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Total core meltdown

December 20th, 2010

Anyone who’s spent time in the blogosphere has seen it happen, and most of us have been on the wrong side of it once or twice. A blogger or commenter says something silly, gets called on it and doubles down. Before long, they are engaged in meta-disputes about who said what about whom. As the flame war escalates, all sense of proportion is lost, and innocent remarks produce threats of litigation. Somewhere along the way, Godwin’s Law comes into play. If the process runs its full course, the blog in question is taken down (but of course the Internet never forgets), or the commenter identity is abandoned, leading to suspicions of sockpuppetry when someone with similar style and opinions turns up.

Of course, most of us stop before it gets that far. The wisest and most gracious recognise error, thank those who set them straight and may even emerge with an enhanced reputation. Those of us not quite as sensible stump off in a huff before making complete fools of ourselves.

But some go all the way. That’s sad for a blogger, but disastrous in the case of a national newspaper.

Of course, I’m talking about The Australian. In the course of defending Chris Mitchell’s bizarre litigation against academic Julie Posetti (for accurately reporting the public statements of Mitchell’s former environment editor Asa Wahlquist) various Oz writers were wheeled out to advance the bizarre claim that Oceania the Oz has always been at war with a supporter of Eurasia mainstream climate science.

But within a matter of days, the Oz was multiply contradicting itself. First, there was a hyperbolic editorial in which, among other things, journalists were accused of presenting views on global warming that differed from those of ‘Middle Australia’ a term presumably used as code for “our readers” (the idea that journalists should report the facts, whether or not that’s what the readers what is obviously passe.

Then we get this delusionist rant, notable for a couple of things
(i) Massive Godwin Law violations (or confirmations if you want to be pedantic)
(ii) The fact that the author, Michael Asten, is a bona fide academic, though with no relevant publications according to Google scholar which reports what we in the business like to call a ‘solid’ track record of work in mining-related geology. Sad to say, Asten makes a complete hash of the science. Tim Lambert does garbage pickup.

If the Oz were a blogger, I’d be expecting about now to see the full meltdown post in which some combination of personal hell/substance abuse/mental illness is revealed. But I have no idea how the process ends in the case of a national newspaper employing a large number of journalists, some of them with a substantial track record.

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  1. paul walter
    December 20th, 2010 at 21:43 | #1

    Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
    I’d agree with PQ about the difficulty of making others understand and own up to the error of their ways. I am a resolute crusader against humbug and denialism, my self.
    Heaven forbid Blogs should be subjected to the sort of editing that occurs at Murdoch, etc.

  2. GrueBleen
    December 20th, 2010 at 22:13 | #2

    Is Chris Mitchell still a real good mate of Kevin Rudd’s ?

  3. December 20th, 2010 at 23:42 | #3

    It seems to me that The Australian is employing a now standard trick of conservative and libertarian bloggers. Don’t come out and deny the reality of climate science because that is very likely to leave you with your pants around your ankles. Instead attack the science on every possible occasion, repeat endlessly fallacies about climate science – the myth that climate gate left the science in tatters, no warming for last 10 years and no sea level rise – and when it comes to the pinch deny you are a denier.

  4. Ikonoclast
    December 21st, 2010 at 07:35 | #4

    The Australian editorial has correctly identified that “many voters feel detached from a political class that is failing to address the real challenges that threaten Australia’s prosperity.”

    However, The Australian editor has no idea why this is so. The reason is that political class almost in its entirety (Liberal and Labor but not the Greens) supports the interests of corporate capital to the exclusion of all other concerns. This is why The Australian is only concerned with which party is the most competent “manager” of corporate interests. Liberal and Labor are interchangeable except for their “managerial” ability.

    Footnote:

    My teenage children (like most teenagers) never read a newspaper. They get their news online, most often from wikileaks and blogs. The Australian newspaper is a dinosaur. It will go extinct soon.

  5. December 21st, 2010 at 09:00 | #5

    I recently have been suspecting the same thing, hc.

