Trying to shoot the messenger

Does this sound familiar? A quantitative prediction is inconvenient for some heavily invested folks. Legitimate questions about methodology morph quickly into accusations that the researchers have put their thumb on the scale and that they are simply making their awkward predictions to feather their own nest. Others loudly proclaim that the methodology could never work and imply that anyone who knows anything knows that -it’s simply common sense! Audit sites spring up to re-process the raw data and produce predictions more to the liking of their audience. People who have actually championed the methods being used, and so really should know better, indulge in some obvious wish-casting (i.e. forecasting what you would like to be true, despite the absence of any evidence to support it).

Contrarian attacks on climate science, right?

Actually no. This was assorted conservative punditry attacking Nate Silver (of the 538 blog) because his (Bayesian) projections for Tuesday’s election didn’t accord with what they wanted to hear. The leap from asking questions to cherry-picking, accusations of malfeasance and greed, audits, denial, and wish-casting was quite rapid, but it followed a very familiar pattern. People who value their personal attachments above objective knowledge seem to spend an inordinate amount of time finding reasons to dismiss the messenger when they don’t like the message.

Fortunately for Nate, all it took was one day, and reality came crashing down on his critics entire imaginary world.

For climate science, it will probably take a little longer…

105 comments on this post.
  1. Edward Greisch:

    Well, you’ve got to realize that most people are allergic to numbers. And they are still granting degrees to people who have not taken a math course since 9th grade.
    Run for election to your local school board.

  2. Kaustubh:


  3. Douglas:

    The recent housing bubble also fits this pattern. There was ample evidence that a huge bubble had formed, but you’ve been hard pressed to know this at the time, given the way the media chose to highlight “this time it’s different” arguments.

  4. Leonard Evens:

    I was glad to hear Obama, in his “victory speech” on Tuesday night, mention climate change, in no uncertain terms, as a problem needing attention.

  5. BA:

    What are peoples’ thoughts on the chances of climate legislation in the next four years?

  6. Zeke Hausfather:

    Even more impressive than predicting 50/50 state correctly was how good Nate’s predictions were of the percent of the vote won by Obama in each state:

    He was off by less than 1.5% on average.

  7. bratisla:

    you could add that unskewedpolls copies the lack of organisation of Morano’s blog … same pattern. Same inability to clearly understand the information and just see that they are angry .
    Now, if you will excuse me, I have to apply for retina surgery afterhaving seen this site.

  8. John Mason:

    Indeed – just like the whole climate debate – compressed into a few weeks!

  9. BobN:

    But in Nate’s case, his predictions were right.

    [Response: Back into your epistemic bubble you go…. – gavin]

  10. Marc Cotnoir:

    What a great graphic!! Can I use it? Can I use it?

    [Response: It’s from xkcd. – gavin]

  11. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    I’m wondering if narcissism, which they’ve found applicable to climate change denialists, also applies to denialists of other or even all stripes.


    “Too much of me just isn’t enough: an anatomy of motivated inflation of self-importance.”

    A controversial recent study [MOTIVATED REJECTION OF SCIENCE — NASA faked the moon landing, Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science] has shown that prominent climate sceptics are six times more likely to show narcissistic characteristics than the rest of the community. The tendency is highest amongst those who maintain their own blogs, and especially those with blogs carrying their own names.

    Said researcher, “At first I was blown away by this result…, I mean, when you get people responding to surveys and their collective answers are such strong outliers, you question whether you have made a mistake.”…

    Climate change denialism is somewhat understandable in this regard — accepting climate science means coming face-to-face with the realization that one is contributing to serious harms to others, including one’s own progeny. That’s a very unpleasant feeling, that may prompt mitigating action on the part of normal people. However, it is untenable for the more narcissitic types — borderline personality disorder, narcissitic personality disorder. I’ve noticed they cause psychological harm to their own children (without admitting it) bec of their psychotic narcissistic condition — which is one of those conditions almost impossible to overcome bec in their view nothing is ever wrong with them, it’s always something wrong with other people.

  12. Carl:

    Gavin, I really, really hope that you don’t mean that this has relevance to climate predictions. Out of hundreds or thousands of election predictions, there would necessarily be a few good ones, and you cherry-picked the best you know of.

    [Response: The point of this post is that unwelcome information is almost always greeted with hostility that very quickly morphs to personal abuse in ways that are quite familiar to scientists working in politicised fields. As for the charge of cherry picking, 538 was the only source I spent any time looking at prior to the election – I made no search for the ‘best’ predictions after the fact. But that is pretty much irrelevant to the point I am making here. – gavin]

  13. Jeffrey Park:

    Nate Silver wasnt a misunderstood genius, and Silver would be the first person to agree with that statement. He didnt do the polling, either. also wasnt unique, because there were plenty of other websites that aggregated polling results, and they more-or-less agreed with Silver’s estimates. However, when the polling-denialists needed a scapegoat to focus their denial, they chose a prominent target who looked and sounded like the nerdy kid who irritated the cool kids in high school, and pretended that he was the only person who advocated a particular data interpretation. The parallel to the vilification of Michael Mann by climate denialists is almost funny.

  14. Kevin McKinney:

    #11–Anecdotally, it is easy to find examples of prominent deniers whose egos appear to deserve the adjective ‘monumental.’ But I suspect that it isn’t that they are bothered by the harm that they might cause via their carbon footprint; it’s rather that the allure of publicly blazoning the superiority of their intellect and understanding over a whole field of science and a whole cadre of scientists is irresistible.

    (Perhaps I’m too influenced by one particular fellow I often encounter on line who is a denialist not only of climate change, but of HIV/AIDS, quantum mechanics, and who knows what else. Superiority to just one discipline apparently wasn’t enough for him!)

  15. jhm:

    Even if numbers are more reliable, all of the prediction sites (and even the comic above) employed handy visuals, the better for our lizard brains to see them with.

  16. wayne davidson:

    The other relevant point here is that someone ( a single person even) can do great science in a near live time period without peer review. And that climate scientists waiting for peer review articles as a way to cautiously respond to criticism is froth with weakness exploitable by those who could not care less about it. On the other hand, being able to respond to complex current events in lay terms quickly props up the science ridiculed regularly by fake skeptics. The lag in time to respond to contrarian pseudo claims hurts the science confidence reputation and gives a chance for doubt to grip the thoughts actually guiding those who could do something about AGW.

  17. tokodave:

    Well, he could have picked George Will’s predictions. After all, we know how sharp he is on Climate Change?

  18. caerbannog:

    Aggregate polling data pointed to an Obama win. That’s iron-clad proof of massive, nationwide election fraud (don’t ask me to explain why).

