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Wow!

May 9th, 2009

In the Oz of all places, a demolition of Ian Plimer so scathing, and so convincing, that it’s hard to imagine how he can salvage any kind of academic reputation, other than by a full retraction (which would be a pretty impressive move, admittedly).

It starts hardhitting

ONE of the peculiar things about being an astronomer is that you receive, from time to time, monographs on topics such as “a new theory of the electric universe”, or “Einstein was wrong”, or “the moon landings were a hoax”.

The writings are always earnest, often involve conspiracy theories and are scientifically worthless.

One such document that arrived last week was Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth. What makes this case unusual is that Plimer is a professor — of mining geology — at the University of Adelaide. If the subject were anything less serious than the future habitability of the planet Earth, I wouldn’t go to the trouble of writing this review.

and ends the same way:

Plimer probably didn’t expect an astronomer to review his book. I couldn’t help noticing on page120 an almost word-for-word reproduction of the abstract from a well-known loony paper entitled “The Sun is a plasma diffuser that sorts atoms by mass”. This paper argues that the sun isn’t composed of 98 per cent hydrogen and helium, as astronomers have confirmed through a century of observation and theory, but is instead similar in composition to a meteorite.

It is hard to understate the depth of scientific ignorance that the inclusion of this information demonstrates. It is comparable to a biologist claiming that plants obtain energy from magnetism rather than photosynthesis.

Plimer has done an enormous disservice to science, and the dedicated scientists who are trying to understand climate and the influence of humans, by publishing this book. It is not “merely” atmospheric scientists that would have to be wrong for Plimer to be right. It would require a rewriting of biology, geology, physics, oceanography, astronomy and statistics. Plimer’s book deserves to languish on the shelves along with similar pseudo-science such as the writings of Immanuel Velikovsky and Erich von Daniken.

If there are any genuine sceptics left among those who doubt the findings of mainstream science, this piece ought to convince them that Plimer’s work offers them no support, and should lead them to also to dismiss, as unable to tell science from nonsense, the many peddlers of delusion who have promoted this work, such as William Kininmonth. But, at this point, I can confidently predict that nothing will shift the remaining delusionists.

(Hat-tip: Tim Lambert, who notes that this is the latest in a string of pro-science pieces published by the Oz . Perhaps increasingly vocal attacks on the paper’s credibility by scientists and others have been taken to heart.)

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  1. May 9th, 2009 at 18:31 | #1

    Waste of time John. People like Ron Boswell will just give another fruity chuckle about the way these darn scientists keep arguing and how impossible it is for a good honest policy-maker to know who’s telling the truth.

  2. Mike
    May 9th, 2009 at 18:37 | #2

    Plimer has made a fool of himself; he is in very poor company. Future ages will marvel that greedy buffoons like this could hold such sway.

    They will be all the more infamous because they have achieved their objective. It is too late to avert a seriously degraded global ecology.

    Plimer, Bush, Howard. Names that will echo through history.

  3. chrisl
    May 9th, 2009 at 18:38 | #3

    Don’t just snipe from the sidelines…. set up a debate. With your superior knowledge of science you are sure to win. And you could do it all from your own lounge room via video conferencing. Win win.

  4. David Murray
    May 9th, 2009 at 18:42 | #4

    The review in the Canberra Times is not very friendly either. I wonder whether any one has given it a positive reception?

    Sadly the SMH gave it a welcome some weeks ago.

  5. May 9th, 2009 at 19:06 | #5

    “The Sun is a plasma diffuser that sorts atoms by mass”. This paper argues that the sun isn’t composed of 98 per cent hydrogen and helium, as astronomers have confirmed through a century of observation and theory, but is instead similar in composition to a meteorite.It is hard to understate the depth of scientific ignorance that the inclusion of this information demonstrates. It is comparable to a biologist claiming that plants obtain energy from magnetism rather than photosynthesis.”

    No idea and ignorant on the substance of this particular debate but for how long did concensual science propose that the sun was primarily iron before it was shown to be otherwise? Unusually at the time by a woman I believe?

    Scientifically in the rather recent past and I believe she was not just excluded but reputationally destroyed by the scientific boys club for her efforts?

  6. May 9th, 2009 at 19:59 | #6

    “as astronomers have confirmed through a century of observation and theory”

    P.S. This claim also like Plimers claimed errors would appear to be wrong as the work of Cecilia Payne on the composition of the Sun would appear to fall within something less than the claimed century?

  7. philip travers
    May 9th, 2009 at 20:08 | #7

    I dont understand why anyone would accept as scientifically realisable as truth any comment about an author, in a critique in the flagship of Rupert Murdoch.Anyone who has seen the damage that paper and its reports have done to a large number of Australians would then want the Professor from the N.S.W. Univ.in Sydney investigated for various types of frauds.If the claims of non-scientific endeavour by Plimer are seen also in the conformist nature of that Professor at that Univ. in Sydney…we need a shake down of everyone in any teaching and researching process across Australia,if, they continue to use a Murdoch newspaper to accuse anyone of anything.And heed my warning.Murdoch does not rule the roost!

  8. Uncle Milton
    May 9th, 2009 at 20:10 | #8

    It is significant that Michael Ashley’s demolition of Plimer was published in the weekend Review section, an excellent publication (streets ahead of the Fairfax equivalents) edited by the talented Deborah Hope. It would never have made it into the Oz’s regular opinion pages. I suggest that the first thing the Oz’s editor, Chris Mitchell, knew about this piece was when he opened the paper this morning.

  9. jquiggin
    May 9th, 2009 at 20:31 | #9

    #3 Thanks, chrisl, you didn’t disappoint.

    Still, I’d be interested to know, if there’s anyone out there who has an honestly sceptical attitude and isn’t yet convinced that the delusionist side of this debate is a pack of lies, how they reacted to this particular piece of evidence.

  10. Alice
    May 9th, 2009 at 20:36 | #10

    Murdoch newspapers are dying, starving for declining advertisers revenues because of the internet. As their advertising revenues shrink their journalism trolls in the gutter for increasinglyb efficient (cheap) journalism – and as it gets cheaper the quality recedes……gasp… “cheyne stoking”. We all suspected it but dont act surprised as to why.

  11. jquiggin
    May 9th, 2009 at 20:42 | #11

    I was unaware of Cecilia Payne, ks, but Wikipedia fills in the details as usual. An impressive story. As regards the dating, you could, if you wanted to, go back to the discovery of helium via solar spectroscopy in the 19th century. But, as you point out, Payne’s big discovery was a little short of a century ago.

  12. May 9th, 2009 at 20:58 | #12

    Wikipedia in fact curiously does not fill in the details JQ. Payne was destroyed by the scientific establishment for her efforts. You won’t find it on Wikipedia?

  13. May 9th, 2009 at 21:12 | #13

    P.S. Payne was born in 1900 so your “sjust hort of a century” defence as “only just” is looking a bit sick already from someone you have acclaimed as all but unassaillable in their already demonstrably flawed ideological assault on Plimer?

    I have no position, i confess to being confused and you don’t help!

  14. paul walter
    May 9th, 2009 at 21:16 | #14

    Hear surf’s up on Triton; great climate, great waves, green and purple polka dot mangoes…

  15. jquiggin
    May 9th, 2009 at 21:35 | #15

    KitchenSlut, the date issue is a quibble, and certainly doesn’t help Plimer or cast any doubt on the accuracy of Ashley’s characterization of his work. I’m genuinely confused as to whether you are seeking to advance the discussion with a useful reference to the work of Cecilia Payne or to derail it with pointscoring about trivial side issues.