  6. kymbos
    December 21st, 2010 at 10:54 | #6

    Your description of blogger meltdown is so accurate. Personally, I am really looking forward to the Oz going behind a paywall.

  7. December 21st, 2010 at 11:04 | #7

    i’m sorry, i don’t really have a comment, but i would like to ask professor quiggin a question. i can’t seem to find a way to do that. any advice?
    thanks -glenn-

  8. John Quiggin
  9. December 21st, 2010 at 12:15 | #9

    The biggest irony of this all is that we are talking here about the same newspaper that has railed against “postmodern education”, which, as far as I can tell, is a pejorative label for outcomes-based education. How they make the connection is not entirely clear but their own take on science is decidedly postmodern: everything depends on the observer.

    Here’s yet another attack on science, this time directing ire at someone who had the temerity to defend scientists against ideological attack.

    Much of the tactic they employ amounts to looking for weaknesses in their own case then claiming those same weaknesses exist in the other side. This could go on a long time.

    Small typo: you forgot to close the parentheses after “(the idea that journalists should report the facts …”.

  10. James Haughton
    December 21st, 2010 at 12:37 | #10

    Any recent updates on Mitchell’s suttee/lawsuit?

  11. may
    December 21st, 2010 at 15:40 | #11

    such a big hammer banging away.

    they are starting to sound as if they want her taken out and shot for crimes against foxicity.

    i see in US fox is throwing a hissy fit because some upstart uni showed misinformation media produces misinformed minds.

    agnotologists purveying ficts.

    agnotology.

    thank you JQ for putting me on to the word that means culturally induced ignorance.

    may the meme be with you.

  12. frankis
    December 21st, 2010 at 16:28 | #12

    Love it! Do you think Chris Mitchell has some analysis that claims that attracting readers to the Oz for a laugh is good over the long term? I’m sure he believes that for the short term the extra visits from fans of farce are great for his stats – but for the longer term? The Onion and Crikey and others do funnier work despite sticking closer to the facts. I wonder these days what market niche it might be that Team Murdoch aims for with their funny – not in such a good way – Oz. Then I go read the Onion or watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert doing wittingly funny stuff.

  13. Chris O’Neill
    December 21st, 2010 at 19:56 | #13

    The fact that the author, Michael Asten, is a bona fide academic, though with no relevant publications according to Google scholar which reports what we in the business like to call a ‘solid’ track record of work in mining-related geology. Sad to say, Asten makes a complete hash of the science.

    Asten is an example of how someone can be quite competent with mathematics (and hence doesn’t fall for the “cooling for the last X years” meme) but falls down when it comes to scientific logic, e.g. he falls for the carbon dioxide followed initial temperature change in the past therefore it cannot cause much temperature change meme.

    The basic problem is that just because someone is reasonably clever at some things doesn’t mean that he’s always going to be rational.

  14. Charlie
    December 21st, 2010 at 20:47 | #14

    Chris: why don’t you check your sources? Regrettably the comment you cite is a slur when it says Asten “has a ‘solid’ track record of work in mining-related geology”. Please cite from his publications list all those which justify the comment you quote. So far as I can see virtually all his publications concern seismology, aka earthquakes, or related fields.

    The basic problem from long observation of you is that you are not reasonably clever at anything and that is why you are never rational.

  15. Chris O’Neill
    December 22nd, 2010 at 01:06 | #15

    @Charlie

    Please cite from his publications list all those which justify the comment you quote. So far as I can see virtually all his publications concern seismology, aka earthquakes, or related fields.

    And what, pray tell, are you disputing? That he is a competent mathematician or that he falls down at scientific logic in aspects of climate science?

    The basic problem from long observation of you is that you are not reasonably clever at anything and that is why you are never rational.

    The basic problem with you is that you don’t like being shown up when your lack of observation is pointed out and you’ll resort to any pathetic excuse to slag someone off for doing that.

  16. jakerman
    December 22nd, 2010 at 11:02 | #16

    Charlie complains:

    “the comment you cite is a slur when it says Asten “has a ‘solid’ track record of work in mining-related geology”. Please cite from his publications list all those which justify the comment you quote.”

