Stolen e-mails report: Scientists in the clear, science solid

July 7, 2010

So far it’s a shut out against the “skeptics” of global warming.*

From Science Insider (the AAAS breaking news blog):

The fifth and, so far, most thorough major investigation into the published mails from the University of East Angia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) has given the CRU a relatively clean bill of health. (See the full report.) The independent inquiry into so-called “Climategate”, instigated by UEA and headed by former civil servant Muir Russell, examined the conduct of the CRU scientists following allegations sparked by the so-called “Climategate” e-mails. It looked at selective use of data, subverting of peer review, and failure to respond fully to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The report was unequivocal in its backing of the scientists in terms of research integrity, though it did criticize their openness. “Their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt,” it said. In response to the assertion that CRU had withheld data, the report found that it was mostly not theirs to withhold but was easily accessible in public databases. One of the report’s authors, physicist Peter Clarke of the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, told a press briefing today that they were able to download the relevant data “in a few minutes” and then process it in the same way as CRU had done, producing similar final results. “It took a couple of days of code writing,” he said. The authors found no evidence of bias by CRU in its selection of data. Allegations of misuse of tree ring data were also put aside.

Some of the 1000 e-mails that appeared on the Internet suggested that CRU Director Phil Jones had tried to influence peer review of papers he disagreed with and prevented them from being cited by reviews of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

On the subject of peer review, Russell said that expressing “robust opinions [about papers] was typical during peer review.” And after consulting with editors of the IPCC report, the panel concluded that the CRU scientists were “parts of teams and not individuals responsible for the wording of the reports,” Russell says.

Where the CRU scientists did fall down was in their openness to requests for data. “There was a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness,” Russell says. And the report criticizes UEA for failing to recognize its statutory requirements under the FOIA and also the risk to the reputation of the university and to the credibility of U.K. climate science. Panel member James Norton said that “now more than ever scientists need to be open. Scientists don’t own their own data and at most have a temporary lease.”



*  They’ve complained about being called denialists — maybe we should start calling them “gullibles,” especially since they seized on the thin reed of these stolen e-mails to claim that the victimized scientists were the ones who had done something wrong, since they fell for the fourth-grade science project hoax, and since they fell for the Spanish bomb-in-the-mail hoax.

Chess games of the rich and famous: House Speaker Joe Cannon vs. Congress

July 7, 2010

Cartoon - Cannon, Joe, The Poltiical Chessboard, Harpers 2-05-1910 - 3b23316r

The Poltiical Chessboard, Harper's Magazine, February 5, 1910, by E. W. Kemble - Library of Congress image

Description from the Library of Congress:

Joseph Cannon playing chess with straw man labelled “Congress,” using toy men on chessboard with squares labelled “important committee” and “freak committee.”

Legendary House Speaker Joe Cannon — after whom the Cannon House Office Building is named — is remembered for the almost absolute power he held over the House of Representatives.  Here’s the generic description at Wikipedia:

House Speaker Joseph G. Cannon - Wikimedia image, photo from October 1915

House Speaker Joseph G. Cannon - Wikimedia image, photo from October 1915

Cannon wielded the office of Speaker with unprecedented power. At the time of Cannon’s election the Speaker of the House concurrently held the chair of the Rules Committee, which determined under what rules and restrictions bills could be debated, amended, and voted on, and in some cases whether they would be allowed on the floor at all. As such, Cannon effectively controlled every aspect of the House’s agenda: Bills reached the floor of the house only if Cannon approved of it, and then in whatever form he determined—with he himself deciding whether and to what extent the measures could be debated and amended.

Cannon also reserved to himself the right to appoint not only the chairs of the various House committees, but also all of committees’ members, and (despite the seniority system that had begun to develop) used that power to appoint his allies and proteges to leadership positions while punishing those who opposed his legislation. Crucially, Cannon exercised these powers to maintain discipline within the ranks of his own party: the Republicans were divided into the conservative “Old Guard,” led by Cannon, and the progressives, led by President Theodore Roosevelt. His committee assignment privileges ensured that the party’s Progressive element was essentially powerless in the House, and his control over the legislative process obstructed progressive legislation.

Progressives wished to break Cannon’s ability to control so completely the flow of legislation.  By early 1910, progressives in the Republican Party especially chafed under Cannon’s rule.  Anxious for revolt, they struck on March 17, just a few weeks after this cartoon appeared.

