Thursday, January 30, 2014

When Bad Things Happen To Bad People

I don't think it's really going to "kill" National Review. Pretty sure its supporters have deep enough pockets to cover any damages if they are even assessed. But Mark Steyn is probably the most dickish bastard to ever come out of Canada. Oops!

In July, Judge Natalia Combs Greene rejected a motion to dismiss the suit. The defendants appealed, and last week D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick Weisberg rejected the motion again, opening the door for the discovery phase of the lawsuit to begin. That's not all. On Christmas Eve, Steyn (who regularly guest hosts Rush Limbaugh's radio show) wrote a blog post in which he excoriated Greene, accusing her of incompetence, stupidity, and obtuseness. 

I'm, of course, all for free speech even from cranks. But then, I have to rank good taste higher. And National Review has descended into bad taste and probably doesn't have a lot of redeeming qualities. I won't be contributing to the Mark Steyn Defense Fund anytime soon, if such exists, and I'm sure it does.

 Now, the lawsuit may well be dismissed down the road. But the longer it continues, the more likely it becomes that Mann will eventually prevail, either by forcing an expensive settlement or by prevailing in court and winning a substantial penalty from the defendants.
It's doubtful that National Review could survive either outcome. Small magazines often lose money and only rarely manage to break even. They certainly don't have substantial legal budgets, let alone cash to cover an expensive payout. Indeed, in 2005, Buckley said the magazine had lost $25 million over 50 years.

It lost a half million a year? Do these people even know how capitalism works? I thought they were the business savvy party. Well it can only help The Weekly Standard.

Today the magazine enjoys circulation roughly equivalent to that of The Nation, the American Left's leading journal of opinion, and more than twice that of William Kristol's The Weekly Standard, its primary competition on the Right.

If NR wants some advice, I would suggest they break Steyn's fingers and duct tape his pie hole. Just sayin'.

APOLOGIES: I should probably apologize to Mr. Steyn first, though I doubt he will read any of this. I don't agree with his politics, nor does he agree with mine. Very likely. Many of my comments in this post are, indeed, dickish. And for that I apologize to him and to Mr. Casper. I did not do my homework on this post and several commenters were good enough to point this out to me. I will try to make any future posts here more upbeat and factual. It would be cowardly for me to take the post down, so the only option I see is to leave this sincere apology as an end-note.   


MikeR said...

"I'm, of course, all for free speech even from cranks. But then, I have to rank good taste higher."

Okay, we know where you stand. Some of us actually do believe in free speech.

Grung_e_Gene said...

Conservatives don't believe in Free Speech, much like the 2nd Amendment, it's a catch phrase to them, they use it as a punch line.

What they believe in is using every means at their disposal to harass, bully, cajole and and steadily move this Country into an Ultra-Reactionary Wage Slave State run by Undying Corporate Non-Entities.

repsac3 said...

I have no definitive position on whether Mann lied (though I doubt it) or why folks on the right are reflexively against anyone and everyone who suggests there is any merit to claims of manmade global climate change. (I am sure that those who look out the window in winter and see snow and cold temperatures, which--for them and all their fellow travelers--disproves any possibility of climate change are idiots, but beyond that, I'm smart enough to admit I don't know enough about climate science to know who's right, wrong, or outright lying more generally.)

As far as Steyn, I've found him abrasive and believe his opinions to be wrong much of the time--though I have some vague recollection as to agreeing with him about something at least once (a free speech issue I think, though I can locate no record--but neigh my general distaste for the guy nor my having agreed with him at least one time has much bearing on this case here. (Also, I must admit I do appreciate Steyn's sense of humor as regards Kevin's post here. Whatever one thinks of Mr Steyn, I don't doubt that he's right; regardless of the stereotype, there are other dickish bastards in/from Canadia, and they all deserve a shot at the "most dickish" crown.)

In the end, I am glad the case hasn't been dismissed though, if only for purely selfish reasons. If I pay attention, I may get a better handle on the facts and fallacies inherent in the arguments of each side, and be better able to form an opinion the next time... So there's that...

