Fraud, What it Is and What it Isn't

My last post discussed a recent story being pushed by "skeptics" in which they claim an organization created for global warming advocacy committed fraud in order to obtain millions of dollars. The purpose of the post was to demonstrate most of what was said was just spin.

For today's post, I'm going to do something different. I'm going to discuss what does and does not constitute fraud while providing a couple examples. Fair warning, people on both sides may not like seeing these examples.

When considering whether each of these following scenarios is "fraud," keep in mind fraud has two components: 1) An intent to deceive; 2) The goal of obtaining some benefit. You cannot have fraud without both of these. To determine if the recent accusations of "fraud" are appropriate, let's consider what one of the reporters says:

close to 10% of the papers claimed by CCCEP as their own product — 24 out of approx. 260 (more in which the date details are not published are being investigated) — were completed, submitted or published before the CCCEP opened.

It is logically impossible for research to have been commissioned, executed, completed, written up, submitted to a journal and published before the institution that ‘supports’ it has opened.

That is the basic point. An organization applied for a grant to obtain funding. As part of its application, it included a list of publications published under its auspices. You can see the list here. It contains about 500 entries, 276 of which are papers published in scientific journals. Of these 276 papers, approximately 25 should not have been included.

That's it. Five percent of a list (or 10% if you only consider the papers in the list) should not have been included on it. There's no evidence indicating why these items were included. "Skeptics" are having a field day with this story based upon the assumption these items must have been included as an intentional attempt to deceive. Given there is no evidence to support this claim, I believe it was just an honest mistake.

A large part of why I don't believe these items were included as intentional attempt to deceive is motivation. Why would this have been done? Would the CCCEP's chances of receiving funding be better if their list was ~475 items (or ~240 papers) long instead ~500 (or ~250 papers)? That seems unlikely to me.

I have no doubt the CCCEP went back further in time than it should have when looking for papers to add to this list. That was wrong. It wasn't fraud though. For this to have been fraud, someone would have had to know these papers shouldn't be included and think adding a (relatively) small number of items to a long list would help them obtain funding. There is no evidence for this, and it seems highly improbable.

Let's compare this to two actual examples of fraud. I'll provide two, one from each side of the global warming debate. Since we've already discussed "skeptics," let's start with a famous example from the other side. That's right, let's look at Michael Mann's hockey stick. Yes, I'm going there.

For those who don't know, Mann's hockey stick was a reconstruction of temperatures over the last 1000 years which got its name from its relatively flat "shaft" from 1000-1850 AD followed by a sharp uptick in temperatures creating a "blade." This graph was created across two papers. In 1998, Mann and his co-authors created the graph going back to 1400. The following year, they wrote a new paper extending it back to 1000.

This work was highly popular and became an icon for the global warming movement after it was prominently included in an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. Mann was a lead author of a chapter of this report. Using this position, he ensured the chapter said this about his work:

Mann et al. (1998) reconstructed global patterns of annual surface temperature several centuries back in time. They calibrated a combined terrestrial (tree ring, ice core and historical documentary indicator) and marine (coral) multi-proxy climate network against dominant patterns of 20th century global surface temperature. Averaging the reconstructed temperature patterns over the far more data-rich Northern Hemisphere half of the global domain, they estimated the Northern Hemisphere mean temperature back to AD 1400, a reconstruction which had significant skill in independent cross-validation tests.

Mann and his co-authors had reported results for different statistical verification tests in their paper. One of these tests was for r2 verification. The details of what that is don't matter. What matters is they reported r2 scores only for time periods in which they were favorable. Here is a table showing them for each period of the reconstruction:

WA-R2VerificationStats

Prior to 1750, the r2 verification scores are terrible. Mann and his co-authors calculated all of the these scores, yet they only published favorable ones. That's deceptive. If people had known about the best test results, they would have been much more skeptical of the hockey stick graph.

