An Example Of MSM and Agenda

Annie

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A prototype:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2004230,00.html

Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Friday February 2, 2007

Guardian
Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.

The UN report was written by international experts and is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science. It will underpin international negotiations on new emissions targets to succeed the Kyoto agreement, the first phase of which expires in 2012. World governments were given a draft last year and invited to comment.

The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees....
What AEI did:

http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2007_01_28-2007_02_03.shtml#1170541963

[Jonathan Adler, February 3, 2007 at 5:32pm] 0 Trackbacks / Possibly More Trackbacks
Did AEI Seek to Buy Climate Scientists?

The blogosphere is abuzz about this breathless Guardian story alleging that the American Enterprise Institute is offering cash payments to scientists who will "undermine" the new report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (See, e.g., here, here, and here.) Some suggest this is a scandalous example of "buying science." I've obtained copies of the letters in question and an internal memo circulated to AEI staff by AEI President Christopher DeMuth, and it seems to me there is less here than the Guardian and others might suggest.

Here is the text of the letter described in the Guardian report. It was sent by Steven Hayward and Kenneth Green of AEI in July 2006 to Professor Steve Schroeder of Texas A&M, a climate scientist who has been critical of climate models in the past.

Dear Prof. Schroeder:

The American Enterprise Institute is launching a major project to produce a review and policy critique of the forthcoming Fourth Assessment Report (FAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due for release in the spring of 2007. We are looking to commission a series of review essays from a broad panel of experts to be published concurrent with the release of the FAR, and we want to invite you to be one of the authors.

The purpose of this project is to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC process, especially as it bears on potential policy responses to climate change. As with any large-scale “consensus” process, the IPCC is susceptible to self-selection bias in its personnel, resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent, and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work of the complete Working Group reports. An independent review of the FAR will advance public deliberation about the extent of potential future climate change and clarify the basis for various policy strategies. Because advance drafts of the FAR are available for outside review (the report of Working Group I is already out; Working Groups II and III will be released for review shortly), a concurrent review of the FAR is feasible for the first time.

From our earlier discussions of climate modeling (with both yourself and Prof. North), I developed considerable respect for the integrity with which your lab approaches the characterization of climate modeling data. We are hoping to sponsor a paper by you and Prof. North that thoughtfully explores the limitations of climate model outputs as they pertain to the development of climate policy (as opposed to the utility of climate models in more theoretical climate research). In particular, we are looking for an author who can write a well-supported but accessible discussion of which elements of climate modeling have demonstrated predictive value that might make them policy-relevant and which elements of climate modeling have less levels of predictive utility, and hence, less utility in developing climate policy. If you are interested in the idea, or have thoughts about who else might be interested, please give Ken Green a call at 202-XXX-XXXX at your convenience.

If you and Prof. North are agreeable to being authors, AEI will offer an honoraria of $10,000. The essay should be in the range of 7,500 to 10,000 words, though it can be longer. The deadline for a complete draft will be December 15, 2007. We intend to hold a series of small conferences and seminars in Washington and elsewhere to coincide with the release of both the FAR and our assessment in the spring or summer of 2007, for which we can provide travel expenses and additional honoraria if you are able to participate.

Please feel free to contact us with questions and thoughts on this invitation.

Cordially,

Steven F. Hayward, Ph.D, Resident Scholar Kenneth Green, Ph.D, Visiting Scholar​
and responding, just a bit further down at same site:

In these letters AEI was certainly seeking out prominent analysts willing to participate in a critical examination of the IPCC report, but I don't think the letter suggests AEI wanted Professor Schroeder or anyone else to tailor their views to AEI's agenda. Rather it looks to me like an effort to encourage those who have been critical of climate projections in the past to provide a detailed assessment of the new IPCC report. A second letter was sent out earlier this year to a handful of scientists and economists and others seeking papers on climate change science and policy more broadly.

