Tag Archives: Washington Post

Iron men at the Washington Post

Some classic iron manning from the Washington Post's Ombudsman (via Media Matters and Atrios):

When President Obama has a bad day, or more specifically, on days when the economic news has been bad, I get a slew of feedback from conservative readers that go like this:

“See, you liberal media nincompoops, this is all your fault, you treated Obama like a saint when he was running in 2007 and 2008 and you didn’t vet him, investigate him, report on him skeptically. You were so fawning (and adoring of his blackness), you missed that he was a (pick your adjective), radical, socialist, Muslim, inexperienced, dangerous, corrupt, weak Chicago politician with no track record of accomplishment, whose only talent is giving speeches.”

Those e-mails usually employ much harsher language, and some are filled with expletives.

If you watched the Republican debate Thursday night, you heard a muted version of this criticism of Obama from Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. (Although Ron Paul almost never mentioned Obama, he criticized the entire system of government instead.)

Deborah Howell, Post ombudsman from 2005 through 2008, said at the end of her tenure that “some of the conservatives’ complaints about a liberal tilt [at The Post] are valid.”

I won’t quibble with her conclusion. I think she was right. I read all of The Post’s lengthier, meatier stories on Obama published from October 2006 through Election Day 2008. That was about 120 stories, and tens of thousands of words, including David Maraniss’s 10,000-word profile about Obama’s Hawaii years, which I liked.

I think there was way too little coverage of his record in the Illinois Senate and U.S. Senate, for example, with one or two notably good exceptions. But there were hard-hitting stories too, even a very tough one on Michelle Obama’s job at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

And that’s what The Post needs to do in covering his reelection campaign this year: be hard-hitting on his record and provide fresh insight and plenty of context to put the past three rough years into perspective.

I suppose it's a factual question (to some extent at least) as to whether the Post's coverage of Obama was light on skepticism.  (My guess is that it was as bad as their other work–they pay George Will for petesake).  The funny thing here, however, is the occasion for this moment of self-reflection. 

A person full of conspiracy-driven blather about Obama's race, religion, and socialism (Goldman Sachs style I can only guess) alleges that the Washington Post failed to be skeptical about Obama's race, religion, socialism is for the Ombudsperson a reason to reconsider its coverage of Obama.  Why?  Because he turned out to be a socialist?  Sheesh. 


Richie Rich

In the interst of fairness (perhaps) to those who frankly have a lot of money and influence, the Washington Post provides us with a  mythbusting piece about millionaires.  The first myth, you might be shocked to hear, is the following:

1. Millionaires are rich.

Being rich has gotten more expensive. A $1 million fortune was unusual in the early 19th century. The word “millionaire” wasn’t even coined until 1827by novelist (and future British prime minister) Benjamin Disraeli. In 1845, Moses Y. Beach, editor of the New York Sun, published a small pamphlet called “Wealth and Biography of the Wealthy Citizens of New York City.” The price of admission to Beach’s list, which was wildly popular, was a mere $100,000.

By the time the first Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America was published in 1982, the smallest fortune featured was $75 million. There has been so much wealth creation in the past 30 years — much of it thanks to the microprocessor behind modern-day fortunes such as Dell, Microsoft and Bloomberg — that only billionaires are on the list. Today, $1 million in the bank generates only about $50,000 per year in interest. That isn’t chump change, but it’s roughly equal to the 2010 median household income.

That's the whole entry on that point.  You're not rich if you're not the richest.  Also, I guess, by "milionaire" the author means a person having exactly one million  dollars in the (federally-insured) bank, no other job, no other assets.

Might I suggest someone define "rich" for this guy? 

The Thirty

Sometime soon we'll have a post up about the "Hack Thirty" at Salon.com.  We were surprised that some made the list (B-list hacks) and that some didn't (Charles Krauthammer?  Seriously).  For that reason we wondered about the methodology and the meaning, in the end, of the term "hack." 

One person who didn't make the list but should have place in the top 15 at least was Michael Gerson, former Bush  43 Speechwriter and promoter of unprovoked defensive war. 

Luckily, his most recent column reads as a damning indictment of that exclusion.  For the tl;dr crowd (how many of you is that?  would you have made it at least to here?) he argues that Obama demonstrates the failure of "liberalism" and that certain liberals–whom he stupidly mentions by name (not even George Will would do that)–refuse to admit that, resorting instead to "conspiracy theories" (example of a "conspiracy theory": all of my enemies are plotting against me, forming a three-point axis–I know–of EVIL).