This point is particularly relevant for the IPCC report. Had Mann ensured his chapter in this report accurately described which tests his work passed and which it failed, people would have been skeptical of his results. The results wouldn't have been given so much prominence and publicity. By hiding the fact his temperature reconstruction failed one of his statistical verification tests (and failed it miserably), Mann was able to become famous. That's fraud.

As another example to consider, a central claim in the 1998 paper was:

the long-term trend in NH is relatively robust to the inclusion of dendroclimatic indicators in the network, suggesting that potential tree growth trend biases are not influential in the multiproxy climate reconstructions.

This claim was false. In reality, the results were entirely dependent upon a relatively small amount of tree ring data from a single area in North America. Mann himself acknowledges this. In a book he wrote (The Climate Wars), he discusses tests he and his co-authors performed after the publication of their paper:

The tests revealed that not all of the records were playing an equal role in our reconstructions. Certain proxy data appeared to be of critical importance in establishing the reliability of the reconstruction– in particular, one set of tree ring records spanning the boreal tree line of North America published by dendroclimatologists Gordon Jacoby and Rosanne D’Arrigo.

If a single tree ring proxy was of "critical importance in establishing the reliability of the reconstruction," the long-term trend could not be relatively robust to the inclusion of tree-ring data. Despite having performed these tests, Mann and his co-authors then went on to write their 1999 paper, extending the results of their 1998 paper without warning anyone they had discovered a central claim in their 1998 paper was false. Again, that is fraud.

Consider the difference between this example and the one with the CCCEP. With the CCCEP, we have a list with errors. We have no evidence of how those errors came about or what effect those errors would have had on anything. In the case of Michael Mann's hockey stick, we have the results of tests the authors performed and hid from public view. (If you want to see more details, check out my short eBook for a good overview to the topic).

For another example, let's turn to a $100,000 contest promoted by a number of "skeptics." The purpose of this contest was to see if people could distinguish between time series created via a "random" process and ones created with an underlying trend. There were a variety of problems with this, but ultimately, it just turned out to be a scam.

Yes, I said it's a scam. When the contest was first announced, people were quick to notice the 1000 time series provided for the contest showed clear patterns. Namely, if you looked at the linear trends in them, it was easy to see the (general) difference between the "random" series and those with an underlying trend. Here's a histogram created by a user looking at this contest:

11_22-Magma-1

After people had spent a bit of time working on this contest, the person running it updated his website and data set, saying:

The Contest was announced on 18 November 2015. Shortly afterward, a few people pointed out to me that the PRNG I had used might not be good enough. In particular, it might be possible for researchers to win the Contest by exploiting weaknesses in the PRNG. I have been persuaded that the risk might be greater than I had previously realized.

The purpose of the Contest is to test researchers' claimed capability to statistically analyze climatic data. If someone were to win the Contest by exploiting a PRNG weakness, that would not conform with the purpose of the Contest. Ergo, I regenerated the 1000 series using a stronger PRNG, together with some related changes.

The 1000 regenerated series were posted online four days after the Contest was announced—on 22 November 2015. Each person who submitted an entry before then has been invited to submit a new entry with no fee. Everyone who plans to enter the Contest should ensure that they have the regenerated series.

This was a lie. The reason for these changes were not to address a problem with the random number generator used in the contest. We can see this by looking at what the histogram of linear trends in the data set now shows:

11_22-Magma-2

The histogram is significantly different than before. Similar graphs could be made showing significant differences in autocorrelation coefficients and other statistical properties of the data sets. Even the number of digits provided was changed. The new data set was rounded to fewer digits than the old one, giving people less information to work with.

It is clear the data set wasn't changed to fix some issue with a random number generator. It was changed to make the contest more difficult after people had begun showing how they would tackle the problem. The guy running the contest just lied about it. It's an obvious deception. Given the contest involves a $10 entry fee, which wasn't refunded to people after the data set was changed, this is fraud.

