William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Government Witch Hunt Of Scientists Begins: DOJ To Join In? Update! Inhofe Fights Back

Congressional subcommittee on the Investigation of Proper  Science.

Congressional subcommittee on the Investigation of Proper Science.

Please help publicize this calumny.

Agree with me about this. If—and I only say if—the global-warming-of-doom we have been promised is false, then there is nothing for government to do about it. Yes? (The ability to assent to this proposition will separate the men from the boys.)

The government, then, has a tremendous, almost overpowering conflict of interest in encouraging belief in global-warming-of-doom. Note very, very carefully that it doesn’t actually matter to government if global-warming-of-doom is true, only that a sufficient number of people believe that it is.

Now what would happen if some scientists publicly declared, using argument, equations, and all that standard sciency stuff, that global-warming-of-doom was probably false?

You guessed it. Government would seek to discredit, demean, defrock, and destroy those scientists. The government cannot bear to think of itself as unwanted and unnecessary, and so it must strike with all its might and vigor when challenged.

The witch hunt has already begun, both in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and, if a mysterious character named Gollum is right, then in the Department of Justice, too.

It started with the wholly artificial, politically manufactured attempt to take down the four authors of “Why models run hot“, a paper which challenges global-warming-of-doom based on the commonsense argument that lousy predictions are proof of false theories, and climate forecasts have been routinely lousy. The paper offers a suggestion why the models are lousy. The authors are Lord Christopher Monckton, Willie Soon, David Legates, and me.

The attack on Soon gained traction. True Believers ignorant of physics are trying to have him fired.

Nowhere was the panic clearer than in the opprobrious opportunism of Senators Edward Markey, Barbara Boxer, and Sheldon Whitehouse on the Committee on Environment and Public Works (guess their political party). They issued a press release about how they were going after 100 “fossil fuel companies, trade groups” and “Climate Denial Organizations” for their role in funding research these Senators disliked.

The Senators accused private groups of funding “scientific studies designed to confuse the public and avoid taking action to cut carbon pollution”.

This is either immoral thuggery or these Senators evince a collective mental acuity well below the historical average of that august body. My guess is the former, which is worse. Why? “[D]esigned to confuse the public”. This assumes it is government, not scientists, who gets to define and broker scientific truth. Results other than those amenable to increasing government control are marked as “confusing”; research into areas uncomfortable to regulation are to be made anathema. This is intellectual terrorism.

The government demands the names of every researcher who received funding from an organization on the hit list, how much money they got, copies of private documents, and more (the list is here).

Congressman Raul Grijalva from Arizona, ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, compiled a suspect list of seven scientists, some of whom even support global-warming-of-doom (Roger Pielke, Jr). Grijalva sent letters to the employers of these scientists (example) demanding they turnover material related to “external funding”, which includes “consulting fees, promotional considerations, speaking fees, honoraria, travel expenses, salary, compensation and other monies…that did not originate from the institution itself.”

Enter “Gollum”, a mysterious person who spoofed Soon’s name and who sent us a series of messages. Gollum is how this person alluded to himself, referring to a cryptic poem from The Hobbit.

Before every turn of the screw on Soon, Gollum sent an email gleefully anticipating it. He even knew the names on Grijalva’s enemies list in advance. On the 25th, he emailed “What will presdent [sic] say next? What will department of justice do?”

The president’s actions we already know. Mr Obama recently released a list of “deniers” and asked citizens to “join the team” in “calling” them out. Charming.

Gollum is likely an insider of some kind, perhaps a member of the cult-like Greenpeace, or maybe a reporter who received Willie Soon’s emails, or even a government functionary. At any rate, unlike global climate models, Gollum’s forecasts have never erred. So although his DOJ warning could be bluster, given what we’ve seen elsewhere, it probably isn’t.

Good thing there are still some of us—like we who wrote “Why models run hot”—can do research without funds of any kind. But ironic, is it not, that an “investigation” into the funding of science could get started by a study that used no funds.

Update

Senate EPW Republicans Take a Stand for Academic Freedom

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OKla.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), today led all EPW Republicans in a letter promoting scientific discovery and academic freedom. The letter was sent to the same 107 recipients of letters sent earlier this week by Congressional Democrats to universities, private companies, trade groups, and non-profit organizations, asking for detailed information on funding climate science. As explained in the EPW Republican letter sent today, there is a real concern the Democrats inquiry may impose a chilling effect on scientific inquiry and free speech.

“Rather than empower scientists and researchers to expand the public discourse on climate science and other environmental topics, the [Democrats] letter could be viewed as an attempt to silence legitimate intellectual and scientific inquiry,” said the Senators in today’s letter.

