Home > Oz Politics > Tony Abbott, fact-checked and FOI’d

Tony Abbott, fact-checked and FOI’d

July 8th, 2013

The Conversation has now launched its election fact-checking site. The opening set includes a factcheck I’ve done, on a claim by Tony Abbott that it now takes three years to get a mine approved compared to less than twelve months six years ago. This is wrong on about as many levels as it can possibly be, the most important being

* The claim rests on a single coal mine in NSW, which was initially rejected, then approved on appeal
* The implied blame is directed to the Commonwealth government, which changed in 2007. But mine approval is mostly a state function, and most states have switched from Labor to LNP governments in the last six years

Meanwhile, there was a Twitterstorm over the weekend, about a story run by independent journalist Margo Kingston, who used FOI to determine that Abbott had been made to repay $9400, claimed as expenses while he was promoting his book Battlelines in 2009. MSM weren’t much interested, but the barrage of tweets has elicited at least one story, here in the Age.

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  1. Luke Elford
    July 11th, 2013 at 23:29 | #1

    I think it’s worth pointing out, since this debate about media bias started with Terje’s comments about Bolt versus the ABC and Bolt’s favourite topic is climate change, that although the media is generally found to be centrist, there is evidence of the sort Tim Macknay talks about which shows that the media’s coverage of climate change has been skewed well to the right of both public opinion and the median position of the political parties.

    I’m talking in particular about analysis of the media’s coverage of Ian Plimer’s book in 2009, which was much more favourable to it than unfavourable, with News Ltd in general and The Australian in particular leading the way. This was despite a majority of Australians believing at the time that climate change was caused by human activity, and the fact that this was clearly the position of Labor and the Greens, while the Coalition was divided on the matter.

    The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age probably came closest to reflecting public opinion, with 54% of their coverage critical of the book, 29% positive and 17% neutral. Meanwhile, a 2009 Essential Media survey found that 53% of respondents believed that climate change was human-made, 34% though it was natural fluctuation, and 13% didn’t know.

    Of course, of greater concern is the fact that the media’s coverage has been so slanted relative to the consensus of experts; the fact that public opinion and political party positions have been similarly skewed, but not to the same extent, makes the bias of the media as typically measured less, but from the perspective of implementing rational public policy makes the problem much worse.

  2. rog
    July 11th, 2013 at 23:56 | #2

    The purpose of quoting and then debating surveys such as above is questionable considering that

    less than two-thirds of the journalists we surveyed revealed their voting intention.

  3. July 12th, 2013 at 00:36 | #3

    @Luke Elford

    I understand the point, but isn’t it wrong (scientifically, factually, objectively) to talk about climate change as “right” and “left”?

    Isn’t the science clear? Nobody (who isn’t a clown/joke/liar/Murdoch Lovey) denies the science anymore. We are dealing with something so serious and scientifically established that the people against serious action must simply be pushed to one side. Maybe they can howl at the Fox logo or something, I don’t care much.

    I will not sit around and let them destroy my planet while they pretend they are better than me and the other 6 billion people on this earth.

  4. TerjeP
    July 12th, 2013 at 06:11 | #4

    @Luke Elford

    I think it’s worth pointing out, since this debate about media bias started with Terje’s comments about Bolt versus the ABC …

    I was responding to comment #4 by Hermit. Which by the way started with the following inaccurate statement.

    I understand Abbott has declined to be interviewed on the ABC for months, perhaps a year.

  5. Julie Thomas
    July 12th, 2013 at 07:07 | #5

    Terje

    “Are you proud of quoting a claim that comes from a program that’s never objective or balanced? Do you do this sort of thing very often?”

    Yes I do and I am proud of my attempts to be more objective than I once was.

    Listening to the other with a real intention to understand what assumptions they are making and how, what and where their/your belief comes from is the only way to understand where my ‘beliefs’ come from and with that sort of insight I learn how to think more rationally/objectively.

    All the modern psychological research backs up the wisdom of the ancients in this matter; seeker, know thyself.

  6. kevin1
    July 12th, 2013 at 07:32 | #6

    @Tim Macknay

    All the studies of this kind which have been done in Australia in recent years have found no significant partisan bias in Australian broadcast media, including the ABC and commercial broadcasters.