Again, notice the difference. In this case, we have clear evidence showing the person running this contest changed the nature of his contest to make it more difficult but lied to everyone about it. We have him taking money from people for the contest. That is fraud because there is an attempt to deceive and a benefit being sought out by with the deception. We don't have evidence of either of these things with the CCCEP.

I know people on both sides are likely to disagree with this post. That's why I made sure to give an example from both sides. There are real cases of fraud on both sides of the global warming debate. Neither side will acknowledge it when it's from "one of their own." That's a shame. The global warming debate shouldn't involve partisanship. It does though.

Do I expect "skeptics" to acknowledge the recent cries of fraud at the CCCEP are inappropriate? No. I don't expect them to acknowledge that any more than I expect "warmists" to acknowledge Michael Mann's deceptions regarding his famous hockey stick graph were fraud. The tribalism is too overwhelming.

My hope is there are people who aren't on either "side" of the debate who simply want to know the truth about things. For them, hopefully this post helps demonstrate what fraud is and what it isn't.

39 comments

  1. I agree with regard to the CCCEP case

    I note btw that McIntyre always refrained from calling Mann's work fraud/fraudulent.
    Apparently for him the bar lies still higher...

  2. Over Normengard it was already mentioned:
    "For the Greater Good".

    “There are no facts, only interpretations.”
    ― Friedrich Nietzsche

  3. Marcel Crok, having talked to McIntyre about this, I should caution you not to over-interpretat his not using the word "fraud." He himself has publicly said he doesn't write everything he thinks. My suspicion is he agrees with my view and believes Mann committed fraud but simply doesn't wish to say so.

    I was the same way before Mann filed his libel lawsuit against Mark Steyn. I changed my mind because that lawsuit is based entirely upon Mann saying his work isn't fraudulent. If he is going to file lawsuit based on that, then I think pointing out it is wrong is important.

  4. Which just means you are next to be sued once Mann beats Steyn. That's what I meant by 'catch the falling flag.'

  5. There's no chance I'll get sued. There are a variety of reasons, but one of the simplest is that I explain why I make the accusations I make. In libel law, conclusions arising from stated facts are not libelous. The only way I could get sued is if the facts underlying my accusations were challenged, something Michael Mann would never do.

    It's actually a shame. I would love for Mann to sue me. Suing someone like me would be far more damaging for him than suing Mark Steyn could ever be. Steyn's a "soft target" because he's a pundit who really doesn't know what he's talking about (the errors he makes in the discussions in his recent book are embarrassing). On top of that, his bombastic personality and media presence means he's not a sympathetic target. Dragging some guy who runs a blog into a major lawsuit would make Mann look like a petty bully even to many of his supporters.

    If you want to make a political point, you go after a pundit. If you want to make a factual point, you go after a researcher/writer. Mann chose his target for a reason.

  6. The only way I could get sued is if the facts underlying my accusations were challenged, something Michael Mann would never do.

    No... it means that the only way you could *lose* a lawsuit in front of a perspicacious and attentive jury is if the facts were successfully challenged.

    Anyone can file a lawsuit for any stupid reason. If the lawsuit has no merit whatsoever, no matter how you look at it, it might be dismissed at the initial hearing, but that bar is so easily cleared as to be a very low bar indeed.

    Thus people frequently find themselves the target of a frivolous lawsuit that requires an expensive, serious defense.

    Juries (and judges(!)) are also known to produce insane results. They are frequently prejudiced to find against people they don't like or whom they think deserve to be taken down a peg or two. Sometimes they get confused, or bored.

    Which is why many people and companies choose to settle rather than fight, even when they are clearly in the right.

  7. tarran, what you refer to is the hypothetical possibility of filing a lawsuit over whatever. What I"m referring to is what Michael Mann could actually do. Remember, Mann isn't paying for his lawsuit. He's relying on support from other people. If he loses that support, he won't be able to maintain any legal actions.