    As regards Payne, I’d be interested in a link/reference more useful than Wikipedia.

  16. Ernestine Gross
    May 9th, 2009 at 21:37 | #16

    KitchenSlut @14, to relieve the agony of being confused, you may wish to use the Dice Man solution method. Assign Yes to 3 sides of the dice and make a decision on what Yes stands for (you may use a dice to make this decision). Then role the dice and you have peace of mind without having to become knowledgeable in any subject.

  17. May 9th, 2009 at 21:56 | #17

    Perhaps The Australian’s change of heart has more to do with the fact that Rupert’s mother is trying to get women leaders to campaign for action on global warming.

  18. May 9th, 2009 at 22:01 | #18

    JQ

    Your response would appear to indicate that compliance is someting worthy of itself? Odd been there done that in a corporate sense ,,,,,

    Pointscoreing? Sideissues?

    Please explain?

  19. SJ
    May 9th, 2009 at 22:24 | #20

    Payne was destroyed by the scientific establishment for her efforts. You won’t find it on Wikipedia?

    You won’t find it in her autobiography, either.

    Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin became acclaimed in her lifetime as the greatest woman astonomer of all time. Her own story of her professional life, work and scientific achievements is augmented by the personal recollections of her daughter, Katherine Haramundanis, as well as a scientific appreciation by Jesse Greenstein, a historical essay by Peggy Kidwell and, in this new edition, an introduction by Virginia Trimble…

    She received many prestigious awards for her outstanding contributions to science and in 1956 became the first woman to be advanced to the rank of Professor at Harvard University, as well as being the first woman head of department.

  20. gianni
    May 9th, 2009 at 22:27 | #21

    The glass half full case from PrQ:

    Perhaps increasingly vocal attacks on the paper’s credibility by scientists and others have been taken to heart.

    The glass half empty case from Uncle Milton:

    It is significant that Michael Ashley’s demolition of Plimer was published in the weekend Review section, an excellent publication (streets ahead of the Fairfax equivalents) edited by the talented Deborah Hope. It would never have made it into the Oz’s regular opinion pages. I suggest that the first thing the Oz’s editor, Chris Mitchell, knew about this piece was when he opened the paper this morning.

    And it’s in the Oz’s (and News’ and Fairfax’s) regular opinion pages, where the climate change denialists still run free, driving (and poisoning) the public debate.

    I expect that the conservative commentariat will completely ignore Michael Ashley’s piece, operating on the principle that if they don’t acknowledge it, they won’t have to account for their rapturous barracking of ‘Heaven and Earth.’

  21. SJ
    May 9th, 2009 at 22:36 | #22

    KS’s link to a bio of Payne says:

    She suggested that the stars were mostly hydrogen. However, when Eddington heard this theory he told her that she was wrong because astronomers at the time felt that all celestial bodies had very similar compostions. As a result, Payne wrote in her thesis that her results were improbable and probably wrong.

    However, another bio from the American Museum of Natural History says:

    Most of the mass of the visible universe is hydrogen, the lightest element, and not the heavier elements that are more prominent in the spectra of the stars! This was indeed a revolutionary discovery. Shapley sent Payne’s thesis to Professor Russell at Princeton, who informed her that the result was “clearly impossible.” To protect her career, Payne inserted a statement in her thesis that the calculated abundances of hydrogen and helium were “almost certainly not real.”

    At least one of these accounts is clearly wrong, and if I had to take a guess at which one is more likely to be correct, I’d take the Museum’s version.

    I think we’re done with KS here.

  22. May 9th, 2009 at 22:40 | #23

    Oh what sycophancy SJ!

    My reference is ‘Great Feuds in Science’ published by Wiley.

    However again, the replies are just lamentable?!

  23. GC
    May 9th, 2009 at 23:15 | #24

    What on Earth is this rubbish about Cecilia Payne? What does she have to do with Ian Plimer’s dodgy book? Sheesh.

  24. Donald Oats
    May 9th, 2009 at 23:15 | #25

    Transgressing the boundaries…Alan Sokal
    The hand that signed the paper…Helen Demidenko

    And I am soon to possess Heaven and Earth…Ian Plimer

    Two were hoaxes of the first order, sucking in the experts as well as the layperson. The third one is, I hope, a hoax (what are the odds of it being genuine :-) I mean really what are the odds), sucking in the newspaper journalists of Australia. Unfortunately though, whether a hoax or not, it may do great damage on a serious environmental issue. How ironic it would be if Plimer is eventually sued for the same reasons that he took on the guy over Noah’s ark?

  25. SeanG
    May 9th, 2009 at 23:59 | #26

    gianni,

    How can denialists be poisoning debate? Shouldn’t their presence be there so a debate could be had?

    I would be interested to see plimer’s rebuttal… if he could find one. I think he would argue that it was a few mistakes that should not be used to rubbish the entire book. But I wait with interest.

  26. John Mashey
    May 10th, 2009 at 02:18 | #27

    I had a minor nit with Ashley’s review, regarding putting Plimer on the shelves with Velikovsky and von Daniken.

    Pseudo-science and anti-science are actually somewhat different, and from the various reviews of Plimer’s book, it seemed to belong in the latter category, for which the *lowest* shelf should be reserved.

    For detail see Deltoid.

  27. Chris O’Neill
    May 10th, 2009 at 03:38 | #28

    KitchenSlut:

    Payne was born in 1900 so your “sjust hort of a century” defence as “only just” is looking a bit sick already from someone you have acclaimed as all but unassaillable in their already demonstrably flawed ideological assault on Plimer?

    I’d hardly think describing 84 years as a century when talking about a loony paper on the Sun amounts to “a demonstrably flawed ideological assault on Plimer”. At worst it’s simply not very accurate compared with the senseless paper that Plimer is citing.

    It’s also rather ironic that someone who recognizes the absolute brilliance of Cecilia Payne ignores a loony paper that contradicts Payne and tries to makes an argument out of a language shortcut used by someone pointing out this loony paper.

    Whatever happened to a sense of perspective?

  28. May 10th, 2009 at 06:14 | #29

    DONALD SAID:-

    Transgressing the boundaries…Alan Sokal
    The hand that signed the paper…Helen Demidenko

    And I am soon to possess Heaven and Earth…Ian Plimer

    Two were hoaxes of the first order, sucking in the experts as well as the layperson.

    “The hand that signed the paper” was a novel. I’m not sure a novel can be a hoax. The author used the name Helen Demidenko as a pseudonym and did hoax some people into believing that Helen Demidenko was a real person. Which was clever marketing but obviously it upset those that got sucked in.

    Helen (the real one) runs a blog for those that don’t know.

    JQ SAID:-

    Still, I’d be interested to know, if there’s anyone out there who has an honestly sceptical attitude and isn’t yet convinced that the delusionist side of this debate is a pack of lies, how they reacted to this particular piece of evidence.

    Do you actually think Plimer set out to deceive?

    I have not read his book. However when I read Tim Flannery’s book “The Weathermakers” I was struck by his willingness to introduce quite speculative theories about things. I didn’t discard everything he had to say on that basis.

    The AGW theory is a solid enough theory in so far as theories go. I’m still a skeptic when it comes to signing up to the whole associated agenda.

  29. jquiggin
    May 10th, 2009 at 06:25 | #30

    #28 John M, actually I think the odd man out here is von Daniken. His stuff is purely pseudoscience with no acknowledgement that there is any real science relevant to his topic. By contrast, while Velikovsky may have started out in this vein, the adverse reaction he got from scientists turned him into a full-scale anti-science warrior.

