Thursday, October 1, 2015

An Open Letter to UW's Sarachik and Wallace

Dear Dr. Sarachick and Dr. Wallace:

I was rather disappointed to see your names on the now notorious "Gang of 20" RICO Letter. You see, I live over the hill from the University of Washington Seattle campus in Green Lake. It is painful to me that you two scientist chaps would get yourselves involved in such a tawdry affair.

There was a time when liberals cared about siccing the government on political opponents. Remember the McCarthy era? But these days, it seems that any means is OK for advancing a political agenda. The RICO act was passed to make it easier for the federal government to pursue actual criminal gangs. Do you really want to expand the use of RICO so that the government can use it against any conspiracy? Really? Have you thought through that? Have you thought about what a Republican administration staffed to the gills with Koch Brothers adepts could do with such an expanded RICO?

I have a number of problems with your letter, reproduced here, now that the original on the IGES website has been withdrawn.

The letter you signed is not about science, but about politics. I looked at Brulle, 2013, and it is not science. It is political advocacy. Surely you can see that. And the other references in the letter are obviously books of political advocacy. Nothing wrong with that. It just isn't science.

The letter you signed wants to make normal political chicanery into a crime. Let's accept the climate advocates' premise that the opposition to climate change policy is driven by Big Oil and Big Conservatism and that it is a cynical program knowingly based on lies to mislead the American people. If you made that illegal you make just about all politics illegal.  All politics is a conspiracy: people agreeing on a particular cause band together. They raise money; they spend it. Very often their contributors want to hide their identities, because of fear of reprisal. They castigate their opponents as knaves and liars. So even if Big Oil and the Koch Brothers' financed foundations are monsters and are opposing climate change policies for their own selfish and anti-social purposes, that is their right in a free country.

The letter you signed used the tobacco company suit as an example to follow. Really. How much do you know about the tobacco suit? Do you know that most of the money went to the lawyers, and a lot of the rest to governments so they could run anti-tobacco campaigns although in the event a lot of the money was just spent on programs, money being fungible? Do you know that actual smokers got very little of the settlement money? In my view the tobacco suit itself was something of a conspiracy -- to milk the tobacco companies of their profits.

The letter you signed says that, speaking "as climate scientists... America's response to climate change... is insufficient." You may be right. But the point of politics is that the people and their representatives are perfectly within their rights to say: "screw the future, we ain't spending no money on this egg-head stuff. Give us our entitlements and shut up." And if Congress is "recalcitrant," well the answer to that is to elect a Congress that isn't recalcitrant. But judging from the election returns of the last few years, the people are perfectly happy with a recalcitrant Congress. What people want right now is jobs, and I must say, as a member of the 1% (which you pretty well have to be to afford to live in North Seattle) I sympathize with the people.

Now we have the revelations that the lead signatory of your letter, Jagadish Shukla, seems, on the face of it, to be "double-dipping" in violation of the protocols of the National Science Foundation. Who knows what the truth is? And what does it say that only right-wing organizations have so far written about it?  Only I would say this. When Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit gets involved you'd better start looking for the exits.

I'm sorry that you chaps got involved in this mess; I'm sure that you regret it. Perhaps we could get together for coffee some day. I doubt if I'd be interested in your politics, but I would certainly be interested to hear about the science.

Sincerely,

Christopher Chantrill

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