Sunday, November 1, 2009

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Meet trash journalist Keith Kloor

Posted: 01 Nov 2009 08:34 AM PST

Friends, Rommans, countrymen, lend me your ears….

One of the oldest rhetorical tricks is to emphasize a point by pretending to deny it.

This notion is so core to rhetoric that the ancient Greeks even had a few related figures of speech named for it — most broadly, apophasis (from the Greek word for "to deny"), the figure of speech that stresses an idea or image by negating it. As Shakespeare has Marc Antony say to the Roman citizens in the "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" speech after Caesar's assassination, "Sweet friends, let me not stir you up to such a sudden flood of mutiny." He wants — and gets — a mutiny.

There is a related figure, Paralipsis, which Wikipedia describes this way:

Paralipsis, also known as praeteritio, preterition, cataphasis, antiphrasis, or parasiopesis, is a rhetorical figure of speech wherein the speaker or writer invokes a subject by denying that it should be invoked. As such, it can be seen as a rhetorical relative of irony.  Paralipsis is usually employed to make a subversive ad hominem attack.

The device is typically used to distance the speaker from unfair claims, while still bringing them up. For instance, a politician might say, "I don't even want to talk about the allegations that my opponent is a drunk."

… Proslepsis is an extreme kind of paralipsis that gives the full details of the acts one is claiming to pass over; for example, "I will not stoop to mentioning the occasion last winter when our esteemed opponent was found asleep in an alleyway with an empty bottle of vodka still pressed to his lips."

Paralipsis was often used by Cicero in his orations, such as "I will not even mention the fact that you betrayed us in the Roman people by aiding Catiline."

This is all by way of introduction to one Keith Kloor, who week in and week out trashes climate bloggers, including me, often parrotting the disinformation of Roger Pielke, Jr., "the most debunked person in the science blogosphere."   Since his blog is obscure, I have ignored him until now, and plan to do so again in the future.  But Nature's climate blog has started running articles by him [which is no great claim to serious journalism -- one of the first Nature blog posts was by Pielke himself, and Lambert (aka Deltoid) writes a must-read debunking of it here (be sure to read the comments)].

[Note:  If you want to email the editors at Nature about Kloor, I provide contact details below.]

As a result, I looked at Kloor's website and saw that he went after my parents with the clever rhetorical smear:

I suspect that Romm is trying to rationalize his own behavior with the kind of lazy practice that perhaps happened with regularity in a past era–maybe even at the Times Herald Record in the 1960s and 1970s, which is where Romm first learned all about journalism, when his parents were at the helm of that Hudson Valley paper. But I wouldn't want to impugn his parents' legacy or that paper's reputation with such an accusation. Maybe I'll just call up some old friends who worked at that fine paper in recent years….

I dealt with the substance of the issue Kloor is commenting on here — "Anatomy of a debunking: Caldeira says Superfreakonomics is "damaging to me because it is an inaccurate portrayal of me" and filled with "many" misleading statements. Dubner continues to make false statements, parroted by Pielke and Morano. DeLong urges authors to "abjectly apologize" for the chapter."  And I discussed it further here, where I solicited the feedback of a real journalist — Bloomberg interview of Dubner and Caldeira backs up my reporting on error-riddled Superfreakonomics. Dubner is baffled that Caldeira 'doesn't believe geoengineering can work without cutting emissions.' While I have never claimed to be a professional journalist — and I was acting as a both a blogger and expert colleague of Caldeira's who was, among other things, expressing outrage in a private email at how his work was misrepresented following a recent email interview on the exact same subject — what I did once is what many journalists do today routinely (much more so than in the past, in fact, especially in radio and TV news).  As I've said, it was a unique case and in retrospect I would do it in the manner Pooley suggested.

But what Kloor does routinely in his public blog is what no serious journalist in the world does even once. I am quite sure you will be shocked both by what he regularly writes on his blog and even more that he would actually try to pass himself off as a serious journalist, as someone who is in a position to lecture anyone else on what journalistic practice is.  I would have ignored him, as I have done for months now, but for his attack on my parents, including my late father, which is simply beyond the pale even in the tough to-and-fro of the blogosphere.

As you can see in the excerpt above, he cleverly smears my parents with apophasis/paralipsis, the rhetorical device which literally gives him "deniability."  But a smear it is.  He has no knowledge whatsoever of any bad journalistic practices at that paper — in fact both of my parents were award-winning journalists — but simply hypothesizes that they may have done something "with regularity" that he views as "lazy practice."  As we'll see, one sure fire way to know that you are practicing good journalism is to be attacked by Kloor.  Kloor's blog posts this year prove he is an anti-journalist, the Glenn Beck of bloggers.