    Given that, there is no way Mann could file a lawsuit against me. His current lawyers would never go for it (nor would the people helping finance his efforts), and he wouldn't be able to find new people to help him. He wouldn't be able to self-finance a suit either.

  8. Why wouldn't the people financing Mann's lawsuit support him? He would already have a victory at that point.

    I also strongly doubt that Michael Mann would never challenge facts underlying your accusations.
    Also, while facts is a strong basis for defending yourself, it would not be enough for Mann to challenge facts.
    He would in theory have to show that you knew you were wrong. So Steyn's being 'a pundit who really doesn't know what he's talking about'
    can work in his favor.

  9. MikeN:

    Why wouldn't the people financing Mann's lawsuit support him? He would already have a victory at that point.

    Because there would be absolutely no upside to it. There is not outcome which would be favorable for them. Even if they won, it'd be a pyrrhic victory.

    I also strongly doubt that Michael Mann would never challenge facts underlying your accusations.

    Given he has admitted most of his facts underlying the accusations in a book he published, I sincerely doubt he would ever challenge them. Even if that weren't true, he doesn't want a discussion of the substance of his work or the criticisms of it. That's why his legal filings haven't dealt with them at all.

    All of Mann's attacks have hinged on using third-party endorsements of his work (or at least what he claims are endorsements) to say his work is fine/good because he knows he'd get trashed in any substantive discussion.

    Also, while facts is a strong basis for defending yourself, it would not be enough for Mann to challenge facts.

    Which is why I didn't say it was. My point is different. My point is if you state facts and draw a conclusion (a reasonable person might draw) from them, then your conclusion cannot be libelous as a matter of law. Only your presentation of the facts (such as if you falsely claim something is a fact) can be libelous. That's just how the law works.

    He would in theory have to show that you knew you were wrong. So Steyn's being 'a pundit who really doesn't know what he's talking about'
    can work in his favor.

    Nope. You don't have to prove a person knew he was wrong to prove "actual malice," the standard for public figures. You just have to prove he acted with reckless disregard in regards to its potential falsity. Basically, they had to have had doubts about what they said yet said it anyway. In the case of Mark Steyn, him not knowing basic facts actually hurts because if he doesn't know anything, it is more likely he should have trusted the expert judgments of those who defend Mann.

    Which is part of why Steyn wrote his book. He wrote it to show trusting the expert doesn't mean he has to believe Mann's work is not fraudulent. The problem with that is his book is complete and utter trash, grossly misrepresenting any number of things. A skilled lawyer might even be able to use the book as evidence to convince a jury Steyn is just writing hit pieces with reckless disregard for whether or not they are true, as that's the only way he could come up with such nonsense.

    That won't happen though. I'd say the odds of this case actually going to trial to be heard by a jury are less than 1%. Mann never wanted this to go to trial, and there is basically no upside for him if it does.

  10. I am starting with the assumption that Mann has defeated Steyn. So he has silenced one person as a libel bully, and he would then be emboldened to go after more. What was the upside for those financing the current lawsuit?
    So now that Mann has his victory, we have to consider what would be different against you. I think with basic libel law, Steyn(and Brandon) has an easy victory. However, I can't rely on that fact for your case, as Mann has won. I think this means a judge that ignored the law and allowed a jury to deliver a lousy verdict. Something Mann would have reason to think he could achieve again, and I think he would aggressively pursue it, as Steyn merely said 'fraudulent hockey stick'. You said 'Michael Mann is a fraud', a stronger statement. Shutting down opposition to Mann is his motivation.

  11. Steyn says he wants to go to trial. If the judges get there act together and schedule discovery and a trial, how does Mann prevent it? Would Mann just drop it? He's been countersued.

  12. MikeN:

    I am starting with the assumption that Mann has defeated Steyn. So he has silenced one person as a libel bully, and he would then be emboldened to go after more. What was the upside for those financing the current lawsuit?