    As some of the discussion is conflating broadcast media with print media, have there been similar studies on print media? Unless these studies are recent enough to incorporate the dynamics of technology and social media, I suspect they are irrelevant.

    I guess I expect more visceral, ex tempore venting of feelings and biases in the airspace, with the wordspace more thought-based and constrained by the greater accountability associated with the written word, although the blogosphere influence could be ambiguous on that aspect. (Now where did I get that idea?)

    Didn’t Marshall McLuhan call TV a hot medium? Or maybe it was a cool medium: I expect someone will set me straight. :)

  7. kevin1
    July 12th, 2013 at 08:01 | #7

    @TerjeP

    Bernard Keane at Crikey has compiled a table for Jun-Dec 2012 which shows he avoids questioning by the press gallery and the ABC, in favour of media doorstops where “colour” is the theme. Gillard by contrast did not shirk the uncomfortable issues, fielding 80 questions at her press conference last August on the AWU, and 33 in November. Abbott did a lot more radio interviews than Gillard, but not on the ABC. Being less accessible to the radio shock jocks sounds to me like a judicious use of time for a PM.

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/02/13/mythbusting-on-abbott-and-the-media-but-who-asked-the-questions/

    You can justify Abbott’s avoidance on the grounds of political tactics, but transparency it is not. I think most of us want politicians to lean more towards meeting our interests rather than their own, and I thought libertarians would agree. He increasingly seems to me to have less to say, rather than more – repeating whole sentences twice during a factory door stop the other day.

  8. Luke Elford
    July 12th, 2013 at 08:16 | #8

    @Megan

    I’m simply describing rejection of the scientific consensus on climate change as a more right wing position than acceptance of the scientific consensus, a description I can’t imagine anybody would object to. I’m not saying that those who reject the scientific consensus have any intellectual integrity in doing so.

    I also don’t mean to suggest that media reporting of these matters should reflect public opinion or the positions of the political parties. In fact, one of my main points in bringing up the example is to highlight the difference between media bias relative to public opinion and the positions of political parties, which is what’s generally viewed as bias, and media bias relative to reality. In their analysis of media partisanship, Joshua Gans and Andrew Leigh were careful to point out that if the media heavily criticised a political party for declaring that the earth is flat, this would be captured as media “slant” in their analysis, even though judged against the standard of scientific truth, it is no way biased. They were simply measuring the positions of media organisations relative to the positions of the political parties.

    My other point was that climate change seems to be an important exception when it comes to the tendency of the media (both print and broadcast) generally to adopt centrist positions. If you thought that media coverage of the issue was out of line with public opinion and the positions of the political parties (never mind the scientific consensus), there is evidence in support of this view.

  9. Ikonoclast
    July 12th, 2013 at 08:39 | #9

    Media bias can be ignored by ignoring the media itself. I never read a physical newspaper. I might read articles online but not if they are pay-walled. Having said that, of course media bias is a problem.

    I remember having a primary school teacher in grade 7 who told us the newspapers and TV news consisted of “news and views” and we had to learn to tell the difference. Of course, he would have had to update that for these times and say that they consisted of “news, views, errors and lies” in ascending order of quantities.

    Gullibility is a strange thing. Tell people any manner of metaphysical supposition and they will believe it in droves. Take the major religions, even if any one of them is correct (which I highly doubt) then all the others are ipso facto incorrect which means the majority of the world’s humans simply believe a lot of totally invented stuff.

    However, tell people something based on hard science, millions of tests and billions of pieces of data and evidence and they will disbelieve you in droves. Methinks it strange. It would worth a thesis in itself. Does general belief, acceptance and opinion exist in inverse proportion to the hardness (“empirical-ness”) of the evidence? If so, why? Why are human brains and human communications disposed to operate in this manner?

  10. TerjeP
    July 12th, 2013 at 09:08 | #10

    @Julie Thomas

    My point was that you cite a source and rubbish that source in the same breath. This makes it hard to take your point seriously. If you think Counter Point is unreliable then why cite the things that it says? My question is part criticism, part curiosity.

    However I do want to say that I strongly agree with the following point that you made:-

    Listening to the other with a real intention to understand what assumptions they are making and how, what and where their/your belief comes from is the only way to understand where my ‘beliefs’ come from and with that sort of insight I learn how to think more rationally/objectively.