    Tracing the evolution of the right wing parallel universe from Velikovsky, through the creation science/ID crowd to its present fully evolved state would be a great project. Here’s a bit of a start

    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2003/06/10/heroes-and-heretics/

  30. jquiggin
    May 10th, 2009 at 06:34 | #31

    Terje, I am indeed puzzled by the state of mind of the delusionists. Some are indeed paid deceivers, but only a minority now, I think, as companies like Exxon have cut off the money spigot.

    The great bulk are rightwingers or anti-environmentalists who support the party line out of loyalty, tribal hostility to the other side or similar.

    Then there’s a small group (mostly old, male and educated) who have, in the rather cruel saying inside academia, “gone emeritus”. These are people who are skilled enough in argument to maintain a weak position, and successful enough in their own field (usually tangentially relevant to the issue at hand) to have an inflated view of their own intelligence. Having taken a view of an issue on the basis of very limited consideration, they remain dogmatically attached to it until the end of their days. I’d put Plimer in this class, maybe with some tribal hostility to environmentalists added in.

    Looking at the description, I’m obviously a high-risk candidate for going emeritus myself. Running a blog is one way of reminding myself that plenty of people know more about lots of things than I do.

  31. May 10th, 2009 at 08:36 | #32

    What evidence is there that Plimer is right wing? I’m not saying that he isn’t, I just wonder whether it is a well founded assertion.

  32. chrisl
    May 10th, 2009 at 08:59 | #33

    These are people who are skilled enough in argument to maintain a weak position, and successful enough in their own field (usually tangentially relevant to the issue at hand) to have an inflated view of their own intelligence.
    WOW!
    Physician heal thyself.
    It is like JQ writing a book on economic theory and getting Ian Plimer to review it.
    And then calling you names like delusionist and denialist because he doesn’t agree with your theory.
    WOW!

  33. Donald Oats
    May 10th, 2009 at 09:08 | #34

    Re Terje #30: I had my tongue in cheek when I wrote that Ian Plimer’s book might be a hoax like the other two books I mentioned; I’m reasonably confident that he wrote the book seriously believing that it is correct. Until I’ve read it though I can only go on his own comments in the media to date. I’m genuinely interested in seeing what he feels is substantial enough to treat AGW as best an irrelevance, and at worst an entirely incorrect theory.

    As for Helen Demidenko, I would regard it as a hoax in the sense that she played the role of a descendant of Ukrainian parents, and as someone immersed in the Ukraine culture. My understanding is that she presented herself quite deliberately in this manner – of course, I may have fallen for the trap of believing the media on this. [I personally thought it was a good novel.]

    JQ’s expression of “gone emeritus” reminds me of the old saying:

    “Professors don’t retire, they just lose their faculties!” Booom, Booom!

  34. gianni
    May 10th, 2009 at 10:41 | #35

    SeanG @ 27

    How can denialists be poisoning debate? Shouldn’t their presence be there so a debate could be had?

    Sean, debates are fine, but they should be good faith debates.

    The denialist supporters in the media poison the debate because they totally dominate the opinion pages of our papers and they use that narrative power to lie, obfuscate, distort and do everything they can to stop a societal consensus forming that would change the way we use or produce energy. A societal consensus needed in a democracy to effectively mitigate or address a problem. The science is telling is we have an enormous problem regarding CO2 emissions.

    Perhaps I’m naive, but I expect the newspaper I purchase to employ people who do not set out to deliberately misinform me. And they do so in the name of ideology, because in a choice between a reality that conflicts with their ideological view of the way the world should be, and the way they world actually is, they’ll pick the former every time.

    They lob in dispatches from their parallel universe, but our papers don’t carry disclaimers warning readers that their columns haven’t been produced under the editorial norms that govern material produced here in the real world.

    Their coordinated proselyting of Plimer’s book is a case in point. I’d bet they hadn’t actually read the book. They certainly weren’t capable of assessing the validity of what had been written. Yet, the conservative commentariat to a man and woman wrote rapturous reviews of the book, trumpeting its veracity and sagacity. And that’s been the dominant meme one has read in the media for weeks. Their purpose has been to establish ‘Heaven and Earth’ as a legitimate information for the public. And if you’re a member of the public, with limited time and limited science background, who assumes the media is there to provide you with reliable information, gathered according to what you understood are the norms of news gathering, why wouldn’t you consider it so?

    The same people relentlessly ridiculing climate science and anyone else worried about the effects of releasing, in the space of two centuries, billions of tonnes of CO2 sequestered hundreds of millions of years ago, used to mock teh left for its refusal to face reality. Well, teh left pretty much disappeared from the public discourse and picked up its hammers and sickles and went home after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But their ideological polar opposites roll on, now equating science to marxism, and treating it as just another ideology to defeat. That their interests correlate exactly with the major CO2 polluting interests is just a lucrative bonus for them.

    ProfQ has written numerous posts describing their behaviour. Chris Moody has written ‘The Republican War on Science’ (or in Australian English, ‘The Conservative War on Science’). The few remaining sane non-movement conservatives, like Harry Clarke, have written aghast at what’s being done.

    On page 1 of “Fashionable Nonsense. Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science” by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, there is a passage that if tweaked slightly, perfectly captures the sneeringly mean spirited and disdainful essence of the movement conservative editors and columnists that dominate our media’s coverage of climate change:

    Vast sectors of the conservative movement* seem to have adopted a philosophy that we shall call, for want of a better term, “postmodernism”: an intellectual current characterised by the more-or-less explicit rejection of the rationalist tradition of the Enlightenment, by theoretical discourses disconnected from any empirical test, and by a cognitive and cultural relativism that regards science as nothing more than a “narration”, a “myth” or a social construction among many others.

    * The clause is “the humanities and social sciences” in the original.

  35. Alice
    May 10th, 2009 at 10:57 | #36

    #35 Donald….very shaggy dog joke but I like it!

  36. John Mashey
    May 10th, 2009 at 11:02 | #37

    #28 JQ on Velikovsky, van Daniken, Plimer (V, vD, P)
    Who’s the odd man out?

    BACKGROUND
    Rational people can disagree on categorization of people in an ill-defined multidimensional space, as mathematical cluster analysis doesn’t work.

    Ashley offered 1 extra-science categories, pseudo-science, occupied by V, vD, and P. I’ve usually found enough differences to use at least 2:
    pseudo-science
    anti-science

    and sometimes one more, non-science.

    One can of course go much deeper, as in Martin Gardner’s fine old Science, Good, Bad, and Bogus (1981).

    I won’t repeat here comments at Deltoid and maybe further comments.

    I’ve read JQ’s heroes and heretics, and for various reasons, I think Lomborg much better fits the anti-science category, but is far more sophisticated and effective, and more often underestimated. I.e., the scientific silliness causes people to miss the political cleverness.

    CATEGORY PROBLEM
    Assuming there are 2 extra-science categories, here is my reasoning for placing V and vD together. As noted, rational people can disagree.

    V certainly got into anti-science, but without studying that whole mess too much, I’d suggest that he certainly started with pseudo-science, and his thrust was still to get his ideas accepted, more than to obscure mainstream science.

    1. PHYSICAL SCIENCES RESEARCH

    V was primarily a psychiatrist, and if he ever did real physical sciences research, it wasn’t obvious. vD has always gloried in being a self-taught outsider.

    On the other hand, Plimer has actually done some reasonable science, and seems very different. While geologists often have problems with AGW, I certainly know geoscientists who would be quite capable of writing credibly about AGW. He just didn’t.

    Q: I’ve been gathering cases of scientists who seem to “go off” into anti-science. I haven’t backtracked P much, can anyone suggest how and when this happened?