    Aggregate temperature data shows that the Earth is warming. And of course, that’s ironclad proof of a massive international temperature data manipulation conspiracy (same reasoning as above).

    And for folks who haven’t already seen this, here’s something to hit your reality-denying co-workers/family/etc. with — it shows what happens when you average raw (“unskewed”) and homogenized (“skewed”) data from 1 to 40 random rural stations:

  19. Jeffrey Davis:

    The interesting thing to me about the abuse heaped on Silver is that other aggregators came in with numbers that predicted an Obama victory by a larger margin or announced a larger degree of confidence in an Obama win. And yet the noise machine settled upon Silver. One blogger even mocked Silver’s build and manner of speaking. It made it clear that the noise machine’s intent was to make an example of an individual in order to intimidate other voices. In climate science, Michael Mann is an example of this. There are thousands of other climate scientists and many thousands of studies limning the extent of AGW, but the noise machine decided to “cull” Michael Mann from the herd.

  20. Dan H.:

    While Nate Silver was quite close, he was not the only one. Check out Cassidy’s count at the New Yorker:

    His only potential error is giving Florida a slight edge to Romney.

    Josh Putnam over at frontloading HQ has an almost idential electoral maph, except that Obama wins Florida.


    Most of the oundits will say that the key to accurate polling was accurate rebalancing of the polls to the actual electorate. That was the biggest wildcard. Those that most closely matched their polls to the voting demographics, faired the best.

  21. Kevin O'Neill:

    It’s similar to the abuse heaped on economist Paul Krugman. The difference with Nate Silver is that most deniers are now forced to admit Silver was right and they were wrong.

    In economics, this ‘Great Recession’ has proven that Krugman and the theories of like-minded economists were correct versus those of the GOP-leaning ‘freshwater’ school. It’s a pretty awkward failing of any macroeconomic theory when you can’t get interest rates or inflation correct, but that hasn’t stopped or slowed down the abuse much less force an acknowledgement of being completely and totally wrong.

  22. Toby:

    Carl #12,

    There are only about half a dozen models like Nate Silvers, some of them originating in academia, others in political news blogs.


    Pollster on the Huffington Post
    Vote Tracker on Talking Points Memo
    Electoral Vote
    Princeton Election Consortium

    Votamatic, for example, predicted the Electoral College vote precisely right, while Nate Silver did not. All predicted that the President would be re-elected with between 280 and 332 electoral votes – he actually achieved the maximum.

    Silver accurately said that the probability of Romney being elected was equal to the probability of the state polls being biased in Obama’s favour.

    The “pols” like Karl Rove dissed the “quants” like Silver and ended up with egg on their faces. A poll of the polls of polls would have been interesting.

  23. Toby:

    I thinki Nate Silver has singled out because his prediction appeared in the disgustingly liberal New York Times.

  24. Ray Ladbury:

    People are wondering why Silver was singled out. Well, isn’t it obvious. People like to vote for a winner, so they had to keep the myth of Romney’s momentum alive. The only alternative would have been to physically keep voters from pulling the lever for Obama.

    Obviously, they ultimately decided…better Nate than lever.

    [Sorry, it couldn’t be helped!]

  25. MMM:

    “Votamatic, for example, predicted the Electoral College vote precisely right, while Nate Silver did not. ”

    Well, Nate Silver’s _mean_ prediction was not precisely right (it was 313.0) but you wouldn’t expect it to be – the possibility for a fractional electoral-vote should be a tip-off about that calculation. Nate actually showed the full result of his Monte Carlo algorithm in an “Electoral Vote Distribution” figure, where 332 is the most likely peak (at about 20%), and 303 is the 2nd most likely at 16%.

    I like Zeke’s graph at #6, which is much more informative about the accuracy of Nate’s predictions (Zeke: could you post a link to the source?). It would be even better if each state had little error bars attached. However, it is hard to fully evaluate the accuracy of the overall model, because of the correlated uncertainty between states (eg, the possibility of national or regional bias): if all states were independent, then you’d expect with a good algorithm that 90% of the votes should fall within the 90% bounds, and 10% outside. But because of correlation, it is more complicated. I’m looking forward to Nate’s own self-analysis.

    But this above discussion, regarding Monte Carlo and internal correlation and so forth, is exactly why the reality-based community especially appreciates Nate Silver: he didn’t just get the right answer, but he showed why he got it, and what might lead to him being wrong.


  26. tokodave:

    Brilliant Ray!

  27. Zeke Hausfather:


    I created the graph by simply copying the NYTimes election map values and the FiveThirtyEight projections into a spreadsheet. Its available here:

  28. observer:

    It seems to me that there is a flaw in concluding that the close match on the national result validates Silver. I believe that Silver’s Bayesian prediction gave Romney something like a 20% chance of winning. If Romney had won, something that was entirely possible under Silver’s analysis, would you have concluded that Silver was a fraud? I believe that would be clearly incorrect.

    If Silver makes 100 predictions and the distribution of the real-world outcomes, matches his predictions, then one can soundly conclude that he is on to something.

    Thus, Zeke’s graph (#6) is a lot more informative than that the outcome of the national election matched the expected value of Silver’s distribution.

    [Response:I think this is exactly the point isn’t it? If Silver had been “wrong” — that is, if Romney had won — than those who’d been criticizing him would feel vindicated, and indeed would have called him a fraud. They’d be just as wrong to criticize him in the way that they did, either way.–eric]

  29. Steve Fish:

    Re- Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Nov 2012 @ 12:39 PM:

    Paronomasia and spoonerism in one= fun!


  30. Leonard Evens:

    I think there is something else going on. Deniers often not only deny the predictions they don’t like, they deny the right of people whom they disagree with to make predictions. In the case of the election, I think one reason Tea Party Supporters and other such people think there is some sort of plot is that they don’t think Obama voters should be allowed to vote. They don’t feel they are “real Americans”. I think that while Obama supporters certainly have questioned the motives of Republican extremists, they have not questioned their right to vote. On the other hand, their opponents regularly engage in voter suppression efforts. An example is billboards describing the penalties for voter fraud put up in minority districts. One interpretation of such efforts would be that the originator of such a billboard is just cynically trying to suppress votes for the opposing party. But i think what may be more correct is that such people really do believe their own propaganda about voter fraud. They don’t think those people should be allowed to vote, so it is easy for them to think of their votes as fraudulent.

