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Charlie Martin

Charlie Martin writes on science, health, culture and technology for PJ Media. Follow his 13 week diet and exercise experiment on Facebook and at PJ Lifestyle
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Colorado Voter Follies

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin
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“Vampire Capital” Okay, Unless You’re Romney

Thursday, May 24th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

A local news site, Complete Colorado, has an interesting story today:

Former Denver Mayor and Obama National Campaign Co-chair Federico Peña has a résumé surprisingly similar to Mitt Romney’s.

President Obama continues to hammer presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney on his record with Bain Capital. In a fundraiser on Wednesday in Denver, the President continued to push the “Venture Capital Vampire” theme saying, “What Gov. Romney doesn’t seem to get is that a healthy economy doesn’t just mean a few folks maximizing their profits through massive layoffs or busting unions.” ….

Peña has been a partner at venture capital firm Vestar Capital since 2000. And while President Obama has been giving private equity a bad name, both Peña and Vestar managing director James Kelley have made recent contributions to Obama’s re-election efforts.

Visitors to Denver may recall driving down Peña Boulevard, named for Peña, who pushed through the new Denver Airport construction project during his time as Denver’s Mayor.  DIA was budgeted for $1.7 billion but eventually cost $4.8 billion, was conspicuously over schedule, and eventually opened with an automated baggage handling system that didn’t work at the time, and never worked, finally being abandoned.

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New Space Porn: Earthrise from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin
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Life on Mars After All?

Friday, April 13th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

About four years ago, I wrote a piece for PJM on the possibility that evidence was building up for life on Mars.

The evidence I mentioned in that article is the way that there is an unexplained amount of methane, CH4, in Mars’ atmosphere.  More suspiciously, it seems to vary with the seasons, which makes it seem more likely to be biological in origin.  At the same time, I noted that the original Viking landers had had two experiments that appeared to indicate life, and one that was equivocal — leading to the conclusion that there was no life.

This week, a new paper has been published, doing a mathematical analysis of the original Viking data.  That link will lead you to the abstract, which summarized says that they performed a more sophisticated mathematical analysis on the data, and have determined that the experiment “acted like” a biological source, and not like a non-biological phenomenon.

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Mike Wallace Dead at 93

Sunday, April 8th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Story here.

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Twenty UW MDs Sanctioned for Walker “Sick Notes”

Thursday, April 5th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

UW School of Medicine and Public Health disciplined 20 doctors for writing questionable sick notes for protesters last year, newly released records show, with three doctors getting the harshest penalty: fines of up to $4,000 and loss of leadership positions for four months.

“One of the problems is that virtually none of those involved acknowledge that they did anything wrong,” wrote Dr. Norm Fost, head of a medical school investigatory committee that found the doctors seemed to be acting dishonestly, didn’t provide competent care and failed to protect patient privacy.

These, of course, would be the doctors who stood at anti-Scott Walker protests giving “doctor’s notes” to protesting teachers who had cut school for the protest.

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Bristol Palin Kicks Ass and Takes Names

Monday, March 19th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Or at least one name.  And it starts with O:

But here’s why I’m a little surprised my phone hasn’t rung.  Your $1,000,000 donor Bill Maher has said reprehensible things about my family.  He’s made fun of my brother because of his Down’s Syndrome. He’s said I was “f—-d so hard a baby fell out.”  (In a classy move, he did this while his producers put up the cover of my book, which tells about the forgiveness and redemption I’ve found in God after my past – very public — mistakes.)

If Maher talked about Malia and Sasha that way, you’d return his dirty money and the Secret Service would probably have to restrain you.  After all, I’ve always felt you understood my plight more than most because your mom was a teenager.  That’s why you stood up for me when you were campaigning against Sen. McCain and my mom — you said vicious attacks on me should be off limits.

Yet I wonder if the Presidency has changed you.  Now that you’re in office, it seems you’re only willing to defend certain women.  You’re only willing to take a moral stand when you know your liberal supporters will stand behind you.

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The Buddhism Red Herring

Sunday, March 18th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

My colleague J Christian Adams posted about the controversy over the priest in Washington DC who is said to have denied an area woman, Barbara Johnson, communion because she is a Buddhist.

The actual facts of the matter are rather different.

