February 20, 2012

Ends, means, justifications, #Heartland

Word is out that climate scientist Peter Gleick used subterfuge to get at least some of the damning emails about Heartland Institute's "BIg Tobacco" playbook to fund climate denialism in schools, etc.

Not saying it does in this case, but this does raise the old philosophical issue of "do the ends justify the mean?" But because of, in party politics, Repubs and Dems' different approaches to the issue, this becomes an IOKIYAR issue, at bottom line.


And, therefore, I'm  not saying that the ends DON'T justify the means, either. Not right now. And, even if he wasn't totally ethical, this only leaves his career in tatters if everybody wants to believe that i does.


Or, too look at it anyther way, the ends vs. means issue is, like so many other things, a vector, or a scale, not two polarities.


But, per Rosen/Shirky/Jarvis, we're all "citizen journalists." Snark at the three of them aside, and given that no "actual journalists" had tried something like this ... just where does this stand on the ethics scale of violations? Petty misdemeanor? Grand misdemeanor? Fourth-degree felony? (I don't know that I would put it any higher than that; if your state has more than four degrees of felonies, put it at fifth-degree, maybe.)


Per Zhou Enlai, from a utilitarian perspective, of course, it's too soon to tell. From a "virtue ethics" point of view, though, which is kind of where I'm coming from, maybe a fourth-degree felony, but no, no higher than that.


I'm thinking of an episode of the original Star Trek, where an "Abraham Lincoln" was created out of Kirk's mind, as part of an alien civilization trying to determine "the difference between good and evil."


And Lincoln told Kirk that, in fighting the four psychopaths or whatever on the other side, that one had to fight fire with fire, and even occasionally add a little gasoline to the fire.

"Bad astronomer" Phil Plait agrees that Gleick is not necessarily wrong in what he did or how he did it. That said, I'm curious as to why Gleick outed himself; that alone, if he did it for ethical reasons, certainly counters Andrew Revkin, who seems to be the leading "panicker" on this issue among enviros.


Contra Revkin, environmentalists and climate scientists should NOT go into an “apologetic shell” right now. No way. No how.

And here's why:

Per a link at Watt's Up:
Peter Gleick, a prominent figure in the global warming movement, confessed to stealing electronic documents ... 
Nooo, he never confessed to *stealing* anything. 

Let's also remember, per this letter from PEER to Heartland (PDF) that Heartland, et al, continue to post emails that WERE stolen, not just gotten under a pseudonym but by legitimate channels. Reason No. 2 that we should all be at least as tough-minded as PEER.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Samuel

--"Snark at the three of them aside, and given that no "actual journalists" had tried something like this ... just where does this stand on the ethics scale of violations?"

Obtaining electronic documents by fraud is wire fraud, a federal offence. Calling it theft is as accurate as calling industrial espionage theft.

--""Bad astronomer" Phil Plait agrees that Gleick is not necessarily wrong in what he did or how he did it."

Plait position is based on the idea the memo is accurate. The links below give a good summary about why this assumption is wrong.

Additionally, Plait assumes the memo is the anonymous document Gleick is refering to. If it isn't, that Gleicks confession could both be true and include adding a fake document to the pile.

--"That said, I'm curious as to why Gleick outed himself; that alone, if he did it for ethical reasons, certainly counters Andrew Revkin, who seems to be the leading "panicker" on this issue among enviros."

Limited Hang-out. It was pretty obvious it was Gleick- the memo had several features that pointed to him.

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/02/heartland-memo-looking-faker-by-the-minute/253276/

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/02/peter-gleick-confesses-to-obtaining-heartland-documents-under-false-pretenses/253395/

Gadfly said...

First, given that Gleick was already a member of that email list, I think fraud is going to be tough to prove, at least criminal fraud. I'm not a lawyer, and have no idea if there's case law precedent, but that's my layperson's opinion.

If Heartland doesn't file charges in the very near future, that will answer that.

Related, unless Gleick is really dumb, I don't think he would have publicly outed himself unless he thought the idea of criminal charges weren't likely.

As for Heartland considering civil action ... that risks counter-discovery on the East Anglia emails, so ... ain't gonna happen, IMO.