    Similarly, climate deniers don’t limit their complaints to errors in analysis. They also suggest that climate scientists are doing fraudulent science to maintain their lucrative contracts. But such arguments don’t make any sense at all, as anyone who has thought about it would have to know. A climate scientist who did good science which showed that climate change was not a problem would get supported by the usual sources and would also get a lot of industry support. So a climate scientist whose results showed that there was no problem would have to be crazy to falsify his/her results to show the opposite. Also, the amount of money available to support denial dwarfs that available from the usual sources. It seems to me that anyone who ignores these facts must have questions about the right of climate scientists to do what they do, not only the accuracy of their results.

  31. deconvoluter:

    Re: #24. @Ray

    People like to vote for a winner,..

    Is there any evidence for this?
    or for the assumption that a bias in any kind of election forecast might increase the votes in the direction of the error ?
    Or is it that Americans value optimism more than Britishers?

    1992 in the UK. The polls were favouring a victory for the Labour Party (LP) led by Neil Kinnoch. Most of the journalists * thought that the conservative John Major would lose. In the end many people thought that a Labour bias in the opinion polls had contributed to a Conservative victory. Since then many politicians in the UK have a slight tendency to be artificially pessimistic before the election, because they hope it will encourage their supporters to make a bit of an effort.
    *. There was actually a last minute swing in the polls towards the Conservatives which was not much publicised. In addition the bias itself was later put down to the fact that the opinion polls had included too many Labour supporters who had lost the right to vote by moving.

  32. Mark Hadfield:

    I suggest you replace the show that graphic via a link to XKCD:

    Permanent link to this comic:
    Image URL (for hotlinking/embedding):

  33. Matt Skaggs:

    This post raises an interesting topic that is not addressed. What are the differences between the inherent predictability of an impending election and the predictability of an impending climate change?

  34. KR:

    Nate Silver remarked on his blog, when the Obama probability passed over 87% or so, that all of the remaining probabilities for a Romney win were in the fringe of his analysis that assumed a consistent bias towards Democrats in the poll results, all erring in the same direction. At that point other poll aggregators, such as Sam Wang, gave Obama a ~99% chance.

    This is similar to how the denier claims of no global warming, or of no anthropogenic influence upon warming, or of low climate sensitivity, depend on all observational data being wrong in the same direction. Silly, really…

  35. Jim Prall:

    Re: 18 Caerbannog – neat graphs, but as linked there is no caption or explanation with the graphs. I could not make out what the lower graph is showing – some kind of difference? Most of the frames I saw had the bottom graph peaking around 1960 and dropping sharply afterward… Color me puzzled.

  36. Mary Ellen Cassidy:

    For those focusing on Nate Silver’s stat work, this article by Michael E. Mann posted on Huffington Post questions his understanding of climate models and their accompanying statistical analysis.

    In the article, Mann states, “And so I was rather crestfallen earlier this summer when I finally got a peek at a review copy of The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t. It’s not that Nate revealed himself to be a climate change denier; He accepts that human-caused climate change is real, and that it represents a challenge and potential threat. But he falls victim to a fallacy that has become all too common among those who view the issue through the prism of economics rather than science. Nate conflates problems of prediction in the realm of human behavior — where there are no fundamental governing ‘laws’ and any “predictions” are potentially laden with subjective and untestable assumptions — with problems such as climate change, which are governed by laws of physics, like the greenhouse effect, that are true whether or not you choose to believe them.”

    FiveThirtyEight: The Number of Things Nate Silver Gets Wrong About Climate Change

  37. MalcolmT:

    “A victory for data over punditry” on (Aussie) ABC News gives a bit more detail than Gavin’s post, for those who are interested. If you just want a laugh, though, go to

  38. Jan Galkowski:

    What differentiates Nate Silver’s work from most in the elections field is: (a) he’s sophisticated about quantifying uncertainty, (b) he has his full methodology published at the 538 site, and (c) his projections are posterior densities, such as the Electoral College distribution he gave on his site, or the distribution of expected Republican versus Democratic Senate seats, post election. The latter is especially powerful … These are not point estimates with confidence intervals and such, but full density estimates. He obtains his results by sampling from existing polls, weighting their sampling by how they have done historically. He adjusts things here and there.

    Not only was his overall outcome impressive, but he also called an amazingly accurate number of Senate seats, and (I think, but don’t know) in the House. The Florida outcome came down on the side of his projection just by luck, but, nevertheless, his projections knew it would be close.

    I’m reading Professor Myles Allen, “Liability for climate change– Will it ever be possible to sue anyone for damaging the climate?”, NATURE, 421, 27 Feb 2003. His Figure 1 shows an empirical likelihood density very like the Silver posterior densities. Professor Allen has recently expanded on that theme in a recent article included in Munich Re’s “Liability for Climate Change” report, an article called “Attributing extreme weather events: Implications for liability.”

  39. caerbannog:

    Re: Comment by Jim Prall — 8 Nov 2012 @ 5:41 PM (#35)

    My above post was a quickie re-post (I put that plot up in an earlier thread here), so I sorta skipped out on the documentation this time.

    The lower half (lower plot) shows the number of selected stations that actually reported data for any given year. The #stations that reported raw data is shown in red; the #stations that reported adjusted/homogenized data is shown in green.

    Since most stations don’t have a continuous record from 1885-present, the number of stations will in general decline as you go back or forward in time from the 1950-1981 baseline period. Also, stations may not report data for every month of the year — if a station reported data for 6 months of a given year, I counted it as “half a station” for that year.

    In my experimentation with techniques to “showcase” the robustness of the global-average temperature results, I found that it is also important to show the actual number of stations reporting data for each year. That way, you can correlate “noisiness” of the results with the actual #stations reporting. I’ve found that once you get to 30+ stations scattered around the world, the global-average temperature trend settles down very nicely to the NASA results. (30 out of thousands of stations — not bad!)

    Some additional background for those who might have questions about that animated GIF. I selected rural stations at random via mouse-clicks on a global-map GUI I cobbled together with the help of the QGIS app ( As each station was selected (from random mouse-clicks all over the globe), I updated my global-average computations with that station’s data. Each frame in the animation shows results updated with data from 1 additional station’s data (40 frames in the animation — I started with 1 station and increased the station count by 1 per frame up to 40 stations).

    Raw data results are plotted in red; Homogenized results in green. The official NASA/GISS land-temperature results are plotted in blue for comparison purposes.

    I should note that the plot was the result of my “first attempt” to put together an animation like that. No McIntyre-style “noise hockey-stick cherry-picking”. Just took what I got on my first try at picking random statios and uploaded the results. Stations were pre-screened on the basis of data-record length only. I wanted decent global coverage for the entire 1885-present time period.

    In my experimentation with the data, I found that it was virtually impossible to get results inconsistent with the NASA results — rural stations, urban stations, raw data, adjusted data — once you average data from a few dozen stations scattered around the world, everything settles right down to something that looks very much like the NASA land-temp. results.

