Source for the goose: footnotes to history

Exploring the footnotes in Ian Wishart’s Air Con is proving to be an entertaining exercise. Last week I followed a reference that revealed a “National Science Foundation report” he cites to support his thesis that glaciers are showing a “delayed reaction” to warming hundreds of years ago, was in fact a 10 year old US educational web site aimed at middle school students — and that he had misunderstood it.

This week, I’m going to take you on a strange trip deep into the workings of Wishart’s theories about George Soros, and reveal the telling details he doesn’t want you to know. Earlier this week, Peter Griffin’s Sciblogs post on the US Centre for Public Integrity’s in-depth reporting on climate lobbying attracted Wishart’s attention:

…in their battle to spin about the evils of climate PR propaganda, Peter and Gareth approvingly hang their story on the work of the “US Center for Public Integrity”, exposed in Air Con as funded handsomely by drugs legalization kingpin and carbon investor George Soros.

I mean, puhleeeaze!

Soros is bankrolling virtually every global warming belief initiative that moves because he knows his children will become trillionaires off the carbon trading derivatives market and UN contracts the Soros group will win.

Yet another reason for the media to laugh at the Science Media Centre.

My curiosity piqued, I thought it might be worth re-reading the chapter in Air Con he devotes to Soros, and trying to follow the footnote trail he so obligingly provides.

When I reviewed Air Con last year, I noted that Wishart devoted a chapter to Soros, but didn’t discuss the content in any depth. Returning to Chapter 16, The Audacity of Dope, I was curious to find out why this billionaire financial dealer with fingers in many pies, philanthropic and political, was being given such detailed coverage in a book about global warming. This is what Wishart offers in justification (p234):

Here is a man who has essentially purchased the intelligentsia and the powerful of Europe, and the story of how he did it, and how he’s now captured the US as well, is central to unravelling the real agenda behind the global warming scam.

And so I started on the footnote trail. To prove Soros’s connection with the Centre for Public Integrity, Wishart relies on this article, The Hidden Soros Agenda: Drugs, Money, the Media, and Political Power, by Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media, published in October 2004 (footnote 369, p236). On p237, he provides an edited list of Soros’ funding of media bodies taken from Kincaid’s article, including:

• The Center for Public Integrity, headed by former CBS news producer Charles Lewis, $246,000

Remarkably, Wishart missed the chance to use an even bigger number. In his paragraph about the CPI Kincaid concludes:

In total, it is estimated that the group has received $1.7m from Soros.

Wishart also missed the fact that Charles Lewis stepped down as head of the CPI in January 2005 and was replaced by Bill Buzenberg — four years before Air Con was published. So much for being up to date…

I was also intrigued as to why a body calling itself Accuracy in Media would be so keen to impugn the reputation of Soros and the Center for Public Integrity. So I did some checking. AIM describes itself as:

“a non-profit, grassroots citizens watchdog of the news media that critiques botched and bungled news stories and sets the record straight on important issues that have received slanted coverage.”

Sourcewatch provides a little more context:

Accuracy in Media (AIM) has grown from a one-person crusade to a million-dollar-a-year operation by attacking the mainstream media for abandoning the principles of “fairness, balance and accuracy” in its reporting. New Right philanthropists, think tanks and media support its work, and many members of its advisory board are former diplomats, intelligence agents and corporate directors.

Strangely, for a group so concerned with accuracy, AIM still list notorious global warming denier Dr Fred Seitz (of Oregon Petition fame) as a member of their National Advisory Board. Dr Seitz died in 2008. The Sourcewatch entry also provides a useful list of bodies providing funding for AIM: there are oil companies galore — and the Carthage Foundation (of which more later).

AIM and Wishart are keen to play up Soros’ alleged connections with drug trafficking. Here’s Wishart:

Soros’ paid lobby groups and officials have even gone so far as to try and ensure that the Taliban are permitted to keep harvesting opium poppies so as to ensure that heroin remains available for supply.

The source for that is given in footnote 370, immediately beneath the AIM link: “Afghan Opium Pleases Taliban and Soros”, by Ramtanu Maitra, Executive Intelligence Review, 22 August 2008. Executive Intelligence Review? That sounds impressive. So I followed the link. Like Alice down the rabbit hole, things begin to get curiouser and curiouser…

Executive Intelligence Review is a magazine published by the LaRouche organisation. Lyndon H LaRouche is a US politician and seemingly perennial presidential candidate [Sourcewatch, Wikipedia] with an international organisation, and what one might charitably describe as an idiosyncratic world view. Consider this excerpt, for instance, from an article by LaRouche published in EIR this month:

Thus, the mass-murderous partnership between the British monarchy and President Obama, which is intended to reduce the world’s population, rapidly, from nearly 7 billions persons, to less than 2, is an evil scheme, long associated with British Royal Consort Prince Philip, who is allied with the President Obama who is now operating in a manner suggestive of treason, behind the back of the people of the U.S.A., a policy of Prince Philip which represents the greatest evil loosed upon this planet today.

