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The New Yorker's false certitudes

| Sunday, Jan. 28, 2007

It's always fun to spot an embarrassing mistake in the haughty New Yorker.

But it's extra enjoyable when the error is made by Elizabeth Kolbert, the liberal-left magazine's official publicity agent for the Global Warming Apocalypse.

Glaring mistakes like the latest one Kolbert made Jan. 22 are extremely rare. The New Yorker -- winner of so many National Magazine Awards someone should call the Justice Department -- has always striven for perfect accuracy.

In fact, it has a fetish for facts. Its vaunted battery of obsessive fact-checkers, now numbering 16, is legendary in journalism. But The New Yorker isn't nearly as infallible as it thinks it is. It's often caught being inaccurate or biased or both.

Just last week, conservative John Podhoretz pointed out on his National Review Online blog that Nicolas Lemann botched two important, easily verifiable facts about the Valerie Plame case in his Jan. 27 "Talk of the Town" item.

More serious is a defamation claim made in a 12-page letter by a Boston law firm on behalf of Chinese mathematician Dr. Shing-Tung Yau in connection with an Aug. 28, 2006, article. It demands a printed apology and alleges "egregious and actionable errors" and "shoddy journalism."

Speaking of which, crusader Kolbert's specialty is cranking out openly unfair and unbalanced articles on global warming like her epic "Climate of Man" trilogy in Spring 2005, which included a hilarious boo-boo that forced The New Yorker to do something it really hates -- admit a mistake and run a correction.

As part of her "proof" that the Arctic ice cap was rapidly melting, Kolbert wrote that the speed of a glacier in Greenland "had increased to 7.8 miles per hour" from its 1993 flow-rate of "three and a half miles per hour."

Kolbert meant 7.8 miles per year , which meant she was only off by a factor of 8,760. Unfortunately, her magazine's fact-checkers, editors and copy editors apparently were too busy cheering her on to spot her error.

Kolbert's latest gaffe can be found in her annoyingly critical Jan. 22 profile of Amory Lovins, the famous environmental genius and "natural capitalist" who, unlike Kolbert, prefers practical, pragmatic, market-driven solutions to energy conservation.

After confusingly toting up how many hundreds of billions Americans spend on gas, oil and energy each year, she concluded that "In 2007, total energy expenditures in the U.S. will come to more than a quadrillion dollars, or roughly a tenth of the country's gross domestic product."

Quadrillion • Kolbert actually meant "a trillion dollars." And the annual U.S. GDP is about $13 trillion, not $10 quadrillion, as she implied. This time Kolbert was wrong by only a factor of 1,000.

No magazine -- not even a great one -- is perfect. Mistakes always will be made. Kolbert's latest laugher is irrelevant compared to the junk journalism she practices in her global-warming propaganda pieces. And her mini-blunders only cause her magazine embarrassment because it foolishly sets itself up as infallible.

The New Yorker can continue to provide Kolbert with a soapbox to issue arrogant certitudes about the scientific causes and cures of global warming. It can produce all the egregiously liberal journalism it wants. It's still a free country.

But to avoid future ridicule, it might want to hire a few fact-checkers -- or editors -- who know how fast glaciers go, how big the U.S economy is and the difference between a trillion and a quadrillion.

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