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Wishing for the return of Luddites

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Climate change skeptics are increasingly turning to a weapon many conservatives have over the years despised: Public record access.

A suit in Virginia by a right-wing group to secure the release of email exchanges involving a state university climatologist is the latest effort by opponents to prove a conspiracy among scientists to manufacture evidence of human-caused climate change. Among those caught in the dragnet is a University of Massachusetts scientist who is one of the co-authors of the now famous “hockey stick,” a graph that shows a flat line for 1,000 years of temperatures and then spikes nearly straight up over the last century.

The machinations are far too complicated to rehash but the basis is the now-infamous case of the Wegman Report, authored by Edward Wegman, a George Mason University statistician who questioned the validity of the “hockey stick” claim that the 20th century was the warmest in a millennium.

USA Today ran a story based on a review by three scientists that claimed Wegman’s report was rife with plagiarism and nothing more than a front for those who doubt man’s role in global warming.

Some conservatives, including the American Tradition Institute, are seeking emails to show that “Climategate” is being orchestrated by a left-wing cabal of scientists who don’t want to see the spigot of federal research funds turned off. Sound familiar?

Among those who are urging the University of Virginia to deny access to the emails is Dr. Ray Bradley, director of the Climate Research Center at UMass Amherst. In 1999, Bradley co-authored the study that appeared in the scientific journal Nature that first presented the dramatic “hockey stick.” Bradley and others cite academic freedom and the ability to conduct research without fear of restraint as grounds for maintaining the privacy of the emails.

It raises a deeper question, not so much about the science, but whether those who use public resources in an academic setting should have special protection from public records. So far, the answer seems to be no. Courts have consistently found that those who send and receive emails on government-owned computers or perform research using taxpayer money are every bit as subject to public records requests as, say, Lottery aides who are accused of coordinating advertising with certain political campaigns.

Emails are also being used right now to hammer away at President Obama and his office’s involvement in loan guarantees to Solyndra, the now bankrupt California solar panel producer. House Republicans are making the case that the emails showed the White House wanted to fast-track the loans so Vice President Joe Biden could attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

And can anyone forget the case of the Patrick administration and the push to place state Sen. Marian Walsh into a long-vacant and apparently unnecessary $175,000 a year post? Internal emails obtained by the Globe showed the administration was far more involved in her hiring and rewriting the job description than they said publicly.

Which once again brings to mind the oft-repeated, never topped, advice of former Boston ward boss Martin Lomasney:  "Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink” It was appended by former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who said, “Never put it in an email."

                                                                                                                                                         --JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

The House goes all-in on casinos and slots, passing Speaker Robert DeLeo’s treasured gambling bill by a lopsided 123-32 margin. MetroWest lawmakers weigh-in on the pros and cons of bringing gambling to the state. The central Mass take is here. And here is the Lowell Sun story; there doesn’t appear to have been much debate on the House floor. Meanwhile, Foxborough selectmen take a second look at repealing anti-casino zoning in their town.

The Newton Tab hopes that Sal DiMasi’s eight-year sentence sends a message to Beacon Hill lawmakers about the perils of “selling public office for personal gain.”

Gov. Deval Patrick visits EBSCO Publishing in Ipswich, which has grown from 100 to 1,250 employees in the last 15 years, the Salem News reports.

State tax receipts are coming in so strongly, Senate President Therese Murray is talking about an income tax rate reduction.

TODDLER TRAGEDY

A grieving Virginie Cazir talks to Globe columnist Adrian Walker about the death of her son, Gabriel, who died in Monday when he was forgotten for hours in a sweltering day care transportation van. The state’s Board of Early Education and Care will form a special commission to review all relevant regulations and policies in the wake of the tragedy.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Springfield Republican heralds Latino contributions to Springfield and the region.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Sen. Scott Brown urges Gov. Deval Patrick to join the Secure Communities program that targets undocumented people who have committed crimes, forgetting perhaps that immigration officials have already made this non-negotiable.

Joe McGinniss’s book on Sarah Palin has some juicy tidbits, but the New York Times review of The Rogue says most of the information is “dated, petty, and easily available to anyone with Internet access.”

US Rep. Ed Markey is warning other members of the state’s congressional delegation that Massachusetts could be hit hard by debt reduction moves.

After dialing up criticism, black lawmakers and other public officials are impressed with President Obama’s jobs plan.

ELECTION 2012

Jon Keller has three words for Elizabeth Warren: Silber, O’Brien and Coakley. Down in New Bedford, it seems all is forgiven as Standard Times columnist Jack Spillane, who wrote a piece calling Warren out for avoiding the media in her house-party circuit, got a few of his questions answered from the candidate herself. She gets a warm welcome in Springfield. The New Republic considers whether Warren’s Crimson coating will be a drag on her candidacy. Either way, she’s already in the money. The Christian Science Monitor highlights a memorable quote. Margery Eagan warns Warren about the last Senate candidate who danced around tough questions: Martha Coakley.

Eleanor Clift, writing in The Daily Beast, says even in liberal Massachusetts the race for US Sen. Scott Brown’s seat is likely to be a squeaker. Clift says Elizabeth Warren’s victory in the Democratic primary is “considered little more than a formality.”

The electoral plan some Pennsylvania Republicans have come up with in their quest to defeat President Obama may end up hurting Republican congressmen in swing districts. More analysis here from The Washington Post.

Republicans look for an electoral blueprint in Congressional special election victories in New York and Nevada.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Daily Beast reports that the mainstream media (it calls out the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times specifically) forgot to mention that the Census Bureau’s latest figures on poverty show women are hit hardest in every category. But it’s not true. The Wall Street Journal did mention women in the fourth paragraph of its story, but notes the numbers for women are a “bright spot.”

A surprising group of GOP dissidents -- all former union workers -- in the Republican-controlled New Hampshire House are upholding the governor’s veto of a right-to-work bill that would make the Granite State the first in the northeast with the union-killing statute.

The Securities and Exchange Commission wants $200 million from Citigroup for the bank’s role in putting together some of the subprime era’s most toxic securities.

Coastal Democrats and real estate lobbyists are trying to delay the downsizing of loans guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

EDUCATION

Just as Washington, DC, district and charter schools test their students in math and English, they now plan to start testing them on their knowledge of human sexuality, contraception, and drug use, The Washington Post reports.

The Gloucester Community Arts Charter School attracts fewer students than it expected, forcing some budget cuts, the Gloucester Times reports.

HEALTH CARE

A report by Suffolk University’s Beacon Hill Institute claims health care reform has cost the state 18,000 jobs. The report calculates job losses based on cost-sensitive computer modeling, rather than payroll data.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Cape Cod Times says Brewster and other towns shouldn’t move to dump wind turbines in favor of solar arrays since communities need to diversify their energy sources.

MEDIA

A Suffolk Country Superior Court judge has dismissed portions of a defamation lawsuit against the Boston Herald brought by Boston band member Tom Scholz. Those claims covered the paper’s reporting on court filings in the public domain. Dan Kennedy notes that the paper may still be sweating a series of 2007 articles it wrote about Scholz -- articles that initiated this current round of lawsuits.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Two women are suing Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe in federal court alleging they were forced as inmates to undergo strip-searches that were videotaped by male prison guards.

A $2 million reward has evidently been paid by the FBI to a tipster who led them to Whitey Bulger.


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