He begins:

Following two years of poor economic performance and electoral repudiation, liberalism is casting around for narratives to explain its failure – narratives that don't involve the admission of inadequacies in liberalism itself.

In the first place, for serious, how could anyone claim that the Obama administration's (financial, oil, military, etc.) industry-friendly policies constitute "liberalism"?

Second, one cannot maintain that "liberalism" has failed because the Democrats lost one of the two representative bodies–they still hold the Senate, the Presidency (and the liberal media of course). 

Enough preliminaries.  Our point here is that Gerson attempts to make the Willian hollow man move–"liberalism" is the key word usually, or "progressivism" (hey look it up in today's Post!).  It basically goes like this.  Mention the word "liberalism," and do not mention the words of any particular liberal–you're not dialoguing with them (that's critical)–and set up a hollow man.  Then engage hollow man, showing hollow man argument to be foolish, liberals as a consequence to be lazy, dishonest thinkers, etc. 

That's how you do a hollow man.  But Gerson foolishly names his opponents  He writes:

So Matt Yglesias warns the White House to be prepared for "deliberate economic sabotage" from the GOP – as though Chamber of Commerce SWAT teams, no doubt funded by foreigners, are preparing attacks on the electrical grid. Paul Krugman contends that "Republicans want the economy to stay weak as long as there's a Democrat in the White House." Steve Benen explains, "We're talking about a major political party . . . possibly undermining the strength of the country – on purpose, in public, without apology or shame – for no other reason than to give themselves a campaign advantage in 2012." Benen's posting was titled "None Dare Call it Sabotage."

So what is the proof of this charge? It seems to have something to do with Republicans criticizing quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve. And opposing federal spending. And, according to Benen, creating "massive economic uncertainty by vowing to gut the national health care system."

These guys (Benen and Yglesias) have very popular blogs, appear on TV, etc., and can respond to Gerson's hollow man–which is now, on account of its first instance distortion, has become representational version of the straw man.  Benen has responded at length.  Here is a brief snippet:

What's more, I'm fascinated by the notion that I'm describing a "conspiracy" — a word Gerson uses four times in his column. I made no such argument. There's no need for secret meetings in smoke-filled rooms; there's no reason to imagine a powerful cabal pulling strings behind the scenes. The proposition need not be fanciful at all — a stronger economy would improve President Obama's re-election chances, so Republicans are resisting policies and ideas that would lead to this result.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wasn't especially cagey about his intentions: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president…. Our single biggest political goal is to give [the Republican] nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful."

Given this, is it really that extraordinary to wonder if this might include rejecting proposals that would make President Obama look more successful on economic policy — especially given the fact that McConnell's approach to the economy appears to be carefully crafted to do the opposite of what's needed? After Gerson's West Wing colleagues effectively accused Democrats of treason in 2005, is it beyond the pale to have a conversation about Republicans' inexplicable motivations?

Read the whole thing here.  In addition to his dishonest representation of the facts, short memory, and general hackishness, Gerson's mistake is naming opponents who can respond (or whose words can be checked).  George Will almost never does that.  It tends to backfire. 

Letters to the editor

A post or two ago I made the claim that columnists and arguers in general ought to have some lattitude in defining their opponent's argument(s).  One only has 750 or so words, so one can't possibly be expected to provide thorough references.  

The breadth of this lattitude, however, ought to be determined by reality.  This means one ought to use the means available to pin the argument to an actual person or institution whose view is under discussion.  In the days of linkage, this is not very hard: online versions of columns can and often do have links.  When you say something about some person x's view, you can write it as a link ot the place where that person says what you say she says.  Once we have these, then we can discuss the degree to which they are representative of the opposition's case.   

The weird thing about this is that you'd also think in the days of linkage the readers' demands for such precision would increase, not decrease.  I don't have empirical data on this, but I think it's decreased.

