Friday, April 21, 2006

Check your facts

Patterico has the right idea for the wrong reason about what should be done with Michael Hiltzik, the confessed sock puppeteer and LA Times business columnist. I agree that there's no need to further discipline him; his humiliation and suspension of the Golden State blog should be enough.

But Patterico's reason, that his colleagues get away with such stuff all the time, is nonsense. That's an excuse to do nothing.

The Times should start with a simple commitment to accuracy and correcting erors, uh, errors. The Times should hire Brady Westwater at LA Cowboy, who has documented scores of errors over the last year. If the budget is tight, can the wretched Joel Stein.

Here's a recent example of the Times' factual inaccuracy: In yesterday’s Times, Jonah Goldberg falsely stated that “60 climatologists from around the world” wrote Canada’s prime minister that computer models of climate change cannot be trusted. Here is the letter. Many of the people on the list are not climatologists, some are not even scientists.

Yes, I know, that's in the opinion section. But as the saying goes, you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

Goldberg is not a scientist, he's not even a science writer. He's a political columnist striving to make political points on an issue he's evidently not familiar with. All the more reason for him to do his homework. It's not as if the information isn't available. I found that letter in a few seconds on the Internet. (I checked other sources to make sure it was not some parody such as the LA Times fell for in December).

Had Goldberg just Googled the letter and checked the signers' affiliations, he wouldn't have made that mistake, one which had the effect of making his argument look stronger than it really is.

Goldberg also naively swallows the arguments of Richard Lindzen, a true scientific expert, whose dishonest handling of the evidence I've discussed earlier in this blog. While Lindzen has the scientific training, he's also a professional global warming skeptic who is much in the scientific minority. Goldberg shows no signs of having talked to some of the vast majority of Linzden's peers who disagree with him. He should read the work of science writer Chris Mooney, who neatly debunks Lindzen's disinformation. I suspect that Lindzen's fact-juggling, easily detectable by anyone conversant with the science on even a basic level, flew right over Goldberg's head.

Rehashing other peoples' work to make the desired political point may be par for the course with Goldberg, but the Times should put a stop to to this hackery.


Update: I corrected a couplel of spelling errors and added a word that I left out. But I am working here with no editor. Goldberg doesn't have that excuse.




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