Friday, March 09, 2007

More Pink Helicopters.....

UPDATE: For some reason Blogger won't let Eli post this in the comments, so....

We need to calm down. Yes John was trying to bait me, but that's OK, Eli is a big Rabett. It's part of the reason for being partially anonymous, you don't have to take things so personally. On the other hand, I don't have much time right now, didn't post as detailed answers as I could have (should is another issue) and although worrying about this blowing up reacted too late and too weakly.

While the owner operator has little to no legal responsibility for comments, you have the responsibility of drawing lines, and making your own position clear vis-a-vis the anonymice and the not so. Eli has tried to keep this blog as open as possible, and will continue to do so, but he will pay more attention to pointing out when he thinks someone is over the line. FOS is another issue.

Both here and elsewhere Eli has tried to be a stand up bunny. Mom Rabett says that he was always very trying. Now I'm not going to apologize to John that some of the mus don't like his position, and I ain't gonna apologize to the mus that John is currently setting out traps for them, but I will apologize to both that I let this get out of hand without intervening more strongly.

De gustibus non est disputandum
Updating Eli's post on the fruitful discussion that continued on Inkstain, John Fleck wrote

Eli I appreciate it that over at your place you’re able to airbrush out the blemishes,
which, of course, is the purpose of having your own burrow.
but you seem to have accidentally airbrushed out some of the substance of the exchange as well, creating (no doubt unintentionally) a somewhat misleading picture of the exchange. You triggered the whole “black helicopters” discussion with this: “[W]hether he realizes it or not Roger is functioning as an enabler for a very sick policy.” No doubt the omission in your post was inadvertent, but you still haven’t explained the evidence in support of the assertion.
Well no, and I do appreciate the opportunity, but, as in all things good and wonderful, Steve Bloom did it better than the Rabett could (and believe me John luck is a sometime but welcome thing)
Well, let me do that then! I’ll even keep it real short…
It makes perfect sense from a purely academic standpoint for RP Jr. to talk about a mix of mitigation and adaptation, and even to focus on the latter if he has nothing new to say about the former. The problem is that Congress is chock full of politicians who are either adaptation denialists (meaning of course denialists who use the very real need for adaptation as an excuse to not mitigate) or are amenable to such arguments. Thus a great emphasis on mitigation over adaptation is required in order to get Congress to take mitigation steps that are perceived to involve any pain. I know that Roger is very aware of the low-hanging mitigation fruit and has written about it extensively, but to all appearances he has become bored with beating his head against that wall and now finds adaptation more interesting. If he stuck to obscure journals rather than venues such a Nature, Congressional committees and op-eds, I would have no problem. IOW, it’s not a matter of his ideas being wrong but rather one of where and how he promotes them. “Enabler of a sick policy” is harsh but apt IMHO.
What’s a better approach? Jim Hansen, e.g., emphasizes the hell out of mitigation and pretty much never talks about adaptation without linking it to mitigation. My great dislike for Roger’s “honest broker” concept is in part because as he defines it Hansen isn’t one. (He is certainly an honest broker as I would define it relative to the UNFCCC “avoiding dangerous climate change” since policy options that emphasize adaptation at the expense of mitigation won’t do that, but of course Roger dislikes the UNFCCC too.)
This, of course, gets us into the issue of intent, a rather unsafe ground. In deference to John, let me not go there right now.

UPDATE: But please go here first before getting too far into the mosh pit.

For our Swedish fans, RabettRunTV brings you a video of the Pink Helicopter (you have to wait a while, but Eli is reliably informed that the bunnies have loaded it up with jellybeans and will be making drops at Easter).


Anonymous said...

It's difficult to believe that John Fleck is apparently a journalist. He's been a pretty consistent cheerleader for Pielke.

EliRabett said...

No, John has been in the science writing business for a long time. Roger hopped on the science policy bus relatively early and carved out a niche.

Eli respects John's opinion enough that he will stop and think when Fleck disagrees with him. John is, IMHO, an excellent candidate for Honest Broker although Eli thinks (as much as a Rabett can) that sometimes it would be better if John looked more towards effect and second order implications than what is said.

John probably disagrees and Eli will think about that.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Eli about Fleck.

From what I have seen, he is far better than most of those who fancy themselves as science journalists (Gregg Easterbrooke and Ronald Bailey come immediately to mind here, for some reason) in that he actually seems to believe that the mainstream science -- and scientists -- should have a large influence over the science writing.

In other words, if the scientists within the IPCC come to a consensus on something or other, that is what the science journalist should be emphasizing -- as opposed to the opinions of those on the fringes.