    The chilling effect the publicity of the lawsuit has in which they can dissuade (some) people from criticizing Michael Mann and other climate scientists. Particularly since it lets them draw attention to an example of a popular figure saying rather vile things. I know you say:

    Steyn merely said 'fraudulent hockey stick'.

    And Steyn himself has tried to claim this is all anyone said,* but the reality is Steyn promoted and tacitly endorsed a person comparing Mann to a child molester. Vile remarks like that may not be libelous, but they certainly give people more motivation to go after you.

    Quite simply, the costs of carrying a lawsuit against me out would far exceed any benefits it could possibly have. What do you even think would be the outcome if he could win a lawsuit against me?

    *Seriously, he flat-out denied anyone had compared Mann to a child molester, practically mocking people for saying anyone had. It was ridiculous.

  13. Canman:

    Steyn says he wants to go to trial. If the judges get there act together and schedule discovery and a trial, how does Mann prevent it? Would Mann just drop it? He's been countersued.

    My expectation is Steyn's countersuit will get thrown out pretty easily. It is not a well-formed suit. Even if Steyn's countersuit didn't get dismissed, he would look like the "bad guy" as soon as Mann dropped his suit. All Mann would have to do is say, "The courts are taking way longer than I expected so I'm going to drop my lawsuit even though I firmly believe a better judicial system would resulted in me winning the suit." If he wrote that and Styen didn't promptly drop his countersuit, Steyn would be viewed as petty and exacerbating a situation purely out of spite.

    As a side note, I should point out Mark Steyn is not an advocate for free speech. Steyn is an advocate for his ability to speak, Take all the grandstanding out of it, and what you'll find is Steyn likes to just shout down anyone he disagrees with. He can do that because he's popular enough to have a "big mic." He relies upon that to let him abuse and mistreat people he disagrees with/dislikes. If we adopt his approach to freedom of speech as a universal thing, the "freedom" of speech will just be the freedom for whoever can shout loudest to tyrannize everyone else.

    If you don't believe me, try looking at how he handles disagreements. Time and time again he distorts what people say or simply fabricates claims in order to insult them, knowing he can get away with that just by playing to an audience that likes what he has to say. It stems from him being an intellectual coward.

    But hey, he's popular and wrote a book on the "skeptic" side so we should all support and adore him. It doesn't matter his book is complete and utter dreck, so error-ridden he must either be dishonest or incredibly lazy and incompetent.

    I'll get off my soapbox now.

  14. Steyn does not shout people down. Whenever he criticizes someone, he usually includes some sort of quote from his target. And shouting louder than the other guy/gal is part of free speech! Being a louder means you you care more about what you're being a loudmouth about. Steyn's never called for any of his opponents to have any of their verbiage suppressed. In fact, he needs their quotes, so he can skewer them.

  15. We agree on the motivation for the current suit. Now the child molester carries more weight emotionally(though Steyn did say he wouldn't have taken the analogy into the locker room), and helps bring funding for the case, but I think it is centered on 'fraudulent'. The chilling effect is less chilling if someone is out there saying 'Michael Mann is a fraud'.
    Indeed, I wrote 'catch the falling flag' to mean that you thought Steyn would lose and wanted to be next in line with a stronger case.
    It turns out it was not a common phrase like I thought when I wrote it.

    I also don't think you are too unimportant for Mann, as he went after Minnesotans for Global Warming.

  16. Canman, I'm sorry, but I can't take you seriously if you're going to say things like:

    Steyn does not shout people down. Whenever he criticizes someone, he usually includes some sort of quote from his target. And shouting louder than the other guy/gal is part of free speech! Being a louder means you you care more about what you're being a loudmouth about.

    Leaving aside you must not have actually read what I wrote as I clearly referred to shouting down people in a metaphorical sense via the use of a "big mic," it is simply ludicrous to say being louder means you care more. That amount of ways that is wrong is staggering.

    Steyn's never called for any of his opponents to have any of their verbiage suppressed. In fact, he needs their quotes, so he can skewer them.