    A lot of people don’t want to hear any criticism or seek to grapple with alternate beliefs. I think we should. Criticism can be hard on the ego but if you don’t open yourself up to criticism you don’t grow. It’s a big part of why I participate at sites like this one where most people hold a world view that is very foreign to my own outlook. Sometimes this place makes me a bit cranky but I persist because on the whole I think the endurance test makes me a better person. In my professional and personal life I see it as vital that I understand alternate perspectives. Although obviously I don’t typically spend my time outside cyberspace trying to debate every disagreeable political belief that I encounter.

  11. TerjeP
    July 12th, 2013 at 09:14 | #11

    p.s. I’m also glad to hear that you see rationality as a virtue to be pursued. We seem to live in an age where the personal pursuit of virtue is often rubbished. Even though we may disagree on a lot I’m pleased we share this outlook.

  12. kevin1
    July 12th, 2013 at 09:21 | #12

    I’m glad we are contributing to your character development ;) but I am curious as to how it has changed your views.

  13. July 12th, 2013 at 09:27 | #13

    TerjeP, with reference to the Bolt article I linked to earlier, are you aware that scientists do believe that we face sea level increases of 6 meters and worse if we continue to increase greenhouse gas levels as we have and so accept that in that article Andrew Bolt is lying?

  14. Jim Birch
    July 12th, 2013 at 09:59 | #14

    Ikonoclast wrote:

    If so, why? Why are human brains and human communications disposed to operate in this manner?

    Simple answer: biology. The universal aim of biological systems is better exploit the local available resources than their competitors. The brain did not develop as a machine for ascertaining truth. It developed to better exploit resources including power and sexual opportunities in tribal life. The sort of decades-out predictions that eg climate scientists make are totally absent in the biological world which is focussed on the next breakfast. The unnatural and profligate practice of empiricism only became possible with economic surplus so really only got going after the industrial revolution. The brain’s main capability is learning complex patterns of behaviour.

  15. Fran Barlow
    July 12th, 2013 at 10:02 | #15

    As understandable as it is to want to measure ‘bias’ in the MBCM, IMO, it’s not something that one can quantify or evaluate in the way one can measure the mass of physical objects, or the numbers of units on a process line or even the ‘bias’ of a lawn bowl. The concepts of ‘bias’ and ‘balance’ imply the existence of some form of absolute truth, or perhaps relative truths which when composed by objective and professional people can amount to truth. I’d say that’s untenable.

    Even measuring ‘partisanship’ is going to be hard because while egregious examples are easy to spot, once again, placing them on some common scale, evaluating the relative likelihood that they will mislead people in some measurable way, and so forth is going to be hard to code. How does one account for context? Audience resistance to some instances but not others? Does trolling ‘praise’ count as partisanship? If for example, while Gillard was PM, would praise of R**d by the Murdochracy amount to ‘partisanship’?

    It seems to me that we ought to abandon such attempts on the basis that the data collected can’t possibly achieve what people naively hope it can achieve.

    Rather, we should demand intellectual rigour of the MBCM. Let us examine news and commentary for accuracy and salience. Let us examine the claims made and ask how well they correspond to observable and measurable reality and whether they furnish all of the salient information required for people to draw reliable inferences about about the matter being discussed. Let us examine the extent to which they comment on key areas of public policy — health, education, the environment, housing, social provision and inclusion and the like and how much of their physical or electronic footprint is taken up with matters not closely related to these things.

    I declare in advance that I don’t care which party or interest intellectually rigorous journalism serves. I would like to have more of the data and resultant analysis for deciding what to make of the world they report on.

  16. July 12th, 2013 at 10:25 | #16

    Hi Megan,

    @ 3 you wrote

    “Isn’t the science clear? Nobody (who isn’t a clown/joke/liar/Murdoch Lovey) denies the science anymore. We are dealing with something so serious and scientifically established that the people against serious action must simply be pushed to one side.”

    Well the respected science publishing group ‘Nature’ states the science isn’t clear !

    “The dramatic warming predicted after 2008 has yet to arrive.

    An article published in Nature laments the dismal failure of climate models to predict climate a mere 5 years into the future, much less a century from now.

