Monday Message Board

Like some other Ozploggers, I’m counting on my readers and commentators to keep the blog alive while I eat, drink and make merry for at least the next week! Comment on any topic (no coarse language and civilised discussion please).

Blogging Christmas

This is my first Christmas since I started blogging, and it’s a particularly big one as my son Leigh is getting married early in the New Year! I’ll be returning to the Deep North (Townsville and further) for a couple of weeks. The TiBook is coming with me, so there may be occasional posts, but obviously I’ll have more important things on my mind than blogging. Judging by visitor numbers over the past few days, a lot of readers have already blogged off, but I still feel the need to supply something for those who remain. Ken Parish has dealt with the problem by addressing a set of questions to his readers and letting them argue it out. The debate seems to be moving along pretty well, particularly on the perennial question “What should Labor do next?”. I’ll try to post the Monday Message Board as usual, but I thought I’d try something different.

Using the “Future post” facility of Blogger Pro, I’ve put up a series of posts on various aspects of modern thought (part of the dictionary project in which I’m involved) to be published at a rate of one per day. I’d really appreciate your comments. But if you’re the kind of person who prefers to rip open all their presents at once, the whole series is already available over at Modern thought.

I also plan, if I get time, to implement the “Best of …” feature discussed a while ago, resurrecting posts I found interesting and using them to fill programming gaps in the non-ratings season.

In case I don’t get back to blogging till 2003, I wish all my readers peace and happiness for the New Year and all who celebrate it a Merry Christmas.

Alan McCallum on rural warming

Alan McCallum has weighed with a rural view of the debate on urban heat islands . I’ve taken the liberty of reproducing his short post in its entirety

As promised in a comment to a post by John Quiggin, here is a splatter diagram of all available Oz rural stations. It is a mistake to believe that because there is a pronounced difference between cities and rural areas [urban warming, or UW] that warming trends are not happening at rural climate stations. I can duplicate this exercise for the world, or assign world stations to about a thousand zones and average in each zone etc etc. The result is the same: The RURALS, as measured, and taking all of them into account, are warming!! Next question??

Don’t just look at the diagram though. Visit Alan’s site for a fascinating comments on a wide range of issues. Alan and I disagree on a lot of things (he lists me as his ‘token leftie’), but I think we agree on a lot of basic values and a fair number of specific issues.

Like me, Alan started getting leery of Keith Windschuttle when he mounted his attack on Popper. And I’m pleased to say that reading Lomborg converted Alan’s view of the global warming issue from “sceptic” to “fence-sitter”. He says

I still think that the data is not in, but just because the data is not in it is still possible to take a “guess”. And this “guess”, the mainstream scientific opinion, is probably right to some extent on the simple grounds that it is [almost] impossible for me to imagine either a major conspiracy, or a complete failure of the peer-review system. If either possibility were true Science is in serious difficulties.

This isn’t far from my own view of the issue, though I see the evidence as a bit more solid than Alan does, certainly enough to justify precautionary actions like Kyoto.

Update Aaron Oakley at Bizarre Science has blogged at inordinate length about the fact that I didn’t provide statistical evidence of significance here. He doesn’t appear to have noticed that I am linking to a scatterplot drawn by Alan McCallum, so obviously I don’t have the original data. In any case, I presented a statistical analysis months ago showing that the upward trend in global temperatures is indeed statistically significant, and Oakley commented several times, so he’s well aware that this issue has been resolved.

ABC Bias ?

Here’s one for Uncle at ABCwatch. An ABC news report with the headline ” Polls show Labor support still sliding”. The report starts

Two polls out today say the Labor Party is continuing to lose support.

but the actual news is that

The Morgan poll said if an election was held this month, it would have been too close to call as the two-party preferred count is close.

before going on with a brief summary of a Newspoll, reported in more detail in the Oz under the headline Labor’s faithful desert Crean The key finding

According to a quarterly Newspoll analysis of polling in marginal and safe seats, done exclusively for The Weekend Australian, the Coalition’s support has risen in key marginal electorates from 41 to 44 per cent, while Labor’s is unchanged on 39 per cent.

At the November election, where marginal seats determined the Coalition victory, Labor support was 40 per cent and the Coalition’s 42.8 per cent. Were an election held now, the figures say the Coalition would have a clear victory.

So we have two polls, one showing a dead heat and the other showing a tiny swing to the Coalition on first preferences (the rise of the Greens, whose preferences strongly favour Labor, would probably offset this). Of course, Howard is romping in on the “preferred Prime Minister” poll, but the incumbent nearly always leads on this measure

In my view, the reporting of these polls is indicative of bias, but not of party-political bias. Rather it is the bias of the conventional wisdom (this marvellous phrase, like many others is due, I believe to JK Galbraith). The CW has it that Howard is sitting pretty and so evidence is reported as reinforcing it, even when it is, at best neutral.

False Economies

Ross Gittins is one of the few economic commentators who understands that leisure and a pleasant working life are just as important as production, if not more so. In this piece, which came out when I was moving house, he asks

If micro-economic reform has been as hugely successful as the econocrats keep assuring us – and as the productivity figures confirm – why has the reform process virtually ground to a halt? Why have our politicians been struck down by “reform fatigue”?

and concludes that many of the apparent benefits of microeconomic reform are ‘false economies’. I get a nice mention as a ‘neoclassical iconoclast’.

Back to back to back

While we’re on the subject of world-class cliches, does anyone else find “back to back”, as in “back to back premierships” a trifle bizarre? Applied to people, or to any objects with a back and a front, it implies “facing in opposite directions”. And after putting two wins (or whatever) “back to back” what are you supposed to do with a third?