Earthquake/tsunami in Japan

Yet another terrible disaster, this time in Japan. Already our floods which destroyed so much, and killed a number of people seem like a relatively modest event in retrospect. And all of these things are insignificant in comparison to the daily toll exacted by poverty and hunger in the world.

Obama and Bush

The announcement that military show trials are to recommence at Guantanamo Bay, combined with the brutal and vindictive treatment of Bradley Manning, make it clear that, as regards willing to suppress basic human and civil rights in the name of security, there is no fundamental difference between the Obama and Bush Administrations. The first obvious question is, why? The second is, how to respond?

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Sock puppet alert

I recently banned commenter “Charlie” for the suggestion that Queenslanders deserved to suffer from the floods because we didn’t build enough dams. Immediately, a new commenter “Henry Maltby” sprang to Charlie’s defence claiming, among other things to be a recent arrival in Queensland, considering study at UQ. The behavior patterns were suspicious enough for me to do an IP check that revealed, unsurprisingly, that Charlie and Maltby were the same person, with an address in Adelaide (I have my suspicions, as to who it is, but nothing definite). For any site-owners who don’t like abusive sockpuppeteers, the IP address to look for is

Any sockpuppeteer is, by definition, a liar and fraud. But Charlie/Maltby also told numerous specific lies, and explicitly pretended to be two different people (rather than merely reappearing under a new name). And, as well as being a liar and fraud, s/he/it’s obviously a fool – too dumb even to spoof a fake IP address.

Update While Charlie/Maltby has been trolling here, Tim Curtin has been emailing me in an apparently civil fashion, and he sent me another email shortly after this was posted, admitting to it. It was, in any case, a very simple matter to check that he is using the same IP address as the sock puppets.

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An above average performance

Andrew Bolt links to the latest satellite data from Roy Spencer at UAH, shown below

and states that “Global temperatures in February remained below the long term average, thanks to the La Nina – but despite decades of allegedly catastrophic man-made warming.”

As can easily be seen from the graph, the zero line is not the long-term average, at least in the ways in which this term is usually used (the average for the instrumental record going back 150 years, or else the estimated pre-industrial average). It’s the average for the UAH satellite data set, which only started in 1979, when warming was well under way. Since there has been a steady long-term warming trend over the thirty years of data, the average of the data set corresponds to the average temperatures prevailing in the mid-1990s, as you can easily see by eyeballing the data, or, if you prefer, confirm by statistical analysis. (The National Academy of Sciences did this a few years ago IIRC).

So, what Bolt doubtless meant to write is that the effect of this La Nina, one of the strongest in the historical record, was sufficient to offset about 15 years of the warming trend – I guess one-and-a-half decades counts as “decades” in some sense.

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Changing places

As long-term readers here will know, I argued for quite a few years that, of the possible ways of putting a price on carbon, an emissions trading scheme was preferable to a tax (I set out my position here). But following the collapse of the Rudd government’s ETS deal with Malcolm Turnbull, and Rudd’s ultimately disastrous failure to call a double dissolution on the issue, I changed my mind.

This was partly because of changed circumstances, and partly because of a reconsideration of the politics surrounding compensation. In both cases, the driving force was the massively complicated set of free permits, exemptions and cash handouts with which the final ETS was saddled, nearly all of these going to large-scale emitters. I had seen the possibility of a limited issue of free permits as an advantage of an ETS, but now I think it was actually a weakness. And in political terms, the inordinate complexity of the CPRS made a strong case for something simple and comprehensible, where everyone understood that consumers would ultimately pay the price of carbon. Unlike with emissions permits, everyone understands that a tax on producers will be passed on (partially in the short run, and totally in the long run) to consumers, and therefore that any offsets or compensation should be directed primarily at consumers.

So, I now think a carbon tax is the best short-run option. There’s even a case, which a plan to discuss later, for leaving the tax in place when we come to introduce an emissions trading scheme, which is still the desirable outcome in the long run.

While I’ve come to support a carbon tax, John Humphreys, who formerly thought it the best (or perhaps least bad) option, is now vigorously opposing it. His change in position coincides with a change in political alignment, from the libertarian LDP to the Liberal Party, for which he was briefly an endorsed candidate last year. A few observations over the fold

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On the Internet, pretending to be a dog doesn’t help

As I mentioned below, I had an email discussion with Gerard Henderson regarding the proportion of alarmist cranks in the Coalition parties (he says 75 per cent, while I think a near-majority of Liberals and perhaps even some Nats are pro-science). The whole thing has now been posted at his Media Watch Dog site, but with an odd twist.

The conceit of the site is that the material is posted, not by Henderson, but by his dog. As if to demonstrate this, the item (taken directly from our emails) has my name repeatedly mis-spelt as “Quiggan”.

Weekend reflections

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. In keeping with my attempts to open up the comments to new contributors , I’d like to redirect discussion, and restatements of previous arguments, as opposed to substantive new contributions, to the sandpit(s). As always, civilised discussion and no coarse language please.

Bolt vs the Bureau

Following my piece in yesterday’s Fin, Andrew Bolt wrote in to deny that he had ever accused the Bureau of fraud or dishonesty. More precisely, he concedes that he did once, presumably a reference to this piece, a direct accusation of dishonest against the Bureau and the CSIRO. But wait, there’s more.

The first Google blog hit under Bolt + Bureau is this letter from Joanne Nova and others, calling for an audit of the Bureau, and beginning with the claim that “The BOM claim their adjustments are “neutral” yet Ken Stewart showed that the trend in the raw figures for our whole continent has been adjusted up by 40%.” The letter is full of accusations of dishonesty and political bias. Presumably Bolt is going to claim that he is just reporting here, and again when he repeated this claim by Nova here

Maybe the same for this suggestion that “warmists” at the Bureau have rigged the rainfall figures for the MDB, run under the title Why did the Bureau remove the rain? (note that, unlike a journalist, Bolt gets to pick the headlines for his blog items).

And perhaps this, where he relays a claim by Warwick Hughes, that the “warming-evangelist” Bureau is “smudging” rainfall data to tilt the case in favor of global warming.