Saturday, November 28, 2009

What do Climategate and the Simpsons have in common? Skeptics hit "Rock Bottom"

If you've been confused by the Hackergate/Climategate slugfest, there's a good post over at ClimateProgress in which one of the accused scientists, Michael Mann, puts some of the most talked-about emails in context. Watching how deniers have taken quotes out of context and cobbled them together to say what they want, I immediately thought of this classic Simpsons segment, in which a sensationalist TV program called "Rock Bottom" portrays Homer as a sex-crazed lunatic:

Maybe someone can edit the video to go something like this:

Godfrey Jones: He was an everyday TV weatherman who devoted himself to kids. Until the night a grossly smug intellectual named Michael Mann gave him a crash course in elitism. "Weatherman, and the Wonk!"

Michael Mann: Somebody had to look at the data. Then I noticed it was sitting in the way of some sweet grants. I grabbed the sweet grants. Just thinking about the grants. I just wish I had the sweet, sweet, sw-sw-sw-sweet grants.

Godfrey Jones: So, Dr. Mann, you admit you massaged the data. What do you have to say in your defense? [freeze frame]. Dr. Mann, your silence will only incriminate you further. [freeze frame]. No, Dr. Mann, don't take your anger out on me! Get back, get back! Dr. Mann, noooo!
(falsification of data may not have happened)

We could even call it "Michael Badmann" after the name of the Simpsons episode ("Homer Badman").

Godfrey Jones, meet Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre - some of their tactics would put even you to shame. One of the most egregious examples of deniers hitting Rock Bottom is how they've taken this email out of context:

At 16:54 27/10/2009, Michael Mann wrote:

thanks Phil,

Perhaps we'll do a simple update to the Yamal post, e.g. linking Keith/s new page--Gavin t?

As to the issues of robustness, particularly w.r.t. inclusion of the Yamal series, we actually emphasized that (including the Osborn and Briffa '06 sensitivity test) in our original post! As we all know, this isn't about truth at all, its about plausibly deniable accusations.

Sounds bad, right? Except that, as Mann points out, he is referring to denier Steve McIntyre as the person for whom "this isn't about truth," not Mann himself. I can vouch that Dr. Mann is talking about skeptics, because I also called out McIntyre for using the "plausibly deniable accusations" tactic - on this exact same issue - three weeks before the above email was written. Comparing McIntyre to House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), here's what I wrote:

This is a time honored strategy of political rhetoric. Ask questions, make insinuations, repeat the same falsehoods over and over, without saying anything of substance - it creates doubt in the public's mind, while still allowing you to deny charges of "lying." If someone points out that nowhere does the health care reform bill "require" you to drop your current insurance plan, Cantor can plausibly maintain, "I never said that it would," while still convincing a sizeable portion of the public otherwise...

What's clear is that McIntyre and his ilk aren't interested in the debate over evidence, or even in proving global warming false - the strategy is simply to sow doubt... ask vague questions to create an atmosphere of doubt and suspicion; when those questions are in fact answered, continue to assert that the questions were never answered to make it look like scientists are hiding something. And when people get tired of repeatedly answering the same debunked claims, cry foul and proclaim your views are being suppressed.

With the CRU emails, deniers have swung into full strategy execution mode. Speaking of which, here's the relevant section from the very next email in the chain, which makes clear Mann was referring to McIntyre as the party who doesn't care about "truth":

I'll let you make up you own minds! It seems to me as though McIntyre cherry picked for effect.

There is an additional part that shows how many series from Ch 6 of AR4 used Yamal - most didn't! Also there is a sensitivity test of omitting it - which comes from the Supplementary Info with Osborn and Briffa (2006). As expected omitting it makes very little difference. To get to this follow the links from the above link.

McIntyre knows that the millennial temperature record is pretty robust, otherwise he would produce his own series. Similarly the instrumental temperature is even more robust, which he also knows.

In other words, disingenous people actually took an email calling out SKEPTICS for not caring about truth, and untruthfully took it out of context to insinuate that climate scientists were talking about themselves! Case in point #24,601 why you should never believe a skeptic who says, "I just want transparency so we can get to the truth." I'm expecting something like this from the skeptic community:

Maybe I shouldn't wait up.


