International Journal of Inactivism (now supplanted by Decoding SwiftHack)


Diebold committed to delivering votes to James Hansen

Filed under: Anthony Watts,James Hansen,NZ Climate Science Coalition — stepanovich @ 03:01

cite as: F. Bi. 2008. Diebold committed to delivering votes to James Hansen. Intl. J. Inact., 1:86–88

Actually, this blog post isn’t about Diebold, but rather about Anthony Watts’s on-going online poll regarding James Hansen’s remark that

CEOs of fossil energy companies […] should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.

Watts has said,

I will run this poll 1 week until next Wednesday at 9AM PST, at which time it will close. The results will be submitted to a member of the U.S. Senate for distribution, NASA’s director, and will also be mailed to Dr. Hansen at NASA GISS.

Wow! The poll results will be disseminated to lots of high-ranking honchos! It must be a pretty important poll then! So, given its significance, is Watts using every means he can to make sure the poll’s a sound, rigorous one?

Well, let’s see…

Um, nope. Watts obviously doesn’t care about the poll’s rigour. For one thing, one can rig the poll — in any direction — pretty easily. Using Privoxy to log the HTTP traffic, I was able to find out the URL for transmitting a vote. With this knowledge, one who has Tor and cURL installed on his machine can conceivably write a shell script to do automated voting, and he can start exercising his right to vote early and vote often.

(And you thought Diebold voting machines were bad! Note that I don’t actively encourage anyone to manipulate Watts’s poll… If you do go ahead with it, remember not to stress the PollDaddy server too much, among other niceties. Also, if anything nasty happens, it’s the sun’s fault.)


For another thing, the poll options regarding legislative and legal action are ill-formed and confusing. For instance, when Watts writes “Congress should […] form policy based on data”, is “policy” referring to climate change regulation, or legislation with regard to the US recognition of international courts? If trials against energy executives are to be held under the jurisdiction of US courts, is Congressional action needed to bring about a trial? (Hansen never mentioned that the trials must be initiated by Congress.)

In contrast to this confusion, the options for Hansen’s fate (#2, #3, #4) are relatively detailed and fine-grained. It’s almost as if Watts is just trying to bash him!

The brouhaha continues

Watts now writes:

A couple of Pro-Hansen sites have staged a “crash party” for this poll. This has accounted for a huge increase in the votes for the first question. This sometimes happens with online polls when agenda driven activists decide to skew it, which is the biggest weakness of online polls.

Funny why inactivists never ask whether the poll’s “skewed” when the results are in their favour! And besides, if online polls are so easy to “skew”, perhaps you shouldn’t be using them for such stuff anyway.

Anyway, I’m intrigued to know what Watts will do with the poll ‘results’. I’m sure, whatever the ‘results’ end up as, he’ll find a way to spin them into a vindication of inactivism — while omitting to mention that the survey design sucks, or that the polling procedure is tosh in the first place.

Update 2008-06-27: Via Hot Topic : Owen McShane says

A group are proposing to present an open letter to the US Attorney General recommending that he [Hansen] be […] prosecuted for conspiracy with Al Gore and others to perpetrate securities fraud. The process will be supported by many experts who will submit testimony.

Hmm, do I hear someone saying “conspiracy“? Clearly McShane’s either just bluffing on his threats, or he’s a fool who thinks no one will call him out on his “conspiracy” garbage. I hope it’s the latter.

Another update 2008-06-27: Watts and pals are apoplectic!

Watts: If my intent was an agenda, then why didn’t I write: “vote on the poll to undermine Dr. Jim Hansen”, whereas some of the other websites that drove traffic here wrote in favor of supporting him, and ecouraged the activity.

WA: When you do distribute results to Congress and others, kindly document the sites that called for stuffing the ballot box. Include both the site and the URL that calls for the “crash party”. The suggestion to time-line results compared to the timing of calls to stuff the ballot box is good.