There has been a public outcry in response to the Democrats letters. Noted climate scientist, Dr. Michael Mann spoke of the letters calling them “heavy handed and overly aggressive.” Earlier today the American Meteorological Society warned that the letters sent by Congressional Democrats send a “chilling message to all academic researchers.”

“At the end of the day, those disagreeing with certain scientific findings should judge them based on whether or not they are sound and transparent,” said Chairman Inhofe.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

February 27, 2014

Dear __________,

We write in regards to the recent request for information on your support of scientific research initiated by several of our colleagues in the United States Congress. At the outset, we are deeply concerned the letter calls into question the importance of scientific discovery and academic freedom. Rather than empower scientists and researchers to expand the public discourse on climate science and other environmental topics, the letter could be viewed as an attempt to silence legitimate intellectual and scientific inquiry.

Federal government-sponsored research is good and necessary, but such funding has limits. The federal government does not have a monopoly on funding high-quality scientific research, and many of the nation’s environmental laws require decisions be based on the best scientific information available—not just federally funded research. At the core of American ingenuity are those researchers who challenge the status quo whether in matters of climate, economics, medicine, or any field of study. Institutions of higher-learning and non-governmental funding are vital to facilitating such research and scientific inquiry. Limiting research and science to only those who receive federal government resources would undermine and slow American education, economic prosperity, and technological advancement.

The credibility of a scientific finding, research paper, report, or advancement should be weighed on its compliance with the scientific method and ability to meet the principles of sound science; in short, it should be weighed on its merits. The scientific method is a process marked by skepticism and testing, rather than dogma. If the work can be reproduced and independent experts have a fair chance to validate the findings then it is sound, irrespective of funding sources. Science the federal government uses to support regulatory decisions should also comply with the integrity, quality, and transparency requirements under the Information Quality Act and Office of Management and Budget Guidelines.

Indeed, science is only one criterion we must take into consideration when developing laws and regulations. Credible deliberation requires thoughtful analysis and an understanding of the economy, policy, and legal framework in which we function. Dissenting opinions fostered through the encouragement of all ideas is what truly facilitates intellectual prosperity and political discourse.

The letter you received from our colleagues is a wholly inappropriate effort to challenge these well-accepted truths. We ask you to not be afraid of political repercussions or public attacks regardless of how you respond. Above all, we ask that you continue to support scientific inquiry and discovery, and protect academic freedom despite efforts to chill free speech.

Sincerely,

Sen. Jim Inhofe, Chairman

Sen. David Vitter

Sen. John Barrasso

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito

Sen. Mike Crapo

Sen. John Boozman

Sen. Jeff Sessions

Sen. Rodger F. Wicker

Sen. Deb Fischer

Sen. Mike Rounds

Sen. Dan Sullivan

###

24 Comments

  1. It did NOT start with Willie Soon. This is not just against scientists who are not in lock-step on climate change. There is an entire organization here dedicated to wiping out all opposition to Obama. Lists of climate denying senators to harras until they see light (probably not very tough since Republicans have no spine). This organizations fights gun ownership, climate change, support Obamacare, want illegals to be legal, income redistribution, etc. Most Americans seems very unaware of just how organized this is. This is very, very organized and funded by taxpayers, I would suspect. If it’s not big, it’s made to look very big and official. It will be big soon if not already.
    Add to that the spineless Republicans kissing the POTUS’s backside, and today’s children WILL live under a dictator, in a destroyed America. Everyone just stood there and said it couldn’t happen. Wrong, very very wrong. Now your children and grandchildren will pay the price for inaction. Kerry was wrong—climate change was not the biggest threat: Obama and apathy are.

  2. Note: To those like Briggs and others who did take action, who did write senators, who did call, and who did try, I am not including you in the people who stood by.

  3. But with the Dems in minority how much influence do these jackass senators have?

  4. It’s not only Obama. Romney was beginning warm up to climate change before he pulled out of the race. Time will tell who the GOP candidate will be, but it is nearly certain that he would have evolved on climate change.

    One progressive website has kindly listed the GOP “pro-science” holdouts: http://thinkprogress.org/climate-denier-caucus-114th-congress/

  5. Sheri:

    Kinda gotta disagree.