Barbara Johnson wasn’t denied Communion because she “was a Buddhist” but because she was an open and out lesbian. The story about her being a Buddhist and that being part of the issue came up days later, after Rod Dreher publicized a LifeSiteNews story on an academic paper in which she said she was a Buddhist. Even those stories, in their very first paragraphs, say:

(Dreher)The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has suspended the Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, the priest who declined to give an open lesbian communion at her mother’s funeral. In a letter read to parishioners yesterday, an archdiocesan official said that the suspension has nothing to do with the lesbian communion incident, but rather for “engaging in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry.” The church’s pastor added that it had to do with unspecified things Fr. Guarnizo is supposed to have done over the last couple of weeks.


(LSN)Barbara Johnson created a national feeding frenzy after alerting the media that Fr. Marcel Guarnizo had refused to give her the Eucharist because she is a sexually active homosexual.

Emphasis mine, in both. Now, look back at the emphasized phrases: “declined to give an open lesbian communion”; “because she is a sexually active homosexual.”

See where it says “because she is a Buddhist”? No? That’s because it wasn’t about her being a Buddhist.

Now look: I am a Buddhist. I’ve never been a Catholic so my knowledge of these things largely comes from reading The Shoes of the Fisherman when I was about 14, and for that reason I haven’t the veriest clue about when it is or is not appropriate to deny Communion to anyone. (Frankly, to me it all seems like a lot of fuss over a piece of matzoh.)  I suspect, however, that the Buddhist thing got picked up because the Legacy Media realizes that an awful lot of people would answer the statement “DC area lesbian denied Communion” with “Uh, yeah? And?”

I mean, my understanding is that het couples who are “living in sin” can be denied Communion too.  Is it a surprise that a lesbian in an open partnership without marriage would be?

Does the name “Sandra Fluke” ring a bell?  You know, the “Georgetown co-ed” who was “denied birth control by her Catholic university” and who turned out to be a thirty year old activist who was telling a fairly implausible and unsourced story about someone she knows who was denied a particular formulation of hormone pills to treat her ovarian cysts — but who turned a religious freedom question into a controversy over contraception?

The whole Buddhist thing is a media red herring, no doubt because it’s more sympathetic somehow to deny her Communion over her Buddhism than over her lesbianism.

Unfortunately, the conservative blogosphere has run baying after the red herring, not the hare.

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You Can Learn So Many Interesting Things from Obama

Thursday, March 15th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

So, as gas prices in the rest of America head for $5 a gallon, it’s interesting to look at the news.

Especially in Colorado, where gas prices are second-lowest in the country, apparently because we’ve already got a pipeline to North Dakota and Alberta, and natural gas prices are plummeting because we’ve got immense in-state production assisted by a governor who, while a Democrat, is also a geologist and has come down very much on the side of fracking.

In the mean time, recently Obama has been on the stump, saying we can’t drill our way to lower gas prices, because we can’t expect that adding more oil production will drive oil prices down.

“Obviously, what we want to do is to get gas prices as low as we can, as quickly as we can, but the most important thing in order to do that is to reduce our demand on oil,” Obama told WFTV. ….

As for Republicans calling for increased drilling, the president said they are not telling the truth.

“The issue here is not that we’re not drilling enough. The problem is we only have 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves and we use 20 percent of the world’s oil,” he said.

Now, at the same time, he’s pushing various “green” initiatives which he says will help with oil prices by reducing the demand for foreign oil.  And now, he’s planning to release oil from the strategic oil reserve to keep prices down.

So, if I’ve got this right, cutting demand will bring down prices, but adding supply won’t, and drilling or building pipelines to add more production won’t help, but taking oil out of the strategic oil reserve will.

You know, I just don’t think I’ve got the high-level approach.

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A Lesson in Logic

Saturday, March 10th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Long ago and far away, my undergraduate major — one of them, at least — was Philosophy.  Based on having watched too much Star Trek, I took a course in logic. Now, on Star Trek, Spock’s logic was basically a sort of inchoate Stoicism with a lot of “I like what will make the next gag work”, but as I was exposed to real logic, I was hooked.  Eventually that led me to mathematical logic, which turned computer programming from a handy job I was good at into an intellectual obsession, which made me the cranky old hermit I am today — but that’s another story.

But my first Philosophy course was on Rhetoric and Logic, and that was what made me change my major.  There were actual rules for arguments, and they were rules that had clear reasons behind them. Even better, there was a catalogue of common flawed arguments, or fallacies, and seeing those rules made it easier to pick out flawed arguments.

For me, it was a life-changing experience. (Don’t judge.)

One of those fallacies has been much bandied about this week.  The classical name for it is tu quoque, which is the Latin for “and you’re another.”  (Really.)  The problem is, people are misusing it.

Here’s a paraphrase of an argument I’ve seen over and over again, all week, on the Rush Limbaugh thing.