As for the one memo being fake ... there are a variety of other explanations, including a "leaker" being in a rush, a set-up job by somebody at Heartland starting to get suspicious, and several other things.

So, "nice tries," but ...

Anonymous said...

Samuel
"First, given that Gleick was already a member of that email list, I think fraud is going to be tough to prove, at least criminal fraud."

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/20/peter-gleick-admits-to-deception-in-obtaining-heartland-climate-files/
Gleick's Confession"
"In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name. "

"As for Heartland considering civil action ... that risks counter-discovery on the East Anglia emails, so ... ain't gonna happen, IMO."

What do you mean?

"As for the one memo being fake ... there are a variety of other explanations, including a "leaker" being in a rush, a set-up job by somebody at Heartland starting to get suspicious, and several other things."

Uh, neither of those are rebuttals to it being fake. Being in a rush wouldn't have resulted in the memo being rewritten and a fake by someone at Heartland is, well fake.

What you are saying is Gleick didn't commit fraud, but the reason he was fingered was the writting style of the memo matched his.

While entrappment is possible, Gleick would have been fine if he recieved the memo and released it. I prefer the more plausible " people who commit crimes and are caught are idiots" explanation.

Gadfly said...

Gleick's confession just talks about ethics, nothing more.

A fake created by someone at Heartland is of course different than a fake by Gleick.

Anonymous said...

Samuel
No, he solicited documents under someone elses name. All Heartland has to do is show the ducuments had value and Gleick is guilty of wire fraud.

"A fake created by someone at Heartland is of course different than a fake by Gleick. "

Obviously, but the later is more likely than the former. After all, if Gleick had received a fake document legally like he claims and released it he would be in zero trouble.

It is worth noting that Gleick's confession doesn't deny faking the document- he denies altering the documents he got, but if you don't assume he released the anonymous document, his statement is perfectly consistent with forging the memo.

Gadfly said...

We shall see. I still wouldn't get my hopes up too much.

And, of course, all of this obscures the primary issue ...

Heartland's worse than Big Tobacco approach to trying to brainwash kids.

Anonymous said...

Logical deduction does not really count as hope.

"Heartland's worse than Big Tobacco approach to trying to brainwash kids. "

The Heartland Institute is a libertarian Thinktank with a total budget of 6.4 million and 40 full time members. Global Warming is not their only issue. They are hardly comparable to the tobacco industry.

Their "brainwashing" has been sending teaching material to schools. Nobody has forced schools or teachers to use their materials.

Gadfly said...

Well, you're clear who you are. And, you carefully avoided responding to my comment about "trying to brainwash kids" by citing "teacher choice."

Please don't bother to try to dance around the issue further. As people have pointed out, climate denialists have clearly appropriated tactics from Big Tobacco.

Anonymous said...

Samuel
"Well, you're clear who you are. "

Hitler? Mao? Genghis Khan? Perhaps the unspeakable Hong Xiuquan?

"And, you carefully avoided responding to my comment about "trying to brainwash kids" by citing "teacher choice.""

Because they are different things?

I'm actually amazed- rather than attempting to change the law in order to force people to only teach their views or form seperate schools they are attempting to change educators minds by providing them information. This could be sinister... except for the fact they are completely open about what they are doing.

They post their articles on their newsletter for anyone to access- take a look:

http://news.heartland.org/policy-documents/climate-change-classroom-education-or-indoctrination-part-1-why-al-gore-doesn%E2%80%99t-bel

http://news.heartland.org/policy-documents/climate-change-classroom-education-or-indoctrination-part-2-scientific-critiques-gl

Gadfly said...

Providing pseudo-information, you mean. You're not going to win this argument on this blog. I can delete further posts as needed, if they continue to claim that Heartland has true information presented in context that proves global warming is a hoax.

Gadfly said...

And, speaking of ethics, let's take note of this (which, sadly, I thought had disappeared from Interior when W. left office): http://thinkprogress.org/green/2012/02/22/430457/deniergate-grijalva-calls-for-investigation-of-department-of-interior-scientist-on-heartland-payroll/

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