    Chris’s claim that you cite is correct:

    http://www.flagstaff-geoconsultants.com.au/mikeCV.htm

  17. jquiggin
    December 22nd, 2010 at 13:59 | #17

    I should make it clear that the comment complained of is from my original post, and was simply quoted by Chris O’Neill. I think Charlie may have been misled by references to tremors, seismology etc. Seismology is not (just) earthquakes – it’s a standard technique in mining exploration.

    Charlie: Please read the comments policy and avoid personal attacks in future.

  18. jane richards
    December 22nd, 2010 at 14:06 | #18

    Chris Joye had two of the best (and most amusing) articles I have seen on The Australian saga, which Julie Posetti retweeted and have attracted a lot of attention… See:

    http://christopherjoye.blogspot.com/2010/12/australians-war-on-everything.html

    And a follow-up here…

    http://christopherjoye.blogspot.com/2010/12/doomsday-code-that-explains-ozs.html

  19. jakerman
    December 22nd, 2010 at 14:28 | #19

    Thanks for the clarifiction JQ.

    I commend Charlie’s perception (if mis-directed) in reckoning that it would be a slur to name someone as having a self interest in mining (in the case of AGW) if that were not the case.

    As it turns out, what Charlie believed to be a slur was unfortunately (for Asten) an accurate (even understated given his “working on coal”) discription of his interests.

  20. jquiggin
    December 22nd, 2010 at 14:54 | #20

    Looking at the source cited by jakerman, it turns out that Asten’s academic appointment is part-time and his main job is as a consultant in mining exploration.

  21. jakerman
    December 22nd, 2010 at 15:29 | #21

    Further of JQ’s point, Asten shares another like role with Ian Plimer, both are directors of companies involved in mining.

  22. CJ Morgan
    December 23rd, 2010 at 10:52 | #22

    Agnotology – thanks for that! There’s a lot of it about, particularly in the blogosphere. I suspect it’s a word that I shall use from time to time now…

    Re the ‘Australian’ – Like many others, I bought and subscribed to it most of my adult life, but in recent years that dwindled to the Weekend Oz, and nowadays I don’t even bother with that. The online version is even worse. Damn shame really, because it was once a great newspaper.

  23. may
    December 23rd, 2010 at 15:11 | #23

    whaddya mean “once great”

    it has crosswords,sudoku and on the weekend the stars.

    what more do you want?

  24. Charlie
    December 23rd, 2010 at 16:40 | #24

    That’s a pity, CJ Morgan, evidently you have reached the age when you can only read what you know you wil agree with,as in the SMH. The Oz may have its faults but it does publish a wider range of views than most of Fairfax.

    jakerman: gosh! Asten is involved with mining companies. I trust you refuse to accept any largesse from the Government, given how dependent it is on mining taxes. Please keep clean.

  25. Nick
    December 23rd, 2010 at 16:46 | #25

    @Philip Machanick
    You have to wonder if anyone at the OZ actually ran their eye over Jo Nova’s attack.It does not even engage McKnight’s observations about News Ltd editorial policy..in fact she just lets go a generic pseudo-skeptic blurt. The only bits of this boiler-plate tokenly ‘personalised’ for McKnight are predictable accusations of his totalitarianism,and the idea that his article represented the death of academic thought. The woman is clearly a nutter,and The Oz give her a platform and a link.

  26. jakerman
    December 23rd, 2010 at 19:35 | #26

    Charlie writes indignantly:

    “the comment you cite is a slur when it says Asten “has a ‘solid’ track record of work in mining-related geology”. Please cite from his publications list all those which justify the comment you quote.”

    Then attempting to cover for his prior indignation, Charlie writes:

    jakerman: gosh! Asten is involved with mining companies. I trust you refuse to accept any largesse from the Government, given how dependent it is on mining taxes. Please keep clean.

  27. jquiggin
    December 23rd, 2010 at 19:53 | #27

    Charlie, are you attempting to demonstrate the meltdown process referred to in the post? As suggested there, this is the optimal point for a gracious admission of error.