“We shouldn’t bring up the things liberal talkers say about conservative women. What Rush said was indefensible and anyway, just because they say it doesn’t make it right for us to say it.”

Sometimes people explicitly call out the tu quoque making this argument, but in any case the point is to claim it’s tu quoque to defend Rush by pointing out the offenses of the liberal talkers.  The flaw is that tu quoque is to claim “It’s okay that I did this Bad Thing, because those others were doing it too.”  However, I don’t know of anyone who’s defending Rush calling Fluke a slut — not even Rush.

Saying “If it’s bad when someone on our side does it, then it’s bad when someone on the other side does it too” is perfectly valid — and very unpopular.

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If the Bell Tape is “Nothing” Why is the Media Pushing Back So Hard?

Thursday, March 8th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

From Breitbart:

Shameful, embarrassing, and again the question goes unanswered: where was the media four years ago? Why didn’t PBS air the entire footage, uninterrupted, without overdubbing so as to actually hear the remarks? If the video was “nothing,” why did Olgetree hide it? Why now, when the video is presented, does the media feel it has to run defense for President Obama? Why can’t we ask about the relationship between the two men? Why can’t we ask about Bell’s radical thoughts on Critical Race Theory and his filmabout white Americans selling blacks into slavery to alleviate the national debt while Jews stand by? If the footage is “nothing,” then why are they all pushing back so hard?

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DoJ Threatens Apple, Publishers over “Agency Pricing” of e-Books

Thursday, March 8th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Philosophically, I’m not a big fan of the current state of antitrust law, but this is interesting.  The DoJ is threatening Apple and several major publishers with an anti-trust suit.  Wired says:

The DoJ is reportedly concerned that agency pricing — and its uniform adoption by five of the big six publishers, timed with the launch and rollout of Apple’s iBooks — has reduced competition in the industry, with the overall effect of raising e-book prices for consumers. A federal class-action lawsuit filed in August against Apple and the same group of publishers (HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, Penguin Group Inc., and Simon & Schuster Inc.) raised similar concerns, pointing to higher e-book prices as a result of the defendants’ actions. A settlement or lawsuit could either restructure agency pricing or eliminate it altogether.


So what’s agency pricing?  When the Kindle first came out, Amazon uniformly priced them at $9.95, but when Apple started selling e-books, they introduced a model of pricing called “agency pricing”. Steve Jobs said:

We told the publishers, “We’ll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway…” They went to Amazon and said, “You’re going to sign an agency contract or we’re not going to give you the books.”

(The quote is from Walter Issacson’s biography of Jobs and is stolen bodily from Wired.  Yay cut and paste.)

We talked about e-book  pricing just recently, so I’m going to refer you to that discussion for details, but the main point is that when a publisher — Penguin in particular is notorious for this — charges as much or more for an e-book as for their physical book,they’re charging far in excess of their costs; their claim that it costs just as much to produce an e-book as a physical book is nonsense.

Normally, the market would take care of that, and the current flood of indie books is part of the market’s reaction — when an indie published book can make the author more money while costing the reader less, the market is going to naturally more that direction.

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Why Shakespeare Shouldn’t Be a Political Hack

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Sarah Hoyt writes a very good essay:

Why would that identification with current – for any time – political parties/affiliations blunt art?

Because humans are tribal creatures.  ….  Humans are tribal creatures and as such are predisposed to identify ours/not ours.  Writers are human.  ….  If you start using labels and use the labels you identify with, you exclude other people.  Writing from the point of view of the label means, by definition, that the book is going to deal in caricatures.  Caricatures are very well in their place, but the Mona Lisa is not a caricature, nor is every portrait ever painted supposed to be a caricature.  In the same way, though one or two books one reads and likes (when it pulls for one’s side, at least) can be caricatures, we don’t always want to read caricatures.

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The Numbers Say Amazon is On the Writers’ Sides

Sunday, March 4th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

There’s been quite a flurry about Amazon and IDG not coming to terms, with a number of writers thinking Evil Amazon is trying to hurt them.  Sciece Fiction Writers of America have been very involved in this, and have pulled all links to Amazon (unless a book could only be purchased from Amazon)  in support of IDG. You can get details of the whole story various places, starting with Sarah Hoyt here and Amanda Green here.  And full disclosure, I am starting up some ebook lines through Sarah and Amanda’s Naked Reader Press.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t work the numbers.

I’ve been reporting on eBooks versus traditional publishing for years, and I was writing about it predicting a lot of this stuff before the first Kindle came out.

