Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I always thought it was bollocks, but...

...apparently not only did members of our species interbreed with Neanderthals, but with another human species recently identified by way of DNA analysis and currently referred to as Denisovans:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Union of Concerned Scientists in 2006 "winters are becoming warmer and less snowy"

“Listen to the climate scientists” – that’s the refrain you always get from the warmists. Their argument is that we simply don’t know enough about “the science” to make our own judgments, and must bow down before superior wisdom.

But the problem is, if we did that, we’d be changing our minds with the weather – literally. Case in point: only a few years ago in 2006 a report was released by a body called ‘The northeast Climate Impacts Assessment’. Press releases informed us that this body was a collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and a team of independent scientists from universities across the Northeast and the nation.

Heavyweight stuff. The full report is (for the moment) available online here. 

The Union of Concerned Scientists published the results of the study on its climatechoices website and summarized them thus:

"Across the globe, and here in the Northeast, the climate is changing. Records show that spring is arriving earlier, summers are growing hotter, and winters are becoming warmer and less snowy. These changes are consistent with global warming, an urgent phenomenon driven by heat-trapping emissions from human activities

Again we see the same claim – warmer, milder winters are entirely consistent with global warming. No mention of global warming causing extreme cold and heavy snow. No predictions of colder weather to come. But why bother with all that when you can simply issue another press release when it gets colder and claim you predicted this all along?


Mark Colvin: Is anyone still arguing that Wikileaks' unfettered transparency has no downside?

That's the question posed by the ABC's Mark Colvin on Twitter in response to this article in The Guardian.

This was always my misgiving about Wikileaks: in it's scatter-gun approach there would be collateral damage, and the man trying to stand up to Robert Mugabe may be part of this.

Yes, it all seemed such a jolly jape to so many on the Left when they simplistically and foolishly assumed that Wikileaks was just an embarrassment to the United States and, well gee, that must be a good thing right?

Well, do you think? Does anyone honestly think that China is a more desirable hegamon?Or are people as infantiley stupid as Helen Clarke, the former prime minister of New Zealand and the Labour Party there who thought it was a good idea to encourage the lovely and sensitive Chinese in the Pacific as opposed to those horrible and oppressive Americans?

Fucking dickheads.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Echinacea does not ward off colds according to research

From the Food & Health Skeptic:

On to the next fad!

The herbal remedy echinacea, which is taken to stave off colds, does not work, say leading doctors. They suggest that the plant extract has little or no effect on the length or severity of symptoms including coughs and sneezes.

Increasing numbers of Britons take echinacea supplements every year at the first sign of a cold in the hope that they will help boost their immune system. But a major study suggested that its effects are ‘minimal’, and for many people it will not work at all.

The research by the American College of Physicians compared the effects of the extract on 719 people experiencing the first sign of a cold. Half were given echinacea tablets to take once a day for five days and the other half took placebos and recorded their symptoms for a week. 

Symptoms of the common cold – congestion, sore throat and fever – usually resolve within seven to ten days. The length of illness among the volunteers who took the echinacea was shorter by between seven and ten hours – a ‘statistically insignificant’ result, the experts said. The herb had no effect on severity of the symptoms. 

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, concluded that, for most people, taking the supplement was not ‘worthwhile’. 

The team, led by Professor Bruce Barrett at the University of Wisconsin concluded: ‘Any underlying benefit of echinacea is not large and was not demonstrated by our results. Individual choices about whether to use echinacea to treat the common cold should be guided by personal health values and preferences.’

The herb, derived from a flowering plant native to North America, has become increasing popular in the past decade. It was first used by American Indians to treat snake bites.

Okay, while this is pretty much the result I'd have expected, (most so-called herbal remedies have either no real effect or only a very small one), and I think accords with some other studies, I do have a few caveats.

It's a small sample of people and, most crucially, it involves self reporting. Always be wary of studies that involve people reporting how they feel, though depends on whether they were given a definite list of symptoms to report on (which seems to be the case), not just the vague "how do you feel?" kind of questions (which tend to be subjective and work in favour of unconventional remedies).

GWPF Calls For Independent Inquiry Into Met Office's Winter Advice

Taken from Greenie Watch:

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (www.thegwpf.org) is an all-party and non-party think tank and a registered educational charity

The Global Warming Policy Foundation has called on the Government to set up an independent inquiry into the winter advice it received by the Met Office and the renewed failure to prepare the UK for the third severe winter in a row.

"The current winter fiasco is no longer a joke as the economic damage to the British economy as a result of the country's ill-preparedness is running at £1bn a day and could reach more than £15 billion," said Dr Benny Peiser, the GWPF's Director.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The winter poor George Monbiot never saw coming - dickhead

It is now mid-February, and already I have sown eleven species of vegetable. I know, though the seed packets tell me otherwise, that they will flourish. Everything in this country - daffodils, primroses, almond trees, bumblebees, nesting birds - is a month ahead of schedule. And it feels wonderful. Winter is no longer the great grey longing of my childhood. The freezes this country suffered in 1982 and 1963 are - unless the Gulf Stream stops - unlikely to recur. Our summers will be long and warm. Across most of the upper northern hemisphere, climate change, so far, has been kind to us

Poor, cold George, shivering in snow-bound Britain: 

The Big Freeze will hold us in its grip for at least another month, forecasters warn.

Arctic conditions are expected to last through the Christmas and New Year bank holidays and beyond.

@JoanneNova guts journalism "academic" David McKnight while ripping him a new one

DAVID McKnight's criticism of The Australian over climate change ("Sceptical writers skipped inconvenient truths", Inquirer, December 11) makes for a good case study of Australian universities' intellectual collapse.

Here's a University of NSW senior research fellow in journalism who contradicts himself, fails by his own reasoning, does little research, breaks at least three laws of logic, and rests his entire argument on an assumption for which he provides no evidence.

Sadly, as Nova observes, McKnight is emblematic of the overall decline of academic standards and intellectual rigour within Australian universities, especially within faculties and schools devoted to the liberal arts and social studies.

Her website is here http://joannenova.com.au/ and you can follow her on Twitter here http://twitter.com/JoanneNova

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Deutsche Bank's Corporate Irresponsibility

As Mr. Henderson puts it, the Deutsche Bank report on climate skeptics has been rendered worthless as a guide to the science and for investors. It also betrays a larger issue, which is a corporate role on the part of Deutsche Bank that makes Exxon look like a Boy Scout. –Terence Corcoran, Financial Post, 14 December 2010


It would thus appear that its Climate Change Advisors, who are no more than “the climate-change investment division of Deutsche Asset Management,” took a strong position on behalf of Deutsche Bank on a controversial political matter. If so, it would be interesting to know whether and to what extent this action, which appears as questionable in itself, was authorized and approved at higher levels within the bank. –David Henderson, Financial Post, 14 December 2010


At a certain point it becomes disconcerting that Deutsche Bank, which is among other things one of the few international banks qualified to act as a primary dealer for the New York Federal Reserve, and is thereby subject to particularly stringent requirements about accuracy of commentary it publishes on economic and policy issues, is going to such efforts to excuse publication of misleading information. --Ross McKitrick, Guelph University, November 2010


1) David Henderson: Deutsche Bank's Corporate Irresponsibility - Financial Post, 14 December 2010

2) Terence Corcoran: Deutsche’s Climate - Financial Post, 14 December 2010


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The New Yorker on the prevalence of (unconscious) bias in scientific studies

This is big, and it is worrying. I "believe" in science or, more to the point, the scientific method.

Even something like this is probably part of the self-correcting nature of science. It's just that self-correction as we've traditionally understood it doesn't seem to have worked very well.

As the article makes clear, this is not about scientific fraud. It's about the fact that scientists are human beings and are prone like anyone else to see what they want to see.

In its current issue, The New Yorker has an excellent piece on the prevalence of (unconscious) bias in scientific studies that builds on this recent must-read piece in The Atlantic. And to some extent, Jonah Lehrer’s New Yorker article builds on this story he did for Wired in 2009. Anyone interested in the scientific process should read all three, for they are provocative cautionary tales. 

Back to Lehrer’s story in The New Yorker. I’m going to quote from it extensively because it’s behind a paywall, but I urge people to buy a copy of the issue off the newsstand, if possible. It’s that good. His piece is an arrow into the heart of the scientific method: 
The test of replicability, as it’s known, is the foundation of modern research. Replicability is how the community enforces itself. It’s a safeguard for the creep of subjectivity. Most of the time, scientists know what results they want, and that can influence the results they get. The premise of replicability is that the scientific community can correct for these flaws. 

But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain. It’s as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable. This phenomenon doesn't yet have an official name, but it's occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology.

How did this happen? How have “enshrined” findings that were replicated suddenly become undone? The fatal flaw appears to be the selective reporting of results–the data that scientists choose to document in the first place.

Dr Ray from Greenie Watch (has links to article etc) comments:

I heartily agree with the article below, which is why I reproduce it fully (with links). And its relevance to Warmist "science" needs no spelling out. I saw all of the faults discussed below in my own social science research career and to this day I tackle similar problems daily in my FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog. 

I can however go beyond the article below and point to what is the remedy to these now well-documented faults in scientific reporting. The remedy is to encourage similar research by those who have an OPPOSITE agenda to the established writers. Because I am a conservative, I saw the received wisdom in my Left-dominated field of research as quite absurd. And I set out to show that such theories were absurd. And I did. I even got my findings published over and over again in the academic journals. My findings, however, had no impact whatever. Leftists didn't want to believe my findings so simply ignored them. 

If however, I had been one of many people with opposing views writing in the field, that would have been much harder to ignore and a more balanced view might have emerged as the consensus position. 

At the moment, however, being skeptical of any scientific consensus is career death. So the only remedy is for skeptical views to be specifically rewarded both among students in marking, in academic hiring and in career advancement. It is only a faint hope but perhaps there are enough people of integrity in science to bring that about eventually. Science will be greatly hobbled otherwise -- JR

Thursday, December 9, 2010

NYT: There Will Be Fossil Fuels in Abundance – For Decades To Come

But no sooner did the demand-and-supply equation shift out of kilter than it swung back into something more palatable and familiar. Just as it seemed that the world was running on fumes, giant oil fields were discovered off the coasts of Brazil and Africa, and Canadian oil sands projects expanded so fast, they now provide North America with more oil than Saudi Arabia. In addition, the United States has increased domestic oil production for the first time in a generation.

Meanwhile, another wave of natural gas drilling has taken off in shale rock fields across the United States, and more shale gas drilling is just beginning in Europe and Asia. Add to that an increase in liquefied natural gas export terminals around the world that connected gas, which once had to be flared off, to the world market, and gas prices have plummeted.

Energy experts now predict decades of residential and commercial power at reasonable prices. Simply put, the world of energy has once again been turned upside down.

Somewhat different issue, but I've said this before: the whole problem of the peak oil theorists was that they were making predictions about a resource that we have never really had a good estimate of. I think it is pretty clear that there was always more oil than we thought, possibly much more.

There is an oil field in the United States that should have run dry several times already based on successive estimates of how much was left made since the 19th Century!

It's still producing and showing no signs yet of running out and it's not an isolated case. Fully two thirds of all possible oil-bearing strata have not been surveyed with modern geological methods according to an article in Scientific American published within the last year.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Has Charles Dickens shaped our perception of climate change?

Note: This essay originally appeared last January on The Air Vent. Given our current winter, it as just as prescient now as it was then, so I’m reposting it here. Thanks to Verity Jones and Charles the Moderator for bringing it to my attention – Anthony


Guest post by Tony Brown

Charles Dickens. Victorian winters. A Christmas Carol. Ice fairs on the Frozen Thames. Cold Cold Cold Cold Cold. Dickens has irrevocably moulded the climate views of generations of Anglo Saxon peoples as TV, Films and plays all promote his image of icy winters in that era. Is this view of Dickens winters correct? We take a look at his life through the prism of climate.

Ontario is going to spend $87 billion to get LESS power generation by 2030

From Mr Bolt:
It’s not just Australia that has caught the global warming madness which leads to taxpayers paying more for less:

So if you wanted to start up a giant factory that actually made stuff - and consumed power - where would you site it? In Canada or anti-nuclear Australia, where warmist policies are killing off its cheap coal-fired generators and choking investment in new (and much more expensive) sources of electricity generation? Or in China:

As perfect an example of green economics - where you always get less for more - as you'll find.

Microbiologist: NASA's arsenic bacteria story "shamefully bad science"

Rosie Redfield runs "a microbiology research lab in the Life Sciences Centre at the University of British Columbia."

My main concern up to now with this story was that it was yet another example, so increasingly prevalent these days, of researchers and institutions over-hyping their discoveries so as to attract media attention (and no doubt more funding). And of course the blogosphere and twitterverse had been crackling for days with speculation (fed by NASA) about some amazing discovery with exobiological ramifications.

Bottom line:  Lots of flim-flam, but very little reliable information.  The mass spec measurements may be very well done (I lack expertise here), but their value is severely compromised by the poor quality of the inputs.  If this data was presented by a PhD student at their committee meeting, I'd send them back to the bench to do more cleanup and controls.

There's a difference between controls done to genuinely test your hypothesis and those done when you just want to show that your hypothesis is true.  The authors have done some of the latter, but not the former.  They should have mixed pregrown E. coli or other cells with the arsenate supplemented medium and then done the same purifications.  They should have thoroughly washed their DNA preps (a column cleanup is ridiculously easy), and maybe incubated it with phosphate buffer to displace any associated arsenate before doing the elemental analysis.  They should have mixed E. coli DNA with arsenate and then gel-purified it.  They should have tested whether their arsenic-containing DNA could be used as a template by normal DNA polymerases.  They should have noticed all the discrepancies in their data and done experiments to find the causes.

I don't know whether the authors are just bad scientists or whether they're unscrupulously pushing NASA's 'There's life in outer space!' agenda.  I hesitate to blame the reviewers, as their objections are likely to have been overruled by Science's editors in their eagerness to score such a high-impact publication.

Follow the link for the full post.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

James Delingpole is hilarious - "'Look at the Met office,' the scientist goes on"

“Look at the Met office,” the scientist goes on. “They’ve just told us that 2010 is the hottest year since records began in 1850 and even though the stupid Central England Temperature record tells us something quite different and even though the year hasn’t actually finished yet they must know what they’re talking about and they definitely can’t have fiddled the data because the Met office is part of the government and they wouldn’t lie or get things wrong which is why that barbecue summer was such a scorcher.”

The big problem is, the scientist said, is that the public are really stupid. They think just because Dr David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit said in the Independent in 2000 that soon there’d be no snow because of global warming, when what he actually meant was that soon there’d be lots of snow and that this would be “proof” of global warming.

And they wonder why we don't take them seriously anymore.

Portishead - Sour Times (HD Official Video)

Only Love Can Break Your Heart - Saint Etienne

Friday, December 3, 2010

I suppose it's good that the Fin Review's Laura Tingle doesn't even bother trying to hide her anti-Coalition bias?

THE last time Australia had much of a political debate on labour market participation, the Coalition was in one of its more cheerful phases of beating up on blacks and disabled pensioners. That was back before it discovered the untapped political potential of boatpeople.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Arctic's 'fiery ice' is potential new energy source

The Gazette, 15 November 2010

On the upside, hydrates are said to contain more energy than all other fossil fuels combined, and are much cleaner than oil and coal.

Global estimates "range from merely jaw-dropping to the truly staggering," according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Canada is believed to have enough hydrates along its coasts to meet the country's energy needs for a couple of hundred years.

How A Scientific Integrity Act Could Shift The Global Warming Debate

The Air Vent, 23 November 2010

Up until now, peer review has been held up as the gold standard in scientific discourse. Recent developments in the climate science arena, such as Climategate, have led many to conclude that peer review is not all that it is cracked up to be. Having said that, peer review may well be perfectly adequate as a scientific standard when the issues in debate are the mating habits of squirrels. However, if the issue in debate is whether or not trillions of dollars should be spent combating global warming, perhaps a new more rigorous standard should be applied.

I propose that henceforth, five levels of scientific rigour be defined. In brief, they are Level zero which is grey literature from advocacy organisations such as the WWF. Level one, which is the current peer review process. Level two, which I will call replicatable, is the current peer review process but with mandatory archiving of data and software code within six months of publication. Level three, which I will call audited, is where an authoritative body of some sort holds a competition on the internet to “find something wrong” with the calculations in the paper with a prize for any independent researcher who can find incorrect calculations. Level four is what I will call Cross Examined and is where the paper in question is deemed so important that, a full scale “internet trial” is conducted. You can think of it as a Scopes Monkey Trial of the researchers and their paper by competent legal personnel advised by scientists. It would mainly consist of oral testimony but with anyone on the internet free to comment and interject in any forum they wish. Naturally these comments can inform the questions put to the researchers.

The University of East Anglia & its Climatic Research Unit up to their usual tricks

Climate Audit, 24 November 2010

On October 22, 2010, David Holland re-iterated his FOI requests 08-23 and 08-31. Once again, the University of East Anglia has refused 08-31, this time using an excuse the obtuseness of which is remarkable even for the University of East Anglia.

08-31 is, of course, the request that prompted Phil Jones to ask Briffa to deny the existence of the Wahl correspondence to UEA administration and then to ask Briffa, Wahl and others to delete the relevant emails – emails that showed what Fred Pearce called a “subversion” of IPCC policies of openness and transparency. 08-31 is, of course, the email that Muir Russell obtusely pretended not to exist – a piece of obtuseness that Fred Pearce hoped was “cockup rather than conspiracy”.

UEA has once again provided tortured refusals to 08-23 and 08031 respectively are in Appendix E and Appendix F to David Holland’s FOI – see here.

I’ll discuss 08-31 today. The original request is online here.

Holland’s request stated (excerpt here):

I have now read Dr Briffa’s letter of 15th May in answer to mine of 31st March for which I have thanked him. As he indicates that he will refer further enquiries to you I must advise you that I do not feel it answers any of my questions satisfactorily apart from the last and continue to seek any and all documents held by CRU relating to Dr Briffa’s participation in the IPCC, 2007 assessment reports.

In addition to the questions I put to Dr Briffa, and without limiting my request for all information relating to the IPCC assessment process not already in the public domain, I will specify further particular areas for which I am seeking information.

1. The IPCC stated1 on July 1, 2006:
“We are very grateful to the many reviewers of the second draft of the
Working Group I contribution to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report for
suggestions received on issues of balance and citation of additional
scientific literature.”

Did the IPCC receive any such “suggestions” in a written form other than those reported in the documents for each chapter entitled “IPCC Working Group I Fourth Assessment Report: Expert and Government Review Comments on the Second-Order Draft”2? If so, please provide them.

As CA and Climategate readers know, in July 2006, Briffa sent the supposedly confidential IPCC final draft and his proposed replies to Second Draft Review Comments to Eugene Wahl, a protagonist in the Mann controversy. Wahl inserted a change to the IPCC assessment of the Hockey Stick controversy, a change which passed into the Final Draft, without any recorded discussion.

In refusing item (1), the University of East Anglia’s response says that Wahl’s comments to Briffa – comments solicited by Briffa in his capacity as an IPCC author – were not received by IPCC and that the suggestions sent by Wahl to Briffa fall outside the scope of Holland’s question:

In regards question 1, we have no idea of what suggestions the IPCC received and I have verified that if, indeed, they did receive any, they did not pass them on to any staff member within UEA. There is no question that a suggestion was received by Prof. Briffa from Eugene Wahl and this material is publicly available and has been widely commented upon.

This ‘suggestion’ was not provided to the IPCC, only to Prof. Briffa and therefore is outside the remit of question 1.

I wonder what East Anglia think that they are accomplishing by pretending that Briffa did not receive the Wahl comments in his capacity as an IPCC lead author.

In addition, their statement that the Wahl “suggestion” is already “publicly available” is untrue. The Wahl suggestions are contained in attachments to Climategate emails. I sent an FOI to UEA last spring for the attachments and they refused, saying that they didn’t have them. (I guess they’d been deleted.) Despite the fact that they told me that they didn’t have the attachments any more, Acton told the Sci Tech Committee that they had everything, that nothing had been deleted.

This is precisely the sort of intentional obtuseness that brings both the University of East Anglia and climate science into disrepute.

There are many Climategate articles wondering how climate scientists can regain public trust – with the Guardian praising the creation of an attack squad. A better method would be for institutions, including IPCC and CRU, to provide straightforward answers. To stop playing the stupid word tricks that characterize so many climate science “answers”.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why So Many (Medical) Studies Based On Statistics Are Wrong

Without peering into the mathematical guts, here is how statistical studies actually work:
  1. Data are gathered in the hopes of proving a cherished hypothesis.
  2. A statistical model is selected from a toolbox which contains an enormous number of models, yet it is usually the hammer, or “regression”, that is invariably pulled out.
  3. The model is then fit to the data. That is, the model has various drawstrings and cinches that can be used to tighten itself around the data, in much the same way a bathing suit is made to form-fit around a Victoria’s Secret model.
  4. And to continue the swimsuit modeling analogy, the closer this data can be made to fit, the more beautiful the results are said to be. That is, the closer the data can be made to fit to the statistical model, the more confident that a researcher is that his cherished hypothesis is right.
  5. If the fit of the data (swimsuit) on the model is eye popping enough, the results are published in a journal, which is mailed to subscribers in a brown paper wrapper. In certain cases, press releases are disseminated showing the model’s beauty to the world.

Despite the facetiousness, this is it: statistics really does work this way, from start to finish. What matters most, is the fit of the data to the model. That fit really is taken as evidence that the hypothesis is true.

But this is silly. At some point in their careers, all statisticians learn the mathematical “secret” that any set of data can be made to fit some model perfectly. Our toolbox contains more than enough candidate models, and one can always be found that fits to the desired, publishable tightness.

And still this wouldn’t be wrong, except that after the fit is made, the statistician and researcher stop. They should not!

The rest here.

Darwin's theory of gradual evolution not supported by geological history

From Science Centric

Charles Darwin's theory of gradual evolution is not supported by geological history, New York University Geologist Michael Rampino concludes in an essay in the journal Historical Biology. In fact, Rampino notes that a more accurate theory of gradual evolution, positing that long periods of evolutionary stability are disrupted by catastrophic mass extinctions of life, was put forth by Scottish horticulturalist Patrick Matthew prior to Darwin's published work on the topic.


'Matthew discovered and clearly stated the idea of natural selection, applied it to the origin of species, and placed it in the context of a geologic record marked by catastrophic mass extinctions followed by relatively rapid adaptations,' says Rampino, whose research on catastrophic events includes studies on volcano eruptions and asteroid impacts. 'In light of the recent acceptance of the importance of catastrophic mass extinctions in the history of life, it may be time to reconsider the evolutionary views of Patrick Matthew as much more in line with present ideas regarding biological evolution than the Darwin view.'

The rest here.

Britain: Without government intervention, natural gas would be too cheap

Bloomberg, 17 November 2010

Britain’s electricity market, “left untouched” by government regulations, would rely too much on gas and neglect other fuels needed to limit emissions and price volatility, the minister in charge of energy said today.

The U.K. government said it will set out steps later this year, such as guaranteeing electricity capacity, establishing a minimum cost of emitting carbon-dioxide and obliging energy suppliers to source low-carbon power such as wind and nuclear, to help attract investment.

“The current market framework is not fit to deliver the investment we need,” Chris Huhne, U.K. secretary of state for energy and climate change, said today in published remarks from a speech later today in London to the Confederation of British Industry. “Left untouched, the electricity market would allow a new dash for gas, increasing our dependence on a single fuel, and exposing us to volatile prices.”

Britain committed to cutting its CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. The country needs to ensure sufficient energy supplies as it prepares to shut as much as 30 percent of its aging nuclear and fossil-fueled power capacity within the next decade. Power consumption may double by 2050 as the nation plans to encourage electric-powered cars.

Full story

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why gay conservatives worry about gay marriage

My own view is that whatever marriage might mean for the happy couple, the reason the rest of us give it society’s imprimatur is that it’s the best way to keep the wandering male at home, to raise socialised children.

Weaken the marriage and you weaken the chances of the next generation being good citizens. All the rest - the love, the happy-ever-afters - is just icing on a sternly healthy cake.

From this central truth comes what should be the conservative case against gay marriage, or, at least, conservative concerns about a redefinition of marriage and the weakening of an already compromised tradition that helps to protect us all.

Therefore gay marriage advocates who claim that the case for gay marriage is opposed only by homophobes, religious bigots and haters are lazy, ignorant, obsessively self-admiring or a combination of the above. Those who say marriage must be redefined to end homophobia are using the wrong tool for the job, and damaging it in doing so.

The rest at Mr Bolt's place.

Amid the climate gloom life goes on and nature thrives

Left orthodoxy maintains that the story of man's interaction with the ecosphere is a story of habitat degradation leading to species extinction. That's the headline. But by overstating the risks of climate change, and underestimating the capacity of humans and other species to adapt, we risk missing the chance to address real, pressing, soluble environmental problems.

Scientists at James Cook University last week announced they have discovered an exquisite new species of pygmy seahorse, 200 kilometres off the coast of Cairns. At less than half a centimetre long, the tiny creature may be the smallest vertebrate.

The discovery adds to the work of 2700 scientists from 80 countries who just completed the first Census of Marine Life. The census increased the estimate of known species from 230,000 to 250,000, finding "an unanticipated riot of species, which are the currency of diversity".

A startling find is the "rare biosphere" of microbes - species surviving in numbers of less than one in 10,000. These tiny cohorts subsist among masses of a dominant competitor, apparently waiting and hoping that conditions will change to allow their moment on the evolutionary stage. They seem to be a planetary insurance policy so that even if nutrient or temperature conditions change over time, there will still be an abundance of microscopic sea life in the food chain.

Outbreaks of the crown of thorns starfish on the Great Barrier Reef have reduced by half over the past decade. Scientists have no way of explaining their pattern of aggression and regression but it is clear that runoff from the farmers of north Queensland is not the main culprit.

Our lack of perspective derives in part from shortness of memory.

The rest here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I'll give you kitteh cuteness (wait for it)

I heartily endorse this tweet

RobertCandelori I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of this land: King George III & his heirs up to and including Queen Elizabeth II
I know, it's politically incorrect and if I thought about it too much I would appreciate the problems with it (I suppose), but really, I'm just over all this bullshit acknowledging of traditional owners.

It's a completely meaningless term and is actually contradictory. Either you are the traditional owner of land or you are not. Other than for unimproved Crown land, aboriginal people are not the owners of land and there is nothing to be gained by this well-intentioned sop that effectively seeks to delegitimise our presence in this country.

Now, you may pine for a time before British Australia and wish that the British had never come here and established the modern nation state called Australia.

But we aren't going away. Non-aboriginal Australians aren't going to pack up and move back to where ever they or their families came from.

And yet we tolerate this idea that implicitly says that our presence here is illegitimate, that there are people with a claim to this country that is real, whereas ours is not.

We put up with that ersatz "traditional" welcome to country ceremony that didn't exist until 40 years ago when Ernie Dingo and another fellow made it up.

Do we Australians really need to be welcomed to what is our own country?

Our sensibilities should be troubled by the dispossession of the aboriginal people and the disastrous effects it had on them, but it happened. It can't be undone and it wont be undone.

So we are all here together and surely the last thing people rotting in the remote communities, or the deracinated urban aborigine passing generational failure and disadvantage to yet another generation, is to be encouraged to nurse grievances about the wrongs of the past and wallow in an impotent victimhood?

Because, gee, hasn't that been working a treat for the last thirty or forty years?

The greatest tragedy of the 2007 federal election was the fact that at just the moment we had a government that had found the courage to 'name' the failed policies of the past for what they were, and to declare that we had to do things differently, we changed the government and we have gradually seen since the old alliance of the white urban Left and those aborigines who profited from the disadvantage of the rest of their people reassert the disastrous policies of the rights agenda, separatism and victimhood.

I'm sick of symbolic gestures that are more about white people feeling good about themselves, (and superior to the less 'enlightened'), than about making sure this current generation of aboriginal kids isn't destroyed like the ones before it.

And let's be honest about this shall we? Even here in Perth's suburbs I can see exactly that happening. Kids tagging along with their parents (who have never worked a day in their lives) as they wait before half past eight in the morning with social security money for the bottle shop to open, and a day's drinking to begin.

Kids whose formative years is a never ending succession of violence, foul language and the most appalling anti-social behavior. Kids who are doomed to fail at school before they even get there.

But what makes our inner-city hipsters angry? Apologies and preambles to the friggen constitution.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Coldest Arctic autumn since 2004, following coldest summer on record




This has been the coldest autumn in the high Arctic since 2004, after the coldest summer on record.

Hansen’s claim that it is the “hottest year ever” are based on his imaginary Arctic temperatures.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mother Jones reader "I can't do this anymore...This is OUR Iraq War of lies and fear"



I can’t do this anymore, this climate change hysteria. And I consider myself both progressive and a liberal too, so hear me out. I found out what “they” all agree on, they agree that the effects of CO2 are predicted to be anywhere from unstoppable warming, to no noticeable effects at all. No wonder they all agreed. And it’s been 24 years. We look like we WANT this climate hell to happen. We have been had folks. This is OUR Iraq War of lies and fear. I’m both embarrassed and ashamed for endorsing this CO2 mistake through two and a half decades of dire warnings of doom and Armageddon.. But I was too much of a climate coward to actually say out loud: THE END IS NEAR. Because it’s exactly the same thing! I actually gave my kids CO2 death threats. Why? Why did I do this for so long? Let history know that this responsible environmentalist is now a Green Climate Change Denier.



From Real Science


Green Jobs Cut Despite $500 Million Government Subsidy

Editorial, The Orange County Register, 11 November 2010

Listening to outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and incoming Gov. Jerry Brown, Californians might think the California economy's salvation lies in so-called "green jobs," which now account for about 3 percent of the state's workforce.

What boosters of green jobs don't usually mention is most of these jobs require substantial taxpayer subsidies and other special government treatment even to exist in a competitive market. It appears now that even a half-billion dollars in government aid is no guarantee of success.

Don't get caught in the web of conspiracy theory truthiness

Wel, I'm actually going to point to something from the Fairfax media for a change!
ABC Melbourne broadcaster Jon Faine got into a stoush a couple of weeks ago with the  September 11 conspiracy movement. It was entertaining talkback radio, but the phenomenon of large numbers of people willing to believe dastardly things — even in the face of solid, contradictory evidence — was scary and depressing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

4G may trump Gillard’s $43 billion #NBN

MIT has news that cast even more doubt about the wisdom of the Gillard Government committing $43 billion to a national broadband network that leaves users chained to a socket in the wall:
During the first wave of the wireless revolution, businesses realized that being out of the office didn’t mean being out of action. BlackBerrys, iPhones, and 3G dongles for laptops let businesspeople stay connected on the move.

But the second wave, ushered in by the development of 4G mobile broadband, will take the mobile revolution indoors. Although consumer excitement over apps and smart phones is high, and has attracted much of the attention of the press, the enterprise will be the first serious consumer of 4G services. Cellular networks and other service providers are preparing services that will arrive at offices with the potential to destroy the last vestiges of wired infrastructure such as desk phones and wired Internet links.

Amnesty International tries to defend helping a former terrorist sell his book

Amnesty International tries to explain to me why it’s helped a convicted terrorism supporter to profit from his crime by helping to flog his white-washing book for Christmas. The answer in part is apparently that most of its members wouldn’t mind:
Amnesty International decided to sell the David Hicks book via the organisation’s online shop because he was a focus of our campaigning to close Guantanamo Bay and end illegal US detentions for a number of years. He was held without charge or trial for almost six years at Guantánamo Bay.  He was the first person to be sentenced by a U.S. military commission – a tribunal which Amnesty International has long stated could not and did not meet international standards for fair trials.

These US Military Commissions violated international law in a number of ways, such as permitting the use of hearsay evidence and evidence gained using torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

We knew that many of our supporters would be interested in the David Hicks book, in order to gain another perspective on his personal story and his case.

We have a large range of books available, some of which contain views and opinions that are not necessarily those of Amnesty International.  We select a range of books that we feel will help in human rights debate, knowledge and discourse. Selling the David Hicks book does not mean that Amnesty International is promoting his views or actions. We have in the past defended his human rights and we now believe that his account of what happened to him would be of interest to readers.

This is only one of many books we have sold on Guantánamo Bay and the “war on terror”.  We make a very modest profit from the sale of all our books, profit which is put to good use in our work protecting and saving lives.  We receive no funding from governments or political parties.

Amnesty International works to protect the rights of all people. The stories of individuals who have been oppressed or treated unjustly are important to the overall understanding of human rights - no matter who they are, or how controversial their actions may have been.

Peter Thomas,
Director of Fundraising,
Amnesty International Australia

I suspect Amnesty International is now an institution focused more on it's own survival and which has possibly outlived its usefulness.

Stubborn Antarctic ozone hole refuses to change. Maybe it wasn't CFCs causing it after all?

Another scientific consensus bites the dust?
Maybe it is because the major catalyst isn’t CFC’s after all? See this story:

Galactic Cosmic Rays May Be Responsible For The Antarctic Ozone Hole

In the conclusions of the paper here (PDF) there is this:

Thus, the above facts (1)–(5) force one to conclude that the CR[Cosmic Ray]-driven electron-induced reaction is the dominant mechanism for causing the polar O3 hole.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Taxpayers to pay $24 million for a "Centre of Excellence in the History of Emotions"

Um, this is a joke right?

The Federal Government is promoting the massive humanities grant, which will focus on historical events such as the Black Death, as a solution to the nation's dire mental health problems.

But Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry has criticised the lack of direct funding for mental health research.


Oh, dear God, apparently it isn't!

Federal Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Minister Senator Kim Carr linked the project to statistics showing almost half of Australians aged 16 to 85 years had suffered a mental disorder.

"That is why it is critical that we fund research into the way we deal with everyday problems," Senator Carr said in a press release last month.


Riiiight. So, the Black Death was an "everyday" kind of problem. But it gets worse people. Part of this "research" will involve the performance of an opera!

A related Shakespearean drama production, a Baroque opera and an art exhibition will be produced as part of the research grant.


I'm sorry, but if the government and the universities have money to waste on projects that are so clearly useless and pointless, then it is also just as clear that our universities are not under funded. Quite the opposite by the looks of it. But the fact that it's Senator Kim Carr who has put his name to yet another outrageous wasting of taxpayers' money should come as no surprise to anybody.

Also, time to abolish the Australian Research Council by the looks of it.

Bush explaining why he’ll treat Obama as he’d liked former presidents to have treated him. (He's a class act.)

From Mr Bolt

Thank you Mr Obama - US gets lectured by Iran on violence against women etc at the UN

How the United Nations elevates tyrannies to the status of democracies - this time with the active help of Barack Obama:

The Obama administration got a new “shellacking” this morning, this one entirely voluntary. In the name of improving America’s image abroad, it sent three top officials from the State Department to Geneva’s U.N. Human Rights Council to be questioned about America’s human rights record by the likes of Cuba, Iran, and North Korea.

This was the first so-called “universal periodic review” of human rights in the U.S. by the Council, which the Obama administration decided to join in 2009.

The move represents a striking departure from prior American foreign policy, which has been to ratify selected human rights treaties after due consideration and submit American policy-makers to recommendations based on well-conceived standards accepted by the United States…

This morning fifty-six countries lined-up for the opportunity to have at the U.S. representatives, many standing in line overnight a day ago in order to be near the top of the list. Making it to the head of the line were Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Iran, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and North Korea.

Recommendations to improve the U.S. human rights record included Cuba’s advice to end “violations against migrants and mentally ill persons” and “ensure the right to food and health.”

Iran – currently poised to stone an Iranian woman for adultery – told the U.S. “effectively to combat violence against women.”

North Korea – which systematically starves a captive population – told the U.S. “to address inequalities in housing, employment and education” and “prohibit brutality…by law enforcement officials.”

Libya complained about U.S. “racism, racial discrimination and intolerance.”

The U.S. delegation was at pains to impress the international crowd. Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organizations, told the assembled: “it is an honor to be in this chamber.”

Friday, November 5, 2010

A cutural and political disaster in the making - two-thirds born here, but only a third call themselves Australian

Multiculturalism and high immigration is succeeding in dividing us into a nation of tribes, and all that the mulculturalists can now say is “don’t panic”:
ABDUL SKAF loves the beach, camping and the Canterbury Bulldogs, and he wants to be a police officer...But like many young people from immigrant backgrounds he finds it hard to call himself Australian…

“If someone asks me my nationality, I’m Lebanese,” he said…

A study of 339 young people aged 14 to 17 who live in Sydney’s west and south-west suburbs found only one-third of them called themselves Australian even though two-thirds were born here.

Instead they identified themselves by their ethnic background as Tongan, Chinese, Lebanese, and so on, and 16 of the indigenous young people identified themselves as Koori or Aboriginal.

Less than half of them also felt ‘’Australian’’ all the time and one-fifth did not feel ‘’Australian’’ at all.

Jock Collins, a professor of economics at the University of Technology, Sydney, who presented findings from the study at a conference in Europe, said the unwillingness of these “cosmopolitan” youth to identify as Australian should not be seen as a problem…

Australian-born Laryn Zabakly, 17, said: “When other people ask my nationality, I tell them the full thing - Syrian-Jordanian-Armenian. But when my parents tell me I’m Arabic, I tell them ‘Nup, I’m Australian.’’..’

For Cansu Sevinc, 14, who came from Turkey when she was five, there is no hesitation: “Turkish,” she said. “I’m proud to be a Turk."…

Yet none have close friends from Anglo backgrounds.

When they move out of familiar territory they sometimes feel uneasy. “I’m more comfortable here than in, say, North Sydney,” Laryn said. Cansu said she might feel more Australian if people from “outside suburbs were more open and friendly”.

Organic vegetables 'no better for health' than conventionally grown ones

Really, no surprises here in my opinion.

Organic vegetables are no healthier than those grown conventionally, according to a university study. Agricultural scientists grew potatoes, carrots and onions under both organic and traditional conditions then tested the health-giving properties of each.

They found there was little difference in the amount of polyphenols, the chemical compound in vegetables that helps fight cancer, heart disease and dementia.

Organic crops are more expensive and are often perceived as being healthier, though consumers also cite environmental concerns, taste and texture and animal welfare as other reasons for spending more.

The researchers reported: ‘The demand for organic food products is steadily increasing, partly due to the expected health benefits of organic food consumption. ‘On the basis of the study carried out under well-controlled conditions, it cannot be concluded that organically grown onions, carrots, and potatoes generally have higher contents of health-promoting secondary metabolites (polyphenols) in comparison with the conventionally cultivated ones.’

In their two-year study, Danish researchers cultivated 72 plots of land. On half they used traditional farming methods including treatment with pesticides, non-organic fertilisers and nutrients. The other plots were farmed organically, which meant using only natural aids such as manure instead of fertiliser.

Crops were grown at different times of year and in different parts of the country to get a balanced result. This is because the kind of soil, the difference in climate and attacks by pests are major factors in the amount of polyphenols produced by plants.

The study, undertaken by environmental scientists at the University of Copenhagen, was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The "evidence" alcohol is more harmful than heroin? A one day workshop!

I don't believe it. The media around the world have yet again been played for suckers by an attention seeking activist "researcher."

And, completely predictably, this highly dubious and simplistic claim has been simply regurgitated without question or a moment's thought by the press and the television stations.

Alright, no surprise here really, but one does wish that just for once these people would actually do their jobs properly.

Thankfully, we have "new media" outfits like Spiked Online who aren't prepared to take any press release they receive on face value and aren't afraid to ask some inconvenient questions.
Nor does the methodology of the current paper - drug ranking by committee - inspire a great deal of confidence. Nutt’s views on the dangers of alcohol are well known and this method of comparing harms seems to open up plenty of potential for subjective interpretation of the evidence.

Moreover, there are problems with the criteria used, which are often not really intrinsic to the drug itself. For example, the individual harm of drugs will include HIV acquired from shared needles. But needle-sharing is as much a consequence of the criminalisation of heroin as the drug itself. If heroin was consumed in the same kind of civilised surroundings as wine, HIV would not be a problem. Road traffic accidents are caused by alcohol and other drugs, it is true, but measuring that effect is difficult; for example, just because one driver involved in an accident was over the drink-drive limit at the time does not mean alcohol caused the accident.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

"You guys are the devil's gift to the Tea Party and other climate-change wackos"

I think yet another journalist has had the scales fall off his eyes about the disturbing nature of the extreme wing of activist climate scientists.

Just remember, we aren't dealing with a climate "denier" here. Greenberg is no climate sceptic.

And yet he has felt the full force of the academic alarmists in all its viciousness and nastiness, including the usual false claims that he is the paid tool of dark right-wing sectional interests. But that's a pretty common green tactic these days.

As Roger Pielke Jr comments at the end of his post (reproduced below), people like Michael Mann and Paul Ehrlich would make anybody suspicious of Motherhood and apple pie.
Daniel Greenberg, the widely respected journalist and author who focuses on science policy and politics, was invited by Nature to review my book, The Climate Fix.  Little did he know that review would bring him up close and personal with the activist wing of the climate science community.  After writing a positive review of my book, Greenberg found himself under attack by Michael Mann, Paul Ehrlich and Stefan Rahmstorf on the pages on Nature.

What followed was an email exchange that provides some insight into the mindset of the activist wing of the climate science community.  Greenberg shared this exchange with me with the following message, published here with his permission:

Roger, Re my stirring experience of jousting with Mann, Ehrlich, and Rahmstorf: What a scurrilous bunch. My sympathy to you and anyone else who has to deal with them. They're gravediggers of science. Nature will soon publish my riposte and, I think, a disclaimer of any ties to me by the Marshall Institute. Below, my further exchanges with the low-life trio. Best regards, Dan
Here is Greenberg's email to Michael Mann that concludes the exchange, reproduced with his permisison:
Dear Professors Mann, Ehrlich, and Rahmstorf,

Your correspondence concerning my review of Roger Pielke's book "Climate Fix" has provided me with a deeper understanding of the widespread public skepticism toward climate science. In your hands, apple pie and motherhood would come under public suspicion. Have you considered taking a remedial reading course? Can you comprehend the difference between a book reviewer's own beliefs and the reviewer's presentation of the beliefs expressed by the author of the book under review? Apparently not. Furthermore, your insinuation of an undisclosed relationship between me and a conservative think tank is preposterous. In 2006, I participated in a panel discussion sponsored by the Marshall Institute---as I have done with numerous other organizations, including the Brookings Institution, RAND, AAAS, and various academic societies and universities. Common practice for journalists. Nor did I, as you allege, write a report, or anything, for the Marshall Institute. The panel's words were transcribed and published by the Institute. I wrote nothing for them. You guys are the devil's gift to the Tea Party and other climate-change wackos.

Sincerely, Dan Greenberg

If Michael Mann thinks that he has been treated unfairly by my decision not to publish his side of the exchange, I will be happy to post up his emails with his permission.  Somehow I doubt that he will be as forthcoming as Greenberg.  The repeated character assassination and behind-the-scenes attacks of a small segment of the climate science community gives the entire field a black eye, and it continues unabated.  Greenberg is right, these guys could make apple pie and motherhood come under public suspicion.

Friday, October 29, 2010

You know when Howard made that "non-core" promise excuse?...

...except, as it turns out, HE NEVER DID!

I am absolutely gobsmacked about this.

How many years now has this been an uncontested part of Australia's political landscape and memory?

How many times, especially in out "world class" media, has it been repeated as fact?

And yet, buried away in The Australian's Cut & Paste section today is the truth.

It started as a comment by Peter Costello that got twisted and then put into the mouth of John Howard by a Labour senator.
Peter Costello's budget statement, August 20, 1996:

BUDGET measures have focused on reducing waste and duplication, targeting expenditure on those activities that deliver the greatest benefit to the community and eliminating or scaling back non-core activities.

The next day Labor's John Faulkner takes Costello's words and puts them in Howard's mouth:

COULD Senator [Robert] Hill explain to the Senate why Mr Howard redefined the election promises that he did not intend to keep as "non-core" election commitments?

Hartcher in The Sydney Morning Herald, November 8, 2007:

HOWARD invented a new concept in evasiveness yesterday to add to his other creations, the "non-core" promise and the "two-night" promise.

Indeed, what part did our "world class" media play is propagating and spreading the meme?

Follow the link, there's more.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

There's no such thing as junk food, only junk diets - at last, someone gets it!

Because right now I have to say, sorry Holly, but you’re full of crap. First of all, every cigarette is bad for you. That’s why the economic costs of tobacco are massive. But junk food? If you