    Some other points of interest:

     “It’s fair to say that the real world warmed even less than our forecast suggested,” [modeller] Smith says. “We don’t really understand at the moment why that is.” “

     “Although I have nothing against this endeavour as a research opportunity, the papers so far have mostly served as a ‘disproof of concept’,” says Gavin Schmidt. Schmidt says that these efforts are “a little misguided”. He argues that it is difficult to attribute success or failure to any particular parameter because the inherent unpredictability of weather and climate is built into both the Earth system and the models. “It doesn’t suggest any solutions,” he says.

     “Because the climate does not usually change drastically from one year to the next, the model is bound to start off predicting conditions that are close to reality. But that effect quickly wears off as the real climate evolves. If this is the source of the models’ accuracy, that advantage fades quickly after a few years.”

     “Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, says that it could be a decade or more before this research really begins to pay off in terms of predictive power, and even then climate scientists will be limited in what they can say about the future.”

    Limited in what they can say about the future?

    You can read about it here;

    http://www.nature.com/news/climate-change-the-forecast-for-2018-is-cloudy-with-record-heat-1.13344

    Kind regards,

    phoenix

  17. alfred venison
    July 12th, 2013 at 11:12 | #17

    @Megan
    Or you could just fill those pages with “PR journalism” instead of real journalism”

    Megan, of course, great idea! and you could assign all the labor and green voting journalists to write them up. bingo problem solved. i wonder if voting intentions cluster along departments, like sport, news & current affairs, real estate and science documentaries, for example. -a.v.

  18. Tim Macknay
    July 12th, 2013 at 11:23 | #18

    @phoenix
    Phoenix, since you presumably read that Naturearticle, you should be aware that it is not about the science of global warming at all. Nor is it about the standard climate models used to assess global warming.

    It is about a particular new technique, known as “decadal climate forecasting”, which aims to provide accurate climate forecasts up to a decade ahead, in a manner analogous to weather forecasts. The gist of the article is that this technique is in its infancy, and so far it hasn’t lived up to the expectations of its proponents.

    But the article says nothing about the general state of climate science, or the reliability of standard climate models.

    There are two ways to interpret your comment: either you didn’t really understand the article and made assumptions about it based on your existing prejudices, or you deliberately misrepresented it. I suppose it would be appropriate to apply the principle of charity, and assume that you didn’t understand it.

  19. may
    July 12th, 2013 at 11:51 | #19

    phoenix :@may
    “but isn’t the editor the one with the say on what is published”
    Yes, but when 75% of the journalists are left wingers, the editor would have to leave out 2/3s of the left wingers stories to balance up the content with the stories of the 25% of right wingers . i.e 50% of the paper would be blank.

    not neccessarily.

    your assumption is an even-steven share of ideological positions.

    just allow most of the ostensible 25% the lions share (call it expert opinion)of available space and give a bit of token space to the ostensible 75%.

    and voila!
    an information industry that looks very much like the one we currently have.

  20. July 12th, 2013 at 11:59 | #20

    @Tim Macknay

    Thanks Tim.

    On reflection:

    Nobody (who isn’t a clown/joke/liar/Murdoch Lovey) denies the science anymore

    I should have included another, more charitable category, maybe “misinformed” or “misled”.

  21. July 12th, 2013 at 12:37 | #21

    Hi Tim and Megan,

    Thank you for your responses.

    I know it is lamentable; the dismal failure of climate models to predict climate a mere 5 years into the future, much less a century from now; and the dramatic warming predicted after 2008 that has yet to arrive.

    It is understandable when alarmists are faced with these two stark realities that do not fit the future predictions of their theories, they then have to resort to the lame left wing debating tactic of attacking the messenger, as that is the only way to divert attention away from the deficiencies in their theory and argument.

    Kind regard,

    phoenix

  22. may
    July 12th, 2013 at 12:43 | #22

    lame left wing?

  23. Mel
    July 12th, 2013 at 12:51 | #23

    “Nobody (who isn’t a clown/joke/liar/Murdoch Lovey) denies the science anymore … ”

    This applies equally to climate science, water fluoridation, genetic engineering and vaccines (1).

    Anyone who rejects any of these things or says disingenuous things like “more consultation/research is needed” is indeed a nuff nuff.

    Sadly, Christine Milne is taking the Greens down the nuff nuff path on genetic engineering. Thankfully, other than in Queensland, the anti-fluoride nuff nuffs in the Greens don’t appear to matter, at least at the moment. The anti-vaxers are even less relevant.