What "hiding the decline" really looks like

A lesson in denial: Eric Cantor videos, global warming deniers, and how to say something without saying anything

The cold logic of hockey sticks

Finally! Fox News admits it isn't really news

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What "hiding the decline" really looks like

The week's big global warming news continues to be "hackergate" - emails stolen from a few climate scientists that purport to reveal a global science conspiracy. The most talked-about email continues to be Dr. Phil Jones's (of the UK's Met Office) containing this sentence:

I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd [sic] from1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.

Skeptics jumped on the quote as the "smoking gun" - proof scientists were altering data to show warming. But as always, their rush to judgment was premature, and as more evidence came to light, it quickly became apparent that the "trick" was completely innoucuous: Dr. Jones had simply tacked the instrumental temperature record onto the end of a reconstruction based on tree rings. Skeptical Science has the best explanation of why this trick is necessary:
"Mike's Nature trick" refers to the paper Global-scale temperature patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries (Mann 1998), published in Nature by lead author Michael Mann. The "trick" is the technique of plotting recent instrumental data along with the reconstructed data. This places recent global warming trends in the context of temperature changes over longer time scales.
The "decline" refers to the "divergence problem". This is where tree ring proxies diverge from modern instrumental temperature records after 1960. The divergence problem is discussed as early as 1998, suggesting a change in the sensitivity of tree growth to temperature in recent decades (Briffa 1998). It is also examined more recently in Wilmking 2008 which explores techniques in eliminating the divergence problem. So when you look at Phil Jone's email in the context of the science discussed, it is not the schemings of a climate conspiracy but technical discussions of data handling techniques available in the peer reviewed literature.

But let's give skeptics the benefit of the doubt, and assume Dr. Jones was nefariously altering data. We'll throw out his dataset and use NASA's (which is more accurate anyway), starting in 2000 (2 months after Dr. Jones wrote his email). Here's what the "decline" looks like:

Here's another way of looking at it, showing that global temperatures were 0.23 degrees warmer over the 10 years after Jones wrote the email than the 10 years before:

So even if you grant skeptics' most wild-eyed accusations, the datasets Dr. Jones had nothing to do with confirm that temperatures continue to rise - most of all in the Arctic.

In fact, what's interesting is that the British data which were hacked show LESS warming over recent years than NASA's. If British scientists are altering data to "hide the decline," they aren't doing a very good job.

And yet this is unlikely to make skeptics more skeptical of their climate conspiracies. What is it about global warming that inspires such passion among the conspiracy theorists? More on that to come.


Hackers, health care, and hot air: should we protect "climochondriacs" from too much information on the web?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Is Jim Inhofe behind the hacking into climate scientists' emails?

Probably not. But you have to admit, there are some fishy coincidences. I'll get back to that at the end of the post.

Here's the back story. Friday, the news broke that hackers had illegally stolen emails and other data from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia's (UK) Climate Research Unit. According to the Guardian:

Hundreds of private emails and documents allegedly exchanged between some of the world's leading climate scientists during the past 13 years have been stolen by hackers and leaked online, it emerged today.

The computer files were apparently accessed earlier this week from servers at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, a world-renowned centre focused on the study of natural and anthropogenic climate change.

Climate change sceptics who have studied the emails allege they provide "smoking gun" evidence that some of the climatologists colluded in manipulating data to support the widely held view that climate change is real, and is being largely caused by the actions of mankind...

The revelations did not alter the huge body of evidence from a variety of scientific fields that supports the conclusion that modern climate change is caused largely by human activity, Ward said. The emails refer largely to work on so-called paleoclimate data - reconstructing past climate scenarios using data such as ice cores and tree rings. "Climate change is based on several lines of evidence, not just paleoclimate data," he said. "At the heart of this is basic physics."

Note that out of these "hundreds of emails" written over "13 years," only a few have generated controversy so far, mostly because it's easy for us laypeople to misinterpret the professional slang and technical language scientists use.

Also note that the emails only dealt with reconstructions of past climate, not predictions of future climate change. Understanding past climates certainly helps us to understand whether today's climate change is unique, but it is not needed to understand the fundamental relationship between CO2 and temperature: more CO2 equals higher temperatures. For more explanation, see here and here.

Last, note that the emails do not directly negate the science itself. Taken out of context, they give ammunition to those who claim that climate science is a conspiracy, but they don't engage directly with the evidence. Physics is still physics, and just because a "biased" person says the sky is blue does not make it green. This seems like a case of saying something without saying anything.