AEI President Christopher DeMuth took great exception to the Guardian story, and circulated the following memo to AEI staff.

February 2, 2007

NOTE FOR AEI SCHOLARS, FELLOWS, AND STAFF

...

But the article’s specific charge (announced in the headline) is a very serious one. Although most of you will appreciate the truth on your own, I thought it would be useful to provide a few details.

First, AEI has published a large volume of books and papers on climate change issues over the past decade and has held numerous conferences on the subject. A wide range of views on the scientific and policy issues have been presented in these publications and conferences. All of them are posted on our website....

Second, attempting to disentangle science from politics on the question of climate change causation, and to fashion policies that take account of the uncertainties concerning causation, are longstanding AEI interests. Several recent issues of our “Environmental Policy Outlook” address these issues, as does Ken Green’s “Q & A” article in the November-December issue of The American....

Third, what the Guardian essentially characterizes as a bribe is the conventional practice of AEI—and Brookings, Harvard, and the University of Manchester—to pay individuals at other research institutions for commissioned work, and to cover their travel expenses when they come to the sponsoring institution to present their papers. The levels of authors’ honoraria vary from case to case, but a $10,000 fee for a research project involving the review of a large amount of dense scientific material, and the synthesis of that material into an original, footnoted and rigorous article is hardly exorbitant or unusual; many academics would call it modest.

We should all be aware that political attacks such as the Guardian‘s are more than sloppy or sensation-seeking journalism: they are efforts to throttle debate, and therefore aim at the heart of AEI’s purposes and methods. The successive IPCC climate change reports contain a wealth of valuable information, but there has been a longstanding effort to characterize them as representing more of a “scientific consensus” than they probably are, and to gloss over uncertainties and disagreements within the IPCC documents themselves. Consensus plays an important role in science and scientific progress, but so does disputation—reasoned argument is essential to good science, and competition of ideas is essential to scientific progress. ...​

If there were evidence that AEI was trying to get individual scientists to change their tune in return for large honoraria, there would undoubtedly be a story here. But there is no evidence this occurred. The general views of Professors Schroeder and North are well knowm to those who work in this area, and were unlikely to be swayed by ths offer (and they were not). More broadly, just as there may be financial incentives to write analyses desired by corporate funders, there are also financial incentives to tailor research projects and findings to increase the likelihood of receiving government grants. This is why I believe scientific studies should be analyzed on their merits, not the source of funding.

In the end, some may wish AEI was not sponsoring critical research and analysis of the IPCC report and current climate policy proposals, but it's hardly a scandal that they do.
 

Bullypulpit

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And your point is, dear lady? The only agenda I'm seeing here is Exxon/Mobil and it's propaganda arm, The American Enterprise Institute, attempting to subvert a document backed by several years worth of rigorous scientific study and peer review.
 
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Annie

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And your point is, dear lady? The only agenda I'm seeing here is Exxon/Mobil and it's propaganda arm, The American Enterprise Institute, attempting to subvert a document backed by several years worth of rigorous scientific study and peer review.
Of course Bully, because you didn't read any of it. :eusa_doh:
 

William Joyce

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It ain't the cleanest thing in the world, but it ain't the dirtiest, either. Opposing lawyers 'buy' opposing expert opinions all the time, and people generally get what's going on. It's not like scientists don't have to eat. AEI is an advocacy group, so as long as what comes out is identified as sponsored by them, that should be enough disclosure.

And the attempt to link up the Bush administration is way wrong.
 
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Annie

Annie

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It ain't the cleanest thing in the world, but it ain't the dirtiest, either. Opposing lawyers 'buy' opposing expert opinions all the time, and people generally get what's going on. It's not like scientists don't have to eat. AEI is an advocacy group, so as long as what comes out is identified as sponsored by them, that should be enough disclosure.
Which is what the AEI letter to staff made clear and the commentator also. Good point WJ.

