Monday, April 22, 2013

Has Christopher Monckton ever won a lawsuit?

My lawsuit was much better than "Cats." I'm going to file them again and again.

Christopher Monckton is an ignorant, incompetent, dishonest, delusional mess of a gibbering idiot. I've reported on this fact for years and I have yet to hear from any lawyers, which is why I was skeptical that the Nova-Monckton account of him repeatedly crushing his enemies in lawsuits was anything other than a slop bucket of narcissistic lies(*).

First claim: Monckton sued the British government over using An Inconvenient Truth in schools, and won.
We have had some good court victories. In 2007 the London High Court condemned Al Gore’s mawkish sci-fi comedy-horror movie. It found nine errors so serious that the court ordered 77 pages of corrective guidance to be circulated to every school in England. The judge said: “The Armageddon scenario that he [Gore] depicts is not based on any scientific view.”
Two days later, Gore won the Nobel Mickey Mouse Prize. But he was holed below the waterline. Now he is seen not as a prophet but as a profiteer.
The whingers of the do-nothing brigade were at work even then. The lawyers refused to file the case on the ground that there was no chance of success. They were fired.
The new lawyers said we could not possibly win on the science and refused to use any scientific testimony. The judge threw the case out. I recovered the position by instructing the lawyers to write to the judge asking if he had even seen Gore’s movie before he had reached his judgment without holding a hearing.
Tellingly, the judge did not reply. I insisted on – and got – a new judge. This time the lawyers did what they were told. I wrote 80 pages of scientific testimony. Bob Carter and Dick Lindzen– bless them both – worked from the document in crafting their evidence, and signed off as expert witnesses. As soon as the other side saw it, they collapsed and settled, paying the plaintiff $400,000.
Reality: Monckton wasn't one of the litigants in that suit, which the deniers lost. The quote from the judge, which I've bolded above, is a fabrication -- a total fiction (for a comparison with what the judge actually said, see this outstanding analysis, beginning at the two-minute mark.)

He claims to have asked one of his friends to fund Stewart Dimmock, who actually sued. Dimmock has been asked who helped fund his suit, at refused to name anyone, calling it "a private matter." Many sources, understandably, report this as fact, because who would lie about participating in a failed lawsuit? But the reality is that Monckton lies constantly, habitually, and always by way of growing the legend of Monckton.

The case, Dimmock v Secretary of State for Education and Skills, wasn't settled, and Dimmock didn't get a payment of $400,000. He did, as is routine in British legal battles, win a payment for a portion of his legal costs, leaving him 60,000 pounds poorer.

His stated objective in the lawsuit was for An Inconvenient Truth not to be shown in schools any more. The judge rejected that request.

Monckton claims to have been involved in funding this failed lawsuit, but as far as I know, no one actually involved in it has confirmed that, placing his role in the same category as his claimed discovery of the cure for AIDS.

The second win claimed by Monckton has already been exposed as another fantasy: he claimed that Mann had settled a lawsuit with Tim Ball for a million dollars. Whoops! Pure fiction, and Jo Nova was troubled to print a correction.

Monckton also trumpets a huge, simply huge, victory against the dasterdly BBC:
I sued the BBC a couple of years ago when they did a hatchet job on me. I had been told – in writing – that I should have the chance to alter any points that were inaccurate. Fat chance.
So I lodged a High Court application for an injunction. The BBC’s first reaction was to deny that the director-general’s office had received my letter. Not having been born yesterday, I had delivered the letter myself and had insisted that the director-general’s personal assistant should sign for it.
I insisted on seeing the programme before it was broadcast. It was a disgrace. I wrote to the Director-General listing two dozen factual errors and numerous other biases in the schlocumentary. No reply.
So I lodged a High Court application for an injunction. The BBC’s first reaction was to deny that the director-general’s office had received my letter. Not having been born yesterday, I had delivered the letter myself and had insisted that the director-general’s personal assistant should sign for it.
The BBC crumbled and cut the programme from 90 minutes to an hour, taking out the overwhelming majority of the vicious nonsense. There were still some objectionable points, so I went into court.
I fought the case myself. When I introduced the two barristers and three solicitors for the Beeb, the judge interrupted me and said: “Lord Monckton, I fear I must draw your attention to a potential conflict of interest. You see, I am a member of your club.”
I had no objection and invited the BBC’s expensive QC to give his opinion. He had no objection either, but added: “Er, I too have a conflict of interest. I also am a member of Lord Monckton’s club.”
The judge did not prevent the Beeb from leaving a few barbs in my side. The BBC issued a lying statement that I had lost. But the judge held that I had “substantially won” the action. A 90-minute programme had become 60 minutes. The Beeb had lost. Big-time.