    Those who want to experiment with the software I wrote/stole to generate that plot can download a zip file containing software and data from

    Disclaimer: The software is a rough “proof of concept” package — Depending on your computer skills, it could be a real chore to set up — you will need to deal with Unix command-line stuff, compile from C++ source, understand TCP ip-address/port settings, install a bunch of other supporting software, etc. It’s definitely not a turnkey “plug-and-play” package.

  40. Aaron Lewis:

    Not all number are alike; see Dylan Mathews in WP at

    Nate Silver uses the correct polls. He pays attention to data quality.

  41. caerbannog:

    Correction: The baseline period should be 1951-1980.

  42. Ken Lassman:

    Since you and Nate are in the same town, it might be worth while to invite him to lunch/over to your offices to compare notes. Seems that his good grasp of statistical nuance would put him in good stead to be interested and understand the physical theory and data driven climate models that you and your colleagues utilize, and more importantly to appreciate the differences between your and his work. Seems like it would be worth doing simply because by reaching out and exposing him to the transparency and subtleties of the scientific method, he could become a real ally in the future.

  43. Thomas:

    Seems we’ve had a good couple of weeks, as exemplified by the Frum quote @2. One of the major attacks on climate science has been the denigration of models, now in less than two weeks two very public model predictions based upon science have proven spectacularly true. The second was Nate’s polling predictions. Even more remarkably (and relevant to climate science) were the predictions of the strength, path and effects of superstorm Sandy. As early as six days prior to landfall ECMWF had it nailed, and within a couple of days all the other major models had converged on similar solutions. So now the public has seen that mathematically rigorous modeling can in fact beat human gut instinct. So denigrating climate change, by dismissing the models as garbage in garbage out will now fall on a bunch of deaf ears.

  44. Dan Whipple:

    Nate Silver was “singled out” because he works for the New York Times. He’s been doing this analysis using more or less the same methods for several years without drawing an inordinate amount of attention. But only during the last election cycle has he done it under the Times banner.

  45. Craig Nazor:

    I think that Leonard@30 makes a good point, which the initial article also describes. This is not just about denial – it is about the more or less vicious personal attacks that go along with that denial. Those vicious attacks are a form of bullying behavior. Bullies usually pick out an easy and high profile target, and then attempt to make an attack unpleasant enough to deter others from supporting the same point of view, which is invariably a point of view that operates against the interests of the bullies. In the case of the outcome of the election, there was a moment of truth beyond which the bullies’ position was embarrassingly untenable, which is the source of the humor here.

    In the case of anthropogenic global climate change, there will not be one “moment” of truth. By the time the effects of AGCC are so obvious that they visibly support its already undeniably high degree of scientific certainty, it will be too late to do much to stop AGCC’s worst effects. I think some AGCC “deniers” actually know all of this. The real strategy is to attempt to “adapt.” This will be much easier for those with a lot of money, which perfectly describes those who continue to make millions from selling and burning carbon-based fuels. So in the end, we have the age-old problem of the concentration of wealth and therefore power into the hands of a limited elite, which in this case has morphed into a survival strategy for that elite in an increasingly uncertain future. The driver of this behavior is ultimately fear. Unfortunately, mankind has reached the point where this fear-sustained trade in carbon is actually the cause threatening the failure of all human society. So I go by what I learned at an early age: always stand up to bullies (Michael Mann is an inspiring example of this). Bullies are NEVER as tough as they would have you believe – that’s why they resort to bullying.

  46. Richard Goodale:

    Election predictions/forecasts can be verified in almost real time (if you think geologically…). Nate got it right and good for him. Climate predictions/foreasts, on the other hand, will only be verified long after anybody posting on this forum is dead.

    [Response: not true. Predictions related to the impact of pinatubo, post 1984 trends, the ‘satellite cooling’ mismatch, lgm tropical sst, water vapor increases, ocean heat content etc have all been made and verified within a short time period. Admittedly not as short as a single day, but your claim it all lies beyond our lifetime is nonsense. – gavin]


  47. Dan H.:

    One needs to be carefule before proclaiming victory. Early on, only the ECMWF forecast the left turn into the Mid-Atlantic states. The other models were predicting that the storm would continue on the more typical path out to sea. The closer the storm came to landfall, the more the models converged. This is typical modelling short-term events; the closer the event is to occurring, the more likely the models are to converge and predict accurately. Check out the comparitive forecasts between ECMWF and GFS from 8 days and 5 days out:

  48. Kevin McKinney:

    #30 & #45–It seems to me, this morning at least, that one of the most crucial defining characteristics of all this is the will to believe what one wishes were true–aka, “argument from consequences” and “intellectual dishonesty.”

  49. Dan H.:

    So true. This occurs more frequently that most people care to admit. The election was a microcosm of the rest of the world, where Obama supported followed the 538 and democrat-favoring polls, while the Romeny supported gravitated towards Rasmussen and the like. Different groups will even pull out parts of a report showing their own viewpoint, while opponents point to other portions. Objectivity gets lost in polarization.

  50. Didactylos:

    One important point that should be noted: Nate created his model before the election season began, and then left it alone. He did not indulge in post-hoc tinkering.

    And that’s how he was able to make a 100% correct electoral college call. It’s also what gave his predictions weight, and absolved him of partisanship.

  51. Hank Roberts:

    > ECMWF

    Used because it reliably, consistently gives better medium-range weather predictions than the US models, that’s why it’s used.

    More poor sources don’t outweigh one known good source, if you’re being careful.

    “carefule” indeed.

  52. Jaime Frontero:

    Nate Silver is not the ‘new kid’ people appear to believe. Politically, he’s been making predictions – correctly – for four US election cycles: he first appeared on Daily Kos in early November of 2006. I have personally been following him since then.

    But his model development began long before that, in sports. He has said that sports became too easy for him, and politics was much more of a challenge.

    [Response:A rather arrogant thing to say if he in fact said it. Baseball for example provides plenty of challenges in prediction, and he pretty clearly does not understand the difference between prediction and cause and effect explanation in statistical analysis, based on his book chapter on prediction in climate change–Jim]

    I will also point out that he is a [avoiding spam word here] cardsharp of some repute.

    On a more entertaining note, I posit (as an unfalsifiable musing) that our Mr. Silver is one small step in the direction of an eventual Hari Seldon.

  53. Richard Goodale:

    Thanks for the reply to my comment #46. The reference to Pinatubo surprises me as I thought that the after effects were short term (2-3 years) and not anything of long term effect. Did/do the state of the art climate models predict that? Would today’s climate be any different if Pinatubo had not erupted in 1991?