Here are some facts for you:

  1. cost of a traditional book comes down like this: first, the book is discounted 50 percent or more to the bookseller; they get their margin out of that 50 percent. So we *know* the production cost of the book is less than that. In the mean time, the bookseller has to pay for millions of square feet of shelf space, utilities, people doing the shelving, and so forth. We know those costs are substantial, that’s part of why Borders is gone.
  2. based on the major publishers’ financial statements, it appears that of that 50 percent, about five of that percent goes to the writer — when the publisher eventually pays it after the Hollywood accountants get done with it. The publisher has to pay for printing the books and shipping them, which by far dominates their costs. — taking possibly 30 of that 50 percent.
  3. The remainder of their costs involve making up the type and loading up those high-volume presses. Press time is expensive, so they don’t like to do it for small runs. Thus they can’t afford to print a book unless they expect fairly big sales — say 5000 copies. But to get to that point, they need to
  4. design, copy-edit, and set the books. Here’s a clue. A good paperback cover for a midlist book pays the artist between $500 and $1000 . A good copy-edit of a whole book, and the time spent using modern tools to prepare it, is about the same. Total, usually about a grand. Add to that an amortized part of the overhead cost of picking a good book to publish; it’s hard to estimate, but considering what a junior editor, editorial assistant, or first reader gets paid, it ain’t damn much.

That means the cost of typesetting etc per item for 5000 copies is between 5 and 10 cents. Add to that the 35 to 70 cents a copy the author gets for an $8 paperback, and the total cost of the book — as opposed to shipping and selling the pulp brick on which it’s supplied — is less than a dollar for 5000 copies. The pulp brick costs about $2.40 each. And if the sales exceed that first 5000 run, the costs of preparing the book are already amortized; it costs effectively zero. But the pulp brick still costs $2.40 each, and then you have to pay the book seller.

What Amazon did to start was realize that with cheap shipping and centralized storage and packaging — what’s called, together, “fulfillment” — they could buy books with that 50 percent discount, sell them wih only a 20 percent margin instead of 50 percent, and still make a hefty profit, while making it easy for books to be advertised and for people to find them. This was a Good Thing For Authors.

Now, where does IDG come into that? Basically, they present books from smaller presses to bookstores. They’re Amazon as middle man: they take their cut, but they pay for advertising to bulk bookbuyers. They get their cut out of the book stores’ side.

So let’s compare that to ebooks.

Of ALL those steps, something less than 12 percent, INCLUDING THE ROYALTY, is being paid to produce the book contents, and the marginal cost of making and delivering a copy of an ebook is literally one ten billionth yes that’s billion with a B, of that $2.40 for making and shipping the brick.

Also note that IDG has no place in that whole process; the real question here is why IDG should get a cut at all. Their ONLY contribution is in the distribution of the bricks. That’s why they’re called a “distributor.”

Here’s a piece I did on the “agency” model when it was first proposed:http://pjmedia.com/blog/kindle-ipad-macmillan-and-the-death-of-a-business-model/

Here’s what I said then:

Who is going to win? Bet on Bezos. The mainstream publishers can hold on for a while, based on reputation and while e-readers aren’t widely available; there’s still some prestige to being published by a reputable publisher like MacMillan. But eventually, some publisher will realize that a book that would have sold for $29.95 in a physical edition can be sold for the cost of the royalty, plus a small markup for production and administration. Our $29.95 novel would sell instead for $3.95. When that happens, except for coffee table books and an occasional print-on-demand hard copy, the physical book is dead.

SFWA is just playing Monte Python “I’m not dead yet!”

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BREAKING: GM Ceasing Volt Production for Five Weeks

Friday, March 2nd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

At least.

Update: it actually took me a minute to remember that Obama said he wanted to buy one when he left office.

He’d better hurry.

Another update: It’s the media’s fault.

“GM blamed the lack of sales in January on “exaggerated” media reports and the federal government’s investigation into Volt batteries catching fire, which officially began in November and ended Jan. 21,” the Ann Arbor (Mich.) News reported.


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Watch the Other Hand

Monday, February 27th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

I happened to be looking up something else today, and came across a PJM article of mine from just about two years ago, called “Obama’s Stage Magic“.

Here’s what I said:

Watch the other hand. Since the administration took over, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has canceled oil-drilling leases on wide areas of the U.S. that already have known reserves, and the Obama administration is seriously considering making even more of the American West inaccessible for oil production — and lots of other uses — by declaring millions of acres as national monuments. ANWR, with well-known oil reserves, is out, but other areas in Alaska are being opened … for exploration. In fact, even this announcement included the Department of the Interior canceling already pending sales in Alaska so that the areas involved could be made available for exploratory studies. (Got that? The administration canceled pending lease sales and “opened” the area for exploration.)