Fortunately, an alert reader of the Post noticed just this about Charles Krauthammer's most recent hollow and weak men:

In his Aug. 27 column, Charles Krauthammer offered negative generalizations and accusations about "liberals" — referring to their "promiscuous charges of bigotry" and saying that they give "no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument" and resort "reflexively to the cheapest race baiting," without citing as an example one statement from any so-called liberal person or organization. Surely with liberals running amok and using such baseless and terrible rhetoric, he could have cited a few examples to better make his case.

He stated also that liberals have lost the debate on every issue he cited in the court of public opinion by often lopsided margins, without citing any polling data. My reading of the polls on the issues he listed is that public opinion is much more nuanced than he acknowledged.

By his polemical, over-the-top attack on liberals in general, Mr. Krauthammer practiced what he condemned – giving no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument.

Hurray for this reader.  The reader makes another very important observation at the end.  Columnists–right wing ones especially–work dialectically.  They're allegedly trying to convince the unconvinced.  But then again, maybe they're not and maybe that's the entire problem. 

I admire those who are wrong

The other day the Washington Post published a piece by a professor of politics at the University of Virginia (Gerard Alexander) called "Why are liberals so condescending?" (we discussed it here).  It remains today a few days later one of the most emailed articles on the Post's website, so it's worth looking at it in more detail.  To be fair to this juvenile piece, however, would be a labor of many days, so I'd just like to point out a few quick items. 

First off, the title has the ring of a complex question: that is two questions, one unfairly assumed to get to the other.  What the author ought to establish is whether liberals are more condescending than conservatives (in similar circumstances), or whether liberals are particularly condescending.  Once he established this, then he can ask the follow up question: why are they this way to such a degree (as we have established)?  His failure to understand this elementary logical notion makes me look down on him.

Second, the author is silly.  Not to be an even-hander here, but I think liberals are no less "condescending" than conservatives.  I'd suggest, in fact, that such labels and broad generalizations are really meaningless.  Turns out, in fact, that such equivocal terms were used to great effect by this author.  You see, liberals are one solid group, each one guilty of the sins of the other, while conservatives were always able to avoid group guilt.  Here's an example:

This liberal vision emphasizes the dissemination of ideologically driven views from sympathetic media such as the Fox News Channel. For example, Chris Mooney's book "The Republican War on Science" argues that policy debates in the scientific arena are distorted by conservatives who disregard evidence and reflect the biases of industry-backed Republican politicians or of evangelicals aimlessly shielding the world from modernity. In this interpretation, conservative arguments are invariably false and deployed only cynically. Evidence of the costs of cap-and-trade carbon rationing is waved away as corporate propaganda; arguments against health-care reform are written off as hype orchestrated by insurance companies.

Before I comment on what I wanted to comment on, here and throughout the piece the author doesn't bother to counter the claims against "conservatives."  Perhaps he takes it as self-evident that what Mooney said (in his well-documented–I didn't say "true"–book) is false.  I can think of a couple of Republicans, for instance, whose ignorance of science is concerning.  Here's Republican Senator Jim DeMint on the snowstorm this past week in Washington:

It's going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries "uncle"

I find myself looking down on Jim DeMint, an extremely wealthy, powerful, and capable man for the idiotic thing he said.  It's obvious that he doesn't know jack about the science behind global warming.  This same claim of many other prominent "conservative" and "Republican" leaders and intellectuals. 

Back to what I think I was going to comment on (it's now several hours from when I wrote that line above, so I don't really remember what I was going to say)–Alexander's characterization of Mooney's book disregards its content in order to criticize its form.  This, I think, is a hopelessly dumb and unproductive way of interacting with people with whom you disagree.  Not only does Mooney have an argument, but, judging by the numbskull policies of the last eight years, he might even have a good one.  But you can't really tell that, of course, until you actually look at the argument.  Alexander maintains, of course, that you don't need to look at the argument, because he knows what it says.  That, I think, is just what Mooney was complaining about.

No doubt, as I've said many times before, many liberals condescend to conservatives.  Many conservatives condescend to liberals.  The narrative, however, is that liberals are intellectual snobs, when conservatives are not.  I think that's hardly the case as a matter of fact.  It's also almost a matter of logic (I said "almost") that when you say someone's view is wrong, you're bound to appear snobby to them.  Especially when that person, such as is the case with Alexander here, doesn't seem to know what makes a view right or what makes it wrong.

