatever they want; they have to have a formal justification in law, follow procedures, enforce the rules. If Mann had been honestly mistaken, Cuccinelli could not, and almost certainly would not attempt to touch him. Cuccinelli has private political reasons for following a particular public course of action, but he can only follow that public course if the rules let him.

    The rules don’t let him chase people because they say things he doesn’t like. The rules only let him chase people who appear to have obtained money from the taxpayer by knowingly making false statements, and failing to deliver what they are contracted to deliver. It’s an important aspect to the affair that you can’t just dismiss.

  15. moptop

    ChrisD,
    It is a good strategy for you to refuse to read the emails, because it allows you to continue your denial. It is all or nothing with you. That too is a good strategy for you because you get to disregard all inconvenient evidence.

    You make it sound as if those snippets were all there is in the 1000 emails. This is also a good strategy, because every time I produce another email in support, you can dismiss it as a distortion unless the emailers admit, in a form admissible in a court of law, to wrongdoing.

    It’s not about convincing you ChrisD, you have appointed yourself mindguard of the groupthink. It is about exposing your reasoning. I stand by that. I can’t convince anybody who adamantly refuses to look at the evidence.

  16. ChrisD

    @moptop

    It is a good strategy for you to refuse to read the emails, because it allows you to continue your denial.

    What a stupid thing to say. I’ve read the emails.

    It’s not about convincing you

    No, it’s not. It’s about your attempt to draw a ridiculous parallel between a criminal investigation by a powerful government agency and a bit of grousing in private emails by individuals who have no power to do anything. And it’s about you backing up the claims you made. Apparently you do not intend to do so. That’s probably because you can’t, so you resort to this.

  17. LRU

    Ok. Just saw UVA has retained Hogan Lovells in response to the discovery demand. UVA just upped the ante. It’s a true legal fight now.

  18. moptop

    ChrisD,
    If I were you, I would seize upon some minor exaggeration, made for rhetorical effect, and use it to “disprove” every claim you make, for instance, you say “individuals who have no power to do anything”

    Really? “no power” none at all? To do “anything”?

    You get where I am going with this, I suspect. First you make an invidious interpretation of my meaning, not too tightly bound to my actual words, but heavily steeped in your preconceptions of my beliefs and motivations, then run with it as if I had sworn to your interpretation in a court of law, in the exact words that you put into my mouth.

    Whatever.

  19. Nullius in Verba

    ChrisD,

    “How do you know that they were talking about this because these were skeptical papers and not because they were bad papers?”

    From Climategate [emphasis added]:
    Hi Keith,
    Okay, today. Promise! Now something to ask from you. Actually somewhat important too. I got a paper to review (submitted to the Journal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Sciences), written by a Korean guy and someone from Berkeley, that claims that the method of reconstruction that we use in dendroclimatology (reverse regression) is wrong, biased, lousy, horrible, etc. They use your Tornetrask recon as the main whipping boy. I have a file that you gave me in 1993 that comes from your 1992 paper. Below is part of that file. Is this the right one? Also, is it possible to resurrect the column headings? I would like to play with it in an effort to refute their claims. If published as is, this paper could really do some damage. It is also an ugly paper to review because it is rather mathematical, with a lot of Box-Jenkins stuff in it.*** It won’t be easy to dismiss out of hand as the math appears to be correct theoretically ***, but it suffers from the classic problem of pointing out theoretical deficiencies, without showing that their improved inverse regression method is actually better in a practical sense. So they do lots of monte carlo stuff that shows the superiority of their method and the deficiencies of our way of doing things, but NEVER actually show how their method would change the Tornetrask reconstruction from what you produced. Your assistance here is greatly appreciated. Otherwise, I will let Tornetrask sink into the melting permafrost of northern Sweden (just kidding of course).
    Cheers,
    Ed

    OK, some questions for you.