Just thought it was interesting, now that Obama is claiming that his administration has massively increased oil production and that it’s the nasty old Republicans who canceled the Keystone XL pipeline.

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Bertrand Russell’s Rules for Liberals

Friday, February 24th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin
  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

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Megan McArdle, on Gleick

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Megan has done good work on this from the first, probably better because she’s actually a believer in the CO2AGW hypothesis. Here’s my favorite quote from today:

There’s been a bit of back and forth with some correspondents, asking why I was not outraged about the East Anglia hack? Interestingly, no one has asked me why I wasn’t outraged by the Buffalo reporter who called Scott Walker pretending to be David Koch–which seems to me to be a closer parallel.

There are a lot of answers to that, but the largest is that I am not surprised by leaks–but I was very surprised that a man of Gleick’s stature would take this sort of risk, on such flimsy evidence.

Scientists and journalists are held to higher standards than, say, your average computer hacker. Trust in our work product is dependent on our personal integrity, because it can’t always be verified independently.

Impersonating an actual person is well over the line that any reputable journalist needs to maintain. I might try to get a job at a Food Lion to expose unsafe food handling. I would not represent myself as a health inspector, or the regional VP. I don’t do things that are illegal–at least, not things that are illegal in the stable western democracy in which I live.

Nor would I ever, ever claim that a document came from Heartland unless I had personally received it from them, gotten them to confirm its provenance, or authenticated it with multiple independent sources.

And ethics aside, what Gleick did is insane for someone in his position–so crazy that I confess to wondering whether he doesn’t have some sort of underlying medical condition that requires urgent treatment. The reason he did it was even crazier. I would probably have thrown that memo away. I might have spent a few hours idly checking it out. I would definitely not have risked jail or personal ruin over something so questionable, and which provided evidence of . . . what? That Heartland exists? That it has a budget? That it spends that budget promoting views which Gleick finds reprehensible?

I think Megan’s one missing step is this: he knew he was doing it In A Noble Cause. Humans seem to be capable of nearly any foolishness in a noble cause.

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Peter Gleick Admits He Obtained Fakegate Documents by ‘Deception’, Heartland Responds

Monday, February 20th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Just in, see Andy Revkin’s blog:

Peter H. Gleick, a water and climate analyst who has been studying aspects of global warming for more than two decades, in recent years became an aggressive critic of organizations and individuals casting doubt on the seriousness of greenhouse-driven climate change. He used blogs,congressional testimonygroup letters and other means to make his case.

Now, Gleick has admitted to an act that leaves his reputation in ruins and threatens to undercut the cause he spent so much time pursuing. His summary, just published on his blog at Huffington Post, speaks for itself.

Gleick, in a blog post at Huffington Port, says:

Since the release in mid-February of a series of documents related to the internal strategy of the Heartland Institute to cast doubt on climate science, there has been extensive speculation about the origin of the documents and intense discussion about what they reveal. Given the need for reliance on facts in the public climate debate, I am issuing the following statement.

At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute’s climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute’s apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it.

There may be more to this story, however.  I’ve been aware that there was an very active investigation already in progress, and I can now reveal that it had been narrowing down on Gleick from early on.  I just talked with Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That, who passed this along:

Steven Mosher first noticed language similarities, and language analysis is what led many of us studying the event to conclude Dr. Gleick was the main person of interest. Comparisons of his writing style from language specialists as well as software show strong similarities to the faked document and strongly suggest that he authored it.

On his own blog, Anthony adds:

For the record Dr. Gleick, I am not “anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated” as you suggest. And you have damaged me and my business. I suspect I’ll be seeing you in court to protect my rights, along with many others, sir.

A statement from Heartland Institute is expected momentarily.  I’ve asked DeSmogBlog for comment, but haven’t received a response yet.

Update (21:52 Mountain Time Monday)

While we wait for the Heartland institute statement, Judith Curry makes an interesting point:

Gleick on integrity:

I even referenced his testimony in my uncertainty monster paper.

My first interaction with Gleick was he invited me to speak in an AGU session that he was organizing on the integrity of science, my presentation can be found here.

He has made it known to me via email that he has been displeased with my “behavior.”   I seem to have gotten his goat to have been mentioned in the fake Heartland strategy doc (hard to believe that he didn’t write this).