    With a bit of luck, Mr Rabbit will not belted in September but Rudd may still have to deal with nutty old Christine.

    (1) Nonetheless, a skeptical frame of mind should apply to all things, including these as scientific truths are always provisional.

  24. ratee
    July 12th, 2013 at 12:56 | #24

    @phoenix
    Your conclusions are strange to say the least. The article is talking about the difference between the concensus predictions of the trend over 50-100 years vs the difficulties of predicting the next 5-10 years within that trend. Sort of like saying that we predict with high confidence the weather in 6 months will be on average warmer than “now”, but then demand an accurate forecast of the temperature in 2 weeks – its beyond the forecasting models to handle that variability. It no way does it invalidate the longer term – nor does the failure to get it right first time invalidate the science or the attempt. When it fails to rain today despite yesterdays forecast we don’t stop thinking the forecasts are worthless.
    But thanks for the link.

  25. Tim Macknay
    July 12th, 2013 at 13:27 | #25

    @phoenix
    Phoenix, I pointed out what the article actually says, and you respond by accusing me of attacking the messenger and using something called a “left wing debating tactic”.

    Your reply is disappointing, but not surprising.

  26. Fran Barlow
    July 12th, 2013 at 13:59 | #26

    @Tim Macknay

    Come on Tim … don’t play innocent. Why not admit that compelled by the force of Phoenix, you had no good alternative but to pull out one of those left-wing shoot-the-messenger debating tactics?

    Once Phoenix showed how our existing climate models have failed to predict accurately the climate in 2113, you really were cornered, no?

    ;-)

  27. kevin1
    July 12th, 2013 at 14:03 | #27

    @Fran Barlow
    I agree with “intellectual rigour” but suggest that is largely in the eye of the beholder, subject to preferred style, weighting of arguments etc., when it comes to an ordinal ranking of statements. I sigh when I hear of the need for evidence-based” policy – as if there should be any other.

    Having said that, there are experts who are able to present a stronger case than others. I recall Rod Tiffen at University of Sydney wrote in “Diplomatic Deceits – Government, Media and East Timor” (UNSW Press 2001) which documented a strong case on that issue.

  28. Fran Barlow
    July 12th, 2013 at 14:03 | #28

    Mind you, looking at my last post, maybe Phoenix was just being cryptic about the climate in 100 years. Maybe he meant to say that climate models should predict the climate in the postcode 2113 (i.e North Ryde).

    Perhaps he’s just doing that old rightwing thing of confusing climate with weather. ;-)

  29. Tim Macknay
    July 12th, 2013 at 14:25 | #29

    Fran, I admit I was forced to change the subject to climate change because I was unable to counter Phoenix’s astute claims that gay marriage… well, whatever it was that Phoenix thought s/he was trying to say about gay marriage. ;)

  30. Julie Thomas
    July 12th, 2013 at 16:02 | #30

    Terje like Kevin1 says, tell us how your views have changed from your participation here.

    If this place is the only alternative source of ideas you have, then I win hands down.

    I read quite a lot of conservative stuff – can’t handle Quadrant though, and the libertarian stuff is even more tedious. The BHL’s are like the churchmen of old arguing about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. They have nothing but sophistry and the motivation to self-justify.

    And all I can say in answer to the difficulty you have taking me seriously, is that I can’t take you seriously either.

    Therapy over :)

  31. kevin1
    July 12th, 2013 at 17:23 | #31

    @TerjeP #3

    (This has been into moderation for too long so before it becomes irrelevant I am resubmitting it without a link to the Crikey article – 2013/02/13/mythbusting-on-abbott-and-the-media-but-who-asked-the-questions )

    Bernard Keane at Crikey has compiled a table for Jun-Dec 2012 which shows he avoids questioning by the press gallery and the ABC, in favour of media doorstops where “colour” is the theme. Gillard by contrast did not shirk the uncomfortable issues, fielding 80 questions at her press conference last August on the AWU, and 33 in November. Abbott did a lot more radio interviews than Gillard, but not on the ABC. Being less accessible to the radio shock jocks sounds to me like a judicious use of time for a PM.

    You can justify Abbott’s avoidance on the grounds of political tactics, but transparency it is not. I think most of us want politicians to lean more towards meeting our interests rather than their own, and I thought libertarians would agree. He increasingly seems to me to have less to say, rather than more – repeating whole sentences twice during a factory door stop the other day.