    [Response: The predictability of the response to Pinatubo is well outside the realm of weather forecasting, and given the very large (though transient) signal, the response is a good test for climate models. It involves fast feedbacks like water vapour feedbacks, radiation perturbations, ocean heat uptake (or loss in this case) etc. It is also undoubtedly true that the effect on total ocean heat content numbers have a lasting impact, so yes, the climate is a little bit different, though that wasn’t the point I was making. The impacts were predicted ahead of time, and so this was a true ‘out-of-sample’ validation, and provides a great counter-example to arguments about climate being unpredictable because weather forecasts break down after a week or so. – gavin]

  54. t_p_hamilton:

    Dan H suggests we look at the difference in long-range Sandy forecasts between the European model and the US.

    Dan Vergano at USA Today, an excellent science reporter by the way, had an article on this:

    “”It’s embarrassing, we should have the best forecasts on the planet. And it has an economic cost,” says meteorologist Cliff Mass of the University of Washington in Seattle. Hurricane Sandy’s losses are now estimated at $10 billion by catastrophe-estimating firm EQECAT, in Oakland, with more than 7 million people without power in mid-Atlantic states in the storm’s aftermath.

    The European center’s prediction was made on more powerful computers, and ran on higher-resolution models of the weather that simulated the future over longer time periods, beyond eight days, than the one employed by the federal National Weather Service. The European model is widely seen as the best at predicting hurricanes, Mass and others say, as demonstrated with Hurricane Isaac in late August.”

    Lack of investment in science results inferior research – whuddathunkit?

  55. Kevin McKinney:


    I suppose Canadian readers may be entitled to a small measure of satisfaction at being able to hang in, more or less, with the big dogs in NWP, even if at the back of the pack. But given current government support for science (especially science with connections to environmental questions) one may wonder how long that will be the case.

  56. SecularAnimist:

    Craig Nazor wrote: “By the time the effects of AGCC are so obvious that they visibly support its already undeniably high degree of scientific certainty, it will be too late to do much to stop AGCC’s worst effects.”

    The effects are already that obvious. So I can only hope you are wrong in saying that means it is too late to stop the worst.

  57. Frank Grober:

    The situations are very different. My impression is that people who conduct political polls are having to modify how they do them to deal with difficulties in getting a representative sample from causes like the growing numbers of voters who have cell phones, but no land lines. It looks like they did a pretty good job in getting that representative sample, but it is clearly still a work in progress. I wanted Obama to win, but I was not sure he was likely to win as I followed the accounts of polling and campaign organization. The issues pundits had with the polls and models were also issues they typically worked on whereas many critics of climate change models seem to have no plausible credentials in climate matters.I could easily forgive someone who was emotionally invested in a Romney win for thinking their candidate was ahead. In terms of rejecting predictions made by a large majority of serious climate researchers that have been endorsed by dozens of national science academies and major league scientific societies that’s very different. The predictions have stayed fundamentally the same for many years and any significant questions about the science behind them could be discussed at great length. I think the quibbles on polls and models are easier to understand than continued mindless denials on climate change.

  58. SecularAnimist:

    Frank Grober wrote: “I think the quibbles on polls and models are easier to understand than continued mindless denials on climate change.”

    There is nothing hard to understand about the continued denial of climate change.

    It originates from the fossil fuel corporations, who want to perpetuate business-as-usual consumption of their products for as long as possible, because they stand to rake in trillions of dollars from doing so.

    They pay the organized pseudo-skeptics, pseudo-ideologues and pseudo-scientists to churn out the denialist propaganda, which is embraced by a mass audience that has been relentlessly programmed for a generation to unquestioningly believe whatever the “right wing” media tells them and to reject all other sources of information.

    Recent opinion polls suggest that they are beginning to lose the propaganda battle, as increasing numbers of Americans recognize the reality of global warming and climate change, and view it as a serious problem — in large part because the public is seeing the connection between global warming and the onslaught of “weather of mass destruction”.

    But if you look at any general interest blog, or any Facebook post where global warming is discussed, you will see that there is still a significant hard core of deniers spouting all the tired old talking points. (I imagine this site gets a lot of that too, but the moderators spare us from seeing it all.)

  59. Dan H.:

    I am not sure that the process is all that different. Read the following on climate models:

    Are not the polls tuned in a similar fashion? As more information is obtained (cell phones vs. land lines for example), the results are tuned to attempt to match reality. A similar process occurs in climate modelling. Those that fail to adjust their models (polls) based on new data, will find themselves falling behind those that do. In the last few days of polling data, most polls predicted the outcome within their margin of error. Even the much-maligned Gallup poll, which had Romney leading 50-49 with a 2 percentage point margin of error, found the final vote tally falling within their uncertainty range.

    [Response: This is nothing like how climate models are tuned. Please read the paper you cite. – gavin]

  60. Patrick 027:

    Fox News anchor/host (which one?) stumbles onto Grand Unified Field Theory of what’s being going on in the Right-Wing:
    Megyn Kelly to Karl Rove (emphasis mine):
    “Is this just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better or is this real?”

  61. Patrick 027:

    ~ was approx 5:30 in the video.

  62. Patrick 027:

    … on a related point, remember that bumper sticker

    ‘I believe Rush Limbaugh

    – Isn’t that giving him too much credit? Only an error of 25 %.
    Maybe it should be



    2 + apples = intergalactic starfish hunter

    Okay, I’m done.

  63. Tom Scharf:

    Curiously from the chapter in his book “The Signal and the Noise”, he is not a great fan of climate science predictions. Strange that he would be used as a bludgeon against “deniers” here. Don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger.

    [Response: There are a few errors in his climate science chapter – both in describing what the models do and in assessing what I said to him. Once the election furor dies down it might be worth getting into the details of this. But I imagine that he’s a little preoccupied right now. – gavin]

  64. Ray Ladbury:

    Frank Grober,
    if you do not understand the science behind climate change, or if you do not understand the methodology of the polls, then denial of either becomes easy.

    And even if you do understand the underlying method/rationale/science, you can convince yourself that your “enemies” have applied it improperly either innocently or for more nefarious purposes.

    Humans are not rational animals but rather rationalizeing ones. That is why scientific methodology is so important. It yields reliable understanding in most cases.

  65. dhogaza:

    There are a few errors in his climate science chapter – both in describing what the models do and in assessing what I said to him. Once the election furor dies down it might be worth getting into the details of this.