In other words, even if the emails WERE evidence of a conspiracy, it wouldn't disprove any of the research done by the scientists who wrote them. And even if it DID, that research is not critical to our understanding of global warming.

But back to Inhofe. What I can't get over is this statement he made Wednesday, just hours before the hacker story broke (at 9:05 on Thursday):

“I proudly declare 2009 as the ‘Year of the Skeptic,’ the year in which scientists who question the so-called global warming consensus are being heard...

“Until this year, any scientist, reporter or politician who dared raise even the slightest suspicion about the science behind global warming was dismissed and repeatedly mocked...

"Today, I have been vindicated."

Now, I'm not saying Sen. Inhofe was involved with the hacking. Nor am I saying that he was somehow aware of the story before it broke. But you have to admit, he sounds so confident in his statement. Why was he so certain he would be vindicated? Why is THIS year the "year of the skeptics"? And why did he wait until hours before the hacker story broke to make his statement? Did he know something was about to break that would supposedly give credence to his claims? I ask questions!


One of the comments pointed out that the hack actually took place Tuesday - BEFORE Inhofe gave his speech about the "Year of the Skeptic." Not sure how I missed that before, but it means it's theoretically possible that Inhofe could have known about the hack in advance.


The Cold Logic of Hockey Sticks

The Only Thing you Need to Know about Global Warming

A Lesson in Denial: Eric Cantor videos, global warming deniers, and how to say something without saying anything

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cold October: Can you spot the global cooling?

Here in Virginia, it was a cool October. My cousin hiking the Appalachian Trail ran into some of the state's earliest snowfalls on record in the early part of the month, with temperatures plunging well below freezing. In the Washington DC area, the whole month seemed to be the worst kind of weather imaginable: 45 degrees and raining.

If you live outside of VA or DC, you probably felt like October was cold too. And you would be correct: the whole United States experienced its 3rd coldest October on record.

climate skeptics, this is evidence that global warming has stopped. Indeed, the unusually cool weather seems to be affecting Americans' views on climate change. And it's happened just as Congress is trying to get the courage to pass climate and clean energy legislation.

But like politics, all weather is local. Climate is not. Here's what the "cool" October actually looks like:

(courtesy of Joe Romm at

It seems Nature has a cruel sense of irony: the only place on the planet that is "cooling" is the country whose leadership we most need to stop it from warming.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Duds: a skeptic bombshell that never went off

Climate skeptics are having a field day with a new study on the earth's natural ability to absorb excess carbon dioxide (Knorr, W. (2009), Is the airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions increasing?). Influential skeptic and TV weatherman Anthony Watts calls it a "bombshell" (for more info on Watts, see "You're not a scientist, but you play one in real life"). Essentially the skeptic claim is this: “natural carbon sinks are soaking up human CO2 emissions at a faster rate than previously thought, which suggests that global warming will occur slower than models suggest. The science is not settled!” But is this an accurate interpretation of the study?

Here’s the story in a nutshell. Humans emit a lot of CO2, but only about 40% of that remains in the atmosphere (the airborne fraction, or AF). The other 60% is absorbed by natural carbon sinks, such as oceans, soil, and plants. As CO2 concentrations have increased, the AF has remained constant, meaning that carbon sinks’ ability to absorb CO2 is increasing in line with emissions. However, basic physics predict that eventually carbon sinks will begin to “fill up” with CO2, losing their ability to absorb more. When this happens, the AF will begin to increase exponentially, as carbon sinks absorb less and less CO2—a positive carbon cycle feedback.

The AF has remained constant for decades, but a few studies—Canadell et al (2007), Le Quere et al. (2007), and Schuster and Watson (2007)—have found signs that this carbon cycle feedback was starting to get underway. Canadell, for example, had found that the AF had increased from 40% in 1960 to 45% in 2007, which would signal that less carbon was being absorbed by the biosphere. The climate science website RealClimate notes:

There are uncertainties and caveats associated with each study, but taken as a whole, they provide convincing evidence that the hypothesized carbon cycle positive feedback has begun…

But then came the “bombshell” from Knorr (2009), who found that the AF has not, in fact, increased. The full study is behind a paywall, but you can read the abstract here. If Knorr is correct, it could mean that the studies from 2007 were premature in concluding that carbon cycle feedbacks have begun. The real question is, does this matter? If Knorr is right, does this cast doubt on the consensus view that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are causing global warming?