    * Had you read this email when you asked about the skeptical/bad distinction?
    * Do you think it is normal practice when undertaking a confidential, anonymous journal review to pass the results onto your friends in the same field of research? To seek unpublished data via back channels from an author with a stake in the matter to try to refute it?
    * Do you think that identifying problems with the maths can be refuted by applying the methods to real-world data where the truth is unknown? Do you not think that the correct way to proceed would be to compare it against their maths demonstrating the method to be valid to see where they diverged? Or in a more practical sense, Monte Carlo simulation where the truth would be known?
    * What “damage” is being referred to? To science? Or to the theory? (Or to their reputations/careers?)
    * In what way is mathematics “ugly”? Is this the sort of sentiment you would expect a research scientist to express?
    * What is meant by the phrase “It won’t be easy to dismiss out of hand as the math appears to be correct theoretically”? Why would anyone wish to dismiss results that were correct? If you can’t find anything wrong with it, why would you try to dismiss it at all?
    * Is this effort being made because the results are bad, or because they are sceptical?
    * If you think it is because the paper is bad – in what way is it bad, and how does Ed know?

    I suspect the Team regard ‘sceptical science’ as being ‘bad science’ almost by definition. They ‘know’ it’s bad because it’s sceptical, they don’t even have to look at it. Which of course would render their reconstructions unfalsifiable.

  20. ChrisD

    @moptop

    some minor exaggeration, made for rhetorical effect

    Oh, puhleeze. Here’s what you said:

    You want to talk about “bullying tactics”? Read the climategate emails.

    First, that’s no “minor exaggeration”. It’s a whopper.

    Second, those two sentences are the essence of the entire post. The nub, the pith, the meat of it. You attempted to claim that Mann & Jones’s private grousing constituted “bullying tactics” comparable to Cuccinelli’s criminal investigation, and those first two sentences summarize that viewpoint. If these words are just “rhetorical effect”–if M&J’s grousing and Cuccinelli’s action are not comparable–then the whole rest of the post disappears in a puff of smoke. There’s no reason for it to even exist. So, why did you post it?

    Now, if you’re walking away from your claim, fine. Just say so. Everyone overstates things in blog comments from time to time. But don’t dissemble like this.

  21. ChrisD

    @moptop

    I notice, incidentally, that you still are not coming up with the quote where Mann & Jones “claimed to have gotten people fired as journal editors”.

    Does such a quote exist, or not?

  22. moptop

    Ok, how’s this.

    Mann and Jones discussed tactics to get journal editors fired over matters, which, according to you, they had “no authority”

    They later relievedly noted that one of these journal editors was indeed removed from his position as journal editor.

    As for Jones having “no power to do anything,” he was the lead editor of the most recent climate report to come out of the IPCC. Used to be, before the climategate emails that don’t mean anything came out and he lost his job.

    As for whether that was a “whopper” or not is strictly a matter of your judgement, which is uninformed.

  23. Nullius in Verba

    #22,

    Did he mean these bits?

    “If you think that Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU channels to get him ousted.”

    “I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor.”

    “The GRL leak may have been plugged up now w/ new editorial leadership there.”

  24. Sean McCorkle

    @20 I’d like to jump in on a couple of points

    Do you think it is normal practice when undertaking a confidential, anonymous journal review to pass the results onto your friends in the same field of research? To seek unpublished data via back channels from an author with a stake in the matter to try to refute it?

    I don’t see the results of the review being passed here, rather the reviewer is breaking the anonymity rule and alerting the target of the paper’s critique to its details, which shouldn’t be disclosed. This is the one real breach of protocol that I see in this email. Asking for private data to investigate a method is fine (for going through a learning curve to understand the method better), as long as the final review describes potential problems (if any) in such a way that the authors can reproduce what the reviewer has done (i.e. with published or publicly available data sets).

    *In what way is mathematics “ugly”? Is this the sort of sentiment you would expect a research scientist to express?

    I believe the author of the mail is saying the paper is ugly because of the mathematics. Mathematics is a language. Sometimes the language is difficult to understand, especially if the reader is not so adept, and not all scientists are. I personally know lots of scientists that don’t derive a lot of pleasure from math.

