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Parsing the Pacific Institute

Jim Lindgren, writing at law blog the Volokh Conspiracy, has been parsing the Pacific Institute's statement about reinstating Peter Gleick as president, and in particular the following phrase:

An independent review conducted by outside counsel on behalf of the Institute has supported what Dr. Gleick has stated publicly regarding his interaction with the Heartland Institute.

Lindgren notes that, being forged, the strategy document was not part of Gleick's interaction with the Heartland Institute. Gleick, you will remember, has said that he received it anonymously in the post. Lindgren concludes that there's a problem.

You’ve heard of non-denial denials. This is a non-confirmation confirmation.  Any lawyer worth his salt would read the Pacific Institute’s statement and assume that, while the investigation supported Gleick on the issue that no one disputed (“regarding his interaction with the Heartland Institute”), it probably did not support (or was silent) on the issue on which the Heartland Institute seemed to have the more likely explanation.

So there are two possibilities: EITHER (1) the report did not support Gleick on the origin of the fake document and the Board of the Pacific Institute is now trying to mislead the public with an evasive press release, OR (2) the Board of the Pacific Institute is extremely incompetent at writing press releases.


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Reader Comments (33)

But isn't this sort of 'independent investigation' exactly what we have come to expect from the 'Climate consensus' - simply follows the course of the other 'independent' whitewashes, sorry, 'investigations' with sufficiently vague language as to allow their supporters to claim 'exoneration'.

Jun 11, 2012 at 8:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

Lindgren links to a post by Andy Revkin concerning the Gleick reinstatement. The Revkin post is mostly sensible - but the comments beneath it are quite remarkable. Gleick is a hero, you see!

Jun 11, 2012 at 8:37 AM | Registered CommenterJeremy Harvey

It’s great that we are left to parse the gaps to try and get at the truth. Since the gaps are so huge this is fun, and the Volokh article sums it up very nicely and will be useful to point to as an easily understood reference for the more hard of thinking.

Kudos to Andrew Revkin of the Times for knowing how to read a press release.

I didn’t realise that spotting sophistry is supposed to such an exclusive skill that needs a pat on the head? I rather prefer the approach of offering utter disdain for the ones who go the other way and for whatever reason - laziness, progagandizing, lying etc - make out it was an exoneration. But maybe that isn’t very endearing of me? ;)

The part about Mann categorically saying the PI statement “exonerates” Gleick is revealing. If Mann is eager to endorse such a poor level of endorsement I would say it was because he personally needs the comfort that the world has enough people in it that are so gullible and simple minded to buy crap at that level ;)

Jun 11, 2012 at 8:46 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Didn't Mosh point the finger at Gleick because of the syntax of the forged document? I doubt that they "investigated" the forged document, but simply asked Gleick if it was his, he's played out the same old yarn about being sent it in the post and the investigators have written that up as being unable to prove his guilt for lack of evidence. Hence the PI board soft pedaling on the issue.

Jun 11, 2012 at 9:07 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Jun 11, 2012 at 8:46 AM | The Leopard In The Basement

The part about Mann categorically saying the PI statement “exonerates” Gleick is revealing. If Mann is eager to endorse such a poor level of endorsement I would say it was because he personally needs the comfort that the world has enough people in it that are so gullible and simple minded to buy crap at that level ;)

Agreed. Although it occurs to me that perhaps there is an alternate explanation: "exonerate" is a word Mann uses to describe what anyone who's actually read the text of the so-called investigations pursuant to Climategate would (quite correctly) call "whitewash".

So perhaps he has decided to add "exonerate" to the growing list of words and phrases that these noble "climatologists" have "redefined" so that they are more fit for (their) purpose 'n propaganda!

Then, again, considering the brevity of the PI reinstatement statement - and the conspicuous absence of any mention of the forged memo - it's entirely possible that:

a) Mann is saddled with a profound reading comprehension deficit; or

b) Just as Gleick reviews books he clearly hasn't read, Mann comments on "statements" he clearly hasn't read.

Jun 11, 2012 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterHilary Ostrov

The irony is that whilst Peter Gleik's intention was to undermine and subsequently destroy the HI, he has, in fact; raised it's profile. Furthermore, he seems intent on taking down the PI with him, rather than doing the honourable thing and resigning.
This seems to be quite inkeeping with his revealed character; (or lack thereof).

Jun 11, 2012 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

We have often opined how climate scientists have become politicians but what's worse is that they've become lawyers. Not that I have anything against the legal profession per se. But science is and has to be the opposite end of the spectrum from legal defence of a dodgy client. Even auditors are called upon to give a "true and fair view". As Lovelock and Feynman have said, scientists have to be far more self-critical than that or the system simply falls apart.

Jun 11, 2012 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Gleick is going down in flames, with the rest of the global-warming scam. Followed by Upside Down Mann, Hysterical Grandfather Hansen, and Chicken Little Gore.

Heil Fanny Armstrong!