    The entire point of the metaphor I used is Steyn doesn't need to call for people to have their speech suppressed because his position as a popular pundit already accomplishes that in many cases. And while you claim Steyn needs people's verbiage, the reality is Steyn routinely misrepresents the people and things he criticizes. He doesn't need any actual verbiage from people. He just needs something he can point at and ridicule, regardless of what it might actually say or be.

    I've demonstrated just how bad this can be with his book on Michael Mann. Anyone who does the slightest amount of critical analysis on that book will find it is complete and utter garbage. The only way to defend Steyn is to just not think about what he writes beyond, "I like this, cool man."

  17. MikeN, I find it baffling I have to routinely correct people on such basic facts like:

    ow the child molester carries more weight emotionally(though Steyn did say he wouldn't have taken the analogy into the locker room

    That is not what Steyn said at all. First, he never said anything about what he wouldn't do. Second, there's a major caveat you're leaving out. Steyn said he wasn't sure he'd extend the metaphor to the locker room with such zeal. That's the sort of wishy-washy rhetoric people use to promote something distasteful while pretending to distance themselves from it. It doesn't lessen the rhetorical impact in the slightest. In fact, it enhances it due to how the rhetoric works to shape people's focus.

    Steyn knows fully well. As a speaker who makes his living on rhetoric, he knows exactly how to write or say things like this to create "plausible deniability" while tossing out smears so he can turn around and tell people, "I didn't really say it though. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge."

    If Steyn actually wanted to distance himself from the comparison, he wouldn't have added any caveat. He would have just said something in the form of, "I wouldn't have said that." If he wanted to express disapproval, he would have said something in the form of, "I think the comparison goes too far." He didn't. He used a mealy-mouthed expression to promote vile rhetoric while creating an excuse he could use so he didn't have to defend it.

    I don't normally focus that much on rhetorical tricks like this, but any layman can work out constructions like Steyn's. Given this is Steyn's stock and trade, he definitely knew exactly what he was doing.

    Indeed, I wrote 'catch the falling flag' to mean that you thought Steyn would lose and wanted to be next in line with a stronger case.
    It turns out it was not a common phrase like I thought when I wrote it.

    The reason I'd want to be sued is Steyn makes this case a spectacle that distracts people from what he wrote. I, on the other hand, recognize libel laws exist for a good reason. They are there to protect people, especially from people like Steyn who can often say whatever they want (no matter how false) without repercussion. As much as he may dislike it, if you tell the world the work of someone's career is fraudulent, you may get sued for it.

    Consider the hypothetical scenario in which Mann's work was completely fine, subject only to unfair attacks by hacks and shills. Suppose he were really just an honest researcher doing his best to produce accurate results. It is plausible Steyn's behavior wouldn't change one iota. That's not okay. Freedom of speech is great, but it only goes so far.

    The sad reality is to an average person like me with no particular media access, getting on Mark Steyn's bad side is way more dangerous than getting on Michael Mann's. Mann simply doesn't have the same reach Steyn has.

  18. "Mann simply doesn't have the same reach Steyn has."

    Mann has shut down one group's speech, Minnesotans for Global Warming, and is in court attempting to chill speech by so many more people from criticizing him and other climate scientists.
    I don't know how you say that is less reach than Steyn.

  19. MikeN:

    Mann has shut down one group's speech, Minnesotans for Global Warming,

    I forgot to respond to this earlier. Mann didn't shut this group's speech down in any special sense. He threatened to sue people if they didn't take a video down from YouTube, and they gave in. That doesn't involve anything special about Mann. Literally anyone can do the same thing.

    Moreover, the video was promptly reposted (with one image taken out due to issues about who owned it) by another group. Mann never threatened that group, and nothing more ever came of it. That suggests there was never anything more than a guy blustering with an empty threat. It's not like people claimed Richard Tol had great influence when he threatened to sue his critics.

    and is in court attempting to chill speech by so many more people from criticizing him and other climate scientists.