Bully, speaking of your consensus, since when are political scientists, sociologists, historians, biologists, pyschologists, etc., qualified to sign onto reports regarding 'global climate change' other than for their opinion? And the two doctors from TX, their degrees? Oh yeah.
 
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Annie

Annie

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Still making news:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009649

Global Warming Smear
The political campaign to shut up an American think tank.

Friday, February 9, 2007 3:00 p.m. EST

Mark Twain once complained that a lie can make it half way around the world before the truth gets its boots on. That's been the case of late in the climate change debate, as political and media activists attempt to stigmatize anyone who doesn't pay homage to their "scientific consensus."

Last week the London Guardian published a story headlined, "Scientists Offer Cash to Dispute Climate Study." The story alleges that the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative-leaning think tank in Washington, collected contributions from ExxonMobil and then offered climate scholars $10,000 so they could lobby against global warming legislation.

Another newspaper, the British Independent, picked up on the story and claimed: "It has come to light that one of the world's largest oil companies, ExxonMobil, is attempting to bribe scientists to pick holes in the IPCC's assessment." (The IPCC is the United Nations climate-change panel.)

It would be easy to dismiss all this as propaganda from British tabloids, except that a few days ago the "news" crossed the Atlantic where more respectable media outlets, including the Washington Post, are reporting the story in what has become all too typical pack fashion. A CNNMoney.com report offered that "a think tank partly funded by ExxonMobil sent letters to scientists offering them up to $10,000 to critique findings in a major global warming study released Friday which found that global warming was real and likely caused by burning fossil fuels."

Here are the facts as we've been able to collect them. AEI doesn't lobby, didn't offer money to scientists to question global warming, and the money it did pay for climate research didn't come from Exxon.

What AEI did was send a letter to several leading climate scientists asking them to participate in a symposium that would present a "range of policy prescriptions that should be considered for climate change of uncertain dimension." Some of the scholars asked to participate, including Steve Schroeder of Texas A& M, are climatologists who believe that global warming is a major problem.

AEI President Chris DeMuth says, "What the Guardian essentially characterizes as a bribe is the conventional practice of AEI -- and Brookings, Harvard and the University of Manchester -- to pay individuals" for commissioned work. He says that Exxon has contributed less than 1% of AEI's budget over the last decade.

As for Exxon, Lauren Kerr, director of its Washington office, says that "none of us here had ever heard of this AEI climate change project until we read about it in the London newspapers." By the way, commissioning such research is also standard practice at NASA and other government agencies and at liberal groups such as the Pew Charitable Trusts, which have among them spent billions of dollars attempting to link fossil fuels to global warming.

We don't know where the Brits first got this "news," but the leading suspects are the reliable sources at Greenpeace. They have been peddling these allegations for months, and the London newspaper sleuths seem to have swallowed them like pints on a Fleet Street lunch hour.

So, apparently, have several members of the U.S. Senate. Yesterday Senators Bernard Sanders, Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein and John Kerry sent a letter to Mr. DeMuth complaining that "should these reports be accurate," then "it would highlight the extent to which moneyed interests distort honest scientific and public policy discussions. . . . Does your donors' self-interest trump an honest discussion over the well-being of the planet?"

Every member of AEI's board of directors was graciously copied on the missive. We're told the Senators never bothered to contact AEI about the veracity of the reports, and by repeating the distortions, these four Democratic senators, wittingly or not, gave credence to falsehood.

For its part, Exxon appears unwilling to take this smear campaign lying down. Bribery can be a crime, and falsely accusing someone of a crime may well be defamation. A company spokesman says Exxon has written a letter to the Independent demanding a retraction.

One can only conclude from this episode that the environmental left and their political and media supporters now believe it is legitimate to quash debate on climate change and its consequences. This is known as orthodoxy, and, until now, science accepted the legitimacy of challenging it.