The irony of it all, this coming from a scientist that has made a particular point about integrity and written many essays and even testified to congress on the subject.

It will be interesting to see how his position on scientific integrity is evaluated in the future.

Update (22:09 Mountain Time Mon)

Heartland Institute has now responded. Here’s the Heartland statement, via Anthony Watts’ blog:

FEBRUARY 20, 2012: Earlier this evening, Peter Gleick, a prominent figure in the global warming movement, confessed to stealing electronic documents from The Heartland Institute in an attempt to discredit and embarrass a group that disagrees with his views.

Gleick’s crime was a serious one. The documents he admits stealing contained personal information about Heartland staff members, donors, and allies, the release of which has violated their privacy and endangered their personal safety.

An additional document Gleick represented as coming from The Heartland Institute, a forged memo purporting to set out our strategies on global warming, has been extensively cited by newspapers and in news releases and articles posted on Web sites and blogs around the world. It has caused major and permanent damage to the reputations of The Heartland Institute and many of the scientists, policy experts, and organizations we work with.

A mere apology is not enough to undo the damage.

In his statement, Gleick claims he committed this crime because he believed The Heartland Institute was preventing a “rational debate” from taking place over global warming. This is unbelievable. Heartland has repeatedly asked for real debate on this important topic. Gleick himself was specifically invited to attend a Heartland event to debate global warming just days before he stole the documents. He turned down the invitation.

Gleick also claims he did not write the forged memo, but only stole the documents to confirm the content of the memo he received from an anonymous source. This too is unbelievable. Many independent commentators already have concluded the memo was most likely written by Gleick.

We hope Gleick will make a more complete confession in the next few days.

We are consulting with legal counsel to determine our next steps and plan to release a more complete statement about the situation tomorrow. In the meantime, we ask again that publishers, bloggers, and Web site hosts take the stolen and fraudulent documents off their sites, remove defamatory commentary based on them, and issue retractions. [Emphasis added.]

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More on Fakegate

Sunday, February 19th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

The Heartland institute folks have now formally responded to the released documents. Here’s the most important paragraph:

1. The Fake Memo document is just that: fake. It was not written by anyone associated with Heartland. It does not express Heartland’s goals, plans, or tactics. It contains several obvious and gross misstatements of fact. Publication of this falsified document is improper and unlawful.

Heartland Institute is now asserting formally and legally that the particular memo is a fraud. DeSmogBlog and others continue to assert it’s not a fake. If they’re wrong, it could be fairly expensive.

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A simple rule

Saturday, February 18th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Here’s a simple rule: if you think one news source is unbiased, and another one is biased, it means you aren’t aware of your own biases.

If you think one person’s disrespect is “speaking truth to power” but another person’s is just impolite, it means the disrespect isn’t what’s bothering you.

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Heartland Institute Responds to Faked Memo

Thursday, February 16th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

In their blog here.

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“Scientific Consensus” doesn’t work? Forge Something

Thursday, February 16th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

You know, I don’t respond to a lot of the climate science news right now.  Partly, I’ve been distracted by other things, but mostly it’s because I just don’t have anything new to say.  Show 130 years of data that says the Sierra Nevada snowpack isn’t actually declining?  Show that the supposed disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers in 2035 (based on a typo, as first reported here at PJM) isn’t happening?

Yeah, its kind of what I expect: the warming crisis “consensus”, always supported with questionable models and piss-poor statistics, is collapsing.

This time, however, we’ve got something new and different.  Starting with the warmenista DeSmogBlog, the popular story this week has been that a Heartland Institute (insert Phantom of the Opera music, pictures of bats, and a reference to the Koch Brothers) “whistleblower” had revealed “Heartland Institute’s budget, fundraising plan, its Climate Strategy for 2012 and sundry other documents (all attached) that prove all of the worst allegations that have been levelled against the organization.”

The only problem?  The closest to a “smoking gun” was forged.

Apparently, someone still smarting about Climategate decided if they didn’t have a counter-Climategate, they’d make one up.

Now, what’s interesting if you look at the first post is that about a half-dozen other warmenista blogs all posted about this at very nearly the same time. Interested observers will note that it took most of November 18th 2009 for the Climategate story to get even around the climate-skeptic blogs. (We at PJM were the first US source to break the story in a major-market blog, and would have been first in the world except we lost our nerve until the BBC had it too.)

It’s almost as if it were co-ordinated.