Egads, my earlier prediction was absolutely right! Watts is spinning this as a case of ‘leftist bias’ at work, and ignoring the big problem — that his survey’s design and implementation is complete junk. Now I can call myself a Level IX Junior Goracle…

Update 2008-06-28: Brian D informs me in comments that Watts has “BUMPED” the poll “for visibility”. This throws off the earlier permalink for it, which is ironic because Watts writes,

please spread this permalink to the poll far and wide to get a good mix of input across the blogosphere.

where the hyperlink still points to the old — now broken — URL. Way to go to “get a good mix of input across the blogosphere”, guys! Anyway, you should still be able to find the poll by using this super-duper link.

And Watts is still failing to say the obvious thing: that the whole poll’s problematic. (Level X Junior Goracle, here I come!) Well, maybe he’s unaware that Tor is a privacy tool which happens to be able to neutralize PollDaddy’s (rather rudimentary) anti-vote-stuffing system, with no “server hacking” whatsoever. But there’s simply no excuse for the slipshod design of the questionnaire itself.

Update 2008-07-03: There’s more



  1. Watts is such an idiot. Plus there should have been an option for summary execution of the fossil greedheads. Actually having members of Congress form the firing squad would make for a good visual, but I’d settle for “accidental” death by vice-presidential hunting trip. I’m normally a non-violent person, BTW.

    A haiku in your honor:

    Diebold rigs the vote
    in the biggest elections
    Bi in the smallest

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 2008/06/27 @ 03:16 | Reply

  2. It’s very simple, Frank. If the poll results suit his purposes he’ll shout them from the rooftops. If they don’t he has two options, to quietly let the thing die under a flurry of other posts, or whine about the poll being rigged by those worship at the altar of truth. Although he’ll probably use a word other than “truth”.

    Polls. Dpn’t ya love ’em?

    Comment by Gareth — 2008/06/27 @ 03:17 | Reply

  3. Steve Bloom:

    “I’d settle for ‘accidental’ death by vice-presidential hunting trip”

    Now that’ll be an idea. An “accidental” (or accidental) death via a hunting trip, which becomes the impetus for stopping the barbaric practice of hunting small animals. Saves the animals, saves the planet, saves mankind.

    And, thanks for the haiku, it made my day! :-B

    * * *


    I’m curious whether he’ll implement a third option: to paint the poll results as an example of “mob rule” by a blogosphere filled with “leftist bias”.

    Comment by frankbi — 2008/06/27 @ 03:26 | Reply

  4. (statePoet1775, indigo: Your latest incarnations of the ‘globe’s cooling’ and ‘Hansen hates opinions’ talking points just met the Goracle’s Staff of Zot.)

    Comment by frankbi — 2008/06/27 @ 04:37 | Reply

  5. Watts “bumped [it] for visibility“, which essentially means he deleted the old post so permalinks like yours wouldn’t reach it, and moved it here instead.

    It’s a step up from Watt’s usual denialist hijinks in that he didn’t totally destroy all the evidence, but still. (Yes, denialist, as his ‘analyses’ are based around denying the problem. I usually use “inactivist”, but here a more specific term is justified.)

    Comment by Brian D — 2008/06/28 @ 16:17 | Reply

  6. Brian D:

    Thanks for the heads-up! I just updated my blog posts to use a super-duper link (well, you’ll know it when you see it…). Anyway, I did a comparison of the posts’ WebCite archives — there’s no substantial difference except for the URL, so he wasn’t trying to “destroy” the “evidence”, he was just moving it into his hidden treasure spot or something. 🙂

    Comment by frankbi — 2008/06/28 @ 17:57 | Reply

  7. Anthony Watts may end up is the Dave Scott to Stephen McIntyre’s William Dembski

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 2008/07/04 @ 05:31 | Reply

  8. Well, I’m not so familiar with the antics in the origins ‘debate’, but I suspect that Watts is somewhat better than Dave Scott. From what I can tell, Dave Scott doesn’t have his own blog and hasn’t, um, ‘presented’ anything in any ‘conferences’. 🙂

    Comment by frankbi — 2008/07/04 @ 06:10 | Reply

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