  28. Charlie
    December 23rd, 2010 at 22:11 | #28

    JQ I am really very sorry we seem to be at cross purposes here.

    This is what Chris O’Neill very patronisingly said here about Asten: “Asten is an example of how someone can be quite [sic!!!] competent with mathematics (and hence doesn’t fall for the “cooling for the last X years” meme)…The basic problem is that just because someone is reasonably clever at some things doesn’t mean that he’s always going to be rational”.

    Asten like it or not has a distinguished academic career, and his publications are nothing if not impressive. Where are O’Neill’s? Why is Chris allowed to be scathing about Asten because he does work for mining companies? While if I turn Chris’s final comment here against Chris, using his own words, I am off limits. Is there a whiff of double standards? I sincerely hope not.

    Asten, whom I have never met nor had ever heard of until this week, seems to be quite distinguished. If you are a geophysicist, as it seems he is, why wouldn’t you do some work for the mining companies which account for so much of Australia’s exports, GDP, and government revenue? As a public sector economist of considerable note, I can imagine you have done work for governments or other public agencies. Unless you never have, does that nullify your life’s work as an academic economist?

    As for my comment on Asten’s publications, they do indeed give no hint of his wicked involvement with mining companies. Mea culpa, I apologise also in English for not knowing about his mining activities. Well done Akerman & O’Neill. But what have they ever done to advance Australia’s well being? This country has no future if its Astens are pilloried as here.

    And as for O’Neill’s comment about Asten at least not falling for the “cooling for the last X years” meme [sic], the trends from standardised temperature annual anomaly temperature data sets (i.e. same base periods) of Gistemp, CRU, RSS and UAH all refute O’Neill, but space limits me to the linear trends for Gistemp only here (the other 4 sets are very similar):

    1979-1993: y = 0.0079x – 0.1207 R² = 0.1092
    1994-2006: y = 0.025x + 0.0218 R² = 0.5909
    1994-2009: y = 0.0185x + 0.0563 R² = 0.5181
    1979-2009: y = 0.0165x – 0.1822 R² = 0.7114

    Clearly the period 1994-2006 is anomalous and does not reflect the whole period. In
    particular, pace O’Neill, it seems from the coefficients on x (years) that the second derivative of changes in X is not increasing or “accelerating” relative to 1994-2006.

  29. jakerman
    December 24th, 2010 at 08:40 | #29

    Charlie is not exemplifying the memory hole technique. For other’s wise to the plot of 1984 here is Charlies complain against Chris as posted infull:

    Chris: why don’t you check your sources? Regrettably the comment you cite is a slur when it says Asten “has a ‘solid’ track record of work in mining-related geology”. Please cite from his publications list all those which justify the comment you quote. So far as I can see virtually all his publications concern seismology, aka earthquakes, or related fields.
    The basic problem from long observation of you is that you are not reasonably clever at anything and that is why you are never rational.

    JQ accurately described similar behavior by neo-Orewellians.

    various Oz writers were wheeled out to advance the bizarre claim that Oceania the Oz has always been at war with a supporter of Eurasia mainstream climate science.

    Charlies, we’re not as far gone as Winston Smith, your revisionism won’t wash.

  30. jakerman
    December 24th, 2010 at 11:00 | #30

    Charlie gets it wrong again:

    And as for O’Neill’s comment about Asten at least not falling for the “cooling for the last X years” meme [sic] [sic], the trends from standardised temperature annual anomaly temperature data sets (i.e. same base periods) of Gistemp, CRU, RSS and UAH all refute O’Neill

    No they don’t Charlie.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-cooling-january-2007-to-january-2008-intermediate.htm

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Is-the-climate-warming-or-cooling.html

  31. Charlie
    December 24th, 2010 at 11:21 | #31

    Yes jakerman, you are right, Asten does nothing but further the interests of mining companies, as in his papers clearly aimed at putting mines into Manhattan, Launceston city, Hong Kong etc. : e.g.,

    Modelling Shear Wave Velocity Profiles in Rock using the Microtremor Spatial Auto-Correlation Technique: the Hong Kong Case Study.