On March 17, 1910, after two failed attempts to curb Cannon’s absolute power in the House, Nebraska Representative George Norris [of Nebraska] led a coalition of 42 progressive Republicans and the entire delegation of 149 Democrats in a revolt. With many of Cannon’s most powerful allies absent from the Chamber, but enough Members on hand for a quorum, Norris introduced a resolution that would remove the Speaker from the Rules Committee and strip him of his power to assign committees.

While his lieutenants and the House sergeant-at-arms left the chamber to collect absent members in attempt to rally enough votes for Cannon, the Speaker’s allies initiated a filibuster in the form of a point of order debate. When Cannon supporters proved difficult to find (many of the staunchest were Irish and spent the day at various St. Patrick’s Day celebrations), the filibuster continued for 26 hours, with Cannon’s present friends making repeated motions for recess and adjournment. When Cannon finally ruled the resolution out of order at noon on March 19, Norris appealed the resolution to the full House, which voted to overrule Cannon, and then to adopt the Norris resolution.

Cannon managed to save some face by promptly requesting a vote to remove him as Speaker, which he won handily since the Republican majority would not risk a Democratic speaker replacing him. However, his iron rule of the House was broken, and Cannon lost the Speakership when the Democrats won a majority later that same year.

Instead of the Speaker’s wishes, committee assignments and chairs were selected by a seniority system.

Cannon lost his seat representing Illinois in the progressive tide of 1912, but regained it in 1914, and served another four terms in the House, to 1922.

I have found no information on whether Cannon actually played chess.

Norris’s star was on the rise at the same time.  Though he supported Theodore Roosevelt in the election of 1912, when Roosevelt bolted the Republican Party and ran as a Progressive or “Bullmoose Party” nominee for president, Norris stayed with the Republican Party and won election to the U.S. Senate in 1912.

Norris became an isolationist, and was one of six senators to vote against the declaration of war in 1917 that pushed the U.S. into World War I.  Norris also opposed the Versailles Treaty, and played an important role in keeping the treaty from U.S. ratification.  He supported Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal Reforms a decade-and-a-half later, and one of the early dams of the Tennessee Valley Authority is named for him.  Norris’s role in the New Deal, and in pushing progressive reforms well into the 20th century, is not fully appreciated, for example:

In 1932, along with Rep. Fiorello H. La Guardia, Norris secured passage of the Norris-La Guardia Act, which outlawed the practice of requiring prospective employees not to join a labor union as a condition of employment (the so-called yellow-dog contract) and greatly limited the use of court injunctions against strikes.

A staunch supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, Norris sponsored the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933. In appreciation, the TVA Norris Dam and a new planned city in Tennessee were named after him.[3][4] Norris was also the prime Senate mover behind the Rural Electrification Act that brought electrical service to under-served and unserved rural areas across the United States.

Switching to the Democratic Party in 1936 when the Republicans fell into the minority, Norris generally supported New Deal efforts but did not fear to oppose ideas he found unworthy, regardless their source or party connection.  His opposition to President Franklin Roosevelt’s “court packing” plan helped smother the idea.  Norris finally lost election in 1942.  Norris is one of eight U.S. senators profiled in John F. Kennedy’s book, Profiles in Courage.

Another study on human health and DDT: ADHD linked to DDT and other pesticides

July 7, 2010

Extravagant and way-too-enthusiastic claims that DDT is “harmless” to human health keep getting marginalized by new studies on the topic.

This week the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported another study that links DDT to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, “Increased Risk of ADHD Associated With Early Exposure to Pesticides, PCBs.”

I don’t have a full copy of the report yet.  Here is what is publicly available for free:

Individuals who are exposed early in life to organophosphates or organochlorine compounds, widely used as pesticides or for industrial applications, are at greater risk of developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to recent studies. Previous studies had linked ADHD with very high levels of childhood exposure to organophosphate pesticides, such as levels experienced by children living in farming communities that used these chemicals. But a recent study using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that even children who experience more typical levels of pesticide exposure, such as from eating pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables, have a higher risk of developing the disorder.

JAMA. 2010;304(1):27-28.

Many of the chief junk science promoters will ignore this study, as they ignore almost all others — Steven Milloy, Roger Bate, Richard Tren, CEI, etc., etc.  How often does the junk science apple have to hit people before they figure out these people are malificent actors, when they claim DDT is harmless and we need more?

See also:

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