  32. Garry Claridge
    July 12th, 2013 at 17:47 | #32

    @Mel
    Re: “Sadly, Christine Milne is taking the Greens down the nuff nuff path on genetic engineering.”

    Mel, it is not the science that is being questioned, it is the application and business models of the corporations promoting GM products.

    Perhaps as an analogy; nuclear science is not in question, its application as nuclear weapons is!

  33. Fran Barlow
    July 12th, 2013 at 18:47 | #33

    @kevin1

    I agree with “intellectual rigour” but suggest that is largely in the eye of the beholder,

    I disagree. Certainly, academics analysing news copy might differ honestly on what is or is not salient and thus what would adequately inform the reader, particularly when perforce, come copy is quite short. I’m not an epistemological relativist however.

    Any honest and competent academic could distinguish between accurate claims and false or misleading claims, and likewise distinguish between claims that require expertise and a degree of independence from those where anyone’s claim will serve. They can understand language in context and discern when a headline makes claims that are either not advanced or advanced implausibly in the body of the piece or when pieces are not about specified areas of public interest (eg public policy in health, education, the environment etc) and when they are about entertainment or matters of lifestyle or are advertisements or advertorial.

    Intellectual rigour, of the kind I have in mind, is at the margins debatable, but this is a fairly minor problem of analysis with which I’d be happy to live.

  34. Mel
    July 12th, 2013 at 20:39 | #34

    GC: “Mel, it is not the science that is being questioned, it is the application and business models of the corporations promoting GM products.”

    Nope, it is both. Christine Milne is a reactionary nutjob.

  35. TerjeP
    July 12th, 2013 at 21:49 | #35

    Ronald Brak :
    TerjeP, with reference to the Bolt article I linked to earlier, are you aware that scientists do believe that we face sea level increases of 6 meters and worse if we continue to increase greenhouse gas levels as we have and so accept that in that article Andrew Bolt is lying?

    Ronald – Just for kicks what does the IPCC report have to say on the range of sea level projections for the year 2100?

  36. TerjeP
    July 12th, 2013 at 22:07 | #36

    kevin1 :
    I’m glad we are contributing to your character development but I am curious as to how it has changed your views.

    I can’t recall how long I’ve been following this blog but I think it is over ten years. Certainly I was exchanging views with JQ before 9/11.

    This blog has probably changed my views in a number of ways I can’t recall. However one change I am aware or is that I do remember believing circa 1999 that people on the left could be persuaded to abandon their flawed thinking if I was patient with them. This blog has slowly taught me that differences of opinion are rooted at a much deeper more fundamental level and few people are persuaded by the political arguments of their ideological opponents. The best either side can hope to do is get them whilst they’re young. At times I find this quite despairing and I’m probably more cynical about politics as a result.

  37. July 12th, 2013 at 22:52 | #37

    @TerjeP

    people on the left could be persuaded to abandon their flawed thinking

    Could you define what that “flawed thinking” is, please?

    In other words: You identify a “left” and define it by this “flawed thinking”, but what exactly is this thinking?

  38. July 13th, 2013 at 11:48 | #38

    TerjeP, the average projections for sea level rise for 2100 are well below six meters. But scientists do not reject a six meter sea rise over time. It’s predicted under “business as usual” projections and in An Inconvenient Truth Gore does not give a time frame for a six meter sea level rise. So Bolt is lying.

  39. Michael
    July 13th, 2013 at 13:47 | #39

    ” So Bolt is lying.”

    There’s a surprise.

    That Bolt is an agenda driven mouthpiece, rather than a journalist, goes without saying.

    What’s harder to explain, and more interesting, are the efforts of others to defend Bolt’s patent nonsense.

  40. Jim Rose
    July 13th, 2013 at 15:45 | #40

    @Fran Barlow

    Any honest and competent academic could distinguish between accurate claims and false or misleading claims, and likewise distinguish between claims that require expertise and a degree of independence from those where anyone’s claim will serve.

    can any honest and competent maxist and non-marxist academic both distinguish between accurate claims and false or misleading claims. they do disagree on how the world works and what shape people’s preferences and their ability to act on their preferences.