    What is meant by the phrase “It won’t be easy to dismiss out of hand as the math appears to be correct theoretically”? Why would anyone wish to dismiss results that were correct? If you can’t find anything wrong with it, why would you try to dismiss it at all?

    Misapplying statistical methods to data happens all the time. My inclination is to interpret the phrase “correct theoretically” as describing a sound method that may not be applicable to the data in question because of underlying assumptions made by the method, which may or may not be so obvious.
    I also interpret “the math appears to be correct theoretically” in a general sense as saying there are no errors in the derivations, but the premise relationships (equations) which form the foundation of the derivation could be wrong in the sense that they do not correctly describe reality.

    Is this effort being made because the results are bad, or because they are sceptical?
    Personal dynamics: Some bastards are saying we’re wrong, dammit! We’ve got to show how wrong they are!

    I also read in the email the author’s sense that the attack is on their methodology, but not their conclusions. This resonates with me personally. Kind of like me taking an x-y plot and using a ruler to eyeball a straight line fit estimate, and then somebody coming along and saying “well, YOU’re not using a linear regression!”, yet when the l.r. coefficients are calculated the original estimate is found not to be far off and the conclusions are unchanged.

  25. moptop

    “I also read in the email the author’s sense that the attack is on their methodology, but not their conclusions.” SM

    So, without a valid methodology, they can still have “conclusions”?

    What I read was that the paper had valid criticisms of their methodology but didn’t come up with anything “better”. Well here’s a hint about how science works. Often the answer is “we don’t know.” There are other reconstructions that do not rely on Mann’s, to put it kindly, ‘innovative’, methods. The problem is that when you use them, the hockey stick goes away. Mann says he is a scientist, but what he has apparently done, is committed himself to a particular conclusion. He has committed himself to a flawed methodology that works for finding potential vibrational problems in an airplane engine design, for example, where the problem space is well understood, but which, when the assumptions are not met, allows the user to project their own biases into the data.

    Here is what Keith Briffa himself said about Mann on this subject:

    “On 17th June 2002 Briffa wrote to Dr Edward Cook about a letter involving Esper and Michael Mann, “I have just read this lettter – and I think it is crap. I am sick to death of Mann stating his reconstruction represents the tropical area just because it contains a few (poorly temperature representative) tropical series. He is just as capable of regressing these data again any other “target” series, such as the increasing trend of self-opinionated verbage (sic) he has produced over the last few years, and … (better say no more)”Cook responds; “We both know the probable flaws in Mike’s recon (reconstruction), particularly as it relates to the tropical stuff…. It is puzzling to me that a guy as bright as Mike would be so unwilling to evaluate his own work a bit more objectively.”

    Mann was a joke.

  26. moptop

    ChrisD,
    Why your debate technique is a losing strategy. You keep giving me excuses to quote more the emails that you claim to have read.

    You said that Mann and Jones had no power at all. That was not Mann’s take on it, and he was much closer to the facts than you. Here is what he said: “And I certainly don’t want to abuse my lead authorship by advocating my own work.” Yet as lead author, he did just that, overruling objections to his work and splashing his hockey stick all over the UN report, despite the misgivings of the climate scientists at the CRU.

  27. Guy

    You climate deniers are still grasping at straws over the hacked emails? What do you hope to prove?

  28. Sean McCorkle

    @26

    So, without a valid methodology, they can still have “conclusions”?

    When it comes to analytical methods, there can be more than one way to skin a cat. I was trying to illustrate that point with the ruler vs. l.r. example.

    There are other reconstructions that do not rely on Mann’s, to put it kindly, ‘innovative’, methods. The problem is that when you use them, the hockey stick goes away.

    I was under the impression that other methods confirmed the hockey stick

  29. ChrisD

    @moptop 27

    You said that Mann and Jones had no power at all.

    To fire a journal editor, which was your claim. Get real. If you can’t argue honestly, I have no time for you.

  30. Guy

    There’s a good post at deep climate regarding the false accusation from McIntyre over the climategate emails.

