An Article About Articles

by John Weckerle

It’s been a while since we checked in on the folks at the Sandia Tea Party.  In our last article on the subject, we examined two posts on the Sandia Tea Party site: one which we felt was a slap at minorities, and another on global climate change on which we thought it appropriate to clarify the source.  Predictably or not, both articles vanished from the Sandia Tea Party site very quickly after our article was published.

Since then, we’ve been busy with other things, but have been keeping an eye on the site from time to time.  There have been a few times where we’ve considered taking the author(s) to task on disinformation and other issues.  It is rife with “the usual” – branding people with different opinions as “socialists” (even those who advocate sustainable development are now included in this ever-broadening category); suggesting that widely accepted scientific postulates are a) false, b) stupid, c) the result of dishonesty or myopia in the scientific community, or d) all of the above; and peppering all this with vague (or sometimes not-so-vague) scatological references that are certainly more enjoyable to write than they are to read.

We find ourselves currently amused by several posts on the site dealing with issues associated with carbon and anthropogenic climate change.  The first of these consists of a doctored (we hope) photograph depicting a child urinating off a pier with the caption “After rising CO2 levels were blamed for increasing ocean acidity, a new theory emerges.”  Apparently, this is supposed to suggest that it is foolish to believe that an increase in atmospheric CO2 lowers the pH of water.


Leaving aside the issue of whether this kind of imagery is appropriate for inclusion on the web site of a political organization, let’s take a quick look at the “theory” which apparently exists in the mind of the person who generated the work of “art,” retired high school economics and math teacher turned “cartoonist” Rich Terrell.  We have no idea how good a teacher Mr. Terrell was, but it looks like he might not have been a star pupil – at least not in chemistry class.  Anyone who actually showed up for the class knows that an increase in the concentration of CO2 in air in contact with water results in an increase in CO2 in water, and that the increase in CO2 results in a decrease in pH, which is what “acidification” means.  This is not a theory; this is what happens.  Always.  Period.  We’re not going to provide a chemistry lesson here, no matter how basic, but those who would like to know a little more about CO2 without reading a technical paper can have a look at the Wikipedia entry “Carbon dioxide.”   Those looking for a little more on how CO2 behaves in water can look over “Solution chemistry of carbon dioxide in sea water” found on the Oak Ridge National Laboratory web site.

The next provides a Powerpoint file titled “Some Thoughts On Energy” by Roger X. Lenard, which was apparently the basis of a presentation delivered at Calvary Chapel in Edgewood.  We’re not going to get into a point-by-point refutation of the contents – which actually contains the statement “CO2 is plant food” – as we think our readers have had enough of that.  However, we will note that neither the article nor the presentation provide any information Mr. Lenard’s background – but of course, such information is available to those who seek it.  Mr. Lenard, a signatory to the widely discredited “Petition Project” on global warming, is apparently a former Sandia National Laboratories employee (he no longer appears in the employee locator on the Labs’ web site).  He is the winner of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR) 2001 Consistency Award for making “easily-documented mistakes in each of five sentences in the concluding paragraph” of an essay titled “Information theory and Physics do not admit evolution as science.”  In fact, Mr. Lenard has the honor of having received numerous awards from NMSR, including one for citing publications as supporting his position on reptile-to-bird evolution which reputedly did not do so.  According to several sources, Mr. Lenard also reportedly managed to get himself appointed to the New Mexico Board of Education and then worked (unsuccessfully) to have an anti-evolution textbook introduced into the curriculum.  In short, Mr. Lenard would appear to be a “scientific” creationist, and from the standpoint of most people with a scientific background, this would place him rather on the fringe.  That his positions on anthropogenic climate change would also be considered on the fringe therefore comes as little surprise.

Not surprisingly, the presentation also does not provide much in the way of citations or references to back up the rather, er, interesting claims in it.  It does contain several figures without attribution, however, that seem somewhat familiar, and it is not clear that they are the work of the author.  If they are not, then their use in this manner would appear to constitute plagiarism, something with which any credible scientist is familiar and scrupulously avoids.  We’d like to suggest that Mr. Lenard clarify this issue and properly update the presentation if he is not the generator of those images.

We move next to an article on an article on an article, as it were, titled “Things We Didn’t Know — I’m Sure There’s A Simple Explanation For Global COOLING,” the Sandia Tea Party spokesman attempts to demonstrate that the “warmists,” as he terms them, are once again off track based on a Reuters article about an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “So, here I go with my ignorant mind” says the author, and in this case we must regretfully concur that he has done just that.   This article in its entirety is currently only available to subscribers; however, the abstract is available here, and as anybody who bothers to read it can see that the article does not serve to refute global climate models, but to reconcile recent short-term temperature observations with the generally accepted scientific positions on global climate change.  We’ll let our readers know when and if the entire article is available to the general public.

In a more recent article, “The Man Is Seriously Grasping,” the Sandia Tea Party vilifies Al Gore based on the position that, in an interview seen here, Mr. Gore allegedly equates climate denialism with racism.  Once again, the author focuses on an article about the interview instead of the interview itself, and we have to wonder if he actually watched the interview in its entirety – because Mr. Gore does no such thing.  The first reference to “winning the conversation” comes more than 42 minutes into the interview, and the clear purpose of the civil rights movement example quoted in the Sandia Tea Party’s article is to provide an example in which “the conversation was won.”  At no time does Mr. Gore, either directly or indirectly, make any attempt to equate the two; he simply uses the prior situation as an example of how an established and negative set of attitudes was gradually overturned.  It’s a ridiculous stretch to come to the conclusion presented on the Sandia Tea Party site – and we’ll note that there is no refutation of the rest of the points made by Mr. Gore during the hour-long interview.

We do not find ourselves particularly surprised with either the substitution of propaganda for observation or the playing of the “racism card” here, as we have sparred with both the Sandia Tea Party and its spokesman in the past on these issues – and again noting our look at the scrubbed articles previously mentioned, we assign little credibility to them on either subject.  We do, however, feel inclined to provide a rebuttal to some of the more egregious incongruities, and would hope that in future the Sandia Tea Party put a little more time into research – and by that we do not mean simply looking for tidbits that seem to affirm their political ideologies.  A little more information and a lot less emotion would certainly be more convincing.

One Response “An Article About Articles”

  1. John Gould says:

    Well thought out and articilate response. It’s sad that so many Tea Partiers cling to ignorance and half truths because they so much want them to be true. Actually, I myself would love to be able to keep using fossil fuels as we have been, but I can’t ignore a Mt. Everest of scientific information.

    Even if we neglect global climate change as an issue, why wouldn’t people who claim to be flag-waving patriots support the development of clean, sustainable energy sources owned and controlled by Americans so that Arab monarchs could sell their dwindling oil supplies for 3 dollars a barrel?

    Aside from any environmental concerns, this is a national security threat that Conservatives appear to ignore (we import over 70% of our oil while we possess, at most, 2 to 3 per cent of the world’s reserves).

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