    Anyway, here {V +vD}, {P}

    2. TESTABILITY

    Both V and P make testable assertions about the world, many of which are easily proved wrong. Much of vonDaniken’s material is not very testable.

    Can anyone *prove* aliens didn’t land and talk to the Mayas?

    Can anyone *prove* that Ezekiel didn’t meet aliens? A NASA engineer produced a serious design for their spaceship. Alas, NASA hasn’t chosen to build it.

    Here: {V, P}, {vD}

    3. ACTIONABILITY, ACTION, INACTION, IMPACT

    To me, though, this is the big one. Some pseudo-science invites little or no action, other than turning one’s own brains to mush or spending money on more books.

    If one accepts vD, what important actions can one take? Look around the Yucatan for spaceship designs? Buy more books? Put a sign on one’s house inviting aliens to land? Not much there.

    If one accepts V, and perhaps if one is already into creationism, it reinforces it, but further action is not obvious. Other than getting confused about orbital dynamics, it’s not clear what one does about all those explanations. About the most actionable thing in the whole thing is that in the face of Peak Oil, one could send spaceships to Venus to harvest the vast amount of petroleum in the atmosphere there.

    If one accepts P, is there clear and important action (or inaction)? I think so.

    here: {vD, V}, {P}

    I’d claim that real anti-science is most commonly about obfuscating inconvenient science in order to prevent actions deriving from that science. it may well use pseudo-science to help.

    Reasonable people may argue about the nature of the actions.

    Considering the history of the George C. Marshall Institute, it is clear that AGW anti-science didn’t really get going until certain people started worrying that someone might actually *do something* about it. [Naomi Oreskes is working on a dandy book about this.]

    SUMMARY
    I still think that if it’s just pseudo-science vs anti-science categories, that it’s {V, vD}, {P}.

  37. gianni
    May 10th, 2009 at 11:03 | #38

    Oops!

    And they do so in the name of ideology, because in a choice between a reality that conflicts with their ideological view of the way the world should be, and the way they world actually is, they’ll pick the former every time.

    That should have been:

    And they do so in the name of ideology, because when faced with a reality that conflicts with their ideological view of the way the world should be, they’ll reject reality for ideology every time.

    Time for a coffee I think.

  38. John Mashey
    May 10th, 2009 at 11:12 | #39

    re: #32 JQ

    Note: ExxonMobil has been visible, but as best as I can tell (it’s not easy), at least in the US, *much* more funding for the thinktanks has come from:

    Family foundations, like Scaife, Koch, etc.
    and maybe coal companies.
    See Sourcewatch on Heartland, for example. Go down the foundation list.

    ExxonMolbil could supply $0, and it wouldn’t make much difference … so it ends up being the wrong target.

    This even makes some sense, as gas companies love coal getting whacked, and oil companies will likely sell all they can find, sooner or later.

  39. May 10th, 2009 at 12:13 | #40

    Pr Q says:

    Tim Lambert, who notes that this is the latest in a string of pro-science pieces published by the Oz. Perhaps increasingly vocal attacks on the paper’s credibility by scientists and others have been taken to heart.)

    I have been wondering how long the Oz will hold out in its untenable position on Climate Change. Only last month I gave them a maximum of three years for a total about-face. On April 30th, 2009 at 6:12 pm I predicted that

    the Australian will [in the lead up to the 2012 election] perform an astonishing back-flip on this issue. With faces no doubt unblushing and no hint of remorse for previous misdeeds.

    But it looks like they are starting to cave-in as we speak. That, together with the Rudd’s swing to the Left on emissions cuts (which I also predicted), implies that the intellectual and ideological tide is more or less fully turned on CC.

    Credit for hammering the Oz on this to Pr Q and Dr L (who is reliable enough on science until he wanders off the ecological reservation onto the psephological bad-lands.)

  40. May 10th, 2009 at 12:57 | #41

    # 1 Ken Lovell Says: May 9th, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Waste of time John. People like Ron Boswell will just give another fruity chuckle about the way these darn scientists keep arguing and how impossible it is for a good honest policy-maker to know who’s telling the truth.

    Contra Ken Lovell I do not think the L/NP will be a safe harbour for delusionists for too much longer. On July 5th, 2008 at 9:38 am I predicted that the L/NP will eventually support some form of effective CRPS:

    The LN/P will fall into line with ETS. More so than the ALP did with the GST.

    No doubt the LN/P will go into bat to get the best deal for the carbon-intensive minority groups, industrialists, miners and farmers. As they should – this is a representative democracy.

    But I predict that the LN/P will substantially fall into line with most Garnaut report reccommendations. Certainly the basic implementation of the cap and trade carbon pricing scheme. They have already caved into Kyoto.

    This is because the vast majority of the AUS populace are fair, reasonable and well-informed. And our political system reflects this.

    The L/NP will have no alternative but to fall into some sort of line with the ALP or face electoral oblivion. My guess is that they will try to save face by scoring some big concessions-hand-outs to King Coal and Big Oil. But Rudd seems to have stolen their clothes their too.

    To be honest I am clueless about the L/NP’s short-terminternal political machinations on this issue. But they would be mad to fight an election against it. (Just as the ALP would be mad to call a double dissolution in order to ram it through.)

    No doubt the more realistic business bosses are sick and tired of being stuffed around and just wants someone in govt to make a decision instead of just kicking the problem down the road with endless reviews, revisions and re-tries. The SMH lays out the political options:

    The Government believes the Liberals will yield before the end of the year, rather than risk a dangerous climate change debate next year, an election year. But Mr Turnbull, whose party is divided, is refusing to be pushed.

    The Australian Industry Group and the Business Council of Australia are calling for the parties to get together and pass the legislation this year. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry, however, believes the amended scheme requires more analysis.

    Climate change is not an issue central to the personal success of Rudd or Turnbull. Or the political bases of their respective parties. In truth it is a pain-in-the-ar*e to both sides of politics.

    But the major parties cannot afford to ignore it as a huge swathe of middle AUS (and most young, future voters) think it is critical. So Turnbull will continue to put his shoulder to the boulder.

    My reading is that Turnbull on CC will drag the delusionist rump of the L/NP kicking and screaming into the 20thC, just as he did on IR. He deserves a bit of credit for having a go. It would be nice if Left-wing intellectuals acknowledged his national-historic contribution.

    The whole episode illustrates the fundamental health of AUS’s populist democracy. We have a fairly homogenous, well-educated and state-broken polity. CC is now a practical reality that all countries have to deal with. Neither major party cannot afford to be too far out of step with mainstream pragmatist views on fundamental issues of public policy.

    That, at any rate, is a view directly implied by my Great Convergence theory.

  41. May 10th, 2009 at 12:59 | #42

    Their work (the credibility devoid Murdoch shills) is done and they are laughing at us. They still ensure that they “own the debate”, so we are allowed to debate away merrily while action gets pushed further and further away. Classic “deny and delay”.

  42. frankis
    May 10th, 2009 at 13:01 | #43

    jquiggin at 6:34am says: “I’m obviously a high-risk candidate for going emeritus myself. Running a blog is one way of reminding myself that plenty of people know more about lots of things than I do”

    Two comments later, chrisl at 8:59am says: “… WOW!
    Physician heal thyself.
    It is like JQ writing a book on economic theory and getting Ian Plimer to review it.
    And then calling you names like delusionist and denialist because he doesn’t agree with your theory.
    WOW!”

    frankis at sometimelater says: “And for biggest loser of the month so far … yyyessss chrisl … we have a Winner!”