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/05/14/how-to-be-a-climate-science-auditor-part-2-the-forgotten-climategate%C2%A0emails/

  31. Nullius in Verba

    “I don’t see the results of the review being passed here, rather the reviewer is breaking the anonymity rule and alerting the target of the paper’s critique to its details, which shouldn’t be disclosed.”

    Well, I had actually meant the results in the paper, but I admit I wasn’t clear.

    I believe Ed is inviting Keith to help provide the result of the review.

    “Asking for private data to investigate a method is fine (for going through a learning curve to understand the method better), as long as the final review describes potential problems (if any) in such a way that the authors can reproduce what the reviewer has done (i.e. with published or publicly available data sets).”

    Agreed.

    “My inclination is to interpret the phrase “correct theoretically” as describing a sound method that may not be applicable to the data in question because of underlying assumptions made by the method, which may or may not be so obvious.”

    Well, I did ask the question because I wanted to know if you could find a way to interpret it innocently. I’m not convinced, because he doesn’t mention any assumptions, and I’m sure he would have had there been one that was problematic.

    Indeed, I think your phrasing is an excellent way of describing what’s wrong with the usual dendro methods of reverse regression.

    I interpreted “correct” as meaning… correct. But I don’t propose to argue about it any further than that.

    “I also read in the email the author’s sense that the attack is on their methodology, but not their conclusions. This resonates with me personally.”

    I have a good example for explaining my thoughts on this one:

    Question: What is 95/19?
    Scientist: Cancel the 9’s to give 95/19 = 5/1 = 5.
    Sceptic: That’s rubbish! You can’t cancel individual digits like that!
    Scientist: OK, let’s use a pocket calculator: [types 95 / 19 =] Aha! 5!
    Sceptic: Right answer by wrong method equals bad science.
    Scientist: The original paper was right, because the conclusion was right, as has been confirmed independently. The conclusion is all that matters. That’s good science. Now, what’s 65/26?

    “Kind of like me taking an x-y plot and using a ruler to eyeball a straight line fit estimate, and then somebody coming along and saying “well, YOU’re not using a linear regression!”, yet when the l.r. coefficients are calculated the original estimate is found not to be far off and the conclusions are unchanged.”

    Well, actually, it’s more like picking two points up at one end of the graph, drawing a straight line through those, discarding any data that doesn’t lie close to that line as being ‘not temperature sensitive’ and then doing full linear regression on what remains.

    And then checking it by picking various subsets of the same small set of “temperature sensitive” points, ignoring all the rest of the scatter, and observing that they all give roughly the same line.

  32. moptop

    “I was under the impression that other methods confirmed the hockey stick” – SM

    Yeah, Guy has “confidence” that they exist too, but the thing is, independent reconstructions which support the hockey stick going back 1000 yrs (There are lots of perfectly unobjectionable hockey sticks starting in the little ice age.) do not exist. Tell you what, you find one and you can do what your alarmist brethren have failed to do on this, prove me wrong.

    Guy,
    I am guessing that this is going to be another collection of irrelevancies and smears by association, but I will give it a look since you have been such a sport.

  33. ChrisD

    Guy’s link was messaed up. Maybe this shorter version will work:

    http://bit.ly/95XAm5

    I saw part 1 of this last week and thought it was pretty interesting. McIntyre is all upset about an “artful trick” in the IPCC’s rendering of the “hide the decline” chart. The Daily Mail duly reports this and finds it “extremely troubling” (and includes a fake and incorrect version of the IPCC chart). DC demonstrates that the “trick” actually makes a virtually invisible difference of one or two pixels in the endpoint of the Briffa curve.

    http://bit.ly/aKyZN4

  34. moptop

    “To fire a journal editor, which was your claim” – ChrisD

    The were lead authors on the ARs from the IPCC. The most widely disseminated collection of scientific papers on climate distributed under the imprimatur of the UN. Any climate journal that angered these guys risked getting their journals frozen out of that report, and thus becoming irrelevant. You still maintain that they had “no power at all” over climate journals when they had editorial control over the IPCC report. Yes or no.