He lost, of course. Really this story gets to the heart of why Monckton is such a memorable liar. It's full of specific details -- about the club, and the judge, and the director-general's personal assistant. Yet nothing that can be easily checked, nothing that can be readily verified. It's full of numbers -- two dozen errors, 90 minutes to an hour, two barristers and three solicitors, etc. And it has a simple story of Monckton prevailing against odds. Really the only weakness of the story, as is typical of Monckton, is that he cannot control his own narcissism long enough to sell the story. Monckton is always the least believable part of a Monckton anecdote. He demands! He sues! He belongs to a fancy club! He takes on an army of lawyers and wins!

Monckton has surely mastered the Big Lie(**), as his fictional legal career illustrates.

Monckton has also threatened legal action against George Monbiot after an article dissecting Monckton's dishonest hackery. (He claimed it was "libellous of me in my calling.") But no lawsuit ever emerged. He promised to have John Abraham brought up on charges of academic misconduct; he didn't. He made the same threat about Dr. Barry Bickmore: again, no follow-through.

So here is my question of the day: Has Monckton ever actually followed through on his profuse threats, undertaken legal action against a critic, and won a judgement against them? Or are his repeated claims to have done so -- claims that have now progressed to advocating specious lawsuits against critics as a strategy, since it's worked so well for him -- simply another of his narcissistic fantasies?

See also:

Skeptical Science's Monckton Myths.

Barry Bickmore's Lord Monckton's Rap Sheet.

Abraham debunks Monckton (1/6)

Monckton Bunkum (Parts 1-5):

*That, and of course the fact that their mouths were moving.

** The Big Lie is a propaganda technique described by Hitler in Mein Kampf:
All this was inspired by the principle--which is quite true within itself--that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.
Monckton, exceptionally, explicitly admits to hiding behind this cognitive glitch:
Abraham’s approach is novel. He’s saying not that I got one thing wrong but that I got just about everything wrong. And how plausible is that?

Friday, April 19, 2013

WUWT denounces innumeracy, demonstrates illiteracy

Where have all the flowers gone?

Innumeracy is terrible, don't you know (and I suppose they would know):
For any rational discussion of the effects of CO2 on climate, numbers are important.
OK, so far so good, when you mention "rational discussion" in the first sentence the phrase "protesting too much" comes to mind, but numbers are indeed important, so so far, so sane.
 An average temperature increase of 1 C will be a benefit to the planet, as every past warming has been in human history.
 . . . and here comes the crazy. What?
 And the added CO2 will certainly increase agricultural yields substantially and make crops more resistant to drought.
 Evidently the author missed the part where the added CO2 causes warming, droughts, and extreme weather, leading to an estimated 200 million additional food insecure people and 24 million addition malnourished children by 2050.
 But in articles like “Scant Gains Made on CO2 Emissions, Energy Agency Says” by Sarah Kent in the Wall Street Journal on April 18, 2013, we see a graph with a 6 C temperature rise by 2050 – if we don’t reduce “carbon intensity.” Indeed, a 6 C temperature rise may well be cause for concern. But anyone with a little background in mathematics and physics should be able to understand how ridiculous a number like 6 C is.
The article is paywalled, but they also attribute the assertion of 6C by 2050 to Joe Romm, and that we can check:
This is one of the most enlightening calculations I’ve seen in awhile, and it is worth your time to understand it because it speaks clearly to debunk many of the claims of temperature rise in the next 100 years made by activists, such as the 6c by 2050 Joe Romm claims,
Emphasis in the original. But if we follow the link, we discover the headline is the result of a reading comprehension problem:
 “When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius [11°F], which would have devastating consequences for the planet.”
2050 is not mentioned. There is a rather obvious error in a Reuters article cited in the post (they've corrected it), but as Romm did not repeat the error, to attribute it to him is simply a lie, and to build a post around "refuting" the red herring is  . . . well, it's what they do. Somewhat more surprisingly, David Appeal made the same obvious mistake. Rabbit is on the case.
Grandpa's favorite climate blog
WUWT, of course, uses this flimsy excuse to launch into a bunch of cargo-cult math, embarking on a "greatest hits" of basic scientific mistakes, including:

  • The warming caused by CO2 is instantaneous! (So the warming caused by 280ppm --> 400ppm is only the warming seen so far.)
  • Never mind, because climate sensitivity is only 1C per doubling! (No evidence for that; it seems to have become an article of faith.)
  • CO2 increases, like any other trend, are completely linear and can be extrapolated infinitely! (If CO2 is rising by 2ppm/year now, that is the rate of change expected for the next 12,000 years.)
WUWT, grandfather of the denialosphere, continues to demonstrate an effortless command of the three Is of full-spectrum ignorance: innumerate, illiterate, and ill-mannered.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Attack of the Pause

Nooooooo . . .

Why oh why have surface temperatures slowed their relentless rise? I has an angst!

Except I don't, really -- but who could resist an excuse to post that picture? So, why am I living angst-free in spite of a decade that is merely the warmest in the instrumental record and not dramatically so?

Well, for one thing, I've faced up to the fact that we, the concerned, have been enjoying having it both ways for quite a while. On the one hand, we've explained over and over that short-term variability in climate is the rule, not the exception; that knowing enough about the climate to see that action is needed is not the same thing as having an advance notice of the weather for the next hundred years; that the more different places and indicators you watch, and the longer you watch them, the more it becomes virtually a mathematical certainty that some of them will buck the overall trend. (And, lo, so it has come to pass . . .)

But on the other hand, in the last couple of decades virtually all of the short-term indicators pointed to dramatic global warming, and that's where it's easy to get lazy. Record fires! Record heat waves! Record ice loss! We were preaching, along with the real scientists, the no-drama gospel of long-term trends, but meanwhile, we had a good imitation of a Shakespearean tragedy running in the background, and it was hard not to make use of it.

So, here were are. Where's the warming at? You can answer that one any number of ways, but the easiest one is with a single graph:

Note the dips in the five-year trend in the early 80s, and again a decade later. Now the five-year line is in a bumpy patch, but the eleven-year line has barely noticed. It continues to climb. That isn't a trick of the graph, it isn't fuzzy math, it's just a fundamental fact of human existence: the moment we're living in feels big and significant, but in reality, it's just a tiny slice of a story that continues to run on and on.

But this is mere poetry: Where have all the joules gone? It's a big, interesting question, one which has little to do with current debates over greenhouse gases emissions and a lot to do with our imperfect understanding of how energy sloshes around the system. Because we know it's around here somewhere. Maybe it's, I don't know, in the oceans somewhere:

Three running means at or below -0.5C equals La Nina. So come May, it's a good chance we'll be looking at the first triple-dip La Nina since modern records began. That's a lot of heat sinking into the waves. Enough to explain the "pause"? Probably.

In the larger sense, though, the explanation is less important than the persistent problem of over-emphasizing short-term trends. I wish I could say we should all stop doing that, so people will recognize our carefully measured assessments once the fog of the present moment has been lifted, but in truth I have no confidence that people have long enough memories for that. It may be the best we can hope for is not to fool ourselves.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Quote of the Day

R Rex Parris is a Republican mayor striving to turn Lancaster, CA, into the first city generating more electricity with solar power than it consumes. He is excited about the economic opportunities in positioning Lancaster at the hub of solar innovation, and boasts that a permit for a solar installation takes "15 minutes." But what about, you know?
Is global warming indeed a threat? Absolutely, he said. 

“I may be a Republican. I’m not an idiot.”

Saturday, April 6, 2013

James Delingpole is a sensitive soul

Right about everything, and in no sense a thin-skinned fanatic.

You wouldn't know it from a Twitter account that proclaims "I'm right about everything," but James Delingpole is a tender-hearted soul who just can't abide insensitive folks like me.