  43. Alice
    May 10th, 2009 at 13:07 | #44

    If you go “emeritus” Prof – dont worry – you have a huge following of “meritus” and “emeritus” supporters in here. We will cover for you. This blog is way better than Oz newspapers. You would have to fall a long way to be as bad as that. Absolument impossible..Ils sont les pires pathologiques menteurs. La nouvelle est un cirque.

  44. Ikonoclast
    May 10th, 2009 at 13:10 | #45

    This is not a defence of Plimer – far from it – but perhaps an attempt at explanation.

    Geologists and earth scientists in general are used (among other things) to examining the events of long epochs and great geological events with attendant atmospheric implications. Some examples of these dramatic events might be major meteor strikes (Yucatan), supervolcanos and flood basalt events like those which created the Deccan and the Siberian traps.

    “Several kinds of environmental effects have been suggested, including climatic cooling from sulphuric acid aerosols, greenhouse warming from CO2 and SO2 gases, and acid rain. Basaltic magmas are often very rich in dissolved sulphur, and sulphuric acid aerosols formed from sulphur volatiles (largely SO2) are injected into the stratosphere by convective plumes rising above volcanic vents and fissures.” – geolsoc.org.uk.

    From this perspective, man’s efforts at atmospheric pollution might look relatively puny. I suspect this leads thinkers like Plimer to argue from incredulity. They can’t really believe that “puny humanity” can have an impact on climate compared to such events.

    They may even have a notion that the atmosphere and associated systems like oceans, carbon sinks etc are robustly self-correcting. They might even be right about this on a geological time scale.

    However, the relevant issues are that;

    1. the atmosphere alone is indeed relatively fragile;

    2. the totality of man’s activities are releasing globally signficant amounts of free CO2 with documented and predicted effects already showing at least a 90% correlation; and

    3. geological spans don’t mean much to human civilization which depends very much on the relative benigness of climate of the holocene epoch (which commenced about 11,000 years ago).

    Point 3 has relevance in the sense that if we stuff up the atmosphere for 10,000 yrs (a mere geological blink) it will be enough to destroy civiliation. Indeed, the first century or two of adverse conditions will probably suffice. A long term self-correction of climate, completed in say 100,000 years, will hardly help us.

    Where Plimer fails imaginatively (and I imagine he is proud of having a large purview and an imaginative grasp of enormous epochs) is that he fails to see that one must imagine minutely as well as largely.

    I think such imaginative failings can lead to failure of scientific vision.

  45. Alice
    May 10th, 2009 at 13:13 | #46

    Except that should read “les journaux australiens sont un cirque.” Time for a coffee..

  46. Ikonoclast
    May 10th, 2009 at 13:16 | #47

    Footnote: Oh, and the other problem is ignoring evidence. Have a nice day, Prof. Plimer. :)

  47. May 10th, 2009 at 14:29 | #48

    # 32 jquiggin Says: May 10th, 2009 at 6:34 am says:

    I’m obviously a high-risk candidate for going emeritus myself. Running a blog is one way of reminding myself that plenty of people know more about lots of things than I do.

    Its a relief to infer that “running a blog” is not the only way Pr Q has of “reminding myself that plenty of people know more about lots of things than I do”. I guess the lurking assumption of omniscience comes with the territory of being the smartest guy in most class rooms. A good reason to get out more.

    Going from the grand thing to a petty thing, for me having a bunch of savvy, blokey mates provides a blunt corrective to my nascent, latent pretentions to wisdom font-ness. The good old Aussie “tall poppy” syndrome is always at hand to cut the high-falutin’ down to size when holding forth at the BBQ. (“Get yer hand of it, ya wanker!”)

    And then theres my ever-practical wife…

    More generally, the tendency to “go emeritus” seems to be hard-wired into the brain of every conceited, big-mouthed, middle-aged male intellectual. Particularly when re-inforced by a clique or cadre of like-minded folk.

    To be honest we are not hard-wired for truth-seeking. We are hard-wired for status-seeking, attention-getting and skirt-chasing though. Peacocks tails and all that.

    A certain Puritanical temperament is therefore desirable in good scientists. Sort of hair-shirtiness.

    Of course all science-minded people need pay attention to one thing, and one alone, in order to bring them back down to Earth. And that is the evidence.

    At the end of the science cycle one can either claim bragging rights (“I was right”) or bear bagging duties (“I was wrong”).

    There is just no point in making a point unless its probably truer, or at least closer to the truth, than the counter-pointer.

    “Nature cannot be fooled.”

    Fenyman

  48. May 10th, 2009 at 16:51 | #49

    “What on Earth is this rubbish about Cecilia Payne?”

    Well it’s an attempt to derail the discussion of course; the hyper-inflation of a trivial matter to try and make people talk about something other than the topic at hand. It’s a time-honoured rhetorical device used by those who know they have a weak case when it comes to the substantive issue. The amazing thing is that is successful so often in blog comment threads.

  49. John C
    May 10th, 2009 at 17:53 | #50

    The Australian’s science corespondent Leigh Dayton, savaged Plimer in the Higher Education segment of Wednesday’s paper.

  50. DaveMcRae
    May 10th, 2009 at 18:11 | #51

    Amazing – there’s been, as mention earlier, pieces critical of Pilmer by Dayton and Sandiford in addition to this piece published recently by the Oz.

    I wonder if the Oz may be taking up a scientific, pro-evidence stance as a position to hit Rudd and Labor with, now that Labor is being very sluggish with their greenhouse policies. How’s that for a conspiracy theory – I reckon it’s got legs, it’s one I’d love to see happen and it’s got to better than Pilmer being a later day Cecila Payne (hehe admittedly not hard to beat)

  51. Ikonoclast
    May 10th, 2009 at 18:49 | #52

    Re Ken Lovell’s post at #50. Surely, we can walk and chew gum at the same time!? There’s nothing wrong with the average blog thread jumping around a bit. Most of us are capable of thinking about a main thread and few side issues at the same time. It’s not as if blogging is a super-formal medium.

    Footnote: In chess notation !? usually means “Interesting move”.

  52. jquiggin
    May 10th, 2009 at 19:53 | #53

    “My reading is that Turnbull on CC will drag the delusionist rump of the L/NP kicking and screaming into the 20thC, just as he did on IR. He deserves a bit of credit for having a go. It would be nice if Left-wing intellectuals acknowledged his national-historic contribution.”

    Let him actually deliver on CC, and he’ll get ample acknowledgement from me.

  53. May 10th, 2009 at 20:11 | #54

    Jack quite a few members of the opposition spent the years since 2001 perceiving their role to be loyal members of the Canberra branch of the US Republican Party. They have shown no signs since 2007 of any capacity to think independently about anything, so since the Republicans’ response to AGW still consists of vague projects to become energy self-sufficient coupled with cranky complaints about the science not being settled yet and sneers at Al Gore, I don’t expect rationality to overtake our local ‘conservatives’ any time soon.

    Ikonoclast I don’t know who ‘we’ are in your comment. The fact that many blog comment threads get hopelessly derailed by trolls who change the subject is so empirically obvious it surely doesn’t need elaboration or justification.

  54. Donald Oats
    May 10th, 2009 at 20:35 | #55

    If the ETS/CPRS starts after the next election, it obviously allows both major parties to use AGW policy as part of the next round of election promises. Assuming that Malcolm Turnbull is still the Liberal leader by then, I would imagine a simple strategy for him is to point out that Labor broke their ETS promises – a bit of spincycle and he may be able to make some mileage out of it. Copenhagen is going to be very important for Labor if it is to have a credible leg to stand on during the next election campaign.
    The media line on this will come straight from the Australian Climate Coalition evangelists, just as it has for the last several years.