    Asten’s claim about the way all too many academics these days line up for the climate change troughs administered by the ARC and until this week, by Martin Parkinson, is indeed reminiscent of the performance of various german academics in the 1930s (documented by Viktor Klemperer and Andre Pichot amongst others). Check the ARC grants for climate research and detect one that is open-mined oops minded, and likewise for handouts from DCC.

  32. jakerman
    December 24th, 2010 at 12:18 | #32

    Charlie, after successive episode of getting it totally wrong, now opts to try further fallacious argument tactics, this time by making up a strawman:

    Yes jakerman, you are right, Asten does nothing but further the interests of mining companies

    Perhaps genuine argument is beyond Charlie’s reach, at least in this whole he’s dug himself.

    JQ’s speculation now seems quite prophetic.

  33. jquiggin
    December 24th, 2010 at 21:11 | #33

    German academics in the 1930s (documented by Viktor Klemperer and Andre Pichot amongst others)

    It’s like I’ve seen this movie before. I’m thinking of a Law, but which one?

  34. zoot
    December 24th, 2010 at 22:16 | #34

    @Charlie

    Asten is an example of how someone can be quite [sic!!!] competent with mathematics …

    Fully sick!!!

  35. Sarah Palin Fan
    December 25th, 2010 at 08:32 | #35
  36. Charlie
    December 25th, 2010 at 11:27 | #36

    jakerman: thanks for the links to John Cook’s useful pages. However they exemplify the inability of the climate school in general to use Excel’s least squares trend fits (not one is visible in AR4WG1). Both his series beautifully display the polynomial nature of TSI and sunspots which is edited out of WG1 Chap 9′s temperature series. For example, there we have in Fig.9.17 “column-integrated water vapour”, again polynomial, not linear, but no computed trend stats. Eyeballing is deemed good enough by WG1 especially when using anomalies – or adjusted vertical axes that do not begin at 0 oC (Fig.SPM3). Anyway each to his/her own stats at this time of seasonal goodwill!

    Sarah Palin Fan – great link, but I would not want to belong to your club!

  37. jakerman
    December 26th, 2010 at 20:51 | #37

    thanks for the links to John Cook’s useful pages. However they exemplify the inability of the climate school in general to use Excel’s least squares trend fits

    That comment says more about you than anything else. Carry on Google Galileo .

  38. jakerman
    December 26th, 2010 at 21:01 | #38

    Both his series beautifully display the polynomial nature of TSI and sunspots

    Common knowledge and non-controversial and on a 11 year cycle so no relevent to a 2000 year temperature reconstruction.

    And we now have 2010 as one of the hottest year on record during a solar minimum.

    Anyway each to his/her own stats

    I’ll stick with the peer reviewed evidence, you can makeup what ever you like.

  39. jakerman
    December 26th, 2010 at 21:21 | #39

    For example, there we have in Fig.9.17 “column-integrated water vapour”, again polynomial, not linear, but no computed trend stats. Eyeballing is deemed good enough by WG1 especially when using anomalies

    What you mean “eyeballing” you couldn’t be more wrong. They go so far as to @model it . You’re so far of target that its rediculous.

  40. Jill Rush
    December 27th, 2010 at 08:46 | #40

    Sarah Palin Fan #35 – I read the article you refer to which was written in the lead up to the 2007 election. There does appear to be a close link with holocaust denial and climate change denial in that the holocaust (which is vehemently denied by religious zealots in places like Iran) murdered millions. Climate change is also likely to kill millions of people and other life forms as well. The label of denier is helpful in understanding that negative stance and its potential for disaster.

    You suggest that labels are ipso facto wrong, whereas they can often be more illuminating than at first glance. For instance labelling oneself a fan of an ignorant but effective self promoter, who frighteningly wants control of the nuclear button which could lead to millions dead and a destroyed world, tells a whole story without further words.

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