This Week in Journamalism

Zachary Roth on George Will of the *Washington Post*:>TPMMuckraker | Talking Points Memo | Where There’s a (George) Will There’s A Way … To Deny Global Warming: Looks like Fred Barnes isn’t the only high-profile conservative columnist still arguing that climate change doesn’t really exist.>Over the weekend, the Washington Post’s George Will, got in on the act. And it took us about ten minutes — longer, it appears, than the Post’s editors spent — to figure out that Will, like Barnes, was essentially making stuff up. Both of Will’s major “data points” fall apart after a moment’s scrutiny. Here’s the first:>>According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979. >But within hours of Will’s column appearing, the ACRC had posted the following statement on its website:>>We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.>>It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.>So, nevermind then.>As for Will’s second claim, he writes:>>[A]ccording to the World Meteorological Organization, there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade.>This one is a little more complicated. But only a little.>Will’s claim appears to come from a BBC News article from way back in April 2008, whose first version reported:>>Global temperatures will drop slightly this year as a result of the cooling effect of the La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said.>>The World Meteorological Organization’s secretary-general, Michel Jarraud, told the BBC it was likely that La Nina would continue into the summer.>>This would mean global temperatures have not risen since 1998, prompting some to question climate change theory.>It’s true that temperatures haven’t risen since 1998, because that year was a particularly hot one. But as anyone with a high-school level grasp of statistics understands, you need to look at data over a broad period to get a realistic assessment of what’s going on. In fact, the WMO itself made that very point in an “information note” that confirmed that the organization believes global warming is continuing, and pointed out that the last decade has been the warmest on record.>The WMO wrote:>>The long-term upward trend of global warming, mostly driven by greenhouse gas emissions, is continuing. Global temperatures in 2008 are expected to be above the long-term average. The decade from 1998 to 2007 has been the warmest on record, and the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74C since the beginning of the 20th Century. […] “For detecting climate change you should not look at any particular year, but instead examine the trends over a sufficiently long period of time. The current trend of temperature globally is very much indicative of warming,” World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General, Mr Michel Jarraud said in response to media inquiries on current temperature “anomalies”.>Indeed, the BBC soon changed the third paragraph of its report to read:>>But this year’s temperatures would still be way above the average – and we would soon exceed the record year of 1998 because of global warming induced by greenhouse gases.>That changed prompted climate change deniers to see a nefarious conspiracy to hide the truth. But given that additional information from the WMO, it’s pretty clear that the revised version better reflects reality.>Will, of course, doesn’t appear to have been interested in any of this. He saw (perhaps via Rush Limbaugh?) a report that appeared to confirm what he believes … and straight into the Washington Post it went. Neither did Will’s editors at the Post seem to care enough about not misinforming their readers to take ten minutes to delve into any of this.>An assistant for Will said the columnist might be able to return TPMmuckraker’s call about the column this afternoon. Fred Hiatt, the Post’s editorial page editor told TPMmuckraker he’d try to respond to questions about the editing process later today. We’ll update this post if we hear back.>Thanks to reader C.P. for the catch.—-Ahab rubs his eyes as David Broder finally resurrects Republican obstructionism in 1993 from the memory hole:>If I Ran the Zoo: Memory Like An Elephant: David Broder:>>Republicans have seen to it that Obama has complete ownership of the economic rescue. By withholding nearly all their votes, they are betting that it will fail, just as they did in 1993 when the newly elected Bill Clinton pushed his first budget and tax package through Congress without a single Republican vote.>>Back then, Newt Gingrich predicted that the Democratic plan would lead to “a job-killing recession,” and Dick Armey, his lieutenant, called it “a recipe for disaster.”>>Even if they had been right, they took the risk of seeming to be betting against something most voters hoped would succeed. But they were wrong — the economy soared under Clinton.>>Sixteen years later, today’s Republicans seem to have forgotten that experience.>Gee willikers. I’ve been reading Bipartisan Broder for like ten years, and I can’t remember him ever mentioning, in all that time, this “experience” of Republicans betting unanimously against President Clinton’s economic package. And losing!>It’s almost as if it never happened. How ever did the liberal media miss this story?—-Alec MacGillis and Perry Bacon Jr.:>Republicans See Long-Term Victory in Defeat on Stimulus Plan: **GOP Sees Positives In Negative StandLeaders Seize On Spending Issue:** Three months after their Election Day drubbing, Republican leaders see glimmers of rebirth in the party’s liberation from an unpopular president, its selection of its first African American chairman and, most of all, its stand against a stimulus package that they are increasingly confident will provide little economic jolt but will pay off politically for those who oppose it.>After giving the package zero votes in the House, and with their counterparts in the Senate likely to provide in a crucial procedural vote today only the handful of votes needed to avoid a filibuster, Republicans are relishing the opportunity to make a big statement. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) suggested last week that the party is learning from the disruptive tactics of the Taliban, and the GOP these days does have the bravado of an insurgent band that has pulled together after a big defeat to carry off a quick, if not particularly damaging, raid on the powers that be.>”We’re so far ahead of where we thought we’d be at this time,” said Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), one of several younger congressmen seeking to lead the party’s renewal. “It’s not a sign that we’re back to where we need to be, but it’s a sign that we’re beginning to find our voice. We’re standing on our core principles, and the core principle that suffered the most in recent years was fiscal conservatism and economic liberty…Americablog comments:>On handling the stimulus: 67% approval vs. 31% approval: The talking heads in D.C. are all agog over the Hill Republicans these days, summed up by a front page story in today’s Washington Post noting “the glimmers of rebirth” seen by the Hill Republicans because of their insurgent tactics and the continued domination of Republican members of Congress on cable news. Just shows how far out of touch the corporate political media is, because the American people don’t see it that way. Not even close:>>The American public gives President Barack Obama a strong 67% approval rating for the way in which he is handling the government’s efforts to pass an economic stimulus bill, while the Democrats and, in particular, the Republicans in Congress receive much lower approval ratings of 48% and 31%, respectively…—-

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