Bummer: The CDC Report Won’t Jail Andrew Wakeman

Today the CDC “piled on” with new study results showing no link between childhood vaccines and autism. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that a startling number of parents are still not going to feel good about getting their children vaccinated against a range of terrible, avoidable diseases.

And far too many of them will find ways to avoid vaccinations.

Group of Friends Smiling

Once again, CDC shows there is no threat of autism from vaccine antigens.
(Photo: Center for Disease Control)

It has been 15 years –  1998 – since then Dr. Andrew Wakefield of Great Britain published a paper in Lancet linking the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine with autism. Wakefield distorted data and just plain old lied about his subjects, of which there were only 15, and later resigned due to the controversy.

Sadly, it took until January 2010 – twelve years(!) — for the UK General Medical Council to find his actions fraudulent, for all kinds of reasons. On 24 May 2010 he was struck off the United Kingdom medical register.

But the damage was done.  Desperate parents of autistic children, pained beyond measure, began clinging to his falsified research as truth.  Hollywood celebs got into the roaring campaign against vaccinations.  All flavors of purportedly “scientific” arguments were posited (There are too many shots too soon!  There is mercury in the vaccines!…) and on and on.

No voice of reason or science could effectively shut down the misinformation.  Many studies looking at all angles of the hypothesis were conducted and the Wakefield findings were repeatedly refuted.

Today’s release from the CDC may help, but it will stir rampant, painful denialism in the true believers – the “anti-vaxxers.”

And too many children will suffer, unprotected.

It may be possible to actually quantify the lives lost due to measles or other diseases in children whose parents denied them protection on the basis of Wakefield’s lies.  Someone should do this, but it would meaning opening wounds in tortured, grieving parents. No parent deserves that.

Wakefield is still gadding about in Texas — No one in the UK would have him, so he spent some time over here on the lecture circuit.

He belongs in jail, not behind a microphone.

Almost isn’t good enough.

When reporters and bloggers paraphrase science findings in the news, any misrepresentation, however slight, can turn into a “troll trap” and add fuel to conspiracy-threorist fires.

Case in point: The Verge ran a global warming impact piece last Thursday with a screaming headline reading “Global warming and sea ice loss made Hurricane Sandy worse, study says.”


NOAA Satellite Suomi-NPP captured this image of Sandy on the east coast last October. (Courtesy: NASA)

The problem is that the cited study did not conclude that global warming made Sandy worse; it suggested a logic based on observations and science that would support such an idea.

You can read the uncorrected proof of a March 2013 Oceanography magazine article summarizing the study’s findings for yourself here, but let me review the particulars:

– The Ocenaography article does a good job describing how record-breaking de-icing of the arctic ocean this year allowed more cold air incursions farther south over North America.

– The arctic changes force more undulations in the jet stream, which allows “blocking highs” to suspend the westward movement of storm systems in the usual manner.

– Sandy was a storm that got re-routed towards the Atlantic coastline because of one of these unusual patterns.

All well and good, but the Oceanography article goes to great lengths to point out the following:

“Although a direct causal link has not been established between the atmospheric phenomena observed in late October and the record-breaking sea ice loss observed…all of the observations are consistent with such an interpretation.”

The Oceanography author goes on:

“…Perhaps the likelihood of greenhouse warming playing a significant role in Sandy’s evolution as an extratropical superstorm is at least as plausible as the idea that this storm was simply a freak of nature.”

With their brazen headline, Carl Franzen and the editors of The Verge decided to amp up the story with authoritarian certainty that was not present in the cited article.

Global warming deniers love this stuff: They feast on certainty, generalizations, and lapses of understanding that make it past editors – claiming each mis-statement or, in this case, overstatement, is proof of the vast eco-nazi conspiracy.

So let’s keep it tight out there, ok?


Records fell last August in Arctic sea ice extent. (Courtesy: NOAA’s National Snow and Ice Data Center)

Stevie had it Right…

The great prophet Stevie Wonder said “When you believe in things that you don’t understand you suffer.  Superstition ain’t the way.”