    The Alarmists were well entrenched, prominent and effective long before Obama (this is NOT to defend Obama). They got some footholds during the elder Bush. Really got traction through Clinton/Gore. The only ground that they may have lost wasn’t even their fault. It was the Clinton “SEX” (and it was “SEX”) scandal that faltered their PR and took everybody’s gaze off them. This may (debatably) have led to Gore’s “chad” loss to the younger Bush but was merely a temporary setback to the Alarmists as Bush the young start capitulating to Alarmiists (the Will of the people). (It didn’t hurt that corporations had skin-in-the-game notably ENRON and its alternative energy – wind turbine – investments – investments mostly acquired by FPL’s NextEra.)

    The Alarmists’ previous entrenchment became precarious only after Climate Gate (2009), where they looked to Obama (the object of derision) to be the standard bearer and shore up the defenses (where the old adage the best defense is a good offense applies).

    You may be right in many ways, Sheri, but the core of ANY problem is NOT apathy, rather self-interest. “What’s in it for me?” or what gets construed as apathy “What’s NOT in it for me?”

    Obama is merely flexing the muscles that every president has slowly acquired since the days when the term became limited to two after FDR. I agree that we have a huge problem which could get larger, but don’t lay it on Obama or apathy.

  6. Don’t forget that most journal articles that countered to received wisdom were shut down in peer review. This has been happening for many, many years. It is something of a minor miracle that “Why models run hot” did get to see the light of day.

  7. “The witch hunt has already begun, both in Congress, the Senate”

    Pet peeve: the Senate is a sub set of Congress, not a separate entity. This should read “both in the House of Representatives and the Senate”.

  8. MattS. Duly noted and corrected.

  9. Leanforwart: Apparently all of it. Republicans just stand there and cave and do whatever the Dems want. As Katie points out, Republicans are often no better than Democrats. They want to be loved by the media, could care less about their constituents in a majority of cases. Thus, the Dems have the power.

    John B(): I agree this started long ago. I’d put it back to the 60’s. The major difference seems to be now these people are taken seriously and hold all the power.

    The core of a problem is “self-interest”. The reason the problem remains is apathy on the part of those about to lose their “self-interests”.

    I did not lay it on Obama exclusively–I was clear he never would have gotten this far is anyone had put up a roadblock along the way. I stand by the apathy–far more damage is being done by the government today than when the original tea party occurred. It’s quite clear people do not care to keep America free or there would action of some kind.

  10. Sheri,

    This organizations fights gun ownership, climate change, support Obamacare, want illegals to be legal, income redistribution, etc. Most Americans seems very unaware of just how organized this is

    Our local charter member hailing from outside the US never seems to be organized but he message is certainly monotonic.

    Add to that the spineless Republicans kissing the POTUS’s backside, and today’s children WILL live under a dictator

    Same thing happened to the Romans but then Julius controlled the army — oh, wait! — so does Obama. One could argue that the ordinary Roman citizen had no choice but, as Johb B() pointed out, the whats-in-it for-me took over. The period following the rise of emperor rule was one of the most prosperous although the prosperity had already begun earlier because of the emperors (a military honorific title incidentally). The everyday Roman was fine with this.

    Unfortunately, a large part of the makeup your “organization” is driven by idealism. Money isn’t their real goal although it works wonders on non-idealists. They aren’t really supporting Obama. Instead, since they emplaced him as their puppet — his best feature, they need to maintain their investment for at least the next couple of years.

    The Republicans do look spineless but 1) they haven’t been given much time and 2) their growing numbers is a fine indicator of the mood of the country. The latter has the Obama-can’t-do-wrong group feeling a bit uncomfortable but they apparently haven’t yet realized their doubling down at this point will lead to their eventual demise.

    Let them do their worst. It may seem they have the advantage but it’s anything but. I note that libertarianism is on the rise with the young. If the Republicans can’t get their act together they might find themselves on the outside looking in along with the Democrats and Socialists.

    The one danger is that libertarianism is itself an idealism. The whats-in-it for-me crowd still needs appeasement. Their class envy isn’t going to magically evaporate. Not a bad thing really, this will help moderate the libertarians. So, I think there’s still hope.

  11. I do believe that Obama has decided to leave office on a high note and try to set up the next US Election as a win for the Democrats.

    The high note in this case being the climate conference in Paris at the end of this year.

    If he can run the agreement or treaty through the us congress / senate and save the planet in the process, that’ll give Hilary are sure win in 2016.

    So look forward to the heat being turned up on ANYONE who strays from the consensus from now until November, the aim being of course not only to shut Soon et al up, but to make sure anyone and everyone else keeps their head well below the parapet.