    Of course, Labor can always retort with the Liberal’s sinking of Kyoto and relentless denial that there even was an AGW issue in the first place…and then Turnbull has the problem of some very niggly NP/LP members who organise meetings with the likes of Carter et al and call it education on climate science.

  55. May 10th, 2009 at 22:21 | #56

    # 55 Ken Lovell Says: May 10th, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Jack quite a few members of the opposition spent the years since 2001 perceiving their role to be loyal members of the Canberra branch of the US Republican Party. They have shown no signs since 2007 of any capacity to think independently about anything,

    so since the Republicans’ response to AGW still consists of vague projects to become energy self-sufficient coupled with cranky complaints about the science not being settled yet I don’t expect rationality to overtake our local ‘conservatives’ any time soon.

    Come now Ken, you can do better than rattling off Green talking points.

    No doubt “some members of the Opposition” have spent the better part of their political lives channeling the REP’s parallel universe. They are doing nothing worse than faithfully reflecting the weird and wonderful views of some numbers of their constituents. Lot of middle-aged male cranks out there and CC delusionism is a good way to rally them to your flyer hand-out brigade.

    But the bulk of the L/NP are not strongly invested in a thorough-going CC world-view one way or another. They probably just wish the issue would go away.

    Howard is in the latter category. Although his natural bias against imposing costly government rules on Big Business made him loath to implement any kind of CPRS.

    Howard was not, contrary to Ozblogospheric opinion, a faithful acolyte of the REPs. He was a hard-nosed Machiavellian realist in most matters of state. (An attribute of his political MO that I regard as mostly a feature, rather than a bug.)

    For sure he sent the ADF to Iraq – to the safest place in Iraq where the worst risk appears to have been skin cancer.

    And no doubt he dragged his feet on signing Kyoto. But Rudd’s CPRS Mk I shows that AUS politicians do not have to be Bush flunkies to produce lame efforts in that department. (remember Garrett signed onto 15% cuts).

    And of course Howard ran the L/NP into Gun Control and GST, major policy initiatives that are anathema to any rock-ribbed REP worth his salt.

    Since the 2007 election the more extremist members of the L/NP have rejoined the reality-based community for long enough to stop the Self-Inflicted Wounding of Work Choices. This was an article of faith amongst the L/NP True Believers. So it follows that signing onto an effective CPRS will be a much more trifling offence.

    I therefore predict that, if they are sensible, the L/NP will eventually sign onto such an instrument sometime between now and 2010 election. If they are as silly as Ken Lovell suggests then the L/NP will suffer a monumental defeat in 2010, instead of just a routine one.

    That will make an L/NP cave-in on CPRS a no-brainer in the inevitable 2011 L/NP leadership spill. (In which Costello is likely to be a contender.)

    Either way I predict a CPRS is coming to an L/NP branch near you sometime in the next couple of years.

    So lets can the “Howard-L/NP are Bush poodles” meme thats been bouncing around the Ozblogosphere for the better part of a decade. Its what the host of this blog might call a “refuted political doctrine”.

  56. May 10th, 2009 at 22:38 | #57

    I’m totally confused by the SJ comments which don’t appear to be contradictory at all. I did under the influence of too much Saturday Night Pinot Noir oversell myself I confess!

    Payne was not destroyed but as commented above forced by her thesis adviser to post mitigating comments that her findings may be wrong. Regardless the history of science is to be wary of the consensus when it becomes personal and polital. No! I do not need to be a climate ‘denialist’ to hold that position!

    My principal reference after tearing my bookshelf to pieces was “E=Mc2 Biography of an Equation” by David Bodanis. However I’m very intriqued that other commentators managed to find something in my wrongly quoted reference an post it? How odd indeed!

  57. paul walter
    May 10th, 2009 at 23:27 | #58

    Re Jack Strocchis ealier comments, Imho there has been a battle heating up behind the scenes at he OZ between the blowhards and the broadsheeters; the later people who try to report and discuss objectively, with the reader in mind rather than vested interests whose interests are catered to at the expense of, the reader.
    As the neo con regime world wide fell in the later part of this decade thru exactly the sort of denialism discussed in these threads, the likes of say, a Mike Steketee become more important for a papers credibility; therefore hopefully less dispensable.
    Some at these outlets themselves, realise it just can’t be wall to wall Albrechtsen, Bolt, etc. People seek out media and press for information and just can’t make objective decsion based on information-devoid ideology and propaganda alone. They are increasingly looking elsewhere for the truth on issues, hence the success of sites like this.
    The tabloidist are now faced with the decison of reverting to broadsheet when they no longer have a captive market, and forgoing a few bribes along the way, or just becoming even more sidelined and irrelevant than they already are.

  58. Stephen L
    May 11th, 2009 at 00:05 | #59

    Leigh Dayton is a good science journalist. Probably very embarrassed by the rubbish published on the Australian’s opinion pages every day and no doubt relished a change to respond. The Australian has good segments, that survive beside the rubbish on in the main section, perhaps because they pull in readers that keep the whole thing afloat.

    I can’t say for sure that Plimer is right-wing generally, but he has always peppered his lectures with attacks on anything associated with the environmental movement. Oddly, the Liberal students complaining about left wing bias on university campuses never mentioned him, even though his behaviour was more serious than most of the cases they raised.

  59. Ken Miles
    May 11th, 2009 at 01:05 | #60

    One possibility for the Australia’s publication of these three pro-science articles is that they couldn’t really not have Leigh Dayton write a article, and they may well have fallen for their own propaganda – that climate scientists ignore massive amounts of evidence from geology and solar physics; and commissioned reviews from a geologist and physicist in the expectation that they would give support to Plimer. If that is the case, then the joke is really on them.

  60. May 11th, 2009 at 01:39 | #61

    Bill Hicks would have put it thusishly:

    “By the way if anyone here works for Murdoch… kill yourself.

    No, no, no it’s just a little thought. I’m just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day, they’ll take root – I don’t know. You try, you do what you can. Kill yourself.

    Seriously though, if you are, do.

    Aaah, no really, there’s no rationalisation for what you do and you are Satan’s little helpers. Okay – kill yourself – seriously. You are the ruiner of all things good, seriously. No this is not a joke, you’re going, “there’s going to be a joke coming,” there’s no fu*king joke coming. You are Satan’s spawn filling the world with bile and garbage. You are fu*ked and you are fu*king us.

    Kill yourself. It’s the only way to save your fu*king soul, kill yourself.

    Planting seeds. I know all the Murdoch people are going, “he’s doing a joke…” there’s no joke here whatsoever. Suck a tail-pipe, fu*king hang yourself, borrow a gun from a Yank friend – I don’t care how you do it. Rid the world of your evil fu*king machinations.

    I know what all the Murdoch spin people are thinking right now too, “Oh, you know what Bill’s doing, he’s going for that anti-Murdoch dollar. That’s a good market, he’s very smart.”

    Oh man, I am not doing that. You fu*king evil scumbags!

    “Ooh, you know what Bill’s doing now, he’s going for the righteous indignation dollar. That’s a big dollar. A lot of people are feeling that indignation. We’ve done research – huge market. He’s doing a good thing.”

    Godammit, I’m not doing that, you scum-bags! Quit putting a godamm dollar sign on every fu*king thing on this planet!

    “Ooh, the anger dollar. Huge. Huge in times of recession. Giant market, Bill’s very bright to do that.”

    God, I’m just caught in a fu*king web.”