  35. moptop

    “DC demonstrates that the “trick” actually makes a virtually invisible difference of one or two pixels in the endpoint of the Briffa curve.” -ChrisD

    Wow, what a huge effort at point missing. The point is that the data was truncated because the data that followed showed a decline (Mike’s Nature Trick), not the couple pixels under the black line. The only reason those couple pixels are important is that they create the natural visual impression that the green line continues upwards under the black line, when in fact the green line, if the data were included completely, would show a troublesome decline. Something known as the divergence problem. Simply stated, if these proxies can’t get the last couple decades right, then how can we trust them for any kind of reasonable indication of what it was like a thousand years ago.

    Are you somehow related to DC, CD? Because both of you spend an awful lot of time seizing on distractions.

  36. Sean McCorkle

    @33

    independent reconstructions which support the hockey stick going back 1000 yrs (There are lots of perfectly unobjectionable hockey sticks starting in the little ice age.) do not exist.

    The graph in that link shows two curves, of Esper et al. and Moberg et al. going back to 900. Are you saying they’re not independent of Mann et al‘s work?

  37. ChrisD

    This is stupid. On one side you have an Attorney General, all the power and resources of his office, and the threat of criminal prosecution, resulting ruinous legal expense at best and actual prison at worst. On the other side you have guys complaining about bad papers in private emails but lacking any authority over the journal in question. You seem to think that these are comparable “bullying tactics”. I think that’s utterly ridiculous.

    Finis.

  38. ChrisD

    . The only reason those couple pixels are important is that they create the natural visual impression that the green line continues upwards under the black line

    Yeah, well, maybe it would, if you could actually see the difference without a microscope, which was DC’s point, which you seem to have completely missed. The “artful trick” that McIntyre is so upset about, and that the Daily Mail dutifully parrots with its fake version of the chart, is essentially invisible.

    Look at his figures 1 and 2. Zoom them 400% if you want. Then tell me you can see a difference. Try to do it with a straight face.

  39. moptop

    Wow CD, your powers of denial are prodigious. You don’t have any problem with Mann throwing out twenty years of data which coincidentally didn’t fit his hypothesis yet you freak out over a minor point about a visual trick that makes it less obvious that he did so? Just curious.

  40. moptop

    I like debating with Deep Climate better. At least he is familiar with the issues at hand. Maybe he can teach me something. I wish he would stay away from the conspiracy stuff though. There is plenty of motivation for distortion on both sides. It is dispositive of nothing.

  41. ChrisD

    you freak out over a minor point about a visual trick that makes it less obvious that he did so

    Wow, your powers of denial are prodigiuous, as is your ability to completely ignore what was said, which was that the “visual trick that makes it less obvious that he did so” is essentially invisible, making it, well, not much of a “visual trick.” Are you getting this point at all?

    Furthermore, it wasn’t me who freaked out, it was McIntyre and his shills at the Mail.

    Now, I asked if you could see any difference between DC’s figures 1 and 2. This is the crux of McIntyre’s complaint. Can you see any difference, or not? Tell me with a straight face that this “visual trick” makes any difference at all.

  42. moptop

    What kills me about you CD is that you seem to feel that your opinion has the weight of fact and can settle arguments.

    I notice that you didn’t answer my question about whether it bothers you that twenty years of data that conflicted with Mann’s hypothesis were missing from the graph, at all. I take that your reply to mean that it doesn’t.

  43. ChrisD

    Here’s a generic discussion when moptop gets involved:

    Poster: “I think sunsets are pretty.”

    moptop: “You think sunsets are pretty? What a tool. What about tidal waves? You think they’re pretty too?”

    Poster: “Huh?”

    moptop: “I notice you won’t respond to my question about tidal waves. I take that to mean that you do think tidal waves are pretty.”

    I posted about the silliness of McIntyre’s complaint about the “artful” graph trick that no one can actually see. You ignored that and brought up a totally different point, and now you’re complaining that I didn’t answer it. News flash: I have no obligation to respond to something you toss out that’s completely irrelevant to my post.