Your Smrat® said...

"folks on the right are reflexively against anyone and everyone who suggests there is any merit to claims of manmade global climate change."


Hilarious. The left's 25-year g̶l̶o̶b̶a̶l̶ ̶w̶a̶r̶m̶i̶n̶g̶ climate change mantra is that the science is settled and that anyone who expresses doubt about the settled science is akin to one who denies that Hitler murdered Jews. But they're not the reflexive close-minded ones, oh no, that's those "idiots" on the right. Well played.

repsac3 said...

@Your Smrat®

We see it how we see it, I guess... but you surely aren't talking about me. I have no problem with science or scientists, whatever findings they report.

I am a lot more skeptical when it comes to writers and opinioneers who claim to know the truth about climate science, however, especially when they claim to have some smoking gun that proves it's all a hoax, and that the rest of us are just too stupid or naive to understand the way that they do.

I'm not interested in the fact that some scientist used the word "trick" to describe a facet of the calculations leading to the data. People phrase things poorly all the time. But I'm open to listening to anyone who understands the science (preferably in the field) and can explain it to the rest of us in simple terms. (And then I want to hear from others in the field, concurring with or debunking what the first guy said.)

I respect the folks who know.
I respect the folks smart enough to admit that they don't, too.
Blowhards who claim to know and clearly don't are a waste of everyone's time. (And yes, all three of these types can be found on both sides of the climate debate.)

Kathy Shaidle said...

Kevin, 0:15:

"I don't think it's really going to 'kill' National Review. Pretty sure its supporters have deep enough pockets to cover any damages if they are even assessed. (...)"

Kevin, 2:17:

"It's doubtful that National Review could survive either outcome."


Kevin Robbins said...

I apologize to Mike R for standing up for good taste. I actually have no problem with right or left wing types on the fringes saying whatever comes into their heads. It helps we sane people avoid them. What comparing a climate scientist to Jerry Sandusky adds to political discourse in this country is beyond me. And as with 99% plus of the people in this country including Mark Steyn (presumably) I know nothing about climate change. I do believe scientists should be able to do their work without brickbats from the peanut gallery. I'll admit to not knowing much about the law either so I'll just sit back and enjoy the show until the ocean starts lapping at my front door.

Kevin Robbins said...

Kathy, I guess Damon Linker and I disagree. But then, neither of us have access to the financial records of NR. I don't really expect them to have to pay out anything. But even if they do, their supporters can likely afford the damages if they want to continue to support a right wing mouthpiece. Gotta do something with that free cash they're not sending to Uncle Sam.

Of course, I suppose at some point NR could go too far right or become too irrelevant and alienate even these people. they should try to move back toward a more Buckleyesque conservatism. No one on the right is probably asking for my opinion, tho.

James A. Naismith said...

This judge isn't judged very well by lawyers and common folk who come before her.

James A. Naismith said...

This judge doesn't fare well with lawyers, plaintiffs or defendants who come before her. Pretty miserable ratings.

Unknown said...

@Kevin Robbins wrote that Steyn "compar[ed] a climate scientist to Jerry Sandusky"

Kevin, what kind of ignoramus or illiterate or liar are you to write such a thing?

Steyn compared the whitewash Mann got with the whitewash Sandusky got.

Whitewash v. whitewash, it isn't hard, try to read before you write.

repsac3 said...

Never understand why folks don't directly cite what they're talking about. (And yeah, that goes for us, too.):

"[Rand Simberg says:] "I’m referring to another cover up and whitewash that occurred there two years ago, before we learned how rotten and corrupt the culture at the university was. But now that we know how bad it was, perhaps it’s time that we revisit the Michael Mann affair, particularly given how much we’ve also learned about his and others’ hockey-stick deceptions since. Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet."