    Again, this is something literally anyone could do. Mann happens to have been given some free legal support, but being able to find some funding to support a legal action doesn't make Mann have particularly large influence. So while you say:

    I don't know how you say that is less reach than Steyn.

    That's because you're focusing solely upon legal actions while Mark Steyn doesn't need legal action to go after people. He has radio and television appearances to do that, as well as being able to publish articles in any number of media outlets. That gives him far greater influence than Michael Mann. That's why Steyn has been invited to do things like testify for Congress.

    Heck, Mann himself has had far greater influence via the same things as Steyn than through via any legal action.

  20. Yes you did Richard Tol. You used the threat of a lawsuit to try to silence a critic. In fact, you tried to use such a threat by way of a person's employer to do this. It was disgraceful. If you wish to deny this, that's fine, but I've discussed this very matter here before. You chose not to address what I said at the time (though I drew your attention to it). I doubt waiting two years to dispute the criticism will make your position stronger.

    Not that it matters. You routinely deny basic points that are indisputable and make up wildly untrue accusations, like all but accusing John Cook of fraud because he the id values in a database didn't match the number of papers he said he used in his infamous consensus study, a completely bogus accusation. If you want to address any of the many criticisms I've made of you over the years in a substantial manner, you're welcome to, but it'd be the first time in your life you've ever done so.

  21. As a thought, a number of people have taken to claiming I do this and that only because of some grudge I supposedly hold against Richard Tol. I find that interesting since I don't get similar claims of a grudge against John Cook or Michael Mann, people I've expressed far more negative feelings toward than Tol. Since it's become such a thing though, maybe I should write up a history of my encounters with Tol. It could be rather interesting.

    I wonder how many people remember the paper Ludecke et al wrote and why it caused me to take notice of Tol for the first time. It could make for an interesting first step in a trip down memory lane.

  22. @brandon
    If I did threaten to sue Ackermann, then why did he not post the letter that my lawyer sent? He posted lots of other stuff, but never that letter.

    (I would argue that he did not post that letter because he never got it; indeed it was never written; or even discussed; or considered, for that matter.)

  23. Richard Tol, this is a complete non-sequitur:

    @brandon
    If I did threaten to sue Ackermann, then why did he not post the letter that my lawyer sent? He posted lots of other stuff, but never that letter.

    There is absolutely no reason being threatened with a lawsuit would require a letter having been sent by a lawyer. Anyone can threaten anyone else with a lawsuit without the assistance of a lawyer. I could threaten to sue you right now, in this blog comment. No lawyers involved!

    (I would argue that he did not post that letter because he never got it; indeed it was never written; or even discussed; or considered, for that matter.)

    I would argue you're creating an idiotic strawman anyone would see through because you refuse to engage in anything resembling a real discussion because you're too incompetent and/or dishonest to have one. Or at least, I would if there were some need to explain the motivations of your actions. I don't really need to though. Anybody who reads your comment will find it laughable.

  24. @brandon
    Show me where I wrote the words "I will sue you if ..." and addressed them to Ackerman.

    (FYI, I did threaten to sue La Stampa, and almost did before the judge in the pre-hearing told them to settle.)

  25. Richard Tol, again you are creating a ridiculous and obvious strawman. Nobody needs to say, "I will sue you if..." to threaten a lawsuit. If you had any interest in a real discussion you would quit making these impossible demands and simply call for me to point to what I am talking about. That you choose not to proves your purpose here is not to further any discussion.

    You can play stupid little games like this if you want. Just don't expect anyone to fall for them.

  26. Richard Tol, I'll direct you to the post I wrote about this, which you commented on. In fact, you were the first person to comment on that post, and you resorted to the same idiotic strawman you've resorted to here:

    I never threatened to sue Ackerman. You may notice, for instance, that he never produced a letter from my lawyer.