LaRouche doesn’t like George Soros, either. During his 2008 presidential campaign, his organisation published an astonishing pamphlet (pdf), which opens with a section titled George Soros: Hit-man for The British Oligarchy. A later section on drugs concludes like this:

George Soros is one of the main British instruments, carefully chosen to be a front man of the Empire, covering up for its disgusting looting policy, now known, euphemistically, as globalization. Through organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Open Society, Soros pushes drugs and destroys nations. […] Just like the British East India Company’s devastation of India and China through two opium wars and decades of free trade, the same Empire calls on Soros as the assassin in the destruction of the United States. It is only through the obliteration of British hack George Soros and the British Empire which he represents, that we can hope to sober up the United States today.

The LaRouche demonisation of Soros is something Wishart appears to have swallowed whole, but reproduced only in part in his book. He clearly wants us to regard Executive Intelligence Review as a credible source of data on Soros’ activities, but doesn’t lay out the full depth of the billionaire’s duplicity as revealed in EIR. If George Soros really is a new kind of bad Bond, licensed to chill, why are Air Con’s readers sheltered from that “fact”? It shows just how careful you’ve got to be when choosing your evidence for a global conspiracy.

The LaRouche organisation is also staunchly anti-environmentalist (a recent cover of its 21st Century Science & Technology magazine is headlined Science Against Green Nazis) and believes global warming to be a big hoax. Sound familiar?

But let’s return to Wishart’s blog post, and his suggestion that anything that has ever received funds from Soros or his foundations is somehow tainted. I mentioned earlier that Accuracy in Media received funding from many oil companies and large corporates, and the Carthage Foundation. The latter is one of the Scaife Foundations, financial vehicles for US billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. Sourcewatch describes him thus:

Scaife is a billionaire contributor to the Republican Party and right-wing think tanks, one of the most influential men behind the right wing today. Scaife has helped establish their biggest institutions and supported some of their most radical ideas. […]
Among the right-wing organizations substantially funded by Scaife are the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, Judicial Watch, Cato Institute…

Heritage, AEI and Cato have all been deeply involved in campaigns to delay action on climate. Accuracy in Media — one of Wishart’s trusted sources — appears content to play along with the Scaide-funded orchestra. Here’s AIM Report editor Cliff Kincaid, writing this month about the Pope’s comments on the need for action on climate change:

Is all of this flowery rhetoric designed to usher in a new socialist international order? Is this what he means by changing the “model of development?”

One problem is that the Pope gives fewer news conferences than Obama. In fact, he gives none. So who in the media has the courage to hold the Vatican accountable for its campaign to help Obama usher us into a New World Order on the basis of nonsense about the environment and nuclear weapons?

Sound credible to you?

In Wishart world, organisations that have received some money from Soros can’t be trusted. Should we not apply the same reasoning to organisations that have been substantially funded by Scaife? They’re both billionaires with strong views, running some kind of personal political agenda. Let’s add in the Koch brothers (Hertitage, Competitive Enterprise Institute, founded Cato) for good measure. Seems fair and balanced to me.

Small problem for Wishart though. If you throw out all the stuff that emanates from right wing US think tanks, a climate sceptic doesn’t have much left. No Climate Depot (“a project of CFACT” — between 1991 and 2006 CFACT gained $1,280,000 from 18 grants from only two foundations — the Carthage Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation), no Patrick Michaels (Cato Institute), no Heartland Institute and their crank conferences. The whole apparatus of climate denial drops away, revealed as a construct of the political beliefs of a few right wing US billionaires.

But that’s too far-fetched to credit. I mean, it’s far more likely that Prince Philip is at this very moment conspiring with Obama and the worldwide truffle-growing cabal to send Soros on a mission to expose Wishart as a naive conspiracist with a far-right agenda. You mean you didn’t know that Phil was a truffle grower? 😉

22 thoughts on “Source for the goose: footnotes to history”

  1. Sure, Wishart is a stooge, one of the “court jesters” of the right-wing billionaires who fund AGW denial, but is he a dumb stooge or a smart stooge?

    Is he just riding the bandwagon for money and narcissistic supply, or does he actually believe this shite?

    Given his careful selection of conspiracy material (e.g. Royal Family as drug pushers would turn off too many kiwi mums and dads), I expect the former, i.e. he knows he is lying.

  2. Wishart knows exactly what he’s doing. His ‘errors’ are continually pointed out to him but he continues like they never happened. If you can live with yourself, there’s no doubt a lot of money to be made writing books for the deluded. It’s a loyal market.

    1. “His ‘errors’ are continually pointed out to him”

      CM, I’ve seen all the comments you leave on his website. I wouldn’t call this pointing out errors but nit picky arguments. Proving one source here or there was wrong does not mean the central thesis is wrong.

      It is a difficult argument to have via comments sections of blogs. You can cite your articles, Wishart his. It almost divides the litriture into two camps, what you (CM) would call genuine on one side and what Gareth would call ‘crank’ on the other.