Too many people who call themselves "science journalists" seem to believe that "science journalism" is all about balancing one (sometimes fanciful) idea against another, which means they give the same (sometimes even more) time and space to those on the fringe as they do to the majority views.

While those on the fringe sometimes represent the correct way of looking at things and should not be ignored entirely, their ideas should be presented in context. In other words, if 99% of scientists believe global warming is real and 1% do not, the science journalist should not write an article that makes it appear as if both views are on equal footing.

Anonymous said...

Whoa, you just compared Fleck to Easterbrook and Bailey. They are both opinion journalists.

You just made the point.

John Fleck said...

Wait, anon3, didn't anon2 say I'm *not* like Easterbrook and Bailey? :-)

As I've written elsewhere, my interest in Pielke's work grew out of my frustration with the way the intersection of science and politics/policy functions. I had some pretty naive ideas for a long time about how it *ought* to work (scientists present consensus, politicians/policymakers say, "Oh, OK, let's do X, then, shall we?") The corollary of that was that the journalist's job was to simply explain that consensus, and all would be happy. But it kept not working that way, whether the political debate was as simple as the zoning fight over traffic patterns at a local retail development or as complex as global climate changing.

Roger's work (and that of others like him, especially Sarewitz) has gone a long way toward helping me understand how the politics/policy/science interface actually works. If that makes me a "cheerleader," whatever. I think a lot of the criticism Roger receives comes from people who think the world ought to work differently than it actually does.

Anon1: If you have some actual criticism of my journalistic work, please do share.

EliRabett said...

My introduction to science policy was through interactions with the folk at the GW Space Policy Institute, Peter Zimmerman now at Kings College, and a bunch of old NIST and NASA hands like Gerry Soffen (ok, dropped enough names for now). They taught me to look for effect, ignore statements and to analyze social nets. One of the things that raised my warning flags was Roger's take on NASA stuff, which to me was pretty far from what was really going on and very surface oriented. IMHO

Anonymous said...


Let me first identify myself (anonymously, of course)let me call myself anonymuse (that's Eli's moniker at any rate, though he does not know I'm the anonymouse who he calls anonymuse... Anyway, I know it's all very confusing, but I'm the anon who wrote above that you are not like Easterbrooke or Bailey (thank goodness). Far from it, in fact.

While I agree that RP has thrown light on the relationship between science and policy and I believe he is right on several issues (eg, that the primary problem with hurricanes is so much building on the beach) I also have to agree with Eli that RP has (unwittingly or otherwise) played into the hand of those who de-emphasize AGW mitigation (sometimes in the extreme).

Unfortunately, the current political environment has been significantly shaped by those (funded by Exxon Mobil and others) out to torpedo all efforts at mitigation.

They started out denying global warming entirely, then denying humans had any significant effect, and more recently settled on the argument that "the best we can do is adapt".

Worst of all, of course is that we have a President who is head cheerleader for this crowd.

And the "adaptation only" crowd basically adopt the arguments of anyone who has supported adaptation to further their own agenda, which is to continue to torpedo efforts at mitigation.

If this all sounds like a conspiracy, it is because it is -- and those who do not make active efforts to expose and distance themselves from such conspiracies enable them to continue.

Magnus said...

Haha! Omg that song tortured me the last few summers here in Sweden!
“In a Pink Helicopter I will fly home to you, In a pink Helicopter I fly to you every day, In a pink Helicopter all the way home to you, In a pink Helicopter I fly through the stars to you...”

John Fleck said...

Eli -

In other words (and this seems consistent with what Steve argued in the bit over on Inkstain which you repeated here), Roger should be criticized not for the substance of what he actually says, but for the ways in which other people misuse it?

Anonymous said...

"I think a lot of the criticism Roger receives comes from people who think the world ought to work differently than it actually does."


That's an interesting claim.

You could be right, but I am curious what evidence you have.

Specifically, in what way do "some" (Eli?) mistakenly think the world works that leads them to criticize Pielke?

EliRabett said...

John, yes. But hold on a mo there. Eli started the whole thing by pointing out that Roger is in a field where people examine the effects of policies and try to create and guide the same. Roger clearly is playing in the public arena as well as the literature. As such he has to be aware of the effects of his writings and talks, indeed policy people need to both explain policies and to affect them.

If he objected to the denialist embrace (incoming, incoming) he would protest as strongly as he does to any other perceived slight (and yes Roger, perceived technical or personal slights can be real) from folk like Steve Bloom and Coby Beck, et al. as well as professionals like Trenberth, Curry, Webster and Hansen (we understand the thing with Eli and discount it here, but, Ethon is preparing the Rosa Helikopter for a jelly bean run). Roger is not at all shy about confronting those who he disagrees with, but he IS shy about confronting the denialists. Examples where I have had a say include his claiming that he has no basis to evaluate Fred Singer's views on climate. or his reactions to Gray's jumping the shark.

Of course, Roger could react to the use of his arguments by others to reach conclusions that he does not agree with by being as agressive as he is about anything the AGW/cyclone crowd says that he slightly disagrees with, by confronting some of the regulars on his blog who do so, etc. I would hazard a guess that one of the reasons that Roger reacts so strongly to Jim Hansen as he sees Hansen as competition in the policy area, but that is only the thought of a dumb bunny.

Where Eli cannot go is whether Roger is playing a double sided game hoping to gain no matter which side the policy/science/reality comes out on. Surely you can point to writings, including informal ones, that come down on either side and he can (and does) construct such cases in response to vigorous challenges.

The recent discussions we have been having have pinned down some answers in a stark form.

Thus, Eli thinks Roger is responsible to a great extent for the use which his writings and speech are put by others.

John Fleck said...

Eli -

Thanks. A couple of things that might clarify this for me. First, an example or two of the denialist embrace: specific places where the bad guys have used Pielke Jr.'s work to support their arguments. I don't doubt that they're out there, I'm just not that familiar with the denialist literature. (I used to spend a lot of time on it, but life's short. :-)

Second, a compare and contrast with the way the denialists use/misuse Jim Hansen's argument that we should spend our mitigation energy on soot and methane now, and carbon dioxide later. You see people like Hemphill invoking this all the time. Does this mean Hansen should be cautious about making that argument, because of the risk that it can be misused by his opponents?

Anonymous said...

"Roger should be criticized not for the substance of what he actually says, but for the ways in which other people misuse it?"

More than most, Roger Pielke is certainly aware of how his statements will be used and misused.

In fact, anyone who reads his blog can not help noticing how carefully worded most of his posts are. He is certainly aware of the effect that the words will have. In fact, in the policy arena, effect is everything. That's the whole point.

So, yes, to a certain degree RP is responsible for misuse of his positions by others, particularly when he has left room for ambiguous interpretation and/or when he does not object vehemently to misuse by all.

Anonymous said...

"specific places where the bad guys have used Pielke Jr.'s work to support their arguments."

One place was in the recent Congressional hearing.

One must be exceedingly careful in such a hearing about making statements to the effect that "everyone politicizes", lest it be used to excuse the extreme cases.

Pielke certainly understands that better than most (or at least he should).

Anonymous said...


I showed me mine (a specific place where the bad guys have used Pielke Jr.'s work to support their arguments), now you show me yours:

Your specific evidence for the statement that

"I think a lot of the criticism Roger receives comes from people who think the world ought to work differently than it actually does."

John Fleck said...

Anon -

Maybe not the best example, but Steve Bloom's comments about "scientization" and the role of "additional science" in spurring public action over on Inkstain. There's also some comments from Hank Roberts in that thread vaguely describing some sort of scientific ideal in the course of his criticism of Roger. Roger argues in that thread that the scientific ideal doesn't exist. That thread provides a bunch of nice examples.

On your example, what I'm looking for is not a pointer to something Roger has said, but rather a pointer to how what Roger said was subsequently used. Again, I'm not trying to disagree or be argumentative, I just think this would be a more useful discussion if we had some specific examples in mind.

Anonymous said...

Here's Roger being used by Inhofe's Marc Morano

And here's Roger being used as a convenient reference point for Pat Michaels.

And of course, there's the Roger Pielke Jr. article written for Cato's Regulation magazine. Roger still hasn't copped to the fact that he was paid for that article. The reason is that Cato is running PR for Exxon Mobil and Roger needs to play the "in the middle" game.

EliRabett said...

Ms Rabett's comment was these are the bastard offspring of Lindsay Lohan and Abba, the Swedish god of music....

John Fleck said...

Anon -

Thanks, those are useful examples. So is the argument here that Roger should not have said those things because of the possibility that they could be used/misused by Marano or Michaels?

Anonymous said...

Forgive me for saying so, but the claim you made above (the one I questioned) was not that "Roger argues ...that the scientific ideal doesn't exist."

Your claim was that "a lot of the criticism Roger receives comes from people who think the world ought to work differently than it actually does." (who believe that the ideal does exist?)