    I believe the conclusion of my response at that time was the most appropriate:

    Given I can provide example after example of you making ridiculous arguments, refusing to address anything your critics say in any meaningful fashion, I'm not inclined to discuss what you say about this situation. I can show what you say is wrong, but you'll just run away from the discussion like you always do. Rather than repeating that sequence for the dozenth time, I think I'll just stick to looking at things like: you seemingly tried to get a guy fired.

    I'll also quote what I said when lucia of The Blackboard and the user Carrick claimed there was no threat:

    If we're going to be literal, Tol indicated he had considered filing a lawsuit, but he was going to refrain, temporarily, while he pursued another avenue of redress. The apparent reason for bringing up the idea of a lawsuit was to try to pressure the other party into acceding to his demands. That's using the threat of a lawsuit to intimidate them.

    Saying, "I could sue you, but I'm not going to for the moment because I'm going to let you resolve this situation by doing X" is clearly using the threat of a lawsuit to pressure a person into doing what you want. That is threatening to sue them (if they don't do what you want).

    Since you've made an issue of this, I should also stress it appears you tried to get a guy fired for criticizing you. People shouldn't criticizing you because God forbid the consequences.

  27. Brandon:
    You're conflating two cases.

    In the first case, I explicitly put aside legal action to opt for arbitration. We went to arbitration, and I won on both scores (copyright infringement, libel). Ackerman could have appealed the decision, and appealed the appeal, before it had it gone to court. Ackerman did not appeal, though. Instead, Ackerman admitted that he had falsely claimed I had done things I did not do; and that he had falsely claimed there was an error when there was none. Stern added that Ackerman made these claims knowing that they were false. Ackerman did not protest Stern's characterisation.

    In the second case, I never threatened to sue.

  28. Richard Tol, I find it interesting you do nothing to dispute that you used the threat of a lawsuit in the example I cite. You repeatedly denied having done so, yet now you just ignore the issue. It's quite interesting.

    As for the rest of what you say, your description of the facts is inaccurate as always, but I'm not going to chase you down that rabbit hole as it has nothing to do with what I said here. It's tedious enough just dealing with the fact you've done nothing to demonstrate I've conflated any two cases despite claiming I have. I haven't. I referred to two separate cases, never once indicating they were the same one. I know you've recently decided to claim I've made errors on this site because you couldn't be bothered to read simple sentences. I'm guessing this is just another example of that.

    If you wish to explain how saying something like, "I will set aside the possibility of suing you as long as you do X" is not threatening to sue them, I'll discuss that as that is the issue at hand. If you don't wish to offer such an explanation, then I would appreciate it if you would acknowledge you threatened to sue a person like I claimed.

  29. Richard Tol, every child knows a threat can come along with the promise of, "I will not do it if you do X." How many parents have said, "I'm going to send you to bed early if you don't clean off your plate?" A lot. That there's a promise of a way out doesn't stop the threat from being a threat. That's true whether the threat is a child going to bed early or a person being sued by you.

    Your defense here is like a mugger saying he didn't threaten a victim when he said, "Give me your money or I'll kill you" because the victim could just give the mugger his money.

  30. Richard Tol, indeed it is not. That is not what you wrote though. What you wrote was in the form of, "I will refrain from doing X so long as you do Y." That is a threat. That you can consistently create obvious strawmen arguments anyone can see through does not make your threat stop being a threat.

  31. > conclusions arising from stated facts are not libelous.

    I notice in the court opinion of Mann v Steyn(not the actual name but how it's being labeled by some)
    that this is not the case. If there are other facts that you did not list, and thus made conclusions from an incomplete list,
    the reader would not have a proper picture of the facts. Libel is still on the table.

  32. MikeN, I'm not sure saying, "If there are other facts that you did not list" which you base your opinions on contradicts the idea "conclusions arising from stated facts are not libelous." There being unstated facts would seem to mean the conclusions are not "arising from stated facts."

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