Straw Obama

Here is an entertaining item from a Washington Post Editorial:

THERE IS, it seems evident, more than enough blame to go around in the botched handling of the botched Christmas bombing. Not for some Republicans. With former vice president Richard B. Cheney in the lead, they have embarked on an ugly course to use the incident to inflict maximum political damage on President Obama. That's bad enough, but their scurrilous line of attack is even worse. The claim that the incident shows the president's fecklessness in the war on terror is unfounded — no matter how often it is repeated.

These critics have set up a straw Obama, a weak and naive leader who allegedly takes terrorism lightly, thinks that playing nicely with terrorists will make them stop, and fails to understand the threat that the United States faces from violent extremists. Mr. Cheney said that the incident had made "clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war." Likewise, Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) called on Mr. Obama to "recognize that we are at war with a murderous enemy who will not relent because we heed political correctness, acquiesce to international calls for deference or close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay." Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano "and the rest of the Obama administration view their role as law enforcement, first responders dealing with the aftermath of an attack. And we believe in a forward-looking approach to stopping these attacks before they happen."

That's an improvement in our public discourse.  They go on to argue, however, that Obama does view the war on terror mainly, though more pragmatically, through the lens of war and violence:

Words first. "Evil does exist in the world," Mr. Obama said in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. "Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms." In his weekly radio speech Saturday, he disposed of the war-vs.-law-enforcement canard, pointing out that in his inaugural address he made it clear that "0ur nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred and that we will do whatever it takes to defeat them and defend our country, even as we uphold the values that have always distinguished America among nations." "

Damning with faint praise.  It's gets more silly, because the Post now praises itself for its tough approach to the Obama administration in the wake of the knickerbomber:

It is possible to disagree with the administration's decision to bring criminal charges against the suspect in the failed airplane bombing, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, although we think that was the proper course. It is possible to fault, as we have, some of the administration's public statements in the immediate aftermath of the attack. And as the president has acknowledged, the incident revealed failures in intelligence and in security screening that must be urgently identified and corrected. The country would benefit from a serious and bipartisan effort in Congress to ensure that the lessons of the Christmas attack are learned. A groundless campaign to portray Mr. Obama as soft on terror can only detract from that effort.

Wondering what statements those are?  Follow that link and you get this:

Finally, it is hardly reassuring to argue, as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano did on ABC's "This Week," that "once the incident occurred, the system worked." The attack was averted because of the luck of a faulty detonator and the quick response of alert passengers. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the president has ordered a review into "did the government do everything that it could have with the information that they had?" The answer to that question seems obvious.

Try to appreciate the sheer inanity of that observation–reaffirmed again a week later: Napolitano argued that <BOLD>ONCE</BOLD> the attack happened, the "system worked."  She did not argue (that's not an argument anyway, that's a statement), that the system for preventing attacks of that nature worked.  The Post, unlike Krauthammer the other day, actually quoted Napolitano correctly.  I don't know what their excuse could be.

The System Worked

Charles Krauthammer, the most dishonest pundit at the Post next to the rest of them, today goes on a rant about Obama's failure to talk tough in the war on terrorism–which, if we know anything from the Bush administration, didn't do much of anything.  Suicidal terrorists, one can imagine, love that kind of stuff.  Anyway, to start of the New Year, and perhaps to demonstrate why Krauthammer–like George Will–is too dishonest for honest criticism, let's take a quick look at today's column.

He writes:

Janet Napolitano — former Arizona governor, now overmatched secretary of homeland security — will forever be remembered for having said of the attempt to bring down an airliner over Detroit: "The system worked." The attacker's concerned father had warned U.S. authorities about his son's jihadist tendencies. The would-be bomber paid cash and checked no luggage on a transoceanic flight. He was nonetheless allowed to fly, and would have killed 288 people in the air alone, save for a faulty detonator and quick actions by a few passengers.

That's a shame she'll be remembered that way, because that's not what she said.  Here is what she actually said:

Once this incident occurred, everything went according to clockwork, not only sharing throughout the air industry, but also sharing with state and local law enforcement. Products were going out on Christmas Day, they went out yesterday, and also to the [airline] industry to make sure that the traveling public remains safe. I would leave you with that message. The traveling public is safe. We have instituted some additional screening and security measures, in light of this incident, but, again, everyone reacted as they should. The system, once the incident occurred, the system worked.