Note that in the above quote, he even threatens to try to dig up some dirt on my late-father and his paper, which again, is just far, far beyond the pale of acceptable practice even on the blogosphere.

But as outside the mainstream this attack was, it's actually standard operating procedure for Kloor.

On October 18, Kloor suggested Michael Tobis is "delusional."

On October 17 Kloor wrote:

More proof that environmentalists can't chew gum and talk about climate adaptation at the same time comes in this post from David Roberts at Grist.

The cognitive dissonance from this crowd continues to amaze me.

Note the broad brush smear that all environmentalists are morons.

As is typical of Kloor, Roberts wasn't even talking about adaptation.  He was merely stating the obvious (in pictures), that "The idea that sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere will save us is akin to the hope that a math equation can be solved by erasing one of the numbers."  As an aside, as I've written many times, even one wedge of carbon capture and storage — under 1/10th of the total solution — represents a flow of CO2 into the ground equal to the current flow of oil out of the ground. It would require, by itself, re-creating the equivalent of the planet's entire oil delivery infrastructure (see "How the world can (and will) stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution").  And Roberts' point was we have all lot of other problems besides climate change.

On October 9, I wrote of Obama's Nobel Peace Prize award, "Obama and his international negotiating team led by Secretary of State Clinton have helped create the first genuine chance that the entire world will come together and agree to sharply diverge from the catastrophic business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions path.  This award simultaneously acknowledges what they have achieved and pushes them and the world toward delivering on Obama's promise.  It is well deserved." Kloor quotes those words and writes:

It's all about politics with Romm, which if he was honest, he would at least own up to in this case. He knows the award isn't deserved; any sane person can see that.

This from a guy who criticized me by saying "That's not how reputable journalists operate–we don't set out to deliberately trash people."  That's all he does is trash me and Roberts and Tobis and our "crowd."

This from a guy who brags in his blog "I've been an adjunct journalism professor."

For the record, here is Zbigniew Brzezinski, who "served as national security adviser to President Carter and is now a counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies" on PBS's News Hour the same day:

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Dr. Brzezinski, I'm going to start with you.  What was your reaction?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, I feel he definitely deserved it, but he also has to earn it.

WOODRUFF: Definitely deserved it. Why?

BRZEZINSKI:    But also has to earn it.  He deserves it because, in the course of less than a year, he really has refined America's relationship with the world. He has grandly improved America's image in the world. He has committed America to a series of policies designed to resolve conflicts and to deal in a non-unilateral fashion with key issues. And he has committed America to grand goals in the area of nuclear weaponry, global problems and so forth.  You know, if you consider that this has taken place in the course of just several months, that's a tremendous accomplishment for the most powerful state in the world, to have its total posture changed, redefined, improved, more idealistic.

Huh.  Woodruff didn't say Brzezinski was dishonest and insane.  I wonder why.  Maybe she's a real journalist.

Note that Brzezinski pretty much said exactly what I said.  Obama deserved it, but now he has to deliver.  Anyone can disagree.  This isn't climate science, just an opinion.

Day in and day out, Kloor just trashes people who disagree with him.  In some cases merely for expressing an opinion, as I did here.

Now I use tough language — though mostly for people demonstrably pushing scientific disinformation and in any case not the beyond-the-pale trash talk Kloor routinely does — but then I don't claim or aspire to be professional journalist as Kloor laughably does.  I view myself as a champion for climate science.  I also try to imagine what future generations would say and then dial that language back maybe 50% — since I rather expect they'll be violently cursing our names for decades if we listen to the likes of Kloor.   Unlike Kloor, however, who spends the majority of posts in fact-free trash talk, I spend the overwhelming majority of my posts actually reporting on climate science, solutions, and politics.  But he's the "journalist."

In Kloor's brand of trash journalism, misrepresentation is standard operating procedure.  He writes:

At any rate, one of Romm's constant themes at Climate Progress is that the mainstream media is incompetent and unscrupulous when it comes to climate reporting.

That half truth is another clever smear.  Yes, a constant theme of CP is that much (though not all) of the mainstream media is "incompetent" when it comes to climate reporting.  But "unscrupulous"?  That's a very strong word –  a Kloor-type word.  I don't think I've ever accused a member of the mainstream media of being devoid of scruples.  I certainly don't think the mainstream media is unscrupulous when it comes to climate reporting (and I don't count Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh in the MSM).  In any case, if it's a constant theme, Kloor should have no difficulty finding 10 examples.  But he can't because the charge is just another false smear.