Not sure I’d have extended that metaphor all the way into the locker-room showers with quite the zeal Mr Simberg does, but he has a point. Michael Mann was the man behind the fraudulent climate-change “hockey-stick” graph, the very ringmaster of the tree-ring circus. And, when the East Anglia emails came out, Penn State felt obliged to “investigate” Professor Mann. Graham Spanier, the Penn State president forced to resign over Sandusky, was the same cove who investigated Mann. And, as with Sandusky and Paterno, the college declined to find one of its star names guilty of any wrongdoing.
- Football and Hockey | National Review Online

I'm inclined to agree with i opener as regards the comparison Steyn was making. (Still reading more about the case before deciding where I stand--I am generally opposed to "shut-up" litigation, but I also think libel is a real crime. From what little I've read so far, this case seems to ride the line between 'em in my opinion...)

Kevin Robbins said...

You're right, i Opener, I certainly did misspeak there. My main problem with the whole thing is the injection of Jerry Sandusky into an argument about climate science in the first place. It seems intemperate. And I realize that some of the things I've said here are also intemperate. The splinter in my neighbor's eye and the beam in mine. I am working to improve that.

Thank you for pointing out my error.

lge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lge said...

Will you and everybody else please stop with the witless catch-phrase, "Just sayin' "? It was never amusing or witty, and it has now degenerated to the level of an annoying facial tic.

repsac3 said...

Kevin: No need to apologize to me--and for God's sake, PLEASE don't go getting upbeat, whatever else you do. We're not always going to agree, and that's cool. (The last thing I'd ever do is demand conformity to my way of thinkin' or anyone else's.) Besides... As with our last partnership, your posts tend to bring the bloghitz, man... (And you know how I jones for those bloghitz...)

lge: While having opinions is a good thing, some are best kept to oneself, lest one be thought a little nuts... I'm just sayin'...

Jupiter said...

"But I'm open to listening to anyone who understands the science (preferably in the field) and can explain it to the rest of us in simple terms."

Mr. Casper,

I fear I am one of those benighted souls you mentioned, who feel that twenty years without any warming is disproof of any theory which predicts extensive warming during those same twenty years. You must forgive me my idiosyncratic view of the relations between experiment and theory in science.

But perhaps we can agree on this; while the factors driving climate change are uncertain, and anyone who claims otherwise is deluded or a liar, the history of climate change has been well-studied, and is uncertain only in its details. Namely, the glaciers came down and covered the North, not once but multiple times. The claim of AGW, then, is the claim that whatever the causes of those glaciations, which appear from the record to be on the verge of repeating, we can be certain that they will not come again, because of an increase in atmospheric CO2. Perhaps it was dust in outer space, perhaps the sun's variability, maybe some alteration of the Earth's orbit. We do not know the cause or its magnitude. But we can be confident that the increased CO2 which failed to raise the temperature by even one degree in the last 20 years has put paid to those glaciers. We'll not see their like again.

Robert What? said...

I'm unclear as to how Steyn is being "dickish". Is it because he is questioning the warming orthodoxy?

Robert What? said...

BTW Grungy - how's that plan working out for the conservatives? You are right, we seem to be headed in that direction - but I got a surprise for you - the conservatives ain't in power. So maybe Obama is secretly a conservative? (PS - most of DC hate the conservatives - the GOP leaderdhip most of all).

Kevin Robbins said...

I got a comment thread going, but I feel like a piñata. I've learned a lot here will add avoiding internet cliches to the list.

repsac3 said...


While you neither give your name/credentials or have a blog of your own on the subject, you have my attention. Can you recommend any climate change science bloggers or writers expressing that point of view who write for a layman readership? (or, have you ever considered being that kinda blogger yourself?)

Nathan Ellery said...

W James.
As a fellow layman I cannot more strongly recommend Jo Nova who lays out the issues in easy read like no one else. She is only marginely clever is sarcasm, a little more in wit but on the money (sic) with the essential arguments.
Also my congrats on Kevin's response to the crits on this blog and Steyne. Refreshing to see a good fair fight!!