It doesn't take a genius to see that those are completely different things.  Krauthammer has completely distorted her meaning–she wasn't talking about the events antecedent to the attack.  But Krauthammer isn't done.  He continues:

Heck of a job, Brownie.

The reason the country is uneasy about the Obama administration's response to this attack is a distinct sense of not just incompetence but incomprehension. From the very beginning, President Obama has relentlessly tried to play down and deny the nature of the terrorist threat we continue to face. Napolitano renames terrorism "man-caused disasters." Obama goes abroad and pledges to cleanse America of its post-9/11 counterterrorist sins. Hence, Guantanamo will close, CIA interrogators will face a special prosecutor, and Khalid Sheik Mohammed will bask in a civilian trial in New York — a trifecta of political correctness and image management.

This time at least he provided a link.  Which if you click, you'll find the following single mention that phrase:

The overriding and urgent mission of the United States Department of Homeland Security is contained in the name of the agency itself. To secure the homeland means to protect our nation's borders by finding and killing the roots of terrorism and to stop those who intend to hurt us; to wisely enforce the rule of law at our borders; to protect our national cyber infrastructure; and to prepare for and respond to natural and man-caused disasters with speed, skill, compassion, and effectiveness.

Here again Krauthammer's rendering of her words is not even close.  She doesn't come close to renaming terrorism anything–she uses the phrase "man-caused disasters" to highlight the fact that homeland security will be involved in the emergency services response to a terrorist act (in addition to prevention–which is also its job as the quotation makes clear—using even the word "terrorism"). 

I think you get the idea, but here's one more context distortion.  This time it's Obama:

And produces linguistic — and logical — oddities that littered Obama's public pronouncements following the Christmas Day attack. In his first statement, Obama referred to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as "an isolated extremist." This is the same president who, after the Fort Hood, Tex., shooting, warned us "against jumping to conclusions" — code for daring to associate the mass murder there with Nidal Hasan's Islamist ideology. Yet, with Abdulmutallab, Obama jumped immediately to the conclusion, against all existing evidence, that the would-be bomber acted alone.

Of course Obama didn't say that.  This is what he said:

Finally, the American people should remain vigilant, but also be confident. Those plotting against us seek not only to undermine our security, but also the open society and the values that we cherish as Americans. This incident, like several that have preceded it, demonstrates that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist.  

He's clearly referring to his singularity on the plane and to the actions of the people who stopped him.  He wasn't of course making a judgement about whether there was a conspiracy. 

It's a new year, I know, but I am seriously thinking of putting Krauthammer and Will in the column of people whose work is so bad and so dishonest it doesn't merit criticism.  Who does that leave? 

Qui tacet consentire videtur

It really did not take long for George Will to engage in unwarranted triumphalism over the very selective violation of some scientists' right to engage in private and informal communication about their work.  He writes:

Disclosure of e-mails and documents from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) in Britain — a collaborator with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — reveals some scientists' willingness to suppress or massage data and rig the peer-review process and the publication of scholarly work. The CRU materials also reveal paranoia on the part of scientists who believe that in trying to engineer "consensus" and alarm about warming, they are a brave and embattled minority. Actually, never in peacetime history has the government-media-academic complex been in such sustained propagandistic lockstep about any subject.

The story basically runs like this.  Some hacker broke into a server, stole, yes, stole a bunch of emails, and published them for the selective misinterpretation of people across the media-opinion complex–which, in this case includes the usual suspects, and, sadly enough, the Daily Show.  The emails show the scientists speaking candidly about their work and their frustration at the phony skepticism they have to answer.  Now comes George WIll, writing that answering phony skepticism (such as his) means one's certainty in one's view is not "unassailable":

The Post learns an odd lesson from the CRU materials: "Climate scientists should not let themselves be goaded by the irresponsibility of the deniers into overstating the certainties of complex science or, worse, censoring discussion of them." These scientists overstated and censored because they were "goaded" by skepticism?

Were their science as unassailable as they insist it is, and were the consensus as broad as they say it is, and were they as brave as they claim to be, they would not be "goaded" into intellectual corruption. Nor would they meretriciously bandy the word "deniers" to disparage skepticism that shocks communicants in the faith-based global warming community.