I can't see that the few examples you show prove (or even come close to proving) such a general statement.

With regard to my remark above, I would suggest that you read the actual testimony from the Congressional hearing to understand what I refer to.

The recent hearing is not an example of "where the bad guys have used Pielke Jr.'s work to support their arguments" per se (not directly, at least), but it is a case in which some Republicans in Congress have used Pielke's words (in this case testimony at a hearing that they had personally invited him to) to deflect criticism (essentially excuse) some of the more extreme politicization of science that the Bush admin has engaged in over the past few years.

I do not deny that both sides engage in politicization of science, as Pielke pointed out, but I do question his making that point (and the particular way that he made it) at a hearing whose specific purpose it was to look into serious charges of politicization by the Bush admin.

The evidence that the Bush admin has engaged in significant politicization of science that merits examination is hardly comes from a number of legitimate sources (in many cases scientists within the government).

John Fleck said...

Anon -

In the example in the thread over on Inkstain Bloom criticizes Pielke's invocation of "scientization" and argues that it is "something to be avoided in debates" rather than an underlying reality that is inevitable. I view it as an underlying reality that is inevitable, and see Bloom's criticism of Pielke here as, in fact, a criticism of what actually happens. It's not Roger's fault that scientization inevitably happens. He's merely pointing it out in a useful way.

Ditto Bloom's argument regarding his point #6. Roger points to data to support his argument here. Bloom wishes it were otherwise, and criticizes Pielke for pointing it out, rather than engaging the discussion of the underlying data describing how the world actually works in this case.

There's an underlying question here that still hasn't been answered, and I think it's really up to Eli, not anon, to speak to it. Eli started off this exchange with the assertion that Roger "is functioning as an enabler for a very sick policy," and he still hasn't offered up an example of what he means by that, that we might move this discussion forward.

Anonymous said...

John, first you criticize me for getting obsessive about RP Jr., now you dump on me for my attempt to avoid that by summarizing my views. But OK, I'll come up with something more nuanced. I'll want to back it up with linked quotes and am a little pressed for time this week, so it'll take a few days.

Anonymous said...

BTW, should I be reading any bias into your use of RP Jr.'s first name versus my surname? Just askin'...

EliRabett said...

Well John, I think that Steve pretty much said what I wanted to say, but let us move forward. Do you agree that the policy being followed by the current administration with respect to environmental and climate issues is sick and those who are pushing this policy are sickening? Let us start from there and see where we go.

EliRabett said...

ps: I'll settle for disasterous.

EliRabett said...

Oh yeah, the anonymice probably have to take numbers. If you take that seriously you probably don't want to post here.

Anonymous said...

John Fleck is an idiot. No wonder he runs around defending Pielke Jr.

Again, it's troubling that this guy is a journalist. Luckily, it's a small paper.

Anonymous said...

The big irony here is that (notwithstanding Fleck's as yet unsupported claims to the contrary) Steve and Eli seem to have a very good understanding of the "way the world works".

Namely, they understand that what is done about global warming (ie, the policy) is decided by politics, not science.

Isn't that what Pielke says all the time?

It's hardly a profound observation, by the way. people have recognized this for a very long time.

Anonymous said...

Anonymice are a lot like lice,
They just don't go away,
Even if you pick their nits,
They'll make you itch all the day.

John Fleck said...

Eli -

As a journalist, part of my job description requires that I avoid answering questions of the type "Do you agree that the policy being followed by the current administration with respect to environmental and climate issues is sick and those who are pushing this policy are sickening?"

Steve B -

Apologies, because I did appreciate the substantive nature of your point-by-point explanation over on Inkstain about your disagreements with Roger. Of course, I could be wrong in my analysis of why you and other seem to disagree so vehemently with Roger. Perhaps he is just a tool. But I do stand by my assertion that the value of his work to me has been the insight it provides into how the world actually works.

Anonymous-called-Fleck-an-idiot: Thanks for the insightful comment.

Anonymous said...

Idiot wrote:
"Anonymous-called-Fleck-an-idiot: Thanks for the insightful comment."

Not a problem. We are only here to serve.

EliRabett said...

Dear John,

Eli fully appreciates your position, so to move forward, he will state that IEHO the climate policies of this administration and those advocated by such as, let us choose..... eeny, meeny miney mo, the Cato Institutes got to go, will lead to disaster.

Note the stress on actions. We can point with inverse glee to such amusing exemplars as J. Stephen Griles both in and out of government.