      Its a bit like a debate between an evolutionist and a christian over the origin of life. The christian would cite the bible, to which the evolutionist would disregard. The evolutionist would cite fossil records and DNA evidence, to which the christian would disregard.

      If one party then said, “I have pointed out YOUR errors” they are treating their own position as infallable even though in reality neither can know for certain if they are right or wrong.

      In this case neither you nor Wishart know for sure if AGW theory is correct, it would be better to discuss the litriture, pros and cons of both sides, than for both of you to take up one position with religious zeal. Once you have done this no debate can ever really be had.

      1. Good try, but they aren’t ‘nit picky’ arguments at all. They are invariably simply pointing out where he’s clearly overstated something, or where he is being a hypocrite, or has undertaken a sly bit of misrepresentation which changes the whole meaning or context of the point. He’s a master of distortion (being well practiced).
        His ‘central thesis’ isn’t based on the balance of evidence. Like most deniers, it’s based on cherry-picking individual papers or research (while ignoring the multitudes that indicate the one he’s chosen isn’t widely supported), and cherry picking data. And citing non-scientific, non-peer-reviewed bunk from denier sites. Example after example after example is there for all to see.

        Pointing out where someone is just making sh*t up or dabbling in obvious misrepresentation or distortion isn't taking up 'one position with religious zeal'. It's pointing out religious zeal.

        My 'position' doesn't rely on conspiracy theories, the flow of money automatically meaning , constantly playing the ball and not the man, not admitting errors, etc etc. Ian's does.

      1. The satellite data measures the lower atmosphere (mostly the troposphere) while GISS does the surface temperatures. Comparing these records shows a close correlation but it’s importantly to note that any one year may not rank exactly the same.
        As a bit of a homework assignment C3Po you might want to find out what the uncertainty in the satellite temperatures for any one year is and then see if this makes 2009 statistically differentiable from say the 3rd, 4th and 5th warmest years.

        As for the GISS data, well, the temperature data that GISS uses is publically available (they list there sources here) and as is their code. So testing their reliability is open to anyone. Given the lack of credible scientific papers showing them to be unreliable it looks like they’re doing ok.

      2. “Meanwhile the satiliette records had it at 6th (since 1978), so how reliable are the GISS figures?” – C3.

        A more relevant question, seeing as thermometers are pretty easy to read, might be: “How accurate are measurements of the radiative brightness of atmospheric oxygen as a proxy for surface temperatures?”

        I don’t have an issue with them, despite that long history of errors in interpreting the data made by Spencer and Christy – failing to account for orbital decay, inter calibration errors between the different microwave sounding units, incorrect calculation for diurnal drift, etc, etc.

        The large annual and monthly swings in temperature (exaggerating water vapor variation from ENSO events?) doesn’t bother me, nor the modelling required to convert microwave brightness measurements in the upper atmosphere into proxies for the surface temperature, nor the fact that the polar extremes are not included. None of that bothers me because, improving upon scientific knowledge is often an incremental process, and more importantly the long term trend of the satellite record matches very well with the surface temperature record:

        The real problem with the satellite data is that it only goes back 30 years.

        1. “seeing as thermometers are pretty easy to read”

          Yes because this is all there is to the GISS temperature series, read the thermomenter each day and report the temp.

          I agree that sat temps have a margin of error as well.

  3. Mr News:

    Do you really think that the GISS scientists engaged in temperature measurement overlook such a simple issue as urban heat? I know the denialist industry keep asserting that they do, but if you can be bothered looking at something like James Hansen’s recent paper you’ll see that there’s no basis to that assertion. And since you probably won’t bother looking at his paper, or anything else that contradicts your fantasies, I’ve extracted a relevant sentence for you:
    “The GISS temperature analysis corrects for urban effects by adjusting the long‐term trends of urban stations to be consistent with the trends at nearby rural stations, with urban locations identified either by population or satellite‐observed night lights.”

  4. I wonder if there are studies on the dynamics of Blogs. Guess there are. It occurs to me that they’re great ways to place information on the table and absolutely awful at anything else.
    Information and communication are ultimately everything. Blogs succeed at the first and only appear to succeed at the second. Worse though is that I suspect we beleive they do both, thereby losing the opportunity to communicate but worse still moving forward on the assumption that we have.
    I’d be interested in your thoughts.

  5. Bandersdad – interesting point. Perhaps effective communication and discussion is limited by comments quickly going off topic. In which case…

    Despite his penchant for junk science, I was still surprised Wishart would see LaRouche as credible. Their British royal family conspiracy theory makes most other conspiracy theorists seem quite rational.

  6. I do note with interest that almost every comment thread includes something from one of the usual suspects trying to change the subject or just derail the discussion. It’s a deliberate policy,as far as I can see.

    I was staggered that Wishart would be daft enough to include a link to LaRouche stuff. It’s one thing to mine it for material, it’s quite another to admit to it. Perhaps he thinks that nobody checks footnotes, and that the more there are the better (and to a certain extent, he’s right in both respects — until someone checks up…).

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