We’ve asked Heartland for an article on this for PJM.  In the mean time, see Anthony Watts’ blog Watts Up With That for all the details.


megan McArdle at the Atlantic doesn’t buy it either. “Fake but Accurate” anyone?

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Today’s Obama WTF Moment.

Friday, February 10th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

According to The Daily Caller:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior administration officials tell The Associated Press that President Barack Obama on Friday will announce that religious employers will not have to cover birth control for their employees. He will demand instead that health insurance companies be the ones responsible for providing free contraception.

Obama’s abrupt retreat is an attempt to address concerns from Roman Catholic leaders and end an election-year nightmare for the White House. Obama’s Republican opponents have criticized his handling of the issue.

Women will still get access to birth control no matter where they work.

But religious organizations that see contraception as a violation of their faith can refuse to cover it, and insurance companies will then step in.

So churches can buy health insurance and refuse to cover contraception … but their insurance companies will have to cover it anyway?

I’d ask if Obama really thinks we’re all idiots, but the answer is obvious.

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A Stamp for Space Science

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

The Boulder Space Science section of the Southwestern Research Institute announced a petition to support a commemorative stamp to be issued in time for the July 14, 2015 flyby of Pluto [It's a planet, dammit --Ed.] by the New Horizons spacecraft.  That happens to be the 50th Anniversary of the first successful Mariner flyby of Mars, so it’s effectively the 50th anniversary of human deep-space exploration, and will also mean humans have sent our robotic proxies to all the major planets, even if we did redefine Pluto to be a dwarf planet. [Shouldn't that be "Little Planet" to be PC? -- Ed.]

Seriously, these guys at SwRI are my friends, but I really do think that a commemorative stamp is a good idea, and I urge everyone to pop over and sign the on-line petition.

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Gratuitous Self Promotion

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

For those of you who are computer geeks (don’t worry, I won’t give it away), I’ve got a new piece “Less Process, More Discipline” up at Software Quality Connection.

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Rand Paul detained by TSA

Monday, January 23rd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

From the Daily Caller:

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s press secretary Moira Bagley tweeted on Monday that Transportation Security Administration officials were detaining her boss in Nashville, Tenn.

“Just got a call from @senrandpaul,” Bagley tweeted at about 10 a.m. on Monday. “He’s currently being detained by TSA in Nashville.”

Texas Congressman and current Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul – Sen. Rand Paul’s father – placed a post on Facebook about the news as well. “My son Rand is currently being detained by the TSA at the Nashville Airport,” Ron Paul posted. “I’ll share more details as the situation unfolds.”

Ron Paul adds, via Twitter, that the TSA detained his son “for refusing full body pat-down after anomaly in body scanner.”

I’m guessing that Rand Paul was en route to Washington for the Congressional session, in which case the TSA (and therefore the administration) have just violated the Speech and Debate Clause in the Constitution.

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Life on Venus?

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

A Russian scientist is suggesting that their landers may have actually observed life on Venus.

At temperatures higher than the melting point of lead, with sulfuric acid rain, we can be certain it wouldn’t be “life as we know it”.  But then, what is “life” anyway?

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In Which I Admire John Boehner

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Speaker of the House John Boehner takes a lot of abuse, between his opponents the Democrats and his supposed allies in the GOP.  Maybe some of it’s deserved; as I get older and craftier, I’ve started to notice that I often don’t actually know what someone should have done different. (This is a serious job liability for a supposed pundit, but let that pass.)  Mostly, it seems to me that Boehner is a wizard when people like an outcome, and a bum when they don’t.

All well and good.  When we’re making everything into 30 second sound bites, I guess we can’t expect people to look at the long term,

On Fox News Sunday today, though, Boehner said something that I think ought to be mentioned.  Chris Wallace pulled out one of this week’s Democrat talking points: since Congress has only passed 80 laws this session, isn’t Obama justified in complaining abut a “do nothing Congress”?

Boehner answered immediately and with some annoyance “Do we really want to measure Congress by how many laws it passed?  Most Americans think we’ve already got too many laws.”

Just stop and think about it for a moment.  Isn’t that a perfect summary of what’s been wrong with Congress?  That is, the unending desire to do something?  Isn’t it the “true conservative” position that Congress, in general, should leave us the hell alone?

Boehner may or may not be a good Speaker, but I’ll say this: I’m much more confortable with a Speaker whose first impulse is to ask whether Congress really ought to be passing all those laws.

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What Happened Before the Big Bang?

Saturday, January 21st, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

The new philosophy of cosmology.