The above quotes are but a fraction of the trash journalism you can find on Kloor's site.  Rather than subjecting you to any more, let me just end with the clearest evidence that Keith Kloor is not a serious journalist, unless you count the likes of Glenn Beck.

On August 12, in a big wet kiss titled "Morano Bridges the Climate Divide" (whose opening line is "Yes, you read that right"), Kloor writes:

If you think the public discussion of climate change is best served by a free flowing exchange of information and perspectives, then Morano's Climate Depot is one of your gateways, like it or not.

Yes, you read that right!

Kloor is praising the latest disinformation-fest of the guy who was the first to publish the Swift boat smear against John Kerry, the guy who was "previously known as Rush Limbaugh's 'Man in Washington,' as reporter and producer for the Rush Limbaugh Television Show" (thank you SourceWatch), the guy who was the right-hand disinformer for Inhofe — a Senator so out-of-the-mainstream even the Washington Post mocked him as "the last flat-earther," — the guy who routinely makes stuff up and misrepresents scientists' work, as I (and others) have repeatedly shown (see, for instance, Scientist: "Our conclusions were misinterpreted" by Morano, CO2 — but not the sun — "is significantly correlated" with temperature since 1850 and Inhofe and Morano keep making stuff up, this time utterly misquoting Revkin on Hansen).

Morano keeps smearing serious reports by just making up stuff, writing recently, "Why does Eilperin fail to note that a top UN IPCC scientist, Mojib Latif of Kiel University in Germany told a UN conference earlier this month that he is now predicting global cooling for several decades…."  The answer is that Morano's assertion is an outright falsehood (see here).

For more, see ConWebWatch's "Lies, Conservatives and Statistics: Marc Morano's Fantasy."

But for Kloor, Morano is just helping us all develop a "healthy habit" by being "a true news aggregator" — when in fact over 90% of Morano's links are to disinformers and deniers and outright smear-jobs.  His occasional links to genuine climate science blogs are primarily to mock them.

Oh but it gets better, which is to say shockingly worse.  On September 15, Kloor actually criticizes Morano, "He exploits everything–even a noble man's death– to score cheap points for his side."  Duh.  But quickly goes on to say:

Look, I'm already on record about the value of Morano's site. I also get a ton of traffic every time he links to me; I'm glad when it happens because as I have argued, he has a constituency that I think is important to communicate with. Let me also say I have a soft spot for him. The guy is unfailingly congenial and polite. And he has a sense of humor.

Tell that to John Kerry.  Or Murtha.  Or the hundreds of serious climate scientists who Morano and Inhofe have repeatedly smeared over the years for doing nothing more than trying to inform the public about the dangers of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions.  Or the countless environmentalists whose tireless efforts to avert catastrophe have been met with lie and lie after lie.

Tell that to the billions of people whose lives will be needlessly ruined if policymakers and opinion leaders actually believe the disinformation and misrepresentations that Morano pushes day after day after day.

Morano isn't "communicating" with his "constituency" — he is feeding them a pack of lies.

Oh, but Morano links to Kloor and drives traffic to him.  And Morano makes him laugh!  And apparently he's not rude to Kloor.  Why should he be?  His BFF Keith Kloor serves a useful function as a third party source who misrepresents and smears the people he disagrees with, so Morano can link to him approvingly without having to spend the time himself misrepresenting and smearing.

Where the heck do they teach that in journalism school?  Is that what they teach at the University of Colorado's Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he was a Fellow "during the 2008-2009 academic year"?

Oh, I almost forgot, Kloor himself has taught journalism or, I think it's more accurate to say, anti-journalism.  He has no business whatsoever holding himself out as an arbiter of good journalism.  Quite the reverse.  He is a model of what not to do.

So if you've ever been attacked by Kloor, take it as a badge of honor.

NOTE:  If you have questions for the editors at Nature as to why Kloor is writing for their Climate Feedback blog, you can email Olive Heffernan, who runs the blog.  Her email is conveniently listed by Nature here:  o.heffernan [ at ]  You might want to cc Nature's Editor-in-Chief, Philip Campbell, whose email address has the same form, as Google reveals.  And heck, if you think having Kloor write for their blog enhances Nature's reputation, go right ahead and tell them that.

Honey, I shrunk the GOP, Part 4: Moderate GOP candidate yields to angry conservative. Gingrich says if this keeps up, "we'll make Pelosi speaker for life and guarantee Obama's re-election."