    [Murdochians]: “OK, it’s safe to bring out Plimer now, they’re beaten into an apoplexy of paroxisms of catatonia and are as powerless as kittens.”

    RIP Bill Hicks

    Long Live: http://www.stopmurdoch.blogspot.com

  61. Chris O’Neill
    May 11th, 2009 at 02:43 | #62

    KitchenSlut:

    Payne was not destroyed but as commented above forced by her thesis adviser to post mitigating comments that her findings may be wrong.

    The great irony of this example is that Plimer is still saying Payne was wrong. I guess that makes Plimer part of the old consensus so we should be wary of him on that basis alone.

  62. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    May 11th, 2009 at 07:27 | #63

    As Uncle Milton (9) says, Mitchell would almost certainly have first read the review on Saturday morning. The Weekend Australian is, firstly, not as greatly supervised by him as the weekday Oz is(Nick Caton edits the Weekend paper, and his editorials are actually more extreme than Mitchell’s!), and secondly it was in the Review section.

    We shouldn’t see larger, more absolute conspiracies than we need to. My guess is that Mitchell keeps a very tight rein on the op ed page, but the Weekend Review has a reasonable degree of independence.

  63. jquiggin
    May 11th, 2009 at 08:47 | #64

    Either way I predict a CPRS is coming to an L/NP branch near you sometime in the next couple of years.

    So lets can the “Howard-L/NP are Bush poodles” meme thats been bouncing around the Ozblogosphere for the better part of a decade. Its what the host of this blog might call a “refuted political doctrine”.

    Well, no. At present, with Coalition pollies pushing Plimer’s book, the doctrine looks pretty good. If and when your prediction comes true, the doctrine will need re-examination.

  64. May 11th, 2009 at 09:42 | #65

    Jack if you’re implying that George W Bush was ever in any sense the leader of the Republican Party, I’m afraid you see him in a very different light to me.

    Your examples of GST and gun control pre-date the Bush Administration. From September 2001 onwards, Howard and Downer were committed fellow-travellers of the American Enterprise Institute and all the accompanying rhetoric about global wars on terror and preventing the new caliphate and removing civil rights in the name of national security and preserving Western values about things like the sanctity of marriage and denying the reality of AGW. Anyone who believes these were all independent Howard Government initiatives that just happened to coincide with similar developments in Washington has an interpretation of recent history that I don’t share.

    It’s significant I think that Howard now seems to spend much of his time hanging around the AEI and the Hoover Institution, getting prizes for his contributions to the preservation of freedom and engaging in mutual admiration exercises with wingnut pundits. It’s not for nothing he and Downer were consistently singled out by the likes of Mark Steyn as beacons of courage and wisdom in the global sea of America-hating liberal decadence.

  65. Crispin Bennett
    May 11th, 2009 at 10:49 | #66

    That review supplied me with the cheeriest Sat breakfast read I’ve had for a while (certainly from the Oz).

    It’s a tad empty though. I suspect the denialists gain some of their ability to bombasticate in the face of overwhelming evidence from their sure knowledge that absolutely nothing significant is going to be done about GW, regardless of who ‘wins’ the intellectual victory.

  66. Eat The Rich
    May 11th, 2009 at 15:19 | #67

    The sun is made of iron and the moon is made of cheese. Thanks Ian! If I leave a stocking by the mantlepiece will you come and fill it for me?

  67. May 11th, 2009 at 21:38 | #68

    Just repeating myself.

    What evidence is there that Plimer is right wing? I’m not saying that he isn’t, I just wonder whether it is a well founded assertion.

  68. jquiggin
    May 11th, 2009 at 22:04 | #69

    Terge, I was a bit ambiguous there. I meant to suggest (@ #32) that Plimer shared the tribal hostility to environmentalists that is fairly common among mining geologists of a certain age. I don’t have any information about his politics.

  69. May 12th, 2009 at 09:57 | #70

    # 65 jquiggin Says: May 11th, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Well, no. At present, with Coalition pollies pushing Plimer’s book, the doctrine looks pretty good. If and when your prediction comes true, the doctrine will need re-examination.

    I wouldnt attach much significance to Ron Boswell launching Ian Pilmers book. Thats just Ronny being Ronny, dont pay him any mind.

    The “Bush-poodle” theory of Howard-L/NP policy making depended on two, and really only two, big data points: Howard’s failure to sign Kyoto/develop an effective CPRS and his eagerness to join the Coalition attack on Iraq. All the rest is just Howard-hating hog-wash – trumping up a case based on the inevitable parallels bw English-speaking Right-wing parties.

    Both data points look pretty threadbare and insubstantial in retrospect.

    Re Iraq: It was obvious to me from the beginning that the ADF’s participation in Iraq-attack was token, based on standard military alliance politics. Results speak for themselves: ADF battle fatalities in Iraq = 0.

    Re CC: Since the election the L/NP have been in the throes of shrugging off Howard’s “doolittle-delay” legacy on CC. But, it turns out, so have the ALP! No one suggested that Rudd-ALP were “Bush-poodles” when they put 5%-15% on the table.

    It follows that the L/NP’s CC lead-dragging has a political cause that lies much closer to home than the purported poodle-heeling powers of the Bush-REPs. Its hardly a dirty little secret that we are a nation of energy miners and outer-suburban petrol-heads.

    These constituencies form important parts of the bases of both major parties. Its not surprising that getting effective CC policy out of them is like pulling teeth.

    Even so, I predict that the L/NP will soon come around to CC goodness, just as the ALP have. My prediction, based on Convergence theory, is that the L/NP will sign onto some form of effective CPRS by 2011.

    If they are sensible they will sign onto one before the 2010 in order to narrow that points of electorally damaging difference bw them and the ALP. If they are silly they will drag their feet on CC and get wiped out in the 2010 election. The 2011 leadership spill will be the L/NP’s last chance to salvage CC policy credibility from the political wreckage.

    At that point we can declare the “Bush poodle” theory of L/NP policy making a “refuted political doctrine”.

    If, OTOH, the upper-ranks of the L/NP are still buggerising around with CC delusionism in 2011-12 (in the way that REPs are still dabbling with the Laffer Curve in 2009), then yes, I will concede that the “Bush-poodle” theory has legs. Only a party which has drunk deeply from the Bush-REP well of Kool Aid could go that far off the deep end.

    But it ain’t gonna happen. The L/NP are largely made up of sensible politicians eg Turnbull. And, more to the point, they represent sensible people. These good folk dont want their political agents to disappear down the same electoral black hole that the REPs are being sucked into.

  70. Chris O’Neill
    May 12th, 2009 at 12:00 | #71

    I wouldnt attach much significance to Ron Boswell launching Ian Pilmers book. Thats just Ronny being Ronny, dont pay him any mind.

    And Barnaby being Barnaby of course, don’t forget him. And unless you’ve heard anything to the contrary, opinions of people like Jensen and Minchin haven’t changed substantially.

    The L/NP are largely made up of sensible politicians eg Turnbull.

    Maybe, but they still have a large minority that deny climate science and are just putting on a front.

  71. May 12th, 2009 at 17:43 | #72

    Chris O’Neill Says: May 12th, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Maybe, but they still have a large minority that deny climate science and are just putting on a front.

    Probably true. But who cares what L/NP politicians really think on CC. They are paid to represent their constituents views.

    And most of their constituents are ecological realists and are more or less shifting to the Left on CC. The latest Newspoll on CC put L/NP voter support for a CPRS at 78%. Thats only going to get larger, especially as global support for such schemes gathers momentum.

    These voters include folk not without influence in the counsels of power in the L/NP hierarchy. Such as blue-rinse set of avid gardeners (Elizabeth Murdoch), Doctors Wives and the current inmates of the tonier private schools.

    The latter category are really critical. They are getting CC realism shoved down their throat every day at school, take it from me I have professional experience in this area. Come the time they put their voting preferences on Facebook they wont be voting for a delusionist party.

  72. Ken
    May 13th, 2009 at 00:51 | #73

    GC wrote (#25): “What on Earth is this rubbish about Cecilia Payne? What does she have to do with Ian Plimer’s dodgy book?”

    As the lawyer joke goes, when the facts are on your side, pound on the facts; when the law is on your side, pound on the law; and when neither is on your side, pound on the table.

  73. May 13th, 2009 at 14:57 | #74

    “HOWARD A BUSH POODLE” – A REFUTED POLITICAL DOCTRINE

    This thread is as good a venue as any to tackle the “Howard a Bush-poodle” meme thats been richocheting around the Left-wing Echo Chamber for almost a decade. The evidence for this meme was always based on flimsy analogies and re-hash of post-seventies ideological neuroses.

    Ken Lovell and Pr Q’s constant refrain that “Howard was a Bush-poodle” is not only mainly wrong, it is almost the opposite of the truth. In fact the Howard-L/NP is strikingly different from Bush-REPs in both policy substance, although there were some similarities in political style. There are some policy paralells, this is only because Anglophone Right-wing parties obviously bear a family resemblance.

    # 66 Ken Lovell Says: May 11th, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Jack if you’re implying that George W Bush was ever in any sense the leader of the Republican Party, I’m afraid you see him in a very different light to me.

    GWB was a typical leader of the (Southern-based, populist-styled, Gingrich-led) REPs, as they evolved after the end of the Cold War. Until he tried to force an Amnesty bill through Congress he never had a serious revolt from his party’s base. The REPs could have pushed GWB out of the Presidency in 2004. But they stuck by him because the party machine wanted to privatise Social Security.

    Ken Lovell says:

    Your examples of GST and gun control pre-date the Bush Administration.

    And the Howard-L/NP’s gun-controlling, sales-taxing policies were implacably maintained post-dating the Bush administration with no hint of back-sliding. You just can’t wish away contradictory evidence with a wave of the hands.

    Ken Lovell says:

    From September 2001 onwards, Howard and Downer were committed fellow-travellers of the American Enterprise Institute and all the accompanying rhetoric about global wars on terror and preventing the new caliphate and removing civil rights in the name of national security and preserving Western values about things like the sanctity of marriage and denying the reality of AGW.

    My conservative American friends and colleagues always laugh when I tell them about the way the AUS Left try and tar Howard with the Bush brush. They dream about American being ruled by a solidly conservative and sensible Centre-Right party, such as the Howard-L/NP. Bush’s whole program is a violation of basic conservative principles. Thats why old-fashioned conservatives started the American Conservative.

    For sure in two fundamental areas, the Howard-L/NPs followed the Bush-REPs suit in Kyoto and Iraq. But Rudd was not much better (is he a Bush-poodle?) on CPRS. And the ADFs participation in Iraq (battle fatalities = 0) was token.

    All the other parallels are policies that any Right-wing party would do if they were attempting to mollify their base. Gotta toss the true-believers some red meat now and again.

    What is really striking about the Howard-L/NP is how different it was from the Bush-REPs in the latters absolutely key and signature policies:

    – Invading the world
    – Inviting the world
    – Indebting the world

    Howard, in contrast to Bush’s extravagant militarism, sent the ADF into battle with a circumscribed mission, tailored to fit AUS’s national interest and well-managed to minimise casualties.

    Howard, in contrast to Bush’s indulgent Open Borders, imposed stringent Border Security policies and ensured that such immigration that occurred was regulated to select higher-quality applicants.

    Howard, in contrast to Bush’s reckless fiscal improvidence, generally ran surpluses and eventually paid off most of the Commonwealth’s debt.

    The results speak for themselves. The ADF’s missions have been more or less successfully completed, the immigration program has more than achieved its goals of keeping a lid on wages and raising the ceiling on rents and the AUS economy has ridden out the worst of the GFC pretty much unscathed.

    Ken Lovell says:

    Anyone who believes these were all independent Howard Government initiatives that just happened to coincide with similar developments in Washington has an interpretation of recent history that I don’t share.

    THe similarities bw Howard-L/NP and Bush-REP were more in political style than policy substance. Howard-L/NP copied the successful tactics of Nixonland REP’s red-neck populism “wedge” tactics through the nineties. Hence the constant appeal to “battlers”.

    But even here the parallels fail. Bush, if anything, was a died in the wool multiculturalist and passed off the opportunity to play any race or religion cards. The Howard-L/NP were certainly not guilty of any lapses from the Nixonland playbook in that respect.

    Undoubtedly they got their hands dirty playing “hardball” with racist innuendoes such as “children overboard”. But its probably no accident that AUS authorities did not have to deal with too much unruliness by urban minorities, including the home-grown terrorism suffered by Londoners.

    Whether it was worth breaking those politically correct eggs to get that civil order omelette is a judgement I leave to others.

    Ken Lovell says:

    It’s significant I think that Howard now seems to spend much of his time hanging around the AEI and the Hoover Institution, getting prizes for his contributions to the preservation of freedom and engaging in mutual admiration exercises with wingnut pundits. It’s not for nothing he and Downer were consistently singled out by the likes of Mark Steyn as beacons of courage and wisdom in the global sea of America-hating liberal decadence.

    I attach v. little significance to the victory lap that Howard is running around his old haunts in Washington. He has obviously been spurned by domestic intelligentsia. Howard was a solid ally to the US during a time of need. This is something that he believed in personally, but it does not mean it was against AUS’s political interest.

    Again: Left critics need to show where Howard followed Bush for reasons of personal, rather than national, interest. So far they have not done that in the areas of Iraq or Climate Change where domestic political factors are sufficient to explain L/NP policy.

    (The L/NP’s military procurement policies are another matter.)

  74. paul walter
    May 13th, 2009 at 18:30 | #75

    Strocchi:
    “…critics need to show where Howard followed Bush for reasons of personal rather than national, interest”.
    But Jack, might not Janet have something to say on this?
    Not flattering for this afforementioned redoubtable flower of Australian womanhood if investigated too closely, one might feel?

  75. Alice
    May 13th, 2009 at 21:36 | #76

    Its actually Janet thats the Bush poodle. Howard was really a Janet poodle.

  76. Alice
    May 13th, 2009 at 21:38 | #77

    Which is even worse.

  77. May 13th, 2009 at 22:18 | #78

    The “Howard a Bush-poodle” meme just does not have enough contentful predictive power to justify the amount of pixels flying around cyber-space. This theory:

    – predicts L/NP-REP similarities that are inconsequential (such as Kyoto and Iraq)

    – cannot account for L/NP-REP dissimilarities that are consequential (such as invading, inviting and indebting the world).

    The L/NP will not be like the REPs for the forseeable future because demography is destiny. The demographics of AUS’s Right-wing voters are profoundly different from the demographics of the US’s Right-wing voters. The racial and religious divides bw the parties are just not that deep.

    AUS is a highly urbanised, fairly homogenised, well-educated and state-broken society. There just isn’t the market for Right-wing craziness here.

    Of course if we continue to head down the path of the US – recklessly promoting multicultural diversity and sub-cultural perversity – then we will get to Nixonland soon enough. That is the project of the Cultural Left-liberals, one guaranteed to bring about the political cleavage that they ostensibly fear and loath.

    Perhaps that explains my obsessive contempt for this species of political animal.

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