Jun 11, 2012 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered Commenterjim

It is reported that the investigation confirmed that which was already known (Gleick's admission) and that no other member of PI staff were involved. PI then accepted Gleick's apology and reinstated him.

Leaving that last point aside for a moment, if the invesigation found that Gleick had produced the fake document that would have been more serious (I'm not suggesting they tried very hard. They probably concentrated more on assessing the chance of Gleick's possible involvement coming to light at a later date). If other PI staff were involved, that would have been very serious and PI would be badly damaged.

So the Institute probably decided that out of the three problems the damage was limited to Gleick's admission. They decided to "accept his apology" rather than sack him. The investigation, in my view, was probably the PI's risk assessment but it was convenient to present it as spin, suggesting that somehow Gleick was exonerated.

Neither the Institute nor their investigation is in a position to exonerate anyone. Gleick is guilty of one wrongdoing and may well be guilty of two. That has not changed. The Institute has shown that they are prepared to brush this type of behavoir under the carpet and some in the climate community regard Gleick as a hero. This says much about their standards and ethics. It is no surprise that climate science is based on doubtful methods and deception.

Jun 11, 2012 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Indeed what came out was a clever piece of legal spin. What that actual means in the long term is another question

Jun 11, 2012 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Seems to me they exonerated gleicks admission that he lied and commited theft.

Jun 11, 2012 at 10:13 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Jun 11, 2012 at 9:13 AM | Hilary Ostrov

Just as Gleick reviews books he clearly hasn't read, Mann comments on "statements" he clearly hasn't read.

Agree that is an alternate explanation. Although since it is such a strong and unequivocal comment I maybe should've explicitly added "wilful ignorance" to the list of reasons (laziness, progagandizing, lying etc ) why I think people echo the exoneration mantra.

Wilful ignorance is almost the defining trait a real scientist should avoid IMHO, but Mann seems prone to indulge in it, and to encourage it in his fans. I am always more impressed by the scientist that says you should read their harshest critic to get the full picture of their work but Mann is the utter opposite of this ideal scientist.

Jun 11, 2012 at 10:19 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

And looking at the DotEarth comments I am amused to see some of the more weaselly arguments claiming that Gleick actually accomplished something by "exposing" the HI. Eli Rabbett actually says Gleick fell on his sword for the cause! :)

I don't think anyone can have any trouble looking back in time before the Gleick "expose" to see it is well documented that the HI associations were already well known and its "kudos" was hardly at the heights of such a noble organisation as the Pacific Institute ;) But still the sophists try to regain the last crumb of comfort that Gleick exposed something.


Quite sad. :)

Jun 11, 2012 at 10:26 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement


Jun 11, 2012 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Wilson

Ok I'll bite...'perverting the teaching of science in schools for commercial reasons'. Unlike Mr Gores movie then.

Jun 11, 2012 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Being Green means never having to say you're sorry (or wrong).

Jun 11, 2012 at 11:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

I wonder why they put put such a clumsily and clunkily phrased statement.

Do they genuinely believe that the rest of the public are so stupid as not to notice that there is something not quite right here? That there aren't clever lawyers like Lindgren who will read it with a quizzical eye? Or are they just so full of themselves that they think they can do anything at all without fear of any blowback?

Jun 11, 2012 at 11:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

With Gleick "exonerrated" isn't it time we recognize the man's greatness. I propose we start a petition asking for him to be re-instated as head of the AGU's ethics group, and also awarded an honorary doctorate by UEA?

Jun 11, 2012 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterCopner

OR (3) the report did not consider the issue of the fake document, and its terms of reference only included Gleick's public statement's about admitted interactions with Heartland.

Jun 11, 2012 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterCopner

I'm currently trying to quit smoking and it really is hard to ignore the 'Fags'.

Sorry was going to scream if I didn't get that out.

Jun 11, 2012 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

"An independent review conducted by outside counsel on behalf of the Institute has supported what Dr. Gleick has stated publicly regarding his interaction with the Heartland Institute."

What do they mean "Has Supported"?

They believe he's guilty but believe he was justified?

Jun 11, 2012 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterNial

Jim Lindgren's critical analysis of the Pacific Institute's statement about reinstating Peter Gleick as president is well done.

That PI statement was for settling down the wavering CAGW consensus and propping up the fading myopic media's compliance with the climate alarmist line.

As a PI generated PR statement for the general public, it appears as strange whisperings in the dark about unimportant events.

For blog followers critical of shoddy alarmist climate science, PI's statement is a nice stimulus to escalate skeptical efforts.


Jun 11, 2012 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

What is the value of exonerating a dishonest and discredited self-confessed law breaker? As for the document shown to be a hoax, it is Peter's greatest sin that he did not bin that on receipt, or at least send a copy to the HI as any good citizen would have. As it is it will always be known as Gleick's 'Scarlet Letter', pardon the pun, and he will wear it all his life, and deservedly so. The letter itself is harmless - it is what Peter chose to do with it that matters and is a fact lost on the PI.