    Michael Mann put up a critique on his facebook page. It might be worthwhile to write a more in-depth critique for Real Climate. I think it’s a given that Silver’s climate science chapter is going to gain a lot of prominence given his steady rise in public stature, and I’m almost surprised that Watts’ isn’t jumping up and down in public blogosphere glee over the fact.

    [Response:See here for Mike’s: commentary on Nate’s book –eric]

  66. Craig Nazor:

    SecularAnimist – To be more clear, I should have written: “By the time the effects of AGCC are so obvious to the majority of the voting American public that they visibly support AGCC’s already undeniably high degree of scientific certainty, it will be too late to do much to stop AGCC’s worst effects.” The effects are indeed getting more obvious, but we still have not yet reached critical mass for decisive action. Critical mass will have been reached when the majority of Americans support some form of financial device to include the full cost of carbon pollution in the cost of the dirty energy produced by carbon-based fuels. And, yes, it may indeed be too late to stop the worst effects of AGCC. But since we cannot yet know if we are too late or not with any reasonable degree of certainty, the only intelligent choice is to continue to demand stronger action, and fast.

  67. Hank Roberts:

    > it will be too late to do much to stop AGCC’s worst effects


    You didn’t notice? Where were you when the worst were stopped?
    That would be CFCs. If that weren’t stopped we’d be toast.

    There’s much more for us, and others, to do

    It’s not too late to do _any_ of it.

    > it will be too late to do much

    No. Bloomberg pointed it out bluntly:

    “It’s global warming, stupid.”

  68. BillS:

    Re: #12 Carl & Gavin

    Carl, if you don’t like statistical projections you can always “put your money where your mouth is” and place a bet at

    For instance, here’s a climate “prediction” for 2013:

  69. Len Conly:

    How long before the RNC files a FOIA request for Nate Silver’s emails?

  70. Hank Roberts:

    JOURNAL OF ADVANCES IN MODELING EARTH SYSTEMS, VOL. 4, M00A01. doi:10.1029/2012MS000154, 2012
    is the Mauritsen paper Dan H. mis-describes above at 9 Nov 2012 at 2:10 PM
    It’s attracting attention from blogscientists currently at one of the usual places; you know how to find that stuff.

    The paper has also been cited by scientists

  71. Hank Roberts:

    > one of the usual places
    Well, make that four of the usual blogscience sites excited about it.

    A PhD student in climate science also wrote a commentary, worth a look, that turned up in that same search result: Angus Ferraro at the U. of Reading.

  72. Susan Anderson:

    Given that it’s a matter of some urgency that the public become better informed about climate change as the effort to improve our prospects requires massive and coordinated effort (as well as individual initiative) it is unfortunate that Nate Silver’s excellent statistical work does not address the objective part of the science.

    When Dr. Mann’s response came out, I found it fair-minded almost to a fault, as you all usually are (unlike advocates for anti-science). I’ve been a Nate Silver fan since 2007, and I can understand a bit, but it demonstrates that political science is not quite the same thing as climate science. Political science still fails to address the real facts staring us all in the face and studied by objective analytical standards.

    I don’t think the FOIAs will flow to that quarter as the conclusions do not undermine the moneyed interests bent on delaying true perception of reality.

  73. Kevin McKinney:

    #71: “The impacts of parameter tuning on climate sensitivity was less than anticipated.”

    Awwww…. why do I suspect this will be the least-quoted sentence of the entire paper?

  74. Russell:

    The geeks in Ohio should have warned the Republican party about David Frum two decades ago .

    Perhaps the latest electoral crack up will jog the elephant’s memory as to the last policy disaster he crafted.

  75. John E. Pearson:

    The funniest moment in the election was when Karl Rove waddled down the hallway sputtering and fuming to where the Fox News stats guys who called Ohio for Fox News were. BUt that isn’t why I’m posting today. I’m posting because I stumbled across this which I thought was good news.

    68% of Americans see climate change as a “serious problem,” according to a poll released on Friday.

    The poll was conducted by Rasmussen on Monday, the day before the U.S. presidential election.

    Of the 1,000 likely voters surveyed, 68% said they thought climate change is a somewhat serious or very serious problem. 30% of respondents said it was not a serious problem.

  76. Hank Roberts:

    > #71: “The impacts of parameter tuning on climate
    > sensitivity was less than anticipated.”


  77. Susan Anderson:

    OMG Russell, that’s fabulous!

  78. Russell:

    Homage seulment a Gericault, s’il vous plait.

  79. Vendicar Decaruan:

    Rush Limbaugh’s comments on Nate Silver.

    Truly worth listening to the mind of the typical Republican.

  80. Mark E:

    @Gavins response to #12 (laughing)… well of course 538 was the only one you (and I) were listening to! There was no incentive to look for evidence of things we did NOT want to hear!

    [Response: you confuse an objective assessment of the evidence leading to a particular conclusion with subjective searches for evidence to justify a prior conclusion. All the data was available at 538 and each step was discussed and justified – caveats included. Something demonstrably not true at ‘unskewedpolls’ and similarly partisan sites and columns. – gavin]

  81. DGH:

    @ Tom Scharf

    Nate Silver is no more an expert in election science than he is in climate science. He an economist and statistician whose lone peer reviewed paper on the topic of elections was published by an economics journal. He’s not a messenger in that he has no authority to deliver the message.

    I should think he’s an auditor who leveraged other people’s data to elevate himself to the level of a cult leader. Fans of Nate are generally unqualified to critique his methodology. They simply accept his “message” because they prefer the election outcome that he forecast and thereby allow him authority that he hasn’t earned or demonstrated.

    [Response: It might be more helpful not to get too carried away here. Silver is not a cult leader, nor is he infallible, but rather he applied some objectivity to a field in dire need of it. That makes him impressive, not super-human. – gavin]

    [Response:Along the lines of Gavin’s point, with which I agree, I hereby retract my previous statement about Nate Silver, especially since I did not even read his book chapter on climate change, upon which I based my statements above– that’s a big no no on my part.–Jim]

  82. Susan Anderson:

    Gericault c’est merveilleux!

    Nonetheless, the raft is a great image for the temps perdu we refuse to face.

  83. Susan Anderson:

    Just reread Mike Mann’s response to the climate change chapter in Nate Silver’s book three times. It is well written, thorough and clear. I cannot hope that Silver’s increased popularity will not reify his failures of proportion and true skepticism in that arena but hope all will work to minimize the damage done here. I speak as a Nate Silver fan, but also someone furious about the traduction of science at the hands of people who think they know more than they do, and won’t admit their bias is not a factchecker.

    It is impossible to briefly excerpt it, but I hope even people like Tom Sharf will read it carefully before embracing opinion over reality.

    ps. DGH, we owe it to ourselves to accept what Nate Silver does well despite his failure to be properly skeptical about climate denial and particularly Armstrong with his Heartland connections (remember the Unabomber?). Despite it’s apparent weakness, truth is our strongest shield.

