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The dog days of April

I don’t even like August weather in August, not in Philadelphia, which is why I’ll be spending the summer in New Zealand, where bees buzz around in cool breezes that blow up from Antarctica with icebergs the size of Rhode Island. More here.

Demolition job on climate science

By Huffington Post. Wow, this one’s a doozy. Oh, and by the way, guys, congrats on your Pulitzer!

What it takes to win Pulitzers, most of the time, is big budgets, smart reporters, and weighty topics of national import. But most of the stories that shape our national debates, and thereby our future, are nothing like this sort of award bait. Most of those stories are more like “NASA Global Warming Stance Blasted By 49 Astronauts, Scientists Who Once Worked At Agency,” a short piece in the Huffington Post last week.

This article recycled a press release announcing that a bunch of former NASA employees, including some astronauts and scientists but no climate experts, had taken issue with the agency over its work on global warming. Findings that “man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated,” the retirees charged. The article — written not by one of HuffPo’s famously uncompensated bloggers, but by its science editor, David Freeman — didn’t offer a single fact in rebuttal of the letter. But at the end, it asked: “What do you think? Is NASA pushing ‘unsettled science’ on global warming?”

It was a ludicrous postscript, one that abdicated the very purpose of science coverage. Journalists who specialize in science are our proxies to help us figure out what’s trustworthy in realms where we lack detailed expertise ourselves and don’t have time to acquire it. Asking for opinions online can be entertaining — but the climate debate isn’t the same thing as, say, weighing in on whether “The Hunger Games” movie did justice to the book.

Recognizing the boneheadedness of its move, and responding tosearing criticism from folks like Grist’s David Roberts, HuffPo soon withdrew its query. It turned out that, in fact, the editors already had their own answer. They disagreed with the letter-signers! They do have a “reality meter” on this subject; it must’ve just been switched off during the preparation of the original post.

We’ve removed the question because HuffPost is not agnostic on the matter. Along with the overwhelming majority of the scientific community (including 98% of working climate scientists), we recognize that climate change is real and agree with the agencies and experts who are concerned about the role of carbon dioxide.

This was the right thing to do, and it placated the critics. “Let’s all move on,” Roberts wrote.

I’m afraid I’m not quite ready to do that — because this little dustup offers precious insight into a much more significant and widespread phenomenon in climate coverage. The NASA letter is a perfect case study in what press critic Jay Rosen has called “verification in reverse.”

Here’s Rosen, with whom I chatted about this issue on Friday (here’s afull transcript):

Verification is taking something that might be true, and trying to nail it down with facts. In reverse verification you take something that’s been nailed down and try to introduce doubt about it. “Was Obama born in the United States?” is the clearest example. The phenomenon of “verification in reverse” poses a special problem for journalists. On the one hand, they are supposed to report what people are saying. They are supposed to bring us the news of controversies, protests, disagreements. “Conflict makes news,” and all that. On the other hand, verification is their business. If they cannot support that, they cannot support themselves or their users. They are socially useless, in fact, if they cannot stand up for verification.

Rosen’s “verification in reverse” helps us understand the game that’s being played by climate-change denialists. They are manufacturing events that seem to play by the rules of reported journalism, yet are essentially fraudulent.

Miss you like the devil

Tracy Nelson:


A thought-provoking essay by Laurie Penny, the firebrand journalist.

Hurts so bad

Susan Tedeschi:

Hot fun in the summertime

In honor of this 90 degree day, Sly and the Family Stone:

All my rage

Laura Marling:

Occupy West Side Story

This is great:

Scenes from the gym

So there’s this cocky little guy, long hair in a ponytail, lifting weights while he’s wearing flip-flops. And I’m thinking to myself, “Are you fucking crazy?” Every time he walks past the mirrored wall, I see him sneak an approving glance at himself. But all I notice is that despite all his efforts, his psoas muscles are too tight and they push his belly out. He should take a yoga class.

You see that a lot with these guys; they overtrain and lose flexibility. But telling a guy not to do something is a losing cause, I suspect. “See that guy doing that lat pull?” my trainer says to me. “I specifically told him not to do that. Good luck, pal, when you blow out your back.” She shakes her head.

It’s an act of extreme emotional vulnerability to walk into a gym when you’re fat. People do look at you. Fortunately, my trainer sees it, too, and mutters, “Assholes.”

My trainer is a hot lesbian Latina from Brooklyn who recently became engaged and is sporting a nice-sized marquise diamond on her left hand. She is stern but kind and tells me all the time how much stronger I’m getting. “When you came back, you were doing sets of 10 and you could barely do it. This week, you’re doing 15 to 20,” she says. “Good for you, chica!”

Today, while I’m on the treadmill, I watch the hunky firemen. (My gym is right next door to the PFD headquarters.) There are a lot of them. I think about selling guest passes to my female friends, because these guys are some nice eye candy.

When I go to the gym, I don’t worry about money (which I’m quickly running out of). I don’t think about job hunting, or why that HR person didn’t call me back. I just think about getting stronger and healthier, and for a little while, that’s enough.


Monday, April 16 | 9 pm eastern | 6 pm pacific |Virtually Speaking A-Z | Jay Ackroyd and Stuart Zechman continue their conversation about the present and future of liberalism in a centrist America.. Plus the weekly What Digby Says. Recorded earlier in the day. Follow @Stuart_Zechman @JayAckroyd Listen on BTR

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