  44. Nullius in Verba

    “This is stupid. On one side you have an Attorney General, all the power and resources of his office, and the threat of criminal prosecution, resulting ruinous legal expense at best and actual prison at worst.”

    There is, so far, no threat of criminal prosecution. All they are doing is engaging in ‘discovery’ to see if there is cause for a prosecution. It’s not unusual – I heard some Democrat AGs did it recently to some of the banks, because they didn’t like (in a political sense) what they had been up to during the crash, not because they had any definite evidence of illegality. It’s the American politico-legal system at work.

    And technically, it requires no legal expense, and cannot result in prison. If you simply hand over the documents requested, no legal advice is required. You only need to lawyer up if you’re planning to resist, or you think you’ve got something to hide. And the worst that can happen is that you have to pay back something like triple the amount defrauded.

    This is the American legal system. If you’re saying that discovery is a terrible form of bullying, an abuse of power, then it surely is in every case in which it is used, of which there are thousands. I know people who do say so – that litigation and the cost of access to law hand the rich an unbeatable weapon with which to legally crush the poor and powerless. If you’re criticising the American legal system in general then I sympathise with your point. If you’re asking for special exemption from the law just for you and your pals, then you can forget it. Private law just for the favoured elite is a horrible idea.

    “Yeah, well, maybe it would, if you could actually see the difference without a microscope, which was DC’s point, which you seem to have completely missed.”

    Here’s the graph, with and without “Mike’s Nature trick”.

    “Are you saying they’re not independent of Mann et al’s work?”

    Both Esper 02 and Moberg 05 use bristlecones/foxtails, just as Mann did. Esper sampled a larger number of trees, and then selected a subset – nobody knows how or why. The nearest you get to an explanation is a citation to the comment in Esper 03 saying: “However as we mentioned earlier on the subject of biological growth populations, this does not mean that one could not improve a chronology by reducing the number of series used if the purpose of removing samples is to enhance a desired signal. The ability to pick and choose which samples to use is an advantage unique to dendroclimatology.”

    Moberg 05 was peculiar in that most of the hockeystick shape comes from an Arabian sea core sample in which a species of plankton associated with cold water increased. The argument being that cold water upwelling in the Arabian sea somehow causes warm land temperatures. (Or maybe their method just turns the series upside-down. Call me sceptical.) The Moberg paper also resulted in a materials complaint to the journal when the authors refused to archive the data, and ended up with the journal forcing them to issue a corrigendum.

    (Rumour is, it was Lauritzen’s data that Moberg wanted to analyse, but Lauritzen wouldn’t let him have it unless he got co-authorship. Apart from supplying the Indigirka river data, Lauritzen had nothing to do with the paper. A useful way of increasing publication count in these days of publish-or-perish, and a logical explanation of why they are so unwilling to release data.)

    Since both papers used Bristlecones, when everybody knows (as a result of the Mann fiasco) that it is strongly recommended that you shouldn’t, one can say immediately that these are not series to take seriously. That there are other problems with them too just adds to the conclusion.

  45. moptop

    The fact that you think it is irrelevant is precisely my point. I can’t imagine a more glaring example of confirmation bias.

    You really think that it is solely about those couple of pixes? You think that the Telegraph ran with the story because of those couple pixels? Here is a hint, if you start to believe your opponent in a drooling imbecile, perhaps you ought to re-examine your own assessment of their reasoning? Naah! They are drooling imbeciles at the Telegraph. McIntyre is a drooling imbecile, despite his impressive academic achievements and career.

    It is amazing to me the kind of things that you can believe about other people.

  46. moptop

    “If you’re saying that discovery is a terrible form of bullying, an abuse of power, then it surely is in every case in which it is used, of which there are thousands. I know people who do say so – that litigation and the cost of access to law hand the rich an unbeatable weapon with which to legally crush the poor and powerless.”

    Preach it brother!

    That doesn’t mean that using your considerable influence as lead author of *The* dominant publication in the field to pressure other organizations to rid themselves of people you find “troublesome” isn’t bullying.

    Finis.