Jun 11, 2012 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterdp

The answer's obviously (2), not one. Context is all, and everything else they write/say is equally badly written. I suspect the lack of clarity comes from a desire to talk around the subject so as not to call Gleick's actions anything pejorative.

Jun 11, 2012 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave

"Or are they just so full of themselves that they think they can do anything at all without fear of any blowback?"

Yes, this is a common and widespread attribute in the entire climate change discussion. Once this lack of fear disappears, for example when powerful apologists start remaining silent, then the AGW debate will take on a very different feel.

Jun 11, 2012 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeC

Anyone calling the PI statement an exhoneration is clearly living in an alternative universe. The statement said Gleick had admitted to actions contrary to the institute's policies and standard of ethics. The fact that they then reinstated him anyway doesn't say much for their principles, but it doesn't exhonerate him.

Jun 11, 2012 at 6:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

What an excellent piece of analysis.

Tiny little signs appear, bit by bit, that intelligent people are starting to question just what [snip: manners] is going on.

Jun 11, 2012 at 8:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

The PI affair demonstrates that the PI itself is no more than the sort of club our neighbourhood 'gang' of boys organised at the age of eight or nine to satisfy our needs for fantasy, intrigue and group physical activity with our mates when we were released by our parents from doing our chores on Saturday afternoons; eventually, we all grew out of the endless talking of 'the plans', the secret meetings in our hideout (an abandoned shed on waste land owned by the Railways) and the battles with another gang of boys from a few streets away in which each 'gang' would throw clods of earth at the opposing group while sheltering behind old dustbin lids and pieces of timber. As battles go, these were very satisfying but never caused much damage and our parents sensibly tended to let us run free and 'get it out of our systems'.
Gleick and his little friends in their make-believe world have, sadly, never developed into full and responsible adulthood.

Jun 11, 2012 at 9:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Jim Lindgren is heading in the right direction but has only got half way there.

Note the second phrase of the edited highlights of what the report may or may not have found:
"This independent investigation has further confirmed and the Pacific Institute is satisfied that none of its staff knew of or was involved in any way."

Note that this does not say that the investigation was satisfied, simply that they confirm that P.I. are "satisfied".

EIR: Are you satisfied that none of your stall knew what Peter was doing?
PI: Yes.
EIR: Good, then we will put that "finding" in our report.

Jun 11, 2012 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterP. Solar

From what I understand, in the US, lawyers conducting independent workplace investigations are acting on behalf of the employer. They are independent in so far as they are not the employer’s usual lawyer, but one brought in especially to conduct the investigation.

Independent workplace investigation reports are used to demonstrate to courts that there was no conflict of interest in the investigation. This theoretically increases the credibility of the reports and justifies the actions of employers towards employees resulting from the findings of these reports.

Investigations should include such things as interviewing witnesses, retention of documents and the collection of electronic evidence. The main purpose of these reports is to protect employers from liability to the employees being investigated and others to whom the employer has a vicarious liability resulting from the actions of employees.

A thorough investigation can reduce or remove an employer's liability whilst a poor one will almost certainly increase it. It depends on what is found during the investigation, whether the investigation was truly impartial and whether an employer took the correct actions on receiving a report.

Jun 12, 2012 at 1:11 AM | Unregistered Commentermfo

Try to tell your Grandma an "institute" is paying to investigate if its head and founder has done anything wrong !

Jun 12, 2012 at 7:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJean Demesure

Lindgren concludes that there's a problem.

>> You’ve heard of non-denial denials. This is a non-confirmation confirmation. ...

Gleick's "I got it in the mail" is just such a non-denial denial.

>> So there are two possibilities: .... OR (2) the Board of the Pacific Institute is extremely incompetent at writing press releases.

Clearly option 2 is not the case. The press release was skilfully minimalist, leaving room for later manoeuvre, and cleverly leaves the reader with the impression that it confirms something that it does not, on closer reading, say.

The legally prudent and minimalist style of both Glieck's non-denial and the non-confirmation confirmation press release suggests they came from the same mind. That both Gleick and P.I. would use the same attorney would seem, in any case, quite probable.

It would be interesting to try to dig some indication of whether this attorney is either of the partners at EIR who conducted the "independent" investigation. If this is the case it would be quite damning.

This would explain why PI were oddly refusing for so long to say who conducted the enquiry . If it was Glieck's personal legal counsel, the pretence of independence would fall and fall hard.

All (any) credibility would be lost and the charade of the undisclosed report that allowed them to reinstate Glieck would become untenable.

Now this is just a guess and a suspicion but until Pacific Inst. start to act in a credible and open fashion and release the report they announced to the world they were having conducted, all we can do is guess.

The more secretive they are the less credible their position is.

Jun 12, 2012 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterP. Solar

If you paid a 100 dollars could you become a member of The Pacific Institute go to their AGM and ask for a vote of no confidence in Peter Gleick .He did break the law despite everything

Well they are not a private company so you cant buy their shares
That what the Lefty activists do to these big corporations go along and disrupt their AGMs
Learn a few lessons and adopt enemy tactics

Jun 12, 2012 at 10:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

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