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Climategate Ratchets Up

Thursday, December 15th, 2011 - by Charlie Martin

Okay, I’ll admit, Anthony Watts wrote me last night about this and I didn’t jump right on it.  But more has happened overnight, and it’s … puzzling.

It started first in the UK yesterday, when the proprietor of Tallbloke’s Talkshop was raided by the UK police and had several laptops seized.  This was followed in the US when the Department of Justice sent letters to WordPress.com asking them to preserve data and logs from Jeff Id’s Air Vent.  The letter making the request is here. These are both blogs that received the first word of the second drop of Climategate emails, and the letter is focused on the time period in which the files were announced.

“Tall Bloke” reports that he’s been told he’s not the subject of any investigation, that the police just want to clone his hard drives and return them.  I don’t know enough about UK law to know if that makes sense; I know that if it were me in the US, I’d want to lawyer up.

I called Kendra Ervin, the DoJ attorney who signed the letter.  At first she said she didn’t know anything about it until I pointed out I had the letter under her signature and had called her direct line, which was in the letter, at which point she said she “couldn’t comment on an ongoing investigation.”  She directed me to the DoJ press office for the criminal investigation group; I’ll be following up with them.

I don’t quite know what to think about this.  Jo Nova thinks it’s an effort to intimidate bloggers; me, I suspect it’s a sort of normal fishing expedition aimed at finding and identifying “FOIA”, the person or group that obtained the emails.  Either way, it’s troubling on First Amendment grounds — it may or may not be a coincidence that there was a recent decision saying bloggers aren’t “journalists”.

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By Jupiter

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 - by Charlie Martin

Notice it’s not rotating as fast at the poles as it does in the middle.

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Tokyo, Then and Now

Sunday, December 4th, 2011 - by Charlie Martin
YouTube Preview Image

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Breaking: Climategate Two

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 - by Charlie Martin

Anthony Watts and Jeff Id — and I don’t know how many others — got links this morning to a new bundle of 170 megabytes (compressed) of new emails from the same old people. Apparently FOIA.org has taken the position that these people are consuming money that could be better used.

I haven’t managed to download the files myself yet (it was 4AM, I was asleep, I’m sorry) but Jeff and others have identified some, ahem, interesting emails. The selections I’ve read so far suggest, again, that the “consensus” is political, not scientific: there is a lot more controversy than we hear about, and in several cases people raise or confirm the same objections that people like Steve McIntyre have been making for years.

It also explains why Michael Mann is so anxious not to have his emails released to Chris Horner.

On temperature reconstruction a la Mann’s “hockey stick”:


any method that incorporates all forms of uncertainty and error will
undoubtedly result in reconstructions with wider error bars than we currently
have. These many be more honest, but may not be too helpful for model
comparison attribution studies.
We need to be careful with the wording I think.

what he [Zwiers] has done comes to a different conclusion than Caspar and Gene!
I reckon this can be saved by careful wording.

Is the PCA approach robust? Are the results statistically significant? It seems
to me that in the case of MBH the answer in each is no


I thought I’d play around with some randomly generated time-series and see if I
could ‘reconstruct’ northern hemisphere temperatures.
[...] The reconstructions clearly show a ‘hockey-stick’ trend. I guess this is
precisely the phenomenon that Macintyre has been going on about.


I’m sure you agree–the Mann/Jones GRL paper was truly pathetic and should
never have been published. I don’t want to be associated with that 2000 year


Because how can we be critical of Crowley for throwing out 40-years in the
middle of his calibration, when we’re throwing out all post-1960 data ‘cos the
MXD has a non-temperature signal in it, and also all pre-1881 or pre-1871 data
‘cos the temperature data may have a non-temperature signal in it!


Now, you Keith complain about the way we introduced our result, while saying it
is an important one. [...] the IPCC curve needs to be improved according to
missing long-term declining trends/signals, which were removed (by
dendrochronologists!) before Mann merged the local records together. So, why
don’t you want to let the result into science?

I am afraid that Mike is defending something that increasingly can not be
defended. He is investing too much personal stuff in this and not letting the
science move ahead.


One problem is that he [Mann] will be using the RegEM method, which provides no
better diagnostics (e.g. betas) than his original method. So we will still not
know where his estimates are coming from.

PJM Flashback: Three Things You Absolutely Must Know About Climategate

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Political Quote of the Day

Monday, November 14th, 2011 - by Charlie Martin

“First of all, what you’re contending is not true,” Pelosi said. “Second of all, we are very proud of our record of what happened.” — via Politico

So, apparently, she’s saying “It didn’t happen, and we’re proud we did it.”

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