  47. ChrisD

    You really think that it is solely about those couple of pixes?

    Dude. Listen carefully. That is what the Deep Climate post was about. That is what my comment here was about. Do you understand this?

  48. ChrisD

    Here’s the graph, with and without “Mike’s Nature trick”.

    Et tu?

    The DeepClimate post was not about “Mike’s Nature trick”. Neither was my comment. The subject was McIntyre’s silly complaint that the end of the Briffa line was “artfully tucked under” one of the other lines. This affected one or two pixels and cannot be detected by ordinary human vision.

    How friggin’ difficult is this to understand?

  49. Sean McCorkle

    Nullius@45

    Since both papers used Bristlecones, when everybody knows (as a result of the Mann fiasco) that it is strongly recommended that you shouldn’t, one can say immediately that these are not series to take seriously.

    What’s the problem with Bristlecones?

  50. moptop

    “That is what the Deep Climate post was about. That is what my comment here was about. Do you understand this?”

    So, you think that the reason McIntyre wrote his post was only about the couple of pixels? I guess you do. Holy cow. McIntyre’s claim, whatever DC said, was that by artfully burying the line, it was less apparent that the series had been truncated. You did get that that was McIntyre’s argument, didn’t you, even if you do reject it? So, logically, and I know this is hard for you, the only reason those pixels could possibly have mattered was because Mann chose not to display the more recent data which contradicts his hypothesis.

    Even DC acknowledges that the pixel thing is only one step in his argument. A flawed step too because he declares a *subtle difference* to be *no difference*, which, whatever his or your opinion, is not true.

  51. ChrisD

    So, you think that the reason McIntyre wrote his post was only about the couple of pixels?

    Sweet Jesus. Do you do this intentionally, or are you just thick?

    Here, I will put as many different kinds of emphasis on this as I can:

    OF COURSE I DON’T THINK THIS WAS MCINTYRE’S ONLY COMPLAINT. BUT IT WAS THE SUBJECT OF THE DC POST AND IT WAS THE SUBJECT OF MY COMMENT.

    McIntyre had two basic problems with the chart.

    1. The Briffa line was truncated.
    2. The Briffa line was “artfully hidden” under the other lines.

    The DC post was not about item 1. My comment was not about item 1.

    The DC post was about item 2. My comment was about item 2.

    Item 1 is obviously the more important of the two items. This does not mean that we are permitted to talk only about item 1. This does not mean that in talking about item 2 we are unaware of item 1. It simply means that we are talking about item 2.

    DO YOU UNDERSTAND NOW?

  52. moptop

    OK. I admit it was hard for me to believe that you were *that* upset about a matter of opinion of the difference between artfully subtle and none. I am sorry I gave you too much credit.

  53. ChrisD

    I admit it was hard for me to believe that you were *that* upset

    Go read #34, which is everything I initially said about this. Does it sound *that* upset to you?

    Then read your #36 where you instantly go off the rails and start with your condescending instructional material about something that is not the subject at hand (and of which I am fully aware, thank you very much).

    What I am *that* upset about is not the pixels, it’s your moronic posts.

    At least NiV stopped after just one very brief attempt to bring “Mike’s Nature trick” into it. One attempt I can chalk up to an honest mistake, maybe from not reading the posts quite carefully enough.

    You, on the other hand, seem willfully obtuse. At one time I thought you were a serious person. You’re not. You’re just another troll.

  54. Nullius in Verba

    “What’s the problem with Bristlecones?”

    They are well-known to often show 20th century growth spurts that are not related to temperature, because there’s no matching rise in the local temperature records where they grow. There are several theories as to what causes the sudden surge. The most common one is fertilisation, either from CO2 or acid rain. When Greybill and Idso collected the American tree ring series that Mann used, they were trying to prove this theory, and deliberately selected strip-bark bristlecones because they were thought to be more sensitive to CO2. They reported in the paper that Mann got them from that they were not temperature-sensitive. Steve McIntyre, on the other hand, has an alternative theory that it is to do with the strip-barking process – when bark is stripped from one side of a tree, the cambium on the other side grows faster to compensate. This was based on his research in the field looking at the highly asymmetric, non-circular rings that resulted – meaning that you could get entirely different-looking series from the same tree, with one showing a surge and another not. I suspect it is a combination of things.