    Too many subscribe to what Popper called the conspiracy theory of ignorance:

    The conspiracy theory of ignorance which interprets ignorance not as a mere lack of knowledge but as the work of some sinister power, the source of impure and evil influ­ences which pervert and poison our minds and instil in us the habit of res­ist­ance to know­ledge

    The truth is plain to see but for malevolent forces. The possibility that are ignorance is large in the social sciences and many consequences are unintended are not exciting explanations.

    Milton Friedman argued that people agree on most objectives, but differ on the predicted outcomes of different policies and institutions.

    Then there is Christopher Robert and Richard Zeckhauser‘s taxonomy of disagreement:

    Positive disagreements can be over questions of:
    1. Scope: what elements of the world one is trying to understand
    2. Model: what mechanisms explain the behaviour of the world
    3. Estimate: what estimates of the model’s parameters are thought to obtain in particular contexts

    Values disagreements can be over questions of:
    1. Standing: who counts
    2. Criteria: what counts
    3. Weights: how much different individuals and criteria count

    Any positive analysis will tend to include elements of scope, model, and estimation, though often these elements intertwine; they frequently feature in an implicit or undifferentiated manner. Likewise, normative analysis will also include elements of standing, criteria, and weights, whether or not these distinctions are recognized.

  41. TerjeP
    July 13th, 2013 at 23:38 | #41

    @Ronald Brak

    TerjeP, the average projections for sea level rise for 2100 are well below six meters.

    The IPCC looked at several predictive models. It is not just the average that was well below six metres. The IPCC models with the most extreme predictions are also way below six metres.

  42. TerjeP
    July 13th, 2013 at 23:42 | #42

    @Megan

    Could you define what that “flawed thinking” is, please?
    In other words: You identify a “left” and define it by this “flawed thinking”, but what exactly is this thinking?

    The flawed thinking is the belief that a large state sector is a good thing for society. And that any effort to reduce the size of the state is evil.

  43. July 14th, 2013 at 01:18 | #43

    @TerjeP

    That’s a bit inexact.

    Who decides what defines a “large” state sector? A one teacher public school would not be “large”, would it?

    Can you narrow your definition of “large” a bit, please?

    “Any” effort to reduce the size of the state is “evil”? Isn’t that just a bit fuzzy?

    Is that it? This “flawed thinking”?

    Please tell me you can do better.

  44. July 14th, 2013 at 01:27 | #44

    PS: Serco and GS4 are under serious investigation in the UK for their mishandling (ie: fraud and theft from the public) of “prisoner” work outsourced to them. The fraud runs into the tens of BILLIONS of pounds.

    When you criticise a “large state sector” are you suggesting that Serco and GS4 are a “good thing”, and that just because they are unaccountable they are somehow ‘not’ doing the work of the state – and are ipso facto “good” and un-evil?

    I’d like you to share your clarity here.

  45. July 14th, 2013 at 09:08 | #45

    TerjeP, it does not matter what sea level rise is predicted for 2100. Let me quote again what Bolt wrote: “Here he was, receiving film’s highest honour for his smash documentary, in which he warns that within a century the seas will rise up to 6m while monster hurricanes tear through what’s left of our cities.

    Never mind that scientists reject such wild claims.”

    In the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore never gave a time period for a six meter sea level rise, so you can either accept that Bolt is lying or you can try to convince me that this is some sort of uncharacteristic mistake by him that he does not repeat. As far as I can see those are the only two choices available to you.

  46. Jim Rose
    July 14th, 2013 at 15:43 | #46

    a six meter sea level rise was predicated on an ice sheet collapsing in greenland.

    see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XxV9TOCdIY for Al Gore’s simulation of sea level rise in Florida and San Francisco

    if it was not anytime soon, why mention it?

  47. Julie Thomas
    July 14th, 2013 at 16:26 | #47

    Terje

    “The flawed thinking is the belief that a large state sector is a good thing for society. And that any effort to reduce the size of the state is evil.”

    I don’t think that and I don’t know anyone who does. You are misunderstanding – or misrepresenting because of your need to maintain your self-assessment as a superior and more rational thinker person – what my ‘leftist’ friends and I want for society.

    I think the uninformed and ideologically based reduction of the size of the state that you adovcate is stupid and lazy. Evil is a religious concept and the use of the word reveals that your sophisticated arguments are based on unexamined? conservative fundamentalist assumptions about human nature.

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