Skeptics about the shrill certitudes concerning catastrophic man-made warming are skeptical because climate change is constant: From millennia before the Medieval Warm Period (800 to 1300), through the Little Ice Age (1500 to 1850), and for millennia hence, climate change is always a 100 percent certainty. Skeptics doubt that the scientists' models, which cannot explain the present, infallibly map the distant future.

The Financial Times' peculiar response to the CRU materials is: The scientific case for alarm about global warming "is growing more rather than less compelling." If so, then could anything make the case less compelling? A CRU e-mail says: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment" — this "moment" is in its second decade — "and it is a travesty that we can't."

The travesty is the intellectual arrogance of the authors of climate-change models partially based on the problematic practice of reconstructing long-term prior climate changes. On such models we are supposed to wager trillions of dollars — and substantially diminished freedom. [such as diminished right to privacy--non seq. eds].   

For a discussion of the Post's sloppy handling of the email theft start here (and for more on this particular piece start here).  Briefly, however, no one has been goaded into intellectual corruption–that's the Post's view (which Will confuses with actual fact).

Speaking more broadly, however, it's obvious the scientists who work on this stuff–I mean the ones with bonified credentials–are frustrated by the very vocal and well-funded parade of numbskulls who think the non-geometric certainty of models and of climate science in general entails that the thesis of anthropogenic climate change is all a role of the dice and that any skepticism, even the a prioristic George Will kind, is just as warranted as accumulated empirical research.

Sadly, however, the more detached from even a third-grader's understanding of the scientific method Will becomes, the more pressing he makes his case that any critique of him amounts to an apparent lack of confidence in the person doing the critiquing.  That strategy, however, is just silly: not answering George Will's silly denialism would no doubt amount to agreeing with it–or as he would put it, qui tacet consentire videtur!

Shut him down

Once again someone needs to explain to Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the Washington Post, the importance of making "inferences."  Yesterday in an online chat session (courtesy of TPM) there was the following exchange between Hiatt and a reader:

Boston: This doesn't relate to Obama but would you care to address the whole George Will global warming column controversy? Is there any concern that lax standards for accuracy hurts the prestige of The Post opinion page more generally?

Fred Hiatt: Happy to, because we don't have lax standards for accuracy. He addressed the factual challenges to his column in detail in a later column. In general we do careful fact checking. What people have mostly objected to is not that his data are wrong but that he draws wrong inferences. I would think folks would be eager to engage in the debate, given how sure they are of their case, rather than trying to shut him down.

We have talked about this issue here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here).  Two quick things.  First, "inferences" in this case are part of the "facts."  As one arrives at all "facts" other than perhaps those immediately obvious to you, by "inferences."  Believe it or not, I make an "inference" regarding all facts about the past.  I ate breakfast this morning, I so conclude, on account of the fact that there is an empty bowl of cereal with spoon in it on my desk.  Ok that is an easy one, but you get the point.  It is a fact that I ate breakfast, but it is a fact I believe on account of the evidence for it.  So it's not so easy to separate "facts" from "inferences." 

Second, I would argue that the Post excludes people with "inferences" all of the time–and rightly so.  The Holocaust denier can claim merely to be making historical "inferences" between "facts".  Such inferences are preposterous, of course.  Drawing this distinction, in other words, is absurd.

Practice with scientists

While I was away the Washington Post finally got around to posting responses to the two factually and logically challenged George Will pieces on global climate warming change (discussed by us here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here).  One of these, a letter from the World Meteorological Organization, patiently points out that Will has no business interpreting scientific data.  They write:

It is a misinterpretation of the data and of scientific knowledge to point to one year as the warmest on record — as was done in a recent Post column ["Dark Green Doomsayers," George F. Will, op-ed, Feb. 15] — and then to extrapolate that cooler subsequent years invalidate the reality of global warming and its effects.

The second of these, an op-ed by science writer Chris Mooney, while detailing the specific factual failings (legion they were) of Will's two recent columns, made a more general point about the Post's attitude toward facts.  He writes:

Readers and commentators must learn to share some practices with scientists — following up on sources, taking scientific knowledge seriously rather than cherry-picking misleading bits of information, and applying critical thinking to the weighing of evidence. That, in the end, is all that good science really is. It's also what good journalism and commentary alike must strive to be — now more than ever.

We would suggest (for the nth time) that enforcing this recommendation ought to be the job of some kind of grown up, like say an editor.