    But whatever the cause might be, it’s not temperature. Unfortunately, the statistical method can’t easily tell the difference. It sees a 20th century rise, matching the 20th century global thermometer rise, and it lines the two up. It shifts and scales the tree rings to give the best match in the calibration period, and then the rest of the shifted/scaled series is used for the reconstruction. (If it sees a 20th century fall, it will still match, but now with a negative coefficient that will turn the series upside down.)

    Of course, statisticians have a standard way to deal with this problem. They hold back some of the temperature data they have – called the verification period. Then after they have done the calibration on the rest, they check the correlation between the reconstruction and the temperature in the verification period. In other words, they try to use the reconstruction to make a prediction and test it. There are a range of correlation metrics, but the best known is Pearson’s r-squared correlation coefficient – also known as R2.

    When Mann calculated it for his reconstruction, it came out about 0.1 or below, which is too small. It showed that the reconstructed relationship was spurious. So Mann searched around to find another metric – an obscure and little-understood metric called reduction of error (RE), and carefully didn’t mention the adverse R2 results. (Apart from for the 1820 step, where the R2 value was a little higher.) Unfortunately, the standard version of RE doesn’t work well on autocorrelated time series, so Mann got the wrong significance threshold, making it look significant when it wasn’t.

    If you take a look at the NAS report, or the Wegman report, and search on ‘Bristlecones’, they give all the citations and expert opinions regarding their use.

    But since there are relatively few tree ring series that show strong hockeysticks, with bristlecones being one of the most important of them, they pretty much have to include them if they want to get a hockeystick. (At least, they did until Yamal came along.) As they say, “You need to pick cherries to make cherry pie”.

  55. Sean McCorkle

    @55 Thanks for the information.

  56. moptop

    “You, on the other hand, seem willfully obtuse. At one time I thought you were a serious person. You’re not. You’re just another troll.” CD

    That hurts.

    “What I am *that* upset about is not the pixels, it’s your moronic posts.” – CD

    What upsets me is that you try to use something on which reasonable people may disagree, that tucking the truncated series under another series makes the truncation less conspicuous, and attempt to use it as some kind of bludgeon to attack McIntyre and defend Mann, when it is clear to everybody, including yourself, that the issue is secondary.

    “At least NiV stopped after just one very brief attempt to bring “Mike’s Nature trick” into it. One attempt I can chalk up to an honest mistake, maybe from not reading the posts quite carefully enough.” CD

    Sorry, I am passive aggressive. “Passive aggressive” is what control freaks call people who don’t want to be controlled. I didn’t notice under terms of use where it was stated that you get to set the terms and bounds of debate. Maybe you can cite that passage.

  57. ChrisD

    use it as some kind of bludgeon to attack McIntyre and defend Mann, when it is clear to everybody, including yourself, that the issue is secondary

    Then I suggest you go complain to McIntyre. He’s the one who made the charge. Was it not secondary then? It’s OK for McIntyre to raise a secondary issue, but to refute it is an attack on McIntyre–because it’s secondary? WTF.

    And what exactly makes refuting McIntyre’s claim “some kind of bludgeon to attack McIntyre”? Any attempt to refute any claim is using a bludgeon to attack the person who made the claim? Double WTF.

    on which reasonable people may disagree, that tucking the truncated series under another series makes the truncation less conspicuous

    There are many things on which reasonable people may disagree. This ain’t one of them. It would take a most unreasonable person to actually look at the two charts and still make the claim you have just made. The effect of this “tucking” is literally invisible. It cannot be detected by normal human vision. I defy you or anyone else to look at DC’s two versions of the chart and say with a straight face that the difference is detectable.

    This isn’t a reasonable disagreement, it’s a knee-jerk defense of McIntyre. I’m thinking you never even looked.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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