The short answer is no. I don’t have the scientific training to figure out which study is correct, but I do understand logic, and here’s what you need to know about carbon cycles.

First, the study's conclusion makes no claims about FUTURE carbon cycle feedbacks—it simply finds that carbon sinks' ability to absorb CO2 has not declined in the PRESENT. Claiming that Knorr casts doubt on models predicting accelerating future growth in CO2 concentrations makes the logical fallacy of extrapolating future trends from current results—the same error that led financial firms to conclude that housing prices would always increase.

Second, keep in mind that the current climate consensus is summarized within the 2007 IPCC report. On the other hand, the studies that Knorr critiques were published AFTER the IPCC report came out; therefore, if Knorr is correct in proving these studies wrong, his findings cannot logically have any bearing on the accuracy of the IPCC’s conclusions. At worst, Knorr simply returns us to the state of science when the IPCC report was written. In other words, skeptics are attacking a straw man.

Let me elaborate. For the Knorr study to make a dent in the armor of global warming theory, the findings it attacks would have to be included in, and critical to, the most widely accepted climate models. This is not the case. Studies like Canandell cannot have been included in the models on which the consensus is based, since they were published AFTER those models were created.

Moreover, while these studies gave us reason to believe global warming could occur faster, no one claimed they were certain, so it is inaccurate to claim that Knorr is throwing a bomb at the consensus. RealClimate, for one, emphasizes the difficulties with modeling carbon cycle feedbacks, because there are multiple physical processes that work in opposite directions. For example, as CO2 concentrations increase, the ocean’s ability to absorb CO2 also increases. At the same time, rising temperatures decrease the ocean’s ability to absorb CO2 (think of a warm soda can losing its carbonation). So the trick is to figure out when one process begins to dominate the other, and that’s hard to do:

We have to keep in mind that it is a tricky business to invert the atmospheric CO2 concentration to get sources and sinks. The history of this type of study tells us to wait for independent replication before taking this result to the bank… I guess it’s fair to say that models are not decisive in their assessment about which of these two factors should be dominating at present.

In other words, none of these findings had been independently verified, and certainly not risen to the level of consensus. In fact, before Canandell, most models apparently predicted a declining airborne fraction, meaning that Knorr’s study is actually in line with IPCC models:

Carbon cycle models (13 of them, from the SRES A2 scenario) also predict that the atmospheric fraction should increase, but not yet. For the time period from 1960 to 2000, the models predict that we would find the opposite of what is observed: a slight decrease in the atmospheric fraction, driven by increasing carbon uptake into the natural world. Positive feedbacks in the real-world carbon cycle seem to be kicking in faster than anticipated, Canadell et al conclude.

In any case, according to Jones et al (2007), it is incorrect to conclude that a constant AF disproves carbon cycle feedbacks (don’t ask me why—I’m just copying and pasting to prove that the consensus supposedly being attacked by Knorr is a straw man):

It is commonly assumed that no change in airborne fraction implies no change in the carbon cycle. This is not true. It is also commonly assumed that if AF is rising, this implies we’ve detected a climate feedback on the carbon cycle. This is also not true. In reality, the AF depends not only on this years emissions and natural fluxes, but the time history of the carbon cycle, which in itself depends on the time history of the emissions. A different rate of emissions will imply different response of AF. This is true regardless of any feedbacks from climate.

The bottom line is that while Knorr (2009) may cast doubt on the conclusion that carbon cycle feedbacks have already begun, that conclusion is hardly pertinent to the consensus on global warming. The most far-reaching conclusion a skeptic could logically draw is that global warming is as bad as we thought (and not worse than we thought).

In other words, Anthony Watts isn’t a scientist, but he plays one in real life.

NOTE: Obviously I am not a scientist, and have probably gotten some points wrong (and probably left some out as well). If you ARE a scientist with expertise in the area, please leave a comment, and I can send you a link to a Google Document that you can edit.


Climate change basics: If humans only contribute 2% of natural CO2, how do we contribute 100% of the increase?

The cold logic of hockey sticks

Climate change basics: If humans only contribute 2% of natural CO2, how do we contribute 100% of the increase?