Posted: 01 Nov 2009 05:21 AM PST

Honey, I shrunk the GOPWe've seen how GOP conservatives want to cleanse their party of moderates — see "Honey, I shrunk the GOP, Part 1: Conservatives vow to purge all members who support clean energy or science-based policy."  Even Lindsay Graham (R-SC), an American Conservative Union "Senate Standout," among the 20 most conservative U.S. Senators in 2008, is being attacked for even daring to engage in bipartisan efforts to solve our climate and energy security problem (see Teabaggers try to "flush" Graham out of GOP, calling him "traitor" and "RINO" and "wussypants, girly-man, half-a-sissy"; Graham responds, "We're not going to be the party of angry white guys").

Well, Senator, not only does Glenn Beck say "I'm going to stick with the angry people," Mike Pence, chair of House GOP Conference, sides with Beck (see here).

If you need it further proof that there's a growing purity test for GOP nominees for national office, that the angry people are taking over the party, consider this bombshell from New York:

A moderate Republican whose candidacy for an upstate New York Congressional seat had set off a storm of national conservative opposition, abruptly withdrew on Saturday, emboldening the right at a time when the Republican Party is enmeshed in a debate over how to rebuild itself.

The candidate, Dede Scozzafava, said she was suspending her campaign in the face of collapsing support and evidence that she was heading for a loss in a three-way race on Tuesday involving Douglas L. Hoffman, running on the Conservative Party line, and Bill Owens, a Democrat.

As TP reports, "big tent" and "establishment" Republicans — such as Gingrich, the RNC, and the NRCC — backed Scozzafava whereas "purists" — such as Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, and Bill Kristol — backed Hoffman.

What test did Scozzafava fail:

Ms. Scozzafava had been under siege from conservative leaders because she supports gay rights and abortion rights and was considered too liberal on various fiscal issues.

Hoffman, on the other hand, is one angry guy, as this NY Post op-ed he wrote last week makes clear:

Taxes, the deficit, red tape and regulation are breaking the back of the nation, mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren.

Americans have had enough and are vocalizing their anger in town hall meetings and on the streets of Washington. They are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore!

That's why I am running. I am one of them!

Yes, he's one of the angry few.

This is the political story of the week with huge implications for climate action and the entire progressive agenda.  In the very short term, it may make it difficult for some "moderate" Republicans to engage in a serious bipartisan effort to preserve a livable climate and end our dependence on oil (see "Honey, I shrunk the GOP, Part 3: RNC Chair Steele withdraws support for Rep. Kirk over his vote on climate and clean energy bill").

The pressure on Lindsey Graham will no doubt continue to be enormous, though at least in his case he's not up for reelection until 2014.  Fortunately the few remaining moderate environmental voices in the Republican Party are speaking out for him (see here).  If you want to thank Lindsey Graham for reaching across the aisle to address the climate problem (click here).

In the medium term, however, the GOP's internecine warfare is almost certainly a good thing for progressives, as even Newt Gingrich understands:

Yet other prominent Republicans expressed concern that Ms. Scozzafava's decision seemed likely to unsettle the party going into next year's midterm elections, raising the prospect of more primaries against Republican candidates that they deem too moderate. Party leaders — including Mr. Steele and Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker — had argued that local parties should be permitted to pick candidates that most closely mirror the sentiments of the district, even if those candidates vary from Republican orthodoxy on some issues.

"This makes life more complicated from the standpoint of this: If we get into a cycle where every time one side loses, they run a third-party candidate, we'll make Pelosi speaker for life and guarantee Obama's re-election," said Mr. Gingrich, who had endorsed Ms. Scozzafava.

"I felt very deeply that when you have all 11 county chairman voting for someone, that it wasn't appropriate for me to come in and render my judgment," he said. "I think we are going to get into a very difficult environment around the country if suddenly conservative leaders decide they are going to anoint people without regard to local primaries and local choices."

Ms. Scozzafava, a state assemblywoman and former small-town mayor, was nominated this summer by Republican county leaders who quickly found their choice second-guessed by the party's conservative wing. Many officials in the district, a vast expanse from the Vermont border through the Adirondacks to Lake Ontario, were deeply resentful of the outside involvement.

"They're trying to bang 435 elections across the United States into the same mold," said James Ellis, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party. "It's a detriment to democracy."

Yes, it's true, that the effort by Rahm Emanuel and other Democratic leaders to build up a working majority by reaching out to moderate candidates means that progressives don't always get precisely the legislation they'd write by themselves.  But the point is, without a working majority, you don't get to write legislation at all, and you'd certainly never end up with the biggest increase in clean energy funding in U.S. history — bigger than all of the previous increases combined.

If Obama is a two-term president and we can maintain working majorities throughout both terms — then we have a serious chance of making the transition to a clean energy economy and averting catastrophic global warming.  Thanks to the angry conservatives, that outcome just became a bit more likely.