More here, links:

http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2007_02_04-2007_02_10.shtml#1171057432

Friday, February 9, 2007
[Jonathan Adler, February 9, 2007 at 4:43pm] Trackbacks
The Senatorial Inquisition of AEI:

Spurred by the allegations that the American Enterprise Institute sought to "buy scientists" to challenge the IPCC report, four Democratic Senators wrote to AEI President Chris DeMuth to challenge AEI's actions and demand an apology. In their letter, Senators Bernie Sanders, Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, and John Kerry, alleged that if the published reports that AEI sought to "bribe" scientists were accurate, "it would be both disappointing and inexcusable." The Senators further proclaimed that they "would not stand silently by while organizations attempt to undermine science through offers of significant amounts of money." The letter concludes:

We hope that you will respond to this letter by telling us that the news reports that you offered to pay scientists up to $10,000 are incorrect. If not, we trust that AEI will publicly apologize for this conduct and demonstrate its sincerity by properly disciplining those responsible.​

In the meantime, it is clear that the Senators were not reserving judgement about AEI's alleged conduct. In a press release about the letter, Senator Sanders declared:

It's outrageous that a right-wing think tank with ties to Big Oil and the Bush Administration is trying to twist scientific findings for their political purposes on the pressing issue of climate change. . . . The IPCC report confirms the urgency of the problem and adds to the scientific consensus that global warming is happening now and is human-caused. Is there no limit to the lengths that some corporate-funded groups will go to protect their donors' short-term profits? Is the fate of the entire planet not important enough for them to put the common interest above their narrow self-interest? The truth is that this scandalous behavior on the part of AEI is just the latest example of how big money interests distort and undermine honest debate on the important issues facing our country in so many areas.​

AEI President Chris DeMuth did not take this lying down. His strongly worded response (complete with attachments) is posted on AEI's website here. Writes DeMuth:

I am saddened that you would not only believe the reports but would seek to give them credence by repeating them in ways that are even more reckless than the original article published last Friday by the Guardian.

The accusations of the Guardian article, and of your letter, are false. I sent around a memorandum to my AEI colleagues the day the article was published, attaching the letters we had sent to various scientists and policy experts knowledgeable about climate change issues . . . . Relevant portions of these documents were in circulation on the Internet last weekend and in the press earlier this week; they were readily available to anyone on your staffs who had wished to look into the matter or to call me or anyone else at AEI about it. . . .

The accusations of your letter, while couched in the form of questions and insinuations, are as I said harshly worded, and are extremely serious coming from four members of the United States Senate. And they are leveled at a long-established research institution, familiar to all of you, which takes the integrity and independence of its research equally seriously . . . . So it is not a rhetorical question to ask whether you stand by your letter and think it was well-considered.

Finally, I must take exception to your pointed opening reference to “the depths to which some would sink to undermine the scientific consensus that human activity is the major source of global climate change.” I believe you have overstated the scientific consensus on the subject, but, even if you have not, I find it worrisome that four powerful political leaders would object to scientific dissent per se. Although you later give a formulaic nod to the right of dissent, you object to being paid a “significant” sum for dissenting research, which rather limits your conception of permissible dissent.

Consensus--and freedom to challenge consensus--are equally vital to the progress of science. History, including recent history, is replete with examples of expert consensus that turned out in the fullness of time to be mistaken. When I look over AEI’s publications and conferences on climate change issues, I can indeed find arguments against (as well as for) aspects of IPCC modeling and other matters where some have urged that public debate should cease. I want you to know that AEI will continue to sponsor research and host speakers on climate change issues whose views we regard as reasonable and worthy of attention--never seeking to undermine any consensus for its own sake, but also never paying heed to whether particular views are in or out of official favor. AEI scholars have stood in opposition to established orthodoxy many times; we cherish our intellectual freedom and are proud of the uses we have made of that freedom; we will not be silenced by threats to that freedom.​

The Wall Street Journal editorializes on the exchange here.
 

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