  84. T Marvell:

    It’s tricky to say who is correct when polling data are concerned, and the accuracy of a poll (comparing it to the final result) is largely a matter of luck and timing. I wouldn’t want to use this situation as an analogy to the climate change debate.

    The polls are all over the place –

    And there are large short-term swings –
    Obama apparently went from well ahead in the popular vote before the first debate to a couple of points behind afterwards. Then he seems to have gotten a big boost in the final days, which would only show up in the last polls if at all. A poll showing that Obama was behind on, say, Nov. 3, might have been correct at the time.

  85. dhogaza:

    I should think he’s an auditor who leveraged other people’s data

    Duh. That’s what he says he does. Depends on other people’s polls and some other data he’s not entirely clear about (the so-called “secret sauce”). But fundamentally, he is a poll aggregator and claims to be nothing other than that.

    to elevate himself to the level of a cult leader. Fans of Nate are generally unqualified to critique his methodology. They simply accept his “message” because they prefer the election outcome that he forecast and thereby allow him authority that he hasn’t earned or demonstrated.

    Well, if two presidential elections in a row aren’t good enough for you, you can always go visit Sam Wang’s site. He’s called three in a row. He gave obama a >99% chance of winning this year.

    And there are others taking a statistical approach that have done well, too.

    There is such thing as “election science”. On the other hand, it’s no surprise that given sufficient polling data that one can predict the electoral college vote with a great deal of certainty. The mainstream media types were focused mainly on the popular vote, which is *meaningless* in our system. Post-election analysis says that Romney would’ve had to have won the popular vote by about 2% to have a chance of winning the electoral vote, and of course that was the republican pundit argument – polls were skewed towards obama.

    Well, they weren’t skewed. They were accurate. Deal.

    Actually I hope the GOP leadership believes the kind of stuff DGH is spewing. They’ll lose again four years from now if they don’t learn anything from the last two elections …

  86. Russell:

    The title of the post-election Bloomberg Businessweek parody has been changed in homage to Hizzoners copyright lawyers

  87. john byatt:

    The Australian take on the US election


  88. Leonard Evens:

    The Australian take on the US election

    I certainly hope this isn’t a typical Australian take on our election. It is so absolutely wrong in so many ways, it is hard to see how someone could be so far off and still be taken seriously. He seems to buy into every bit of nonsense that our lunatic fringe claims to be true.

    I hope some Australian will tell us this guy is considered a nut in Australia.

    [Response: He is comedian, and that is satire. – gavin]

  89. CRV9:

    @#75, “Of the 1,000 likely voters surveyed, 68% said they thought climate change is a somewhat serious or very serious problem. 30% of respondents said it was not a serious problem.”

    No, no, no. Now is the time to tighten the grip. Now, the populace are willing to listen to what you have to say. Now is the time to explain the basics of global warming/climate change, the big picture of it.
    Now is the time to create your surrogags among the masses who understand the big picture, not mere talikng points.

    Otherwise, 6 months later, they will come back with their old arguments and you’d have to start all over again.

  90. Charlie H:

    If the President is able to start any initiatives, any thoughts on what he should do?

    Specifically, where might money be spent on climate change research? Would it be most important to get new or replacement satellites in orbit? Or is there something else that should be done if a little money is available?

  91. coolstar:

    As others have pointed out, Silver is really just in the middle of the pack when it comes to the accuracy of poll aggregators. He missed two of the Senate races this year bc his model uses parameters with no predictive power. Personally, I much prefer Sam Wang’s work as he’s a real scientist, neuroscientist at Princeton, with an innate understanding of modeling that Silver lacks, which isn’t surprising given Silver’s undergrad degree in economics from Chicago. Dr. Wang correctly called all the Senate races this year. Silver gets so much press, good and bad, for two reasons a) personally, he’s the perfect stereotype of the type of nerd that Rethugs bullied in h.s. and b) he now works for the New York Times.

  92. David Lewis:

    Nate is the toast of the town now, but I can’t help but remember that this is a climate blog.

    If we could understand why Nate can on the one hand do excellent work to find the “signal” in all the noise of a US election campaign and on the other, blow it so badly in the chapter on climate change in his book The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – but Some Don’t civilization would not be in the trouble it is in over climate change.

    Michael Mann summed up Silver’s ignorant blundering in his FiveThirtyEight: The Number of Things Nate Silver Gets Wrong About Climate Change

    Mann says:

    Nate parrots the flawed arguments of J. Scott Armstrong. Nate tells us that James Hansen got it wrong (“overestimated global warming”) in his 1988 Congressional testimony. Nate doesn’t understand what is in the IPCC AR4 but writes about it anyway. Eg.: he says “the IPCC settles on just one forecast that is endorsed by the entire group”. Nate claims scientists say “relatively little” is known about El Nino. “He repeatedly”, according to Mann, “falls victim to the fallacy that tracking year-to-year fluctuations in temperature (the noise) can tell us something about predictions of global warming trends (the signal)”. Nate tells us the IPCC projections have been “too aggressive”. And why not dump on Gore: Nate says Al exaggerated the science. And in case Gavin hasn’t been kicked around lately: Nate says Gavin Schmidt is “a sarcastic individual”, who is “unwilling to put his money where his mouth is”. (Nate used to make his living as a player in games of chance.). Nate implies, according to Mann, that “scientists have a motivation to overstate the science”.

    And “most disappointing” to Mann, “of all”, Nate falls for the false balance lie. Mann says there is an industry funded attack machine the scientific community is trying to fight back against. Nate Silver “characterizes this simply as a battle between consensus scientists and skeptical individuals, as if we’re talking about two worthy adversaries in a battle. Contrast this to the way Nate talked about the Republicans who were attacking him and his predictions before the election results were known.

    Mann summed up Nate’s work on climate: “Nate could have applied his considerable acumen and insight to shed light on this important topic. But the result was instead a very mixed bag of otherwise useful commentary marred by needless misconceptions and inappropriately laundered denialist memes“.

    Nate has time now that the election is over. I think he should respond to Michael Mann’s critique. As Mann says, it is an “important topic”.

  93. coolstar:

    My prediction: Nate Silver will respond to real climate experts the same way he has responded to Sam Wang’s criticisms of his electoral models: by either ignoring them, going snarky, or muttering balderdash. He’s never been known for admitting when he’s been wrong, something most scientists learn very early in their training. His ever increasing fame seems unlikely to change this behavior. As Dr. Wang keeps reminding us, making election predictions, especially the day before, isn’t exactly rocket science.

