Weekend reflections

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

Delusionists demolished

The presentation of The Great Global Warming Swindle on ABC TV was a huge success, but not of course for the delusionists who pushed for it, notably including Michael Duffy. Tony Jones comprehensively demolished Martin Durkin, doing an excellent job of covering the critique from all angles including
* Durkin’s past history of fraud
* The fraudulent history and Big Tobacco links of people like Singer and Seitz (Lindzen got a passing hit on this later on)
* The bodgy qualifications of many of the so-called experts on the show
* Dodgy and doctored graphs dating back 20 years or more
* The Wunsch misrepresentation
* The absurdity of the conspiracy theory central to the show
* The drastic shortening of the version we saw, reflecting the deletion of the most outrageous lies

Of course, he only covered a fraction of the lies, and while the panel discussion pointed to even more (the ice core stuff) a film like this takes longer to refute than to watch. I’ve already linked to some replies and I understand that the Federation of Australian Science and Technology Societies will have more.

After all this, Michael Duffy got the first chance to respond and Jones asked him straight out whether he backed the film. Of course, Duffy couldn’t defend it, so he dodged into a tu quoque about the Stern Review. His only subsequent contribution was to flash some props meant to back the conspiracy theory he was unwilling to endorse out loud. Bob Carter was similarly evasive, launching into a rambling postmodernist thought experiment that apparently showed that there is no such thing as truth so it doesn’t matter if Durkin lied. Later he dragged out his 1998 cherrypicking line. By contrast with these two, Ray Evans was refreshingly straightforward in his wrongness, making even more explicit claims of fraud and repeating all the old stuff (satellite data, the hockey stick and even urban heat islands).

Overall, a good night for science and the environment and a bad night for delusionists, including those in government ranks, such as Nick Minchin, who will doubtless be regretting his endorsement.

UpdateI didn’t bother watching the audience discussion section, but the comments I’ve seen (and the cheers when silly things were said by Carter and Evans) indicate the presence of a strong contingent of obviously unhinged delusionists. So much the better, I’d say.

Further update There’s video here “Unhinged” doesn’t begin to describe it. Even Ray Evans, representing the lunar right Lavoisier Group, has his head in his hands as Tony Jones fields a string of increasingly bizarre questions/statements from LaRouchites, several of them cunningly disguised as ordinary people. Carbon-14, Kepler, Plato, and of course the Royal Family’s plot to wipe out most of humanity all get a run.

Meltdown at the Oz, Part II

Following the bizarre attack on Clive Hamilton a few weeks ago, the Oz editorial page gives a full length response to the various online sources (mostly not named, but Peter Brent at Mumble cops the most flak, and Crikey is obviously an intended target) who bagged Tuesday’s silly beatup of a no-news opinion poll. Not only that, it seems that a post at Tim Dunlop’s blogocracy, commenting on the editorial, has been removed. Naturally, the blogosphere has gone to town on this. LP has commentary and heaps of links, many pointing out the absurdity of relying on the “preferred PM” question, not that you need a blog on this point

But the silliest thing doesn’t come until the end, where the editorial says

It reflects how out of touch with ordinary views so many on-line commentators are. They claim to understand the mainstream but in reality represent a clique that believes what it considers to be the evils of the Howard Government position on Iraq, climate change, and Work Choices to be self-evident truths. They despair that Mr Howard has not suffered the same collapse in public support as US President George W Bush and Newspoll makes it clear Mr Howard still enjoys very strong support in the electorate.

Say what? There’s ample opinion poll evidence to show that on Iraq, Workchoices and climate change, it’s the Oz and the government who are hopelessly out of touch with ordinary views.

As for saying that “Newspoll makes it clear Mr Howard still enjoys very strong support in the electorate”, this is a piece of question-begging even more absurd than the original article. I think it’s safe to say that the main emotion felt on the left, when reading the results of Newspoll and its competitors, is not despair but fear that they are too good to be true.

If a blogger was writing pieces like this in response to relatively restrained criticism of a silly post, I’d anticipate reading a “Farewell” post in the near future, or possibly just finding the site taken down. I don’t know exactly what the mainstream media equivalent would be, but clearly the Oz knows it is in big trouble.

Republican War on Science, yet again

Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, a Bush appointee, has told a Congressional committee that “top officials in the Bush administration repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.”

This isn’t news to anyone who’s been paying attention, but it does demonstrate, yet again, that it’s impossible to be pro-Republican and pro-science at the same time. This isn’t just a matter of the Bush administration. Every important element of the Republican base is anti-science, as are all the main pro-Republican thinktanks, blogs and so on. The issues differ from group to group (the religious right focuses on evolution and stem cells, libertarians on global warming and passive smoking, the business base on more specific environmental and public health regulation) but all of them use the same kinds of arguments. The debating tricks used by global warming delusionists have been taken straight from the creationist playbook. More importantly, all of them take for granted the view that science is inherently political, and that what matters is getting the politics right.
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The Right Swindles Itself on Global Warming

Apparently under pressure from rightwingers inlcuding Janet Albrechtsen on its board the ABC will broadcast The Great Global Warming Swindle tomorrow night. This piece looks like being the last hurrah for the delusionists in Australia – even JA herself seems to have got the memo recently.

