Friday, March 25, 2016

Listing what Schnare gets right might be easier

John Mashey caught two commonly-repeated, denialist lies about Steve Schneider in a court filing by the unsurprising David Schnare. Read the whole thing etc., it's the lie about Schneider telling people to stretch the truth about climate and also the lie that omits how he told people to be honest. This has been corrected often enough that some of the denialists repeating it have to know they're lying (although I don't know if Schnare is one of those or just lazy). Bad enough to lie about a dead man's life work in general, but getting it wrong in court filings that are supposed to buttoned up is even worse.

Mashey's catch is important, it's about Schnare's attempt to argue that the scientific elite aren't to be trusted and therefore intrusive email searches are in the public interest. I found yet another inaccuracy in Schnare's filing along the same lines - much less important because it's just an incorrect historical flourish, but indicative of the work submitted to the court.


....we begin with a portion of President Eisenhower’s 1961 Farewell Address to the Nation — one that perfectly encapsulates the reason we bring this case and the legitimacy of the Arizona public records act’s presumption in favor of disclosure, particularly of old and policy-related academic records. 

[T]he free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.1 
Note with care, President Eisenhower does not limit his comments to how research may affect public policy, but focuses specifically on the people who do the research, the scientific-technological elite. Our concern in the instant case is precisely that....

It's actually an interesting Eisenhower quote that could be taken a number of different ways, but the problem is with Schnare's flourish stating that Ike emphasized the sentence about watchdogging the scientific elite above other issues. Schnare's footnote justifying this provides a link to the speech and says of the bolded sentence, "emphasis in the original. Eisenhower underlined this section of his speech notes and gave heavy verbal emphasis to this sentence."

So, three problems:

1. The link Schnare provided doesn't show any emphasis added to that sentence in the speech. That's bad enough - Schnare making a factual assertion in a filing without providing proof. (Update: fixed typo where I said "with providing proof".)
2. When you research it yourself, you find that Eisenhower underlined almost every sentence.
3. When you listen to the speech you find he gave no heavier verbal emphasis to that sentence than he did for any other.

Pictured above is Eisenhower's copy of the speech, and you can scroll through to see other pages - virtually every sentence is underlined, so doing that provides no emphasis.

And here's Eisenhower giving the speech, jump ahead nine minutes for that section:

Ike didn't give any more verbal emphasis of that sentence than he did of any others. He does speak deliberately, but he's an old man who's been giving speeches over scratchy radios and P.A. systems for decades - it's just a way to be clear and doesn't distinguish that sentence.

Again, not the biggest thing in the world, just the very first thing Schnare asserted that I decided to check, and it wasn't right.


JohnMashey said...

Good catch!

Note: I don't think it's just laziness when Schnare claims emphasis in originals.

David B. Benson said...

Fools tread...

jrkrideau said...

IANAL, how does the court look on these "inaccuracies"?

Russell Seitz said...

I like Ike.

Thon Taddeo said...

At the time Eisenhower prepared his address, there was a widely held perception that experts would increasingly hold the levers of power. Although the Technocracy movement, the most extreme expression of the idea, had faded by the 1950s, the US government had become preoccupied with contentious and complex military issues, such as nuclear weapons, the doctrine for their use and delivery systems; these and other issues had fundamental implications for the allocation of economic resources and pursuit of foreign policy.

Since then, the pendulum has really swung the other way. Various political, business, religious and media factions have done an effective job of convincing people that

(a) the experts don't agree on anything, are peddling snake oil, and, in any case, don't know anything.
(b) it is perfectly reasonable to decide that the truth is whatever fits your preconceived notions (evolution, vaccines, climate change, pollution...).

Brian said...

As to how courts react to errors, it probably varies by judge. My correction might be viewed as nitpicking, although judges never like the first mistake - making an assertion backed by a citation that doesn't actually support it - because not all citations get checked. It goes to how much weight the court should put on the attorney's arguments. I think it's virtually certain that Schnare knows his assertion wasn't backed up by the link he cited, so that's bad.

I think John Mashey's catch is a little more fundamental and worth calling out, although alone it's not fatal to their argument. And if there are a bunch more of these errors, the court is likely to get annoyed.

jrkrideau said...

Thanks Brian

barry said...

I looked a few pages further on as recommended. Eisenhower underlined the key phrases in EVERY sentence (well, almost, according to the Rabbett). Unsurprising prep for public speaking.

Is Schnare so desperate to be this dishonest?

barry said...

Eisenhower also said in that famous address:

"As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow."

Lots of underlining in that 'section,' too.

Anyone can quote mine.

Brian said...

Hi Barry, I thought that section of the speech was interesting too. I'm not sure if Ike was referring to environmental concerns, resource depletion more specifically, or just fiscal prudence. That would be interesting to look up for more context.

Alastair said...


I also noted the "live only for today" section. But it is not just Americans who should avoid that, although they seem to be the most guilty.

Just because Ike said it does not make it true. It is true in any case. So whether he was referring to "environmental concerns, resource depletion more specifically, or just fiscal prudence" is irrelevant. What matters is that we have to stop plundering all three.

barry said...

Brian, the bit I quoted is not about environmental concerns. The speech continues:

"We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage.

We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow."

Husbanding material resources for US Political and 'spiritual' sustainability is how I read it.

Irritation with their mendaciousness marred my thinking and my point. I should have at least scanned the filing. Alastair is right that just because Ike said it doesn't make it true, but the Eisenhower ref is preambular, so I guess providing some 'context' is acceptable per se.

I see that they reference to demonstrate an FOI request (footnote 20, page 35). Is this permissible evidence?

Russell Seitz said...

Thon left out (C):

And that , therefore, you should let their opponents tell you what to read, say , think , and do.

caveat lector