  94. Leonard Evens:

    “I hope some Australian will tell us this guy is considered a nut in Australia.

    [Response: He is comedian, and that is satire. – gavin]”

    I understood he is a comedian and was trying to engage in satire. What appalled me is his list of comments typical of Tea Party supporters. I assume he doesn’t believe those things, but why would he be go through them for an Australian audience? I hope they are not as familiar to Australians as they are, unfortunately, to Americans.

  95. Radge Havers:

    Tidbit from down under:

    “Those studies have generally focused on the US population, but the public acceptance of climate change is fairly similar in Australia. There, a new study has looked at how societal tendencies can play a role in maintaining mistaken beliefs. The authors of the study have found evidence that two well-known behaviors—the “false consensus” and “pluralistic ignorance”—are helping to shape public opinion in Australia.

    “False consensus is the tendency of people to think that everyone else shares their opinions. This can arise from the fact that we tend to socialize with people who share our opinions, but the authors note that the effect is even stronger “when we hold opinions or beliefs that are unpopular, unpalatable, or that we are uncertain about.” In other words, our social habits tend to reinforce the belief that we’re part of a majority, and we have a tendency to cling to the sense that we’re not alone in our beliefs.

    “Pluralistic ignorance is similar, but it’s not focused on our own beliefs. Instead, sometimes the majority of people come to believe that most people think a certain way, even though the majority opinion actually resides elsewhere.”
    “Everyone agrees with us on climate change—especially when we’re wrong

  96. MarkB:

    Nate Silver is top-notch with statistical analysis of polls and election forecasts. I’ve been following his blog on and off since 2008.

    The first hint I got that his grasp of climate science (or meteorology I suppose) might be a little shaky was this proposed bet to skeptics.

    Those familiar with U.S. monthly outlooks can easily spot the folly to this bet. There are often regions within the U.S. that are projected to be below normal, and the starting month was no exception. Those who’s “hometown” is in one of those regions will be at an advantage in taking such a bet. This isn’t all that difficult a concept, but Nate was sloppy there. I’m not ready to say Nate should stick to statistics and stay out of climate science, but from this, and what I’ve read about his book chapter, he needs to make a much better effort in understanding the science.

  97. john byatt:


    ” I hope they are not as familiar to Australians as they are, unfortunately, to Americans.”

    They certainly are Leonard, we keep files on you,
    The satire worked because Australians are very familiar with US politics, we even have those calling themselves The Billy Tea party”

    Billy tea was an old Australian bushman’s cup of tea brewed up in a billy can over a campfire.

  98. Hank Roberts:

    > False consensus … can arise from the fact that
    > we tend to socialize with people who share our opinions

    Remember too that If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer.

    You see advertisements — and search results — and online news stories — biased to suit the online marketers your online services sell you to. If you defined by your search history, browser, computer, installed applications and who knows what else.

    Try Panopticlick

    Try creating several different user accounts, on different IP addresses — and compare the results you get.

  99. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Several comments seem to be based on not knowing that the President was ahead all along. This link

    although missing a helpful graphic that was originally there, shows a graph of the Electoral College vote (EV) projections (only from October 21, but a graph starting earlier would have the same general pattern).

    The graph is based on averaging (I think) ten or so public EV projectors. The 10 projections at the time of the post were shown individually in the now missing graphic IIRC. Similar posts had been made earlier. It was free public knowledge, not based on Nate alone but all the “Nates”, that the president was ahead all along.

  100. Pete Dunkelberg:

    But I still have a question. Were all the R’s totally oblivious and shocked up until the losing moment and even beyond? All of them, even the highest? By now most people know of Rove’s apparent meltdown:

    Rove has reason for concern. He personally encouraged wealthy individuals to contribute large sums with an implied promise of a return on their investment. And by the way it seems that any unspent money could go away somewhere without a trace.

    Finally, I really want to know what you think of this:

    Could Megyn’s excursion, with full audio and video coverage have happened without advance planning? If not, how much of the whole thing was real?

  101. Ray Ladbury:

    What matters is who shows up on election day. And Republicans were banking on the electorate looking more like 2010 than 2008. Had they been correct, the results would have been much different. There are a lot of Republicans who really have drunk deeply of the Kool-Aid that says that Republicans are makers and Democrats are takers. They really believe it. They simply cannot imagine that a successful person could vote higher taxes on themselves for the common good–it’s why they hate Warren Buffet. Given this view, it is easy to see how they could delude themselves that Democratic voters might not show up, especially when they faced obstacles to voting (long lines, voter ID…) enacted by Republican state houses. The irony of this is that their very rhetoric was probably enough to piss off the Democratic base and ensure they not only showed up, but braved any obstacle to vote against the priveleged bastards. It seems that only Bobby Jindal gets this.

    Now we need to educate the voters that national elections happen every 2 years, not every 4 years. My hope in this is not that the Republican party passes out of existence. Rather my hope is that they renew acquantance with reality. America works better when parties are driven by their centers and can meet in the middle.

  102. Dan H.:

    I think you are spot on with your analysis. Maybe someday, the centers can drive politics, as opposed to the ends.

  103. Hank Roberts:

    MT pointed out at Planet 3.0, and linked, an excellent video by Rachel Maddow on science and the election:

  104. Russell:

    Though still infested with climate science cranks of Dellingpole and Monckton’s ilk, The Spectator has apparently unearthed a genuine wind power rent-seeking scandal

    Downrating turbines to max out their subsidy .

  105. Hank Roberts:

    > scandal
    Not _unusually_ tskandalous per the comments; a downrated system has its peak output capped but still remains more efficient at lower wind speeds than the lower end system that would otherwise be installed.

    The agency managing the subsidy has to decide what qualifies. It’s meant to subsidize small landowners so they will install something, rather than leaving the wind power market solely to the big companies with large landholdings that can afford the to install higher towers and bigger generators with 2 or 3 or 4x the rated capacity.

    This is “cheeseparing” — typical and appears to be unavoidable. Any regulation that draws a line gets treated as a mark around which to evade or squeeze or fiddle to get the maximum profit at the least expense.

    There are far worse examples of the same behavior out there. I don’t even know if it has a collective noun, does “rent-seeking” cover the whole gamut of shaving and bending agreements to maximize profit? One example is China’s gaming the HCFC production agreements, prolonging damage to the ozone layer while gathering large payments from other countries.

    Another is economically motivated adulteration.

    The 11th Commandment — “You Do Too Know What I Mean!” — is a religious rule not applied in business and politics.

    And that’s good; otherwise we’d have more priests and fewer lawyers.