  12. I thought the reformation of healthcare was supposed to be the president’s legacy.

  13. Dems & Repubs are just a sideshow. It’s the technocracy – the entrenched bureaucracy made up of the alphabet soup of rulemaking executive agencies – the FCC, USDA, FDA, HHS, SSA, EPA, DHS, and yes, even the DOD. These agencies have worked tirelessly to remove the power of government from the legislators and place it into their own so-called capable hands. Centralization of power in Washington, away from where it belongs (in the individual first, the local gov’t second, and a little bit in the state). As said in the British Yes, Minister almost 35 years ago, they view themselves as “a civilized, aristocratic government machine, tempered by occasional general elections.”

  14. It’s clear that these guys aren’t going to stop until they’re able to squelch all dissenting studies and points of view. I guess this is the way these guys think they’ll obtain a true consensus. As someone who has a science education, this is so very sad, as it’s no longer about science – this is a religious pursuit. I honestly can’t believe this is happening in this day and age. It’s beyond embarrassing. This will truly be remembered as one of the lowest points in scientific history.

  15. In regard to Sheri’s thoughts, and as a continuum of my last post, I’m not so frustrated with the politicians (it’s what they do) as I am with the vast numbers of scientists who are scared to death of speaking up in regards to the matter of CAGW. I know there are massive numbers of very educated scientists across this country who will just not take the chance of losing their research funding or being ostracized for saying anything contrary to the current dogma. This latest chapter only validates their reasons for fear. But I know there are many, many very well respected scientists – in many fields of study – who do not buy into the science or the dogma.

    But it’s an episode like this latest McCarthy-esque matter that I hope will start to light a fire under the masses, and create a groundswell of “enough is enough”. I’m certain the numbers and collective voice would dwarf the current Alarmist narrative and its principals. I just hope the bear has been poked enough to warrant such an uprise.

  16. I’ve been warning you that you would be a target for the environmental inquisition because of your heretical climate denial. Just wait until they appoint Al Gore as Inquisitor General. I think he would relish the role of Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor.

  17. I see a recent post at WUWT regarding Inhofe and the EPW letter regarding the Democrats witch hunt. At least there isn’t total silence on the Republican side.

  18. I have to agree with Nate that the bureaucracy is the central problem. We have a government and political party that are one and the same largely. Exacerbating this right now is Mr. Obama having assigned agency heads drawn from the same vindictive, chip on my shoulder, group as he.

    There is a recent analogy to this current idiocy which you can read about in the book by Daniel kevles entitled “The Baltimore Case”. It became so unhinged (lead by John Dingel) that even Science Magazine had to admit the Republicans in Congress had a better understand of the scientific process. Must have really pained them to write such a thing.

  19. Understanding not understand…

  20. DAV wrote:
    >> I see a recent post at WUWT regarding Inhofe and the EPW letter regarding the Democrats witch hunt. At least there isn’t total silence on the Republican side. <<

    DAV, care to comment on Inhofe's 2012 television statement?

    “I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that committee and I first heard about this. I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.”
    – James Inhofe, former Chair of the Senate Environment Committee, talking about global warming on the Rachel Maddow show, 3/16/12, http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/03/16/446008/inhofe-maddow-global-warming/

    This is a tough question — so tough Briggs cannot deal with it being made known. But what do you think?

  21. Briggs,

    Your libertarian friends remain steadfastly on your side: here .

    The state, regardless the nominal party in power, is never the answer.

  22. Matt, your guess: “This is either immoral thuggery or these Senators evince a collective mental acuity well below the historical average of that august body. My guess is the former, …” couldn’t be more wrong. Any group of five or fewer people that contains Senator Barbara (Box of Rocks) Boxer has a mental acuity level well below absolute zero.

  23. Dear Dr. Briggs:

    I read the Grijalva letter yesterday and noticed that its content boiled down to the claim that anyone funded in any way by any person or organization remotely connected to the Koch brothers is thereby proved corrupt and subject to shutdown and social isolation by the forces of right and good. That’s obvious nonsense no matter where you stand on warmism (for my views on which see:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/11/04/warmism-credible-politics-incredible-science/ ) .

    As a first response I left a note for Mr. Watts under his tips and notes heading suggesting that he have someone compare Grijalva’s allegations to the information in a senate minority report on green movement funding – available here:
    http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=8af3d005-1337-4bc3-bcd6-be947c523439

    The senate report is not fun reading – but I’d recommend spending some time on it because it seems both largely credible and frightening in its implications.

  24. Obama is not the problem; he is A symptom. One of many.

    The PROBLEM is that we now live in a country in which a person–and I use the term loosely–like Obama could, and DID, get elected. Twice.

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