All the time, I see confusion over the size the human contribution to CO2. Man emits a lot of CO2 each year, but it's still only about 2-3% the amount that Nature emits. Many people don't understand how Man can be responsible for the observed increase in CO2 when our emissions constitute 2-3% of natural emissions. This results from a misunderstanding of a basic concept called "stocks and flows." If you're one of the confused, don't worry - a study by Sterman (2002) found that even most MIT grad students have trouble grasping this concept intuitively. Here's the analogy:

Imagine a bathtub in which the faucet is turned on and the drain is open, and water is entering the tub from the faucet at the same rate it is leaving the tub through the drain. The tub is in equilibrium: the "flow" of water is entering and exiting the tub at the same rate, so the overall level of water in the tub (the "stock") does not change. This is like the natural carbon cycle: in equilibrium, CO2 enters and exits the biosphere at the same rate, so the overall level in the atmosphere doesn't change.

But back to the tub. Now imagine that you add a second faucet pouring water into the tub, but only 2% as much as the original faucet. Still, because there is now slightly more water entering the tub as draining out of it, the water level slowly increases. This is like the manmade contribution to CO2 emissions: even though ours are only 2-3% of the total, that 2-3% throws the system out of balance. We've disrupted the equilibrium, causing CO2 to accumulate in the atmosphere faster than natural processes can remove it, causing the total level of CO2 to rise.

So even though we are responsible for only a small fraction of the TOTAL CO2 that enters the atmosphere each year, we are responsible for 100% of what STAYS there.


Obama speaks on global warming: What you need to know to be certain that global warming is real

The only thing you need to know about global warming

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"You're not a scientist, but you play one in real life." What do holistic healers and Anthony Watts have in common?

It always amazes me to see the scorn for the good folks at RealClimate left by commenters in climate denial blogs. It's bad enough that laypeople have the audacity to think they understand climate science better than the scientists who study it, but when their preferred sources are... a TV weatherman and a former fossil fuel executive?

This got me wondering, if global warming skeptics don't trust the experts on climate science, where do they go for medical advice? Trusting a TV weatherman on climate science is like trusting a holistic healer on... well, you'll get the picture (the first 13 seconds of the video are messed up):

So THOSE are Steve McIntyre's research methods for "disproving" the hockey stick. Tor the holistic healer even makes the same argument deniers make about the establishment experts' "business" motives:

Kramer tells me that you are interested in an alternative to climate science. I think we can help you. See, unfortunately the climate science establishment is a business just like any other. And business needs research grants, and they want to sell you their most expensive item, which is unnecessary alarmism. You know, I am not a businessman - I am a blog scientist.

Alternative medicine, meet alternative science:

Depending on where people get their advice on climate science from, we may end up in a worse situation than screaming "I'm an eggplant!" in the back of an ambulance.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Calvin & Hobbes take on Superfreaks, part 2

Calvin & Hobbes just have so much to say about the world. In a past post (What do Calvin & Hobbes and SuperFreaks have in common?), I'd pointed out how trusting the authors of Superfreakonomics on a geoengineering solution to global warming would be like trusting a 6-year-old to fix your plumbing. If Levitt and Dubner think technological control over Nature can solve our problems, I think Nature will have some surprises in store for them:

Assuming that we can engineer Nature to fit our lifestyles doesn't make Levitt and Dubner courageous geniuses. Although Bill Waterson certainly is one.

Never bet against Barry Obama: how we’ve gotten to where we are on health care reform

Everyone knows that pitchers purposely throw balls to set up “out” pitches later in the count. But do hitters ever purposely swing and miss at hittable pitches? If anyone does it, you know it’s gotta be Manny Ramirez. It’s rumored that Manny purposely misses easy pitches in April to throw off scouting reports—so pitchers won’t be afraid to throw the same, crushable pitch in September and October when it really matters. Baseball guru Bill James swears that Manny purposely gets into full counts with a runner on first, so the runner can take off with the pitch and score on a well-hit ball. Manny’s so good, he can purposely dig himself into a hole just so his opponents are more surprised when he blasts out of it. No matter how bad it looks, you never bet against Manny.

And you never bet against Barry—Barry Obama, that is. Despite a summer of cynicism, replete with media obituaries of his administration not ten months into its first term, health care reform passed the House Saturday night.

To be sure, there’s still a long way to go in the Senate, but I’m going to go ahead and predict exactly that: the Senate will pass health care reform and the President will sign it into law. (True, Joe Lieberman’s filibuster threat would seem to pose an insurmountable obstacle, but I’m gonna call his bluff—this seems like a childish ploy for attention, not a serious threat.)