Stevie Wonder (Photo CC: Wikipedia Commons)

Oddly however, (with a guilty nod towards Stevie), I find my self questioning the alignment of the cosmos over the past few days:  Several mainstream news items dared to state that the most public findings of the science of global warming are not a matter of debate anymore (among those who study it).

Well I’ll be darned.

Some refreshingly crisp stories and informed analyses managed to get some attention, based on their Google-search numbers last week…

Here is the New York Times offering a deeper look into CO2 levels and the end of the last ice age.  Worthy of  a full read.

Here is a good discussion of the real story behind the often cited solar-variability “theory” for recent warming (i.e., blaming it on sunspots, solar activity, etc.) from our friends at the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang last week. (Bottom line: Sunspots and quasi-decadal solar output changes add little to the surface temperature change signature.)


Solar irradiance changes are dwarfed by manmade climate forcing. (cc:Wikipedia Commons)

And here’s a pleasantly frank discussion from the State of Kansas, that great bastion of (failed) evolution deniers who this time seem to be at wits end over all sorts of brazen bills and mandates.  In one case it seems they are trying to balance accepting grants for wind energy with the desire to ensure “debate” on global warming is amped up in schools.

Except, points out one University of Kansas teacher, Johannes J. Feddma, there is no debate:

“We’ve known for over a century about the greenhouse effect and how humans might change it. This is nothing new from a science perspective.”

One bill in the Kansas House would outlaw any activity that uses public money on “sustainability.”

You think we’re not in Kansas anymore?

Guess again.

We’ll keep hearing this nonsense until Stevie’s admonition is soundly addressed.

We Need a Twain for These Times

In an age that should beg for evidence, we too often hear refrains of unsupported opinions and assertions, of desperate clinging to declarations without basis.

We need the riverboat pilot back again to play court jester to our community squabbles thus started:

   “Supposing is good, but finding out is better.”


An Inconvenient Doofus

Ostrich-like journalists continue to use refuted arguments that global cooling was predicted by “many scientists.”  The latest comes from renowned denialist George F. Will.

In today’s Washington Post, Will continues his smug blah-blah-blah against Obama and others who, Will claims, have been fanning flames of various unfounded doomsday scenarios – global warming among them.


(photo CC: Keith Allison)

While Will primarily is calling out the apocalyptic predictions of sequestration survivalists, he turns to his old itch, global warming, towards the end of his piece.

He resurrects six, count ’em, long-dead “the ice age is a comin'” sources – none of them primary and all of them excerpted out of context – in an attempt to show that science really isn’t worth paying attention to after all. But none of Will’s sources cite supporting science, they all come from the 1970’s, and all represented then an enticing feedbag of easy sensationalism for the general press.

By Will’s condescending account, today’s global warming child is crying wolf.  So why pay attention?

To be fair, global temperatures had been flat or on a modest decline for much of the period between 1945 and 1970; This was assessed to be the result of forcing by large aerosol pollution.  But the truth is that far more peer-reviewed research papers in the 1970s were published predicting global warming as a result of increased carbon dioxide than predicted global cooling.


(image CC: skepticalscience.com)

Furthermore, and most importantly, the primary paper Will mentions that suggested cooling was later found to be flawed, and the primary author himself, Stephen Schneider, confirmed this: “CO2 warming dominates the surface temperature patterns soon after 1980.”

So once again I find myself calling out Mr. Will for cherry picking dated and refuted sources, for offering no supporting citations in science, and for generally mocking that which he has not had the courage to learn about.

Mr. Will repeatedly shows no interest in the facts in his global-warming-scam op-ed pieces, and should be ignored until further notice.

How inconvenient.

New Material For Mark Twain

Missouri House Bill 1227 would equalize evolution and  intelligent design in schools.   Where is Samuel Clemens when you need him?


A few knuckleheads of the Show Me State’s general assembly have introduced the bill, which mirrors other boneheaded laws passed in Louisiana and Tennessee.

Evolution, the expansively demonstrated foundational theory woven into the fabric of every branch of biological science, just doesn’t sit well with a certain segment of lawmakers even today.

Listen to some of the definitional clauses in the bill:

     “9) “Scientific theory”, an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy.”

[Seriously. Theories taught in the state would now include biblical “philosophies” if this thing passes.]

  “(3)(b) If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught.”

…and this one, under a long definition of “Biological Intelligent Design:”

 “Naturalistic mechanisms do not provide a means for making life from simple molecules or making sufficient new genetic material to cause ascent from microscopic organisms to large life forms.”

We can only sit and watch the Missouri state house go through its machinations on this bill. Perhaps more rational arguments from opponents will result in the bill’s demise in a sort of survival-of-the-fittest legislation experiment.

If it passes, however, we can delight in the wit of that oft quoted Missourian and river boat pilot pictured above, and hope that school children in the state are onto the whole mess, as Mr. Twain himself claimed to be:

    “I never let schooling interfere with my education.”

Make the knuckleheads shovel their own walks…

fenway_park_snowOn the eve of the first major northeastern winter storm of the season (10 PM EST Forecast: 7+Inches in Yankee Stadium; maybe 2 feet in Fenway) I can imagine the warming denial warriors hunched over keyboards, ready to hit the blogosphere with another round of “Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!” posts.

I’m talking about predictable counterpoints by deniers that inevitably follow trite, lazy quotes from non-climatologists who tenuously link any specific weather event with global warming.98fwbgus

As Boston digs itself out of the blizzard on Saturday, someone will be sure to say “Big storms like this are surely a sign of things to come,” or some such generalization, and the statement will come unqualified, incomplete, and probably out of context.

And it will spread like salt from a dump truck on I-95.

Hacks who pretend to have an understanding of climate will spew: “Doesn’t the (Mayor, governor, local TV celebrity) read the history books?  Has he forgoten the story of the Blizzard of 1888?  There was no global warming then!”

Blizzard_1888_01Well-intended, but verbally and scientifically challenged spokespersons for the climate science community spring from all corners when nature takes a swipe at us. The denial crowd relishes an open mike at such occasions, and short, loose quips become to them more evidence that anthropogenic global warming “activists” are trying to scare us all with lies and distortions.

(And, regrettably,  despite the veracity of the “Loaded Dice” analogy, widely attributed to James Hansen, it remains dangerous for a communicator to put forward any casual connection between warming and a specific event: We have to learn to do a better job at this.)

My advice?

Put a zipper on it, Governor.  Shut your pie hole, Madame Mayor.

Ask a well-informed source about the storm and leave the speculation to those who have really studied and understand regional impacts of global warming.

Let’s not give the knuckleheads any bogus victories.

Make them shovel their own walks.

Rotten Cherries for a New World Order

I’ve had it with Forbes.

I seriously don’t know why I let their pack of nincompoops get my dander up this often.

The latest transgression comes this week from Mr. Larry Bell, infamous author of “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax.”

Bell has gathered enough loose cherries — all of them rotten — to make a pie.  And in this month of George Washington’s birthday, we would be well advised to leave rotten cherry pies to the liars who can’t throw a dollar across the Potomac or cut down a cherry tree with a little axe…or some such admonition.george_washington_and_cherry_tree

Bell’s thesis seems to be this:

People like Obama and sinister climatologists are trying to scare us with promises of more fires and floods and hurricanes and droughts if we don’t face climate change (we can assume he means global warming.)

…and the REAL reason the pols and grant-lusting scientists put forward an activist global warming “agenda” is that, wait for it, they want to start a New World Order!

…but there are other scientists – the real life kind who actually served on committees and write papers  —  who don’t buy into the manmade warming hoax.

Now, to be fair, the debate in real climate science circles on whether warming has indeed caused a statistically-observable change in hurricane intensity and other phenomena is real and ongoing, as it should be.

But Bell won’t acknowledge this “science in progress” discussion.  Instead he proceeds to recite a litany of no-context quotes and anecdotes from within the great climate change machinery that refute hyperbolic claims of the sinister liberals.

The trouble is, his citations are primarily from discredited sources, or are too dated to be relevant, or are cut so narrowly from a range of sources (including the stolen “Climategate” emails) that his arguments fail.

It is interesting and predictable that Bell doesn’t offer any substance behind the assertions of the quoted players. And he makes ample use of the stolen emails, removing them far from context, to show that the community is rife with disagreement and discussion and trickery and devious schemes to isolate IPCC members who weren’t ready to sign up to the New World Order.

Never mind that the stolen emails have been scrutinized again and again with no scientific or ethical wrongdoing ever exposed.  Never mind the repeated vindication of Dr. Michael Mann:  Bell really sticks it to the Unholy He,  Beelzebub of the Hockey Stick!


Bell reaches far back into the 80‘s and 90‘s for some of his tripe.  Let me just reveal two quotes he uses to hold up his theory that dishonesty and deception hide the real agenda of massive global wealth distribution and the termination of capitalism:

“The threat of environmental crisis will be the international disaster key to unlock the New World Order.” 

        — Mikail Gorbachev (!), 1996

Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.” 

        —  Stephen Schnieder, 1989 

Regrettably – but predictably – Bell leaves off Schneider’s next sentence:

        “I hope that means being both.”

Mr. Bell, it seems, has decided to be neither.

The Value of Doubt

In a 1963 lecture at the University of Washington Richard Feynman said:

“The government of the United States was developed under the idea that nobody knew how to make a government, or how to govern.  The result is to invent a system to govern when you don’t know how.  And the way to arrange it is to permit a system, like we have, wherein new ideas can be developed and tried out and thrown away.  The writers of the Constitution knew of the value of doubt.”

Richard FeynmanFeynman goes on:

“Doubt and discussion are essential to progress.”

One of the most frustrating conclusions we can draw from almost daily citations in the media covering lawmaking at the federal and state (and local- to be sure) level is the certainty to which our legislatures ascribe their positions on everything from the mundane (gas taxes in Virginia) to world-changing (acts of war, or their surrogate resolutions).

And so I find it oddly refreshing that the current cluster of monologues (I can’t find any real dialogue – yet) about gun violence is lacking few real polarizing sets of opposing certainties on just what should be done about it.

There is doubt about the likely efficacy of some of the changes proposed by the most strident gun control advocates.

There is a level of uncertainty, even disregard, for some of the more adventuresome suggestions from the gun rights folks, even among their own.

And there are the seeds of discussion beyond the Office of the Vice President.

But we just don’t know what to do.

We can mentally navigate around any of the proposed controls, any set of speed bumps and process barriers, to a scenario wherein some disturbed person could still easily get a weapon and commit another horror.

Though it seems we actually may be willing this time to abandon a starting position of certainty.

We are all in doubt.

Which means, as Feynman points out, that we may have an ingredient essential to progress.

Let’s hope.

What Forbes doesn’t understand.

image001In a snarky “gotcha” style commentary today, Forbes Magazine blogger for energy and environment (and Heartland Institute stooge) James Taylor makes an entire column out of an admittedly lazy (and probably inaccurate) conclusion buried in a summary statement of the new, draft report of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

No, the facile statement in the report implying that there is statistical evidence that floods are more common now under a warmer planet is not going to hold up under review.

Mr. Taylor (no relation to Sweet Baby James), however,  is content to giggle and taunt (making a bizarre comparison — a real stretch — between the climate scientists and the con men in the movie “The Sting”), but doesn’t offer us any insight as to whether the remaining 100-plus pages of the report have fazed him at all.

He found his “lie” and blames it on a biased executive committee and Democrats in the White House.

Why put any intellectual energy into truly examining the remainder of the report’s valid and demonstrable claims?

To do so might threaten his worldview, and force him to lie awake at night wondering if he, and his Heartland cronies, might actually be missing something in the science.