Publicola said...

W James Casper: "But I'm open to listening to anyone who understands the science (preferably in the field) and can explain it to the rest of us in simple terms."

James I am not a climate scientist; I am however a scientist in a related field and thus understand the science fairly well.

It's no easier to explain the Theory of Anthropogenic (man-made) Global Warming ("AGW") in this context however than it is to explain the Theory of Evolution: both theories are very large and complicated and would take days -to explain just the fundamentals of the overwhelming body of scientific evidence that supports either of them.

If you wish to learn the fundamentals of AGW however I recommended this primer published by the National Center for Atmospheric Research as a starting point:

The UK govt publishes another good primer:

Publicola said...

Jupiter: "Mr. Casper, I fear I am one of those benighted souls you mentioned, who feel that twenty years without any warming is disproof of any theory which predicts extensive warming during those same twenty years."

Mr.(?) Jupiter,

Your implied "the Earth hasn't warmed in 20 years claim" is false.

Here on Earth the planet has warmed over the past 20 years. For example here is NASA's global surface temperature dataset showing global warming over the past 20 years:

And here is the University of Alabama at Huntsville's global satellite (lower atmosphere) temperature dataset also showing global warming over the past 20 years:

Every other global surface and satellite temperature dataset shows warming over the past 20 years too.

Moreover most (over 90%) of the warming takes place in the oceans in any event, and the oceans have warmed over the past 20 years too:

Which is to say you Mr. Jupiter are indeed one of the benighted souls that Mr. Casper mentioned - one of the benighted souls who in opposition to reality "claim to have some smoking gun that proves it's all a hoax."

Publicola said...

Jupiter continued to mislead with: "the factors driving climate change are uncertain".

*Everything* is uncertain in science.

Not all scientific uncertainty is created equal, however - far from it. As explained by the National Academy of Sciences:

Uncertainty in Scientific Knowledge

From a philosophical perspective, science never proves anything—in the manner that mathematics or other formal logical systems prove things—because science is fundamentally based on observations. Any scientific theory is thus, in principle, subject to being refined or overturned by new observations. In practical terms, however, scientific uncertainties are not all the same. Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.

Publicola said...

Nathan Ellery: "W James. As a fellow layman I cannot more strongly recommend Jo Nova who...[is] but on the money (sic) with the essential arguments."

Hi Nathan,

Internet blogger "JoNova" - aka "JoAnne Nova", real name Joanne Codling - is not a climate scientist; she doesn't even have a degree in the physical sciences (she has an undergraduate degree in the biological sciences). JoNova's "skeptical" position on climate science is moreover in opposition to every national science academy in the world.

If you Nathan wanted reliable information on, say, the Theory of Evolution, would you take the word of some "skeptical" internet blogger who doesn't even have a bachelors degree in the biological sciences over the word of every national science academy in the world? If "No" then why are you doing the equivalent here with respect to AGW Theory? If "Yes" please explain why you would take the word of an Evolution "skeptic" blogger with no significant college-level education in the biological sciences over the word of the vast majority of evolutionary biologists worldwide - thank you.

On a related note JoNova authored an pamphlet titled "The Skeptics Handbook" that is riddled with climate science disinformation. JoNova's fact-challenged claims in that pamphlet has been directly rebutted in detail by John Cook's "A Scientific Guide to the 'Skeptics Handbook": founder John Cook isn't a climate scientist either; Cook unlike JoNova however has a degree in the physical sciences (specifically Physics) and his positions are in agreement with the world's national science academies.

repsac3 said...

A quick thank you to everyone offering "science for dummies" links and suggestions. I'm reading them all, and seeing what sticks...

I'm of the same philosophical mind as regards scientific theory. I had a teacher who said something that always stuck; Gravity is only a "fact" because no one's disproved it yet."

While that's true, I seldom nail things down, lest they float away. (I have willfully rejected the theory that the Earth just sucks. If that makes me a denier, then so be it.)