James was wondering aloud when his critics would "apologize" by the people who "vilified" him, since he has now been proven right about something or other. I'm always interested in cultivating the acquaintance of the infallible, and his website made him seem really cool and approachable (and not at all narcissistic):
James Delingpole is a libertarian conservative who writes brilliant books and brilliant articles, and is really great on TV, radio and the internet too. You’ll love him. You’ll want to read his stuff, buy his book and music recommendations; follow him on Twitter, and generally be his best friend
Emphasis mine. Well, of course I can't just ignore people vilifying my new best friend, so I looked into James' purported martyrdom, and found this note that followed an investigation by the Australian Press Council:
The Council has upheld three aspects of the complaints. First, it has concluded that even if the REC scheme has the weaknesses alleged in the article it cannot tenably be described as a “kind of government-endorsed Ponzi scheme”. . . .
Second, it has concluded that the claim that a law firm sought gagging orders has been publicly denied by the firm and, in the absence of any supporting evidence, constitutes a breach of the Council’s principles concerning misrepresentation. . . .
Third, it has concluded that the report of the anonymous remarks concerning paedophilia, a very serious and odious crime, were highly offensive. The Council’s principles relate, of course, to whether something is acceptable journalistic practice, not whether it is unlawful. They are breached where, as in this case, the level of offensiveness is so high that it outweighs the very strong public interest in freedom of speech.
The article itself is replete with hyperventilating allusions to:
[C]hickens [] laying eggs without yolks; [] ewes were giving birth to deformed lambs; their once-active dogs spent their days staring blankly at the wall  . . .
And of course:
[S]huttered houses and a dust-blown aura of sinister unease, as in a horror movie when something dreadful has happened to a previously ordinary, happy settlement and at first you're not sure what. Then you look up on to the horizon and see them, turning slowly in the breeze . . .

Best friends don't let best friends practice the paranoid style, so I offered my new pal a little reality check, and, well . . .

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sounds familar, doesn't it?

The NYT editorial board is getting frustrated with gun control obstructionism:
This is the group that said the blood of Newtown was on the hands of lawmakers who create gun-free zones around schools. Its executive director, Larry Pratt, considers the United States government to be largely unconstitutional, and says that gun rights come directly from God. “When we’re talking about firearms,” he said in 2010, “we’re not really talking about a right but an obligation, as creatures of God, to protect the life that was given them.”
And yet this twisted radicalism is playing an outsized role in the current debate. As Jennifer Steinhauer reported in The Times on Thursday, the gun group’s demands helped pressure Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to back out of negotiations on the background-check bill, depriving it of crucial Republican support. The group has helped push the N.R.A. and several members of Congress further to the right, and Republicans say fear of its retribution is preventing a deal.
On behalf of the people trying to get the world's governments to pay a little attention to our radical and destructive hijacking of the climate via greenhouse gas emissions: welcome to our world.

I've been talking to the rah-rah-guns folks online a little bit, and the similarities are many:

* They use the fact that there is no such thing as a perfect study to argue that all the evidence is indeterminate and too confusing to be the basis of action.

* They repeatedly make inaccurate and offensive claims -- Hitler took away the guns, gun-free zones around schools attract shooters and kill children -- which take far more effort to unpack and disprove than they take to assert, wasting reformers' time and energy and cultivating the impression that a real debate is still going on.

* A prominent feature of their inaccurate claims is statistical illiteracy (and as usual, it's hard to tell the difference between true ignorance and tactical dishonesty). I.e., the UK murder rate is up! (Slightly in 2011, after decades in decline.) The US murder rate is down! (As part of a long-predicted demographic shift, while still far, far higher than the UK's.) Therefore gun control obviously doesn't work!

* The tone they strive for in these debates is a world-weariness tinged with a quiet sadness that anyone could be so naive: despite little knowledge and less interest in the actual data on gun violence, they affect to have seen it all, and have an encyclopedic knowledge of its glaring flaws. If people would just look at the data skeptically, as they have done, they would see the gun control can't ever work.

They are also rapidly developing in-group "facts" that protect them from some of the more devastating data points. Australia, in 1996, severely tightened their gun laws in response to the Port Arthur massacre, and saw firearm fatalities fall dramatically (see right). By now those interested in opposing all gun control "know" that the homicide rate was already falling (gun control lagged, it didn't lead!) and therefore the experiment was a clear failure (just as our friends "know" that the Hockey Stick graph is a corrupt, discredited mess).

I'm not sure if this is a function of the age we live in, in which these tactics have become second nature to the right, or whether, by spending far too much time picking apart deniers' "arguments," I have inadvertently given myself an education in how dishonest people argue, more or less universally, which is simply a function of the tools they have available (in support of this theory, I now have an internal critic that attacks viciously when I am tempted to transgress.)

Either way, the only way these tricks become less popular is if they become generally ineffective. While they serve the dual purpose of delighting and energizing ideological fellow-travelers whilst confusing and repelling the public at large (cementing the status quo) I don't see that happening.