Why am I so confident in my prediction? It’s not based on media reports, although the Economist does report:
Harry Reid, the majority leader of the Senate, said that he may have the 60 votes necessary to pass a version of the health-reform bill that includes some form of public plan. A public plan may, therefore, now be politically viable again.

It’s not based on insider knowledge, although sources do tell me:
Senator Reid’s decision to include a public option in the Senate bill will likely give him enough support within the Democratic Conference to bring a bill to the floor. He then will determine which public option compromise (trigger or state opt-in) can get the 60 votes required to end a filibuster… While the next few weeks will be difficult once the bills reach the floor, it will be hard for Republicans to stop the President’s top domestic priority and the top domestic goal of the Democratic party for six decades. [Notice that it’s not “whether” a public option can get 60 votes, but “which” version of the public option will be included.]

It has nothing to do with electoral math, Nate Silver-esque modeling, or statements from Senators—although Sen. Baucus does state there’s a “sense of inevitability.”

The reason I’m predicting passage of health care reform is simple: I’ve learned never to bet against Obama, because he wins. Some people just have an innate ability to come through in the clutch, to not lose no matter what. Michael Jordan had it. LeBron has it (and it’s gonna take him to a title in the next couple seasons). And Barack Obama has it. All through the election, whenever the media counted him out (down 30 points in the polls to Hillary, “Bittergate,” Jeremiah Wright, Sarah Palin’s Convention speech), he stuck to his plan and pulled out the W. Now that it’s actually time to get things done, I feel the same mojo about him. He’s like the Mike Jordan of reforming, the Papi of the Potomac (2004-07 version), the Tiger Woods of Washington. Like Tom Brady (pre-David Tyree), you know that no matter what’s happened for the first 58 minutes, he’s coming through in the last two.
Think about where we were just weeks ago. For months, the President endured a cacophonous chorus of conservative contempt, clamoring breathlessly over death panels and socialism. Meanwhile, pessimistic progressives pleaded for the President to abandon bipartisanship and rely on the Democrats’ 60-vote majority to ram reform through the Senate. They criticized his arms-length strategy of outlining broad principles and leaving the details to Congress, and couldn’t understand why, with 60 Democratic Senators, he was pursuing bipartisanship with an opposition whose guiding principle was “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” The media all too happily promoted the negativity, pronouncing health care reform dead on arrival—and the Obama administration with it.

But, recognizing the pessimism as the product of a 24-hour news cycle obsessed with short-term events, the President pressed on. A month ago, progressives fretted and conservatives thought they smelled blood in the water—and yet here we are, closer to health care reform than at any point since Teddy Roosevelt came up with the idea 97 years ago. Even before passage by the House, last Monday’s New York Times reported:
President Obama’s arms-length strategy on health care appears to be paying dividends… Democratic leaders and senior White House officials are sounding increasingly confident that Mr. Obama will sign legislation overhauling the nation’s health care system — a goal that has eluded American presidents for decades.

So how did we get here, and how did the pessimists get it so wrong? Pretty easily: the President played them all like Manny Ramirez—putting himself in a bad position early on, only to lull his opponents into making a mistake when it counted. Like in baseball, it’s fall, not summer, that counts.

Obama’s strategy seems to have been to give in to Republican demands until, tempted into overconfidence by the concessions they’d already won, they rejected one compromise too many, exposing the true nature of their obstructionism. That moment seems to have been in August when Sen. Chuck Grassley, a “moderate” seen then as the best hope for compromise, endorsed Sarah Palin’s death panel myth, and subsequently sent out a fundraising letter detailing his opposition to “Obamacare.” From that point on, Obama could credibly point out, “look, we’ve given in to everything the Republicans have demanded, and they still say no.”

In other words, knowing full well from the beginning that the GOP would never give in to ANY concession, Obama was able to offer extremely generous concessions that he never intended to implement, anticipating that when the GOP rejected even those, he could move on unilaterally while credibly claiming to have pursued bipartisanship.

In short, if you’re a progressive who’s nervous that Obama is swinging and missing at a fat pitch over the plate, don’t be—he’s been just what he was on the campaign trail: calm, determined, and relentless. I’m not sure who said it, Jay-Z or Nas, but I do know this about Barack Obama: he… will… not… lose. Just look at this face: