Thursday, December 31, 2009

Do gum trees and people mix?

Very interesting article from this morning's edition of The Australian, especially as we call to mind last year's Black Saturday bush fires in Victoria, and at a time when we still have a simple-minded idiot up a gum tree here in Perth because the local council, quite properly, wants to remove it because of another unfortunate characteristic of many of them, that is the fact that they can drop large branches without warning. (It's not for nothing that they are known as "widow makers.")

So I've posed this question of whether people and gum trees, (I wont use the name eucalypt because apparently the old genus Eucalyptus has now been split in two, so that not all gum trees are eucalypts anymore), actually go together a number of times in recent years.

Not so much for urban and most suburban areas where trees tend not to be planted close together over large areas intermingled with houses, but certainly for most outer-suburban and rural settings.

(Though I do have objections to the near ideological and 'nationalist' fervour that sees ugly and scraggly gum trees, that give little good summer shade, planted in street scapes where broadleaved introduced species would be much better, not only giving better shade in the hot months but also more light during winter.)

Summer fires in a Mediterranean climate anywhere are inevitable.

But we live in an environment that was changed forever by aboriginal people when they started to burn the landscape regularly tens of thousands of years ago.

Plants, (and there would have been a much greater diversity of plant types across Australia back then, with gum trees only part of a much richer mix - the palms found in isolated locations in the interior of the continent are the faint echoes of this much more biodiverse land), had to go from an environment that was burned only every so often due to lightening strikes to one that was burned several times a year by aboriginal people seeking to produce new grass growth to attract animals to be hunted.

Many did not survive this drastic change and disappeared altogether or, like those isolated palms, hung on in much smaller areas that offered them some protection from people (and of course the simultaneous slow drying of the continent).

Gums however thrived. So we now live in an impoverished environment (in terms of types of plants) dominated by a type of tree that makes fires not only more likely, but also much worse when they do happen.

And yet we have country and outer-suburban councils, driven by the new green religion, telling people they cannot remove gum trees that are close to their properties and that any tree that is planted must be native, ie a gum tree.

This is a recipe for inevitable disaster.

The Canberra fires from a few years ago were a perfect example of this.

The botanical nationalism I mentioned before required that much of the city be set in a "natural" bush setting. Many homes were thus placed within areas heavily wooded with gum trees.

When the fire started it could jump from one gum tree to the next as the volatile oils in the foliage exploded into flames and the highly inflammable leaf (and bark) litter on the ground provided even more fuel for it.

But not everywhere:
The three plantations of cork oaks on the western edge of Canberra not only survived the firestorm, but checked its advance; the stand on the northwest corner of Curtin slowed the fire and protected the homes behind, not one of which was damaged. Further up the hill, where eucalypts took over, several houses were burnt.

The ACT Department of Municipal Services notes that, unlike gum trees, "Cork oak is essentially fire resistant and the foliage results in a relatively non-flammable, low-level ground fuel".

As well as oaks, there are many trees originating in dry areas of the Middle East and southern Asia that would do the job - quinces, pistachios, pears and apricots, for example, and the ubiquitous peppercorn tree, once an inevitable feature of every rural homestead. Suitable native species include the kurrajong and several varieties of wattle and casuarina.

Non-eucalypts offer other advantages. A plantation of wet-leaf trees is more effective as a firebreak than a strip of cleared or burnt ground, since their foliage blocks flying embers. During the Canberra fire large manchurian pears in Morehead Street, Curtin, stopped flaming embers from reaching several houses.

Unlike eucalypts, whose roots release acids that limit the growth of rival plants, and whose dead leaves lie around until consumed in the next fire, leaf litter from deciduous trees rots down into compost and enriches the soil.

You can read the full article here.

My own views on native versus non-native have been undergoing a change for a few years now.

I used to be one of the ecological nationalists, but am probably not one anymore. Having read both of Peter Andrews' books - Back From the Brink and Beyond the Brink - I am not as convinced anymore that introduced is necessarily bad.

It is interesting that at a time when the government was paying farmers to remove willows from creeks and rivers, he was planting them because they helped him to restore his badly degraded creeks.

One of his points is that we do indeed have an environment that has been robbed of diversity, first by aboriginal people and then by European settlement. Who knows how many different types of palms, deciduous and evergreen trees and vines have been driven to extinction by the effects of human beings on this country?

Apparently we do have settler accounts of things like vines etc that are not there anymore, our sheep and goats and cattle having finished them off.

But certainly for areas where people have their homes I now think that at most gum trees should only be a relatively small part of a much more diverse mix of trees, whether from other parts of Australia or from overseas.

Broadleaved deciduous trees need to be brought back into this mix.

And maybe, in a sense, we can start to repair damage done to this land that started thousands of years ago and restore some of the biodiversity that has been lost.

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No Rise of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Fraction in Past 160 Years, New Research Finds

And it was published in one of Al Gore's favourite scientific journals too. I wonder if this too counts as one of those 'inconvenient' papers David Karoly says he never sees in the scientific literature?

ScienceDaily (Dec. 31, 2009) — Most of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activity does not remain in the atmosphere, but is instead absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems. In fact, only about 45 percent of emitted carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere.

However, some studies have suggested that the ability of oceans and plants to absorb carbon dioxide recently may have begun to decline and that the airborne fraction of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions is therefore beginning to increase.

Many climate models also assume that the airborne fraction will increase. Because understanding of the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide is important for predicting future climate change, it is essential to have accurate knowledge of whether that fraction is changing or will change as emissions increase.

To assess whether the airborne fraction is indeed increasing, Wolfgang Knorr of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol reanalyzed available atmospheric carbon dioxide and emissions data since 1850 and considers the uncertainties in the data.

In contradiction to some recent studies, he finds that the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide has not increased either during the past 150 years or during the most recent five decades.

The research is published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Inconvenient or what?!

Via Greenie Watch, which comments "We actually live in a low carbon era so this is no surprise. Potential capacity for carbon absorption is large."

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Yes, yes, of course, you still believe in ManBearPig, Charles

Yes, yes, of course, you still believe in ManBearPig, Charles. No one’s doubting you. You’re just, er, finessing your argument, isn’t that right? Preparing the way for the unlikely moment – not that it will ever happen: perish the thought – when the weather starts behaving rather differently from the way the computer models are predicting, and it becomes clearer and clearer that man-made CO2 isn’t a significant driver of “climate change” and that far from getting inexorably warmer the world appears to be turning positively glacial.

We all know how hard it is to say “sorry” when we’ve got something seriously wrong. Much easier, instead, to come up with a formula which says that even though some fools might perceive us to have been in error we were in fact right all along. This is why, just as they did once before when they stopped talking about “global warming” and started talking about “climate change” , climate-fear-promoters like Clover are starting to big up this deadly new threat called “acidification of the oceans.”

Full article here

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Muslims thank Jewish students for support on Swiss minaret ban

Liberal Muslim reformist Irshad Manji writes:
A few weeks ago, the Swiss voted to outlaw minarets in their midst. Denunciation came from the usual suspects. But one highly unusual source stood out.

After I learned that an umbrella group representing young Jews in Europe openly opposed the minaret ban, I was propelled to ask: How can young Muslims reciprocate this good will? That’s when I posted the following message on my Facebook fan page:

“The European Union of Jewish Students has issued a public statement condemning the Swiss ban on minarets. Agree or disagree with their position, their larger point is that faithful Muslims deserve the freedoms that democratic societies offer. This is a noble gesture by young European Jews and we should do something to acknowledge their inclusive message. So I’m now asking my Muslim fans to post PERSONAL messages against anti-Semitism here.“

Many Muslims did.
You can read some of the messages on Manji’s website.

And rightly so in my view. Citizens in a free and democratic society should be free to practice their religion and be protected from the tyranny of the majority.

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What's wrong with frickin' North Korea comrade?

The nice Lefties at Harry's Place poke fun (again) at Socialist Unity:

Fifth Time as Farce

From the Socialist Unity comments box:
Isn’t it about time for a new international of progressive parties and organisations led by countries such as Iran, Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Zimbabwe, and with supporters e.g. from this blog, Die Linke, the Parti de Gauche, the Workers Party (Ireland), Respect, the CPB, etc.?
We could all achieve so much more together than just writing on blogs.
What’s wrong with frickin’ North Korea comrade?

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Give me that old time religion!

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Satellite visualization of December's deadly cold in Europe and Russia

Earlier I wrote about the Arctic Oscillation Index going strongly negative in December and what new cold to expect in January. From NASA’s Earth observatory, we have a high resolution temperature anomaly map that provides visualization of the effects. This image was taken while the Copenhagen Climate Conference was in progress.

Deadly Cold Across Europe and Russia
Color bar for Deadly Cold Across Europe and Russia
Click image above to enlarge or download large image (3 MB, JPEG) acquired December 11 – 18, 2009

Full post here

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The people calling for Rush Limbaugh to die are the same people who ask to control your healthcare


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Wine I'm drinking - d'Arenberg The Peppermint Paddock Sparkling Chambourcin

One word. YUM!

Oh, okay, maybe two words. YUM, YUM!

Alright, maybe a few more. Chambourcin is apparently a "hybrid grape variety of unknown parentage." Who knew? I didn't. Who cares? I suppose I do.

But this is just delicious. You know as soon as you pour it into the glass that everything should be pretty right with the wine. The colour is rich and dense, with a lovely red foam.

As is typical of sparkling red wines, the bubbles don't really persist very strongly for very long.

There is sweet fruit and licorice on the nose and this is only accentuated in the mouth, the colour indeed being a harbinger of depth and concentration on the palate.

But it finishes dry and refreshing.

This is one of the best sparkling reds I've had in a long time, and reasonably priced to boot.

If you've never had one, you have so far missed out on one of life's more wonderful simple pleasures.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In intelligence, as with everything else, bigger government is worse government

The post-9/11 bureaucratic consolidation didn’t help things, but made them worse. All I can say is, I told you so.

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"A world of shoddy practice, poor hygiene standards and a shocking disregard for patients' individual needs"

From The Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web Today:


Great Moments in Socialized Medicine

The 1983 film "Monty Python's the Meaning of Life" opened with a scene in a British maternity ward, in which the hospital administrator is visiting and the doctor shows off the fancy "machine that goes 'ping' " while ignoring the patient, who lies off to the side on a gurney.


Actual maternity wards in Britain's National Health Service are even worse, former NHS staffer Verena Burns writes in London's Daily Mail:

I longed to sit with this poor young woman, calm her and remind her gently to breathe deeply through each contraction.

Just half an hour of my time could have made all the difference. Instead, I put on my cheeriest smile and followed hospital procedure. "Would you like a painkiller?" I asked.

Ten hours later, after she had been drugged to the eyeballs to dull the pain, I heard she'd given birth.

Her baby was healthy, but I knew I'd let her down.

As I watched her being wheeled into the ward, I felt eaten up with guilt. She'd effectively been ignored from the moment she turned up until the moment she gave birth.

Plonked on an antenatal ward until her time came, with no one to reassure her during what was most likely the most terrifying moment of her life.

No woman should have to give birth in these conditions--let alone in a modern hospital with professional staff at hand.

Welcome to the modern NHS maternity ward. A world of shoddy practice, poor hygiene standards and a shocking disregard for patients' individual needs.

Every time we highlight a story about the NHS--almost always from British newspapers--former Enron adviser Paul Krugman weighs in with the same mantra: "In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We've all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false."


We have to admit, we're beginning to think he may be wrong.


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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Watts Up With That? gets 10 million hits in just 3 months

Well done Anthony Watts.

A proof that there is a market on the internet for a properly sceptical and calmly reasoned approach to questions relating to climate change and our possible influences on it.

There's also something he shares with Stephen McIntyre from Climate Audit, (I mean apart from calm reasoning), and that is an almost unfailing politeness to people, even those he disagrees with.

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Teenager Umar Akmal lights up the MCG

Teenager Umar Akmal – a name to remember, writes the ABC’s Glenn Mitchell – lights up the MCG:


Tim Blair

And 17 year old Mohammad Aamer took five wickets in Australia's second innings.

Pakistan are 3/170, chasing 422 to win with one day's play left. The ball is turning out of the rough and 422 is a big score to get, but gee, they must be in with a chance?

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Slate Mag's Moment of Clarity: UN process can not be central to global efforts to confront climate change

The Party's Over

Why Copenhagen was the climate conference to end all climate conferences.

By Michael A. Levi
COPENHAGEN, Denmark—I'm not sure whether it was the chicken-suited followers of Supreme Master Ching Hai wandering about or the experience of freezing slowly for seven hours as I waited to get into the Bella Center, but something happened in the last 10 days to convince me, once and for all, that the United Nations climate negotiations will never quite work. As the dust settles on this year's talks and observers try to understand exactly what happened here, one thing is for certain: The U.N. process can no longer be the central focus of global efforts to confront climate change.

Full article here

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Australian politics as an episode of Seinfeld

Tim Blair begins his latest meditation on the possible course of Australian politics recalling the Switch.
JERRY: Can’t be done, huh?
GEORGE: The Switch?
JERRY: The Switch.
GEORGE: Can’t be done.
JERRY: I wonder.

You can read the post if you want to see the Switch as it may be used here.

But I did like the Kevin Rudd as George Costanza comparison:
Rudd’s problems tend to be of his own making. This is where his exploitable weaknesses lie. Like George Costanza, Rudd is big on plans and schemes but is comically unable to make them work.

How is his kinder, gentler solution to the asylum seeker issue going? Well, as of Saturday, some 58 boats had been intercepted in Australian waters during 2009. That’s more than half the number of vessels in the entire Sydney-Hobart fleet. So many boaties are banged up on Christmas Island now that they’ve run out of beds.

Did anything at all actually happen as a result of the 2020 Summit? I mean, besides everyone being mystified at the sudden emergence of Cate Blanchett as a political force? Say what you like about previous Labor governments, but at least Whitlam never invited Delvene Delaney to shape public policy. Which, considering the people he did consult with, represents something of a missed opportunity.

Grocery prices. Fuel prices. Bank fees. Rudd has attempted – or signalled attempts – to meddle with them all, sometimes at significant public cost and for no apparent benefit. An enterprising opposition should be calculating the overall cost of these little concern cameos.

The man loves his plans. Wasn’t he meant to be running the Australian health system by now? And revolutionising education?

Here’s another point of similarity between Rudd and George Costanza, his sitcom doppelganger: both do better when they leave things alone. Costanza’s greatest employment triumph was the Penske file, which led him to a possibly lucrative job offer despite never opening the file or doing anything with it. Likewise, the more Rudd butts out, the better things seem to go.

In fact, that seemed to be his original blueprint. Rudd cast himself during the 2007 election campaign as Howard-lite; an economic conservative who would maintain existing financial and business policies while being friendlier at the margins to Australia’s poor and voiceless, like Cate Blanchett.

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The climate is a tera-watt scale planetary sized heat engine, not a high school experiment

Watts Up With That? shows why climate change is not just 'simple physics':

I keep reading statements in various places about how it is indisputable “simple physics” that if we increase amount of atmospheric CO2, it will inevitably warm the planet. Here’s a typical example:
In the hyperbolic language that has infested the debate, researchers have been accused of everything from ditching the scientific method to participating in a vast conspiracy. But the basic concepts of the greenhouse effect is a matter of simple physics and chemistry, and have been part of the scientific dialog for roughly a century.
Here’s another:
The important thing is that we know how greenhouse gases affect climate. It has even been predicted hundred years ago by Arrhenius. It is simple physics.
Unfortunately, while the physics is simple, the climate is far from simple. It is one of the more complex systems that we have ever studied. The climate is a tera-watt scale planetary sized heat engine. It is driven by both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial forcings, a number of which are unknown, and many of which are poorly understood and/or difficult to measure. It is inherently chaotic and turbulent, two conditions for which we have few mathematical tools.

The climate is comprised of five major subsystems — atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere. All of these subsystems are imperfectly understood. Each of these subsystems has its own known and unknown internal and external forcings, feedbacks, resonances, and cyclical variations. In addition, each subsystem affects all of the other subsystems through a variety of known and unknown forcings and feedbacks.

Then there is the problem of scale. Climate has crucially important processes at physical scales from the molecular to the planetary, and at temporal scales from milliseconds to millennia.

As a result of this almost unimaginable complexity, simple physics is simply inadequate to predict the effect of a change in one of the hundreds and hundreds of things that affect the climate. I will give two examples of why “simple physics” doesn’t work with the climate — a river, and a block of steel. I’ll start with a thought experiment with the block of steel.

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Dr Goldacre's zombies

On BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions last night, and in his Bad Science column in the Guardian today, Dr Ben Goldacre lays into what he calls the ‘zombie arguments’ of climate sceptics:
…reigning supreme, is the “zombie argument”: arguments which survive to be raised again, for eternity, no matter how many times they are shot down[]. “Homeopathy worked for me”, and the rest.

Zombie arguments survive, they get up and live again, immortal and resistant to all refutation, because they do not live or die by the normal standards of mortal arguments. There’s a huge list of them at, with refutations. There are huge lists[] of them everywhere[]. It makes no difference.

“CO2 isn’t an important greenhouse gas”, “Global warming is down to the sun”, “what about the cooling in the 1940s?” says your party bore. “Well,” you reply, “since the last time you raised this, I went and checked, and it turns out that there were loads of suphites [sic] in the air in the 1940s to block out the sun, made from the slightly different kind of industrial pollution we had back then, and the odd volcano, so that’s sort of been answered already, ages ago.”
Goldacre’s sulphites example is very poorly chosen, and for a professional sceptic, he appears remarkably willing to defer uncritically to zombie lists of zombie arguments. Moreover, if zombie arguments are what bothers him, what about those deployed by the living dead of the climate orthodoxy? Here are some of the claims repeated ad nauseam by and in support of the climate change orthodoxy, along with our responses:

Read the rest at Climate Resistance

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

How do you stop handbag thieves in China? Throw your bicycle at them

Two thieves on a motor-scooter flew by and snatched a womans purse on a street in Wenzhou, China. Surveillance video shows a man riding a bicycle. As he was passing by the front of a hotel near where the thievery happened, he stopped, calmly got off his bicycle, picked it up, and then threw it at the thieves. The bicycle hit them, they lost control, and crashed to the ground.

~ vid ~

Good candidate for Honorary KisPer, eh?
From SondraK

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Sport's First Gay Superstar

Last week, one of rugby’s biggest stars came out of the closet. Could an American athlete be far behind? Alex Massie on sports’ first gay superstar.

BS Top - Massie Rugby

We ask a lot of sports. It's not enough that sports entertain and enthrall us; we insist upon freighting them with baggage they can sometimes barely sustain. The games become a mirror for society at large. Which is another way of saying that you may measure a society by the games it plays and the way it plays them. The journey from the Negro leagues to Jackie Robinson or from Joe Louis to Muhammad Ali to, more recently, Michael Jordan and, despite his recent disgrace, Tiger Woods, is, in one sense, a voyage along the path of racial reconciliation in American society as a whole.

But if sport has sometimes led the way in matters of race, when it comes to sexuality, it has been outpaced by developments in wider society. The locker-room may be a post-racial environment, but it is not a post-sexual one.

Recent developments in Britain and Ireland, however, suggest that this may be changing. Last week, Gareth Thomas, the most capped Welshman of all time and the man who led Wales in 2005 to its first Grand Slam triumph in more than 25 years, went public with his sexuality, announcing that he is gay.

Full article at The Daily Beast

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The Miracle of Bach

The discussion after yesterday’s post prompted me to put this online. It’s a stunning performance that I heard a while ago but have been saving up for a special occasion. It’s the aria Erbarme dich, Mein Gott (“Have mercy, my God”) from the St Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach. It’s a bit invidious to pick bits from this monumental work, which takes over three hours to perform but I wanted to post this particular excerpt here for the benefit of those people who find Bach’s music dry and academic. If you can find any piece of music in any idiom as emotionally expressive as this, then I’d love to hear it.

The aria is set for a countertenor playing the part of Peter, and it conveys his feelings of shame and remorse after having betrayed Jesus. Nowadays it is often sung by a female singer in the mezzo soprano or contralto range and it works pretty well done like that too. The point is that feelings such as this are universal. We all – men and women, christian and non-christian – come to know what it is to feel like this, just as we all come to know about pain and death. It’s the fact that we all know that we will die that gives the story of the Passion it’s tragic power.

The structure of the piece is quite simple, in fact, consisting of a repeating  figure of a rising minor 6th interval  followed by a descending minor 3rd. This is a hook used in a lot of tunes, especially Jazz standards. The idea is to start below the tonic and then jump above it, later relaxing down onto it. Most tunes then move on somewhere else after this motif but, Bach rests there to build tension through an unresolved expectation of movement.  In the clip below the (Hungarian) singer Julia Hamari spends a full 4 seconds on that tonic note (the sustained B at 1:10-1:15). While she holds it, you can hear the tonal centre gradually shift from the root chord (Bm) to the subdominant (Em) through the cellos’ 3-chord progression G-B7-Em, in a cadence produced by adding only a single note, each time, to the sustained B: first G (to create the major triad GB below the root), then F# (for the B7 sound, ie, the V-th of the Em), and then E for the resolution. It’s so simple, only a genius could make it work.

The rhythm is interesting too. The time signature is 12/8, which is what is used in many slow blues compositions. Bach arranges the 12 notes in each bar runs of triplets that go down the natural minor scale of B. Hamari sustains that B over 9 beats: GGG-F#F#F#-EEE. This is like the walking bass lines used in jazz, but this one is relentlessly descending adding to the atmosphere of sadness and contrition.

This aria has all the hallmarks of Bach’s great work.  A beautifully memorable melody and an interesting harmonic progression form the foundations. Add to that the tragic, weeping sound of the bowed strings in the orchestra, the plucked cello notes symbolising Peter’s tears,  and the solo obbligato that Yehudi Menuin referred to as the most beautiful music ever written for the violin. Even then you don’t get the full picture, because this is so much greater than the sum of its (admittedly great) parts. What makes it so wonderful is how Bach captures the feeling of guilt and remorse so naturally. It’s not overwrought and we don’t feel manipulated. Even the extensive repetition of the phrase Erbarme dich feels so genuine. What more can be said?

Perhaps just one more thing. I think Julia Hamari’s performance of this piece is sensational. Watching her it’s difficult not to form the impression that she is completely at one with the music and the feelings that it expresses. She looks like she’s in a trance, acting as a vehicle for music that’s coming from some other place entirely. But where? I often feel this way watching great Jazz improvisers, finding it hard to rid myself of the notion that somehow the instrument is playing them rather than the other way around. I’m not a religious man, but music like this is, to me, nothing short of miraculous.

PS. Remembering that this is meant to be an astronomy blog, I’ll add that scientist and author Lewis Thomas once suggested how the people of Earth should communicate with the universe:
I would vote for Bach, all of Bach, streamed out into space, over and over again. We would be bragging, of course, but it is surely excusable to put the best possible face on at the beginning of such an acquaintance. We can tell the harder truths later.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

How the 'Mad Monk' saved Australia

Cripes, it was a close run thing though. That deranged megalomaniac Malcolm Turnbull almost succeeded in helping to get K R Puff'n'Fluff's emissions trading scheme passed into law.

But events have proven Tony Abbott to have been completely right.

(As a note of clarification for non-Australians, Abbott is of course the so-called Mad Monk. Partly it is a play on his name, but it is also an attempt by parts of the media and the Labor Party to 'frame' him as a dangerous fanatic because he is firstly - shock, horror - a Christian, and then to make it worse a Roman Catholic to boot. An example was seen recently in the more down-market News Corporation titles, such as the Sunday Times here in Perth, when a remark by him that the great texts of our civilisation should be taught in schools and that this had to include the Bible was bizarrely twisted into having him call for compulsory 'Bible studies' in schools!)

It was irresponsible madness on the part of the federal government to try and push through such a scheme before knowing what the rest of the world was going to do at Copenhagen, (or as a Danish newspaper renamed the event, Floppenhagen).

And what did the rest of the world decide to do? Nothing. (It's an interesting observation made by some - despite all the rhetoric from political leaders about climate change being the greatest moral challenge and existential threat of our times, when you look at their deeds you have to conclude that by and large they don't really believe what they are saying.)

Forget Obama's absurd spin about 'meaningful' progress being mad at the summit. That, to put it bluntly, is bullshit.

The Chinese (with help from the Indians) played hardball and set out very clearly that there is no chance of an international agreement that doesn't involve them deciding how much of their emissions they will cut and when, (and it is worth remembering here that talk of cutting their carbon intensity does not mean cutting their carbon emissions, but rather slowing the increase of their emissions).

Um, on the 'positive' side of the ledger, they also made it perfectly clear that there was no chance of an international agreement that involved independent checking and verification of any claimed reductions in forecast CO2 emissions.

Well, at least for none that weren't paid for by the West.

Yes my dears, that was the proposition - trust Chinese state statistics.

Believe me, if you are suspicious and cynical about the use of statistics here, you 'aint seen nothing until you have a gander at what goes on in China.

Though equally, the feeling now is that the United State's version of an ETS is highly unlikely to get through the Senate there.

So here's Terry McCrann writing in The Australian about how the ETS here is dead and that we are much better off for this now.
Secondly, but for Abbott's aggression -- helped in no small part by Malcolm Turnbull's overweening arrogance -- we would have been locked into a bad policy and a disastrous process, which is even worse. The ETS.

It's time the business community woke up from its dozy slumber, with the doziest of all being the Business Council. This is something they should be able to understand. Copenhagen has shattered any prospect of a local ETS delivering the "certainty" they crave. Now it would only be the certainty of the grave. That of carbon export and permit volatility and rip-offs.

That's the export of jobs, businesses and investment to other places that had no price on carbon dioxide. Those "other places" are essentially the rest of the world except for Europe -- which doesn't matter and in any event has totally debased the permits system, just as it has cynically approached the whole sorry climate saga, starting with Kyoto.

Full article here.

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In praise of Christmas presents (and capitalism)

COMPLAINTS about consumerism roll around as regularly as Christmas. The festival is hijacked by advertisers who encourage us to buy gifts nobody really wants or needs, cynics say. And iconoclastic economists come up with formulas to prove presents are a waste of resources, generally costing more in cash than the value recipients place on them. It is all nonsense. Apart from the obvious - gifts are an expression of affection - Christmas presents make the most of the benefits capitalism can provide. And as this season shows, there is no better economic system to meet our needs and fulfil our wants in ways which were unimaginable just a decade past.

The days of men receiving socks and ties they do not want, of women being given fragrances they will not wear, of children being polite to aunts who bought them last year's must-have toy are gone in families where people participate in the digital revolution. Capitalism has transformed Christmas giving from a hit and miss affair to the liberation of our imaginations. This year people all over the developed and developing world will receive new digital music players, giving them an ability to listen to what they like, where they like, which was unimaginable a little more than a decade ago. The same sort of availability is beginning to apply to films and television and the people who received eBook readers will be followed by millions more as access to books improves in ways unequalled since the printing press. Similarly, the revolution in interactive computer games, with players participating in the narrative process makes users creators, not consumers, of online entertainment. Obviously not everybody spent last night learning how to make the most of a new system. Many spent Christmas night practising traditional rituals, updating their social networking pages, emailing photos to distant friends, watching seasonal videos. But there are few whose Christmas was not the richer for the way the digital technologies have changed our lives in the past decade.

The way capitalism helped us make merry this Christmas deeply disturbs those who say the mass media controls information and entertainment. For while they were once snobbish staples of left-wing politics such polemics became irrelevant once the internet began to change everything. Retail sales spike at Christmas, not because we are conned but because we want to give gifts that improve the lives of people we care about. And when it come to entertainment that means the wired world. What was on offer was better this year than last and Christmas 2010 will mark another improvement. It's the gift of capitalism.

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The great joy of doing not much on Boxing Day

AND now for the best bit. When the openers walk to the crease at the MCG this morning we will recognise all is well on our patch of the planet. When Hobart-bound yachts race for Sydney Harbour's heads we will know the summer holidays are here for sure. As the most determined of shoppers return from the sales with tales of bargains won we will understand that shopping is a participation sport. And as families gather at the beach or by the river we will regret the year's losses but delight in the way that life in this happy land goes on, much as it has done down the decades. To say that this Boxing Day is much like the last does not reduce it to a routine ritual, it simply celebrates the good fortune of a society where a great seasonal festival revolves around simple and shared pleasures.

The great joy of Boxing Day is what it says about Australia. This most relaxed of our national holidays celebrates nothing much. It has no special significance in the Christian calendar, it memorialises no national achievement. It is simply a day where most of us can relax. After the bother of the pre-Christmas rush it is an opportunity to do as little as possible. Following the nervousness of the day itself- will the turkey be moist and the prawns fresh?, will the cousins stay civil? - it is a day to suit yourself. A day for cooks to point to leftovers and suggest everybody assemble their own meals. A day for parents to tell children to do what they like, but quietly. A day for people who do not usually care about cricket to wonder when the new ball will be taken, for people who do not know a boom from a buoy to speculate about what a wind change will mean for the Hobart bound fleet. And Australians, whether their ancestors have lived here for millennia or are recent arrivals, will spend it in much the same way, revelling in the freedom to do what they like. The great joy of Boxing Day in Australia is the way it accommodates people from cultures across the planet, of all religious faiths, and none at all. From Muslim women wearing headscarves on the beach to Pakistani families applauding at the cricket there is room for all who understand the obligation to respect those around them.

Not all Australians feel blessed this morning. Many mourn the death of a loved one, others are burdened by illness or disability, many are struggling with the impact of unemployment and an unacceptable number are unsure what they will eat or where they will sleep tonight. But in the main we are blessed this Boxing Day. At the end of a year where peace prevailed, where we escaped the worse of the global financial crisis, and where we can now enjoy this great day off, much as we enjoyed last year's, Australia is indeed a lucky country.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Feminist shop of handmade vulva love - vulva pendants, vagina pillows, uterus plushies and more

Words fail me.

But it is good to know where you can get vegan vulva lip balm I'm sure you'll agree.

Vagina Pendant- Morning Mist, mature

This though is one of the vaginas without teeth.

Via here.

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Disturbing Santa


A couple more here.

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Nirvana vs Dead or Alive - conceptual nightmare or work of terrible genius?

Via David Thompson, who advises that there is more.

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Dennis The Peasant's 2009 Blogging Awards... Part One: The Good

I've never bothered handing out awards before, largely because the only meaningful awards there are in this world are the ones I win. And since I haven't won any, what we have is a sort of existential conundrum of minor proportions.

That said, what the fuck, let's hand out some awards...

First, the Best:

Best Political Blogger: Jane Hamsher of firedoglake

OK, I'm sure this one's got you scratching your head. Jane's a true-blue progressive and I'm the sort of conservative who'd just as soon serve polar bear in a mushroom sauce as cut back on my carbon footprint. But hear me out on this one.

The rest here.