I’m not going to bother with the tired talking points presented in Durkin’s film. The Wikipedia article (to which I’ve contributed a bit) does an excellent job on it, as on most forms of delusionism, and there are more critiques here. Paul Norton notes that some of the most clearly bogus elements have been cut from the version to be shown here, but the basic claim, that thousands of scientists and all the world’s major scientific organizations are engaged in a gigantic fraud (directed from beyond the grave by Margaret Thatcher!), remains right out there in LaRouche/Lavoisier territory.

The more interesting point to me, is the way the political right in Australia is swindling itself here.
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Virtue is its own reward

Today’s Oz is an impressive contribution to the literature on silk purse manufacture, drawing on extremely unpromising raw material. Faced with a poll showing an unchanged and massive Labor lead, the Oz uses a (statistically and effectively) insignificant improvement in Howard’s score on the preferred PM question as the basis of a string of screaming headlines, plus an editorial and the obligatory Shanahan opinion piece.

More interesting though is the premise that this huge upsurge in support is due to the new policy on NT aboriginal communities, for which the poll reports 61 per cent support. The problem is that an earlier Galaxy poll, prominently reported in the Murdoch showed that most people thought Howard was motivated by political self-seeking rather than genuine concern. So the head of Newspoll is wheeled out to explain why the direct question “Do you support the policy” is the right one, and the Galaxy question the wrong one. He’s right of course, if you want to find out about support for the policy. And of course, there’s nothing surprising about the outcome. While some people have opposed the policy outright, most, including Kevin Rudd, have given at least partial support, complaining about the ideological baggage and lack of real resources. (My view, from last week’s Fin, is over the fold).

But the Oz has been too clever by half here. All of its coverage is about how the policy has been politically advantageous for the government. In other words, it is confirming with acres of print the majority judgement of the respondents to the Galaxy Poll. Clearly, for the Oz it is all about political self-seeking.
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What I’ve been reading

National Insecurity: The Howard Government’s Betrayal of Australia by Weiss, Thurbon and Mathews, which follows up their earlier book How to Kill A Country, an attack on the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

The hyperbolic titles of these books are not to my taste (though they may help to sell books). The books themselves are less strident than the titles would suggest, and raise issues that should be debated more. Weiss, Thurbon and Mathews take a left-nationalist perspective on Australia’s relationship with the United States, seeing the Liberal party and the Howard government in particular as representing a segment of the capitalist class that benefits from an alliance with US Republicans at the expense of Australia as a whole including workers, domestically-focused business and Australians in general considered as citizens of a putatively independent country.

Before examining this claim, I think it’s worth making some factual points that ought to be common ground to most of us

First, since World War II, Australia has followed the US line in foreign policy more closely than any other country (maybe there are some unimportant statelets who’ve been closer, but I’m not aware of them).

Second, the Liberal party has generally favoured an more complete identification of Australian and US interests than Labor

Third, among Liberal governments, the Howard government has gone further than any other in this respect[1}

Fourth, the Howard government has, since 2000, aligned itself strongly with the Republican Party and the Bush Administration, and explicitly against the Democratic Party.
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Groundhog day

While looking back at whether Iraq was “all about oil“, I thought it might be a good idea to check on the US reconstruction program, and found the State Department report for April 2007. The lead items are electricity generating capacity and oil output, which used to be followed eagerly by those in the blogosphere arguing that the MSM were ignoring “Good News from Iraq”. As Tim Lambert and Jim Henley pointed out a couple of years ago, the same good news kept getting announced over and over again, but the prewar levels (average electricity output of 4300 MW, availability of 11 hours per day, oil output 2.5 million barrels per day (MBPD)) were never surpassed.

We don’t hear quite so much about good news from Iraq these days. The original good news blogger Arthur Chrenkoff shut up shop a while ago. Winds of Change picked up the baton, but seems to have given up. Google finds this site with three entries this year, none containing any actual good news, and this quasi-official site, apparently produced by the Defense Department, and mainly reproducing press releases. It’s not clear whether press releases containing bad news are excluded or whether no such releases are issued.

So, I’ll pick up the ball and summarise the news in the State Department’s report. At this stage, 99 per cent of the US money has been committed, and 87 per cent has been spent, so there’s no more where that came from. Adding “new”, “restored” and “maintained” generating capacity, we get a total of 4373MW, which, assuming 80 per cent uptime, would correspond to average output of around 3500MW. Oil shows a capacity of 2.7MBPD and output of 1.9MBPD. (Table is over the fold). Then there’s the usual schools and hospitals, but these days both schools and hospitals in Iraq are very dangerous places to attend.

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