Saturday, August 7, 2010

David Warren: More errors and retractions

David Warren’s correction at the end of this article does not address the other erroneous information in his piece about the BP spill. And unfortunately, what precedes his most recent retraction includes yet another error.

Warren writes: “Rasmussen's trick consists of pegging people by the nature of their work or station in life, into these two broad classes”.

Rasmussen’s “trick” (perhaps the only accurate characterization) does not define the “Political Class” or “Mainstream” by “the nature of their work, or station in life”, as Warren claims. It collects no such information to reach its “conclusions”. Rasmussen’s “trick” is as follows, from its website:

"The Political Class Index is based on three questions…

The questions used to calculate the Index are:

-- Generally speaking, when it comes to important national issues, whose judgment do you trust more - the American people or America’s political leaders?

-- Some people believe that the federal government has become a special interest group that looks out primarily for its own interests. Has the federal government become a special interest group?

-- Do government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors?

To create a scale, each response earns a plus 1 for the populist answer, a minus 1 for the political class answer, and a 0 for not sure.

Those who score 2 or higher are considered part of the Mainstream. Those who score -2 or lower are considered to be aligned with the Political Class. …In practical terms, if someone is classified with the Mainstream, they agree with the Mainstream view on at least two of the three questions and don’t agree with the Political Class on any."

This is the kind of data Mr. Warren would like to see replace Statistics Canada. The problems are obvious enough, as discussed here:

“The Political Class (Rasmussen) defines occupies a mere 7% of respondents. With this gimmick he can report nonsense like the Tea Party numbers above. After all, who really cares if 13% of the 7% of Elitists don’t like tea? If he surveyed 1,000 people, then we’re talking about 9 who fall into that category. That’s 9 out of 1,000, or less than 1%.

...This has absolutely no statistical value whatsoever. The only purpose it can possibly serve is to create an imaginary group against which to compare other results whose significance you wish to artificially enhance. This permits Rasmussen to imply that an invented class of people have decidedly different values than the rest of us. And since his test for what constitutes a Mainstream American is so broad, the whole process is worthless...”

Correction, please.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

David Warren's errors continue

Still no corrections for these errors in a David Warren article a couple weeks ago. The Ottawa Citizen won’t even run a letter, preferring to let IVF offspring believe their fathers are not really their fathers, and that they are actually the “abnormal” children of anonymous sperm donors. The Citizen now seems very reluctant to provide corrections for Warren’s falsehoods – and even Letters to the Editor in response to his articles have dropped from about 260 per year in 2003 to about 20.

Given carte blanche, it’s not surprising that the problems continue. In “On being skeptically attentive”, July 31, Warren claims there’s no problem with the BP oil spill, offering up some figures:

“As that Time article…now report(s), the fish and shrimp of the Gulf coast are still testing clean… Assessment teams have found only 350 acres of oiled marshes along the coast. (Compare: 150,000 acres of wetlands lost annually, along the same coast, to natural erosive forces.) Surface oil has all but disappeared, already, by organic breakdown.”

But on coastal wetland loss, the Time article in fact reads:

“Assessment teams have found only about 350 acres of oiled marshes, when Louisiana was already losing about 15,000 acres of wetlands every year”.

That number is confirmed by Audubon: “every year the state loses more than 15,000 acres of protective, productive coastal wetlands.”

And again: About 15,000 acres of wetlands in coastal Louisiana are being converted to open water each year.”

Or, The wetlands are disappearing at a rate of about 15,000 acres per year.”

In addition to inflating the acres of lost wetlands from 15,000 to 150,000, Warren also claims it is due to “natural erosive forces”. But the Times article he refers to states otherwise: “much of the erosion has been caused by the re-engineering of the Mississippi River — which no longer deposits much sediment at the bottom of its Delta — quite a bit has been caused by the oil and gas industry, which gouged 8,000 miles of canals and pipelines through coastal wetlands”. Time describes these human impacts as a “cancer”.

Other sources concur: “much of it (erosion) is due to human activity. U.S. Geological Survey maps indicate that about 36 percent of the loss is due to the dredging of canals through the wetlands by the oil industry”. And “erosion began in earnest in 1927, when the US Army Corps of Engineers built levees along the Mississippi River... Also, the oil and gas industries have used the area for more than 8,000 miles of canals and pipelines to add to the losses…”

And of course, as everyone knows, oil in the Gulf has been broken up by the massive and unprecedented use of chemical dispersants, not “organic breakdown” as Warren claims.

Gamely, Warren continues: “One could go into great detail on the farce of misrepresenting the scale of the BP disaster. The nonsense is now being quietly corrected, to a much smaller audience than the one that absorbed the lies.”

“Farce” and “lies” indeed. Given Warren’s uncorrected article on IVF a few weeks ago, we’ll wait and see if he will “quietly correct” this time. Don’t bet on it.