However, since Eli is dating Ms. Fastlane (and don't you think Ms. Rabett is pissed), and cannot provide you the kind of detailed report (with expense account) typical of what Rabett Consulting provides clients, take a look at a post on the House hearing, with the link to the other place at the bottom and the comments there.

I believe that could be fairly said to be providing cover. But then again, we are but humble hares.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Fleck is painting your blog (or at least its inhabitants) with a particular brush Eli.

...and I was the anon who defended him above.

Oh well.

Anonymous said...

"I will apologize to both that I let this get out of hand without intervening more strongly."

It's your blog, of course, but I'm not sure why you are apologizing.

Is one or even a few silly comments "out of hand"?

Unless you take a position of censoring comments in general, there's no way of preventing one(s) like above -- and I'm not sure why you would even want to try.

John Fleck is a big boy. If can't stomach the occasional stupid comment on other people's blogs (or his own, for that matter), then I'd say he's selected the wrong line of work.

It has always puzzled me, at any rate, that anyone can be upset by being called meaningless and completely subjective (silly, really) terms like "idiot" on a blog.

EliRabett said...

Eli does not intend to go about carrying a censor, but like a bartender or a barrista, while quite happy when heated exchanges break out (people tend to drink and link more), he sees a role for asking folk to take it outside if things get out of hand, and for encouraging them to do so. He also sees the need to comment when the comments get too shaggy dog like.

After all, one of the complaints here is that the rats (Eli got cute mice, Roger got rats) pretty much got the run of the other place.

As to the sensitivity of others, De gustibus non est disputandum, but we ain't gonna swallow any crap here.

Anonymous said...

"Eli got cute mice, Roger got rats"

Roger's Ratskeller?

Perhaps Eli's mice (Mouseketeers?) might challenge Roger's rats to a duel (fitting, no?)

I've been honing my sword -- and poetic -- skills and feel that I am ready for any and all rhetorical jabs.

So let me have at them -- as long as I can keep my anonymask on. (after all, there's a long and noble tradition for that kind of thing, right?)

Anonymous said...

More Pielke wisdom:
From a rapt Audience: A call to Cool the hype

“He’s a very polarizing figure in the science community,” said Roger A. Pielke Jr., an environmental scientist who is a colleague of Dr. Vranes at the University of Colorado center. “Very quickly, these discussions turn from the issue to the person, and become a referendum on Mr. Gore.”

Funny, the same might be said about Pielke himself (who is most certainly not an "environmental scientist", by the way. He's a political scientist and the two have little if anything in common. One is a real scientist. I'll let you look up which.)

EliRabett said...

With regard to the rats vs the mice showdown, being a 60s kind of bunny we propose to make love, not war.

We will outbreed them.

Anonymous said...

Here's a bit of hilarity by someone who undoubtedly does not understand how the "World according to Pielke" works (David Roberts)

"Many of Gore's critics, the piece says, "occupy a middle ground in the climate debate, seeing human activity as a serious threat but challenging what they call the extremism of both skeptics and zealots."

Sound familiar? You just know what's coming next, right? Yup, brace yourselves for Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee:"

EliRabett said...

We call them Tweedle-de-Dum and Tweedle-de-Dummer.

Anonymous said...

Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum,
Were going nowhere, hum-dee-dum,

When Tweedle-Dum to Tweedle-Dee
Said "The middle is the place to be!",

Then Tweedle-Dee to Tweedle-Dum
Said "Look how popular we've become!

"Our phone is ringing off the hook,
And all that cash from your new book!"

Don't look so glum, my Tweedle-Dum,
Let's celebrate and have some fun".

But Tweedle-Dum replied in turn,
"Dear Tweedle-Dee, you never learn."

"Our fifteen minutes is nearly spent,"
"Our day in the sun has came and went."

EliRabett said...

Talent, nothing but talent here.

Anonymous said...

Talent is way over-rated.

Insults get results -- and pay the electric bill.

Just ask Ann Coulter.

By the way, did I mention that Ann Coulter is an idiot?

That was already in google's database, so unfortunately, I can't claim the first ascent (or is it descent?)

How about this one: "Coulter's Hell is Heaven in comparison to Ann"

or "Coulter's Hell has nothing on Ann"

Bet those ain't in google yet.

Anonymous said...

...and if you need any further proof that "insults get results", look at the comment that John Fleck selected to post on his blog -- out of all the reasonable ones above that he could have quoted from.

The fact that Fleck was making fun of the insult makes little difference. He could have simply ignored it (which is what the little kids who make such comments deserve, at any rate).

Anonymous said...

Maybe because there are multiple Steve's but we know what Roger he's referring to, Steve Bloom.