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Urinary tract cancer associated with Chinese herbal products

When herbs are bad for you

Urinary tract cancer associated with Chinese herbal products containing aristolochic acid

The carcinogen aristolochic acid, which was found in many prescribed Chinese herbal products including Guan Mu Tong, is associated with an increased risk of urinary tract cancer, according to a new study published online December 21 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Many countries, such as Taiwan, have banned products containing aristolochic acid (Taiwan did in 2003), because of clinical cases of urothelial cancer in association with aristolochic acid use. However, no such associations, to the authors' knowledge, have been documented in herbal products containing aristolochic acid.

To examine this association, Jung-Der Wang, M.D., ScD, of the Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene, College of Public Health, at the National Taiwan University, and colleagues conducted a population-based case-control study of Taiwanese patients newly diagnosed with urinary tract cancer from January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2002. They also looked at a random sample of the entire insured population from January 1, 1997, to December 31, 2002. There were 4,594 case patients and 174,701 control subjects in the final analysis. The authors examined the association between having been prescribed Mu Tong, an herb that contains aristolochic acid, and urinary tract cancer using data from the National Health Insurance reimbursement database.

Having been prescribed more than 60 g of Mu Tong (possibly adulterated by Guan Mu Tong before banned), or consumption of an estimated amount of more than 150 mg of aristolochic acid was associated with an increased risk of urinary tract cancer in a dose-dependent manner. The increased risk was independent of arsenic exposure (another risk factor for urinary tract cancer).

"In addition to a ban on products that contain any amount of aristolochic acid, we also recommend continued surveillance of herbs or Chinese herbal products that might be adulterated with aristolochic acid-containing herbs," the authors write. "Finally, patients with a history of aristolochic acid nephropathy or consumption of Mu Tong or Fangchi before they were banned should be monitored regularly for urinary cancer."

Study limitations: Not all of the diagnoses were confirmed by histopathology reports. Subjects may have taken additional nephrotoxic herbs or agents that were not prescribed. Actual intakes of the prescribed herbal products recorded in the National Health Insurance reimbursement database were not validated. Smoking history was not taken into account.


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Scottish Gaelic- I am drinking mulled wine

Tha mi ag ol fion milsichte - pronounced ha me ak awl fee-un meal-sich-chuh!

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hans von Storch on #Climategate in The Wall Street Journal

We—society and climate researchers—need to discuss now what constitutes “good science.” Some think good science is a societal institution that produces results that serve an ideology. Take, for instance, the counsel that then-Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen gave to scientists at a climate change conference in March, as transcribed by Environmental Research Letters: “I would give you the piece of advice, not to provide us with too many moving targets, because it is already a very, very complicated process. And I need your assistance to push this process in the right direction, and in that respect, I need fixed targets and certain figures, and not too many considerations on uncertainty and risk and things like that.”

I do not share that view. For me, good science means generating knowledge through a superior method, the scientific method. The merits of a scientifically constructed result do not depend on its utility for any politician’s agenda. Indeed, the utility of my results is not my business, and the contextualization of my results should not depend on my personal preferences. It is up to democratic societies to decide how to use or not use my insights and explanations.

What we need to do is open the process. Data must be accessible to adversaries; joint efforts are needed to agree on test procedures to validate, once again, already broadly accepted insights. The authors of the damaging e-mails would be wise to stand back from positions as reviewers and participants in the IPCC process. The journals Nature and Science must review their quality-control measures and selection criteria for papers.

See the complete op-ed here

Via Watts Up With That?

Mr. von Storch is director of the Institute for Coastal Research at the GKSS Research Center in Geesthacht, Germany, and a professor at the Meteorological Institute of the University of Hamburg.

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Met Office and CRU bow to public pressure: publish data subset and code

Just over a month after Climategate started, we have breaking news from Climate Audit

Steve McIntyre writes:

The UK Met Office has released a large tranche of station data, together with code.

Only last summer, the Met Office had turned down my FOI request for station data, saying that the provision of station data to me would threaten the course of UK international relations. Apparently, these excuses have somehow ceased to apply.

Full post here.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

William Connolley still active at Wikipedia?

If this is true, it doesn’t seem to have made much difference to his creative input on the Wikipedia’s entries. Here he is – unless its just someone with an identical name – busily sticking his oar in to entries on the Medieval Warm Period (again) and the deeply compromised, soon-to-be-leaving (let’s hope) IPCC head Dr Rajendra Pachauri. And here he is again just three days ago, removing a mention of Climategate from Michael Mann’s entry. And here is an example of one of his Wikipedia chums – name of Stephan Schulz – helping to cover up for him by ensuring that no mention of that embarrassing Lawrence Solomon article appears on Connolley’s Wikipedia entry. And here he is deleting criticism of himself.

Connolley, it should also be noted, was one of the founder members of Real Climate – the friends-of-Michael-Mann propaganda outfit (aka “The Hockey Team”) which, in the guise of disinterested science, pumps out climate-fear-promoting hysteria on AGW and tries to discredit anyone who disagrees with the ManBearPig “consensus”.

James Delingpole

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From Global Warming Believer To Skeptic

I reckon there's going to be a lot more of this happening.

Bradley Fikes writes in the

A few years ago, I accepted global warming theory with few doubts. I wrote several columns for this paper condemning what I thought were unfair attacks by skeptics and defending the climate scientists.

Boy, was I naive.

Since the Climategate emails and documents revealed active collusion to thwart skeptics and even outright fraud, I’ve been trying to correct the record of my earlier foolishness. In one of those columns, I even wrote: “And see Real Climate ( for global warming science without the political spin.”

In fact, Real Climate was and is nothing more than the house organ of global warming activists, concerned more with politics than with science.

My mistake was assuming only the purest of motives of the global warming alarmists, while assuming the worst of the skeptics. In fact, the soi-disant moralists of the global warming movement can also exploit their agenda for profit.

Read the entire story here in the

h/t to ClimateDepot

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CFCs, cosmic rays implicated in climate change - 50 years of cooling to come?

Hmm, according to people such as David Karoly, this kind of peer reviewed scientific research doesn't exist! He says he reads thousands of papers a year and yet never sees anything like this, which has some, um, interesting shall we say, implications for anthropogenic climate change theory.

From Watts Up With That?:

From the University of Waterloo press release.

WATERLOO, Ont. (Monday, Dec. 21, 2009) - Cosmic rays and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), both already implicated in depleting the Earth's ozone layer, are also responsible for changes in the global climate, a University of Waterloo scientist reports in a new peer-reviewed paper.

In his paper, Qing-Bin Lu, a professor of physics and astronomy, shows how CFCs – compounds once widely used as refrigerants – and cosmic rays – energy particles originating in outer space – are mostly to blame for climate change, rather than carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. His paper, derived from observations of satellite, ground-based and balloon measurements as well as an innovative use of an established mechanism, was published online in the prestigious journal Physics Reports.

"My findings do not agree with the climate models that conventionally thought that greenhouse gases, mainly CO2, are the major culprits for the global warming seen in the late 20th century," Lu said. "Instead, the observed data show that CFCs conspiring with cosmic rays most likely caused both the Antarctic ozone hole and global warming. These findings are totally unexpected and striking, as I was focused on studying the mechanism for the formation of the ozone hole, rather than global warming."

His conclusions are based on observations that from 1950 up to now, the climate in the Arctic and Antarctic atmospheres has been completely controlled by CFCs and cosmic rays, with no CO2 impact.

"Most remarkably, the total amount of CFCs, ozone-depleting molecules that are well-known greenhouse gases, has decreased around 2000," Lu said. "Correspondingly, the global surface temperature has also dropped. In striking contrast, the CO2 level has kept rising since 1850 and now is at its largest growth rate."

In his research, Lu discovers that while there was global warming from 1950 to 2000, there has been global cooling since 2002. The cooling trend will continue for the next 50 years, according to his new research observations.

As well, there is no solid evidence that the global warming from 1950 to 2000 was due to CO2. Instead, Lu notes, it was probably due to CFCs conspiring with cosmic rays. And from 1850 to 1950, the recorded CO2 level increased significantly because of the industrial revolution, while the global temperature kept nearly constant or only rose by about 0.1 C.

In previously published work, Lu demonstrated that an observed cyclic hole in the ozone layer provided proof of a new ozone depletion theory involving cosmic rays, which was developed by Lu and his former co-workers at Rutgers University and the Université de Sherbrooke. In the past, it was generally accepted for more than two decades that the Earth's ozone layer is depleted due to the sun's ultraviolet light-induced destruction of CFCs in the atmosphere.

The depletion theory says cosmic rays, rather than the sun's UV light, play the dominant role in breaking down ozone-depleting molecules and then ozone. In his study, published in Physical Review Letters, Lu analyzed reliable cosmic ray and ozone data in the period of 1980-2007, which cover two full 11-year solar cycles.

In his latest paper, Lu further proves the cosmic-ray-driven ozone depletion theory by showing a large number of data from laboratory and satellite observations. One reviewer wrote: "These are very strong facts and it appears that they have largely been ignored in the past when modelling the Antarctic ozone loss."

New observations of the effects of CFCs and cosmic rays on ozone loss and global warming/cooling could be important to the Earth and humans in the 21st century. "It certainly deserves close attention," Lu wrote in his paper, entitled Cosmic-Ray-Driven Electron-Induced Reactions of Halogenated Molecules Adsorbed on Ice Surfaces: Implications for Atmospheric Ozone Depletion and Global Climate Change.

The paper, published Dec. 3 in Physics Reports, is available online

Andrew Bolt comments:

If Lu is right, the US can expect more winters like this one, with more than half the country now covered in snow:


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Groovy teeth, but was Sinornithosaurus a venomous dinosaur?


It's a dinosaur tooth, and clearly one that belonged to a predator - sharp and backwards-pointing. But this particularly tooth, belonging to a small raptor called Sinornithosaurus, has a special feature that's courting a lot controversy. It has a thin groove running down its length, from the root to the very tip. According to a new paper from Enpu Gong of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, it was a channel for venom.

Thanks to a certain film that shall remain nameless, a lot of people probably think that we already know that some dinosaurs are venomous. But the idea that Dilophosaurus was armed with poison, much less spat its toxins at its prey, is non-existent. Some scientists had speculated that they were venomous based on their bizarrely notched and allegedly weak jaws. But these notches have since been found in many other species and no one has ever actually measured the strength of Dilophosaurus's jaws. 

The best sign that a dinosaur was venomous would be the presence of grooved or hollow teeth. With some notable exceptions, most animals with poison bites use grooves like these to channel their toxins from glands in their mouth to whatever they bite. And grooves are exactly what Gong and his colleagues found in Sinornithosaurus's well-preserved skull. Bryan Fry, who discovered venom glands in Komodo dragons earlier this year, says, "It is an absolutely fantastic piece of work. I actually got goose-bumps reading it! Other studies have suggested dinosaurs may be venomous but this is the most solid piece of evidence."

Full post here.




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6 MUST SEE YouTube videos - Global Warming, Or A Lot of Hot Air?

Watts Up With That? comments - All six parts of the hour-long special aired during prime time Sunday night on Fox News featuring Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick are now online below. Both Phil Jones and Michael Mann ducked requests for interviews. I can perhaps understand Jones’ situation, since he has not been giving other interviews, but in Mann’s case he’s been on a media blitz writing op-eds for the Washington Post and giving interviews to dozens more. His bias, (or perhaps cowardice) is showing. If his work is so “robust”, why not defend himself  in this venue?

Andrew Bolt - Fox News interviews the two extraordinary men who have done the most to explode the great global warming scare - and have also done most to show how “peer review” became just “mates’ network”, and the crucible in which the Climategate scandal was forged.

Every time Steve McIntyre speaks, his calm and methodical air is a startling contrast to the moral badgering and hype of alarmists.

This is part of an excellent overview on the issues at stake:

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Top three YouTube clips of 2009

Nobody from nowhere can now command audiences greater than the population of entire countries through just a moment of filmed inspiration, thanks to a new and spectacularly democratic technology. And the good news is that happy sells best:

Scottish singing sensation Susan Boyle’s appearance on “Britain’s Got Talent” was the most popular video on YouTube this year, garnering over 120 million views, the video-sharing site said ..

“David after Dentist,” a video of a dazed seven-year-old boy after a visit to the dentist, was next with more than 37 million views, YouTube said in a blog post.

“JK Wedding Entrance Dance,” a Minnesota couple’s joyous wedding dance, was next with 33 million views followed by the trailer for the movie “New Moon” with 31 million views.

View them here.

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Gaming the peer review system: IPCC scientists behaving badly

How IPCC scientists interfere with publication of inconvenient scientific results

By David H. Douglass, Professor of Physics, University of Rochester, New York, and John R. Christy, Distinguished Professor, Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama at Huntsville

  • In this article, reprinted from The American Thinker, two eminent Professors reveal just one of the many seamy stories that emerge from the Climategate emails. A prejudiced journal editor conspires with senior IPCC scientists to delay and discredit a paper by four distinguished scientists demonstrating that a central part of the IPCC’s scientific argument is erroneous.

The Climategate emails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England have revealed how the normal conventions of the peer-review process appear to have been compromised by a Team of “global warming” scientists, with the willing cooperation of the editor of the International Journal of Climatology, Glenn McGregor.

Follow the link above to read it all.

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Over 50% of the USA is now covered in snow

The Mid-Atlantic states were completely white on Sunday, December 20, 2009, in the wake of a record-breaking snow storm. The storm deposited between 12 and 30 inches of snow in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. on December 19, according to the National Weather Service. For many locations, the snowfall totals broke records for the most snow to fall in a single December day.

The storm shut down the federal government in Washington DC, stranded travelers, left hundreds of thousands without power and sharply cut holiday sales the weekend before Christmas.

The rest is here (with a pretty picture taken from space).

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What's a religion without schisms? Clive Hamilton goes after Tim Flannery

Clive has been gunning for fellow moonbat Flannery since at least early 2009, when he accused the “skilled media player” of flip-floppery and “opportunism”. Now he elevates that into a full-scale moonbattle. It’s moonbat combat, people:

To have any chance of limiting warming even to two degrees (itself a dangerous objective), global emissions have to peak within the next ten years then decline sharply. After Copenhagen that is now impossible …

Everyone seems to understand this except Tim Flannery, who has praised the accord as a good outcome that has made “huge advances”.

It’s on! Hamilton continues:

With his bizarre interpretations, frequent blunders and repeated changes of position, Flannery has become the butt of jokes among the cognoscenti …

And beyond. Hamilton also is powerfully joke-worthy outside of the climate cognoscenti zone. But I’ve interrupted his Flannery attack:

… although that won’t cool the ABC’s ardour for the former Australian of the Year.

Bitch-o-rama! It’s all about air time! How will Flannery respond? I’m tipping lofty disdain, although Flannery might be inclined to fight rather than flight now that he’s locked in a warming death-clamp with his academic rival.

Read the rest at Tim Blair

More here.

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Jay-Z - D.O.A. [Death of Autotune]

Fuck, what's happening to me? I'm a 50 year old white "boy," but gee this is good.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

James Randi bullied into recanting his heretical thoughts about ManBearPig

You all know James Randi. He’s the world famous Psychic Investigator whose rigorous scepticism has been the undoing of many a fraudulent spoonbender, dodgy faith-healer and ouija-board-wobbling spiritualist.

Randi is the expert magician and escape artist who is offering $1 million in his Paranormal Challenge “to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.” No one has yet come close to claiming it because that’s the kind of fellow Randi is: an utterly fearless seeker-after-truth; the kind of guy who, if you cut him in half – the result of a stage trick going wrong maybe – you’d find the word “Sceptic” right through his middle. Except, of course, being as he’s American it would be spelt Skeptic.

Sadly, it seems that there’s one form of scepticism that not even the great James Randi can be permitted. And that is scepticism towards the existence of Al Gore’s mythical creation ManBearPig, aka Anthropogenic Global Warming.

Randi discovered this to his cost when he tried posting on the subject at his James Randi Educational Foundation website. And it’s not as though he was outing himself as a full-on “denier”. All Randi was trying to do was express a note of caution about the notion of “consensus” within the world of science.

Full article here.

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What was on offer in Copenhagen before and after Obama salvaged the deal?

Christopher Monckton explains exactly what Barack Obama managed to force out of China and its allies:

The White House spinmeisters spun, and their official press release proclaimed, with more than usual fatuity, that President Obama had “salvaged” a deal at Copenhagen in bilateral talks with China, India, Brazil, and South Africa, which had established a negotiating bloc.

The plainly-declared common position of these four developing nations had been the one beacon of clarity and common sense at the foggy fortnight of posturing and gibbering in the ghastly Copenhagen conference center.

This is what the Forthright Four asked for:

Point 1. No compulsory limits on carbon emissions.

Point 2. No emissions reductions at all unless the West paid for them.

Point 3. No international monitoring of any emissions reductions not paid for by the West.

Point 4. No use of “global warming” as an excuse to impose protectionist trade restrictions on countries that did not cut their carbon emissions.

After President Obama’s dramatic intervention to save the deal, this is what the Forthright Four got:

Point 1. No compulsory limits on carbon emissions.

Point 2. No emissions reductions at all unless the West paid for them.

Point 3. No international monitoring of any emissions reductions not paid for by the West.

Point 4. No use of “global warming” as an excuse to impose protectionist trade restrictions on countries that did not cut their carbon emissions

Still, Monckton is as happy as am I about this “deal”. Let’s just hope no one collects on the huge IOUs offered by Rudd to get the “deal” done.


Dominic Lawson is even happier:

So let’s toast the negotiators of Copenhagen. By failing so spectacularly, they have presented us with a wonderful Christmas present. All we have to do is open it.

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Quadrant suggests some Christmas reading

Christmas reading
by John Izzard
December 21, 2009
Books and Christmas seem to go together naturally and Charles Dickens certainly got the western world into the spirit of the thing with his A Christmas Carol, first published in December 1843, with fabulous illustrations by John Leech. A few of our Quadrant readers and contributors have listed some of their favourite books, and some that they intend to read over Christmas.

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Steve McIntyre on Fox news special tonight about #Climategate

Fox News is running a one-hour special on climate tonight at 9 p.m. [6PM PST]
(which is being re-aired on Wednesday, I think.)
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was interviewed in Toronto by Fox News when they were in Toronto for the Munk Debates (Dec 1) - Nigel Lawson and Bjorn Lomborg v George Monbiot and Elizabeth May (Green Party of Canada leader). It's my understanding that they will be using some of this footage in one of the segments of the program tonight.
They were extremely well prepared for the interview to say the least, even being acquainted with as small a nuance of the debate as the Starbucks Hypothesis. I suspect that I'm going to look pretty weary in the interview - I was in the process of going through the Climategate Letters, which are discourging even for third party readers.
I think that the producers are trying to make the show more nuanced than the usual effort in this field (on either side). Not an easy task.
For those who don't know what the "Starbucks Hypothesis" is:
"Can a scientist have a cup of Starbucks coffee in the morning, head to the mountains and do tree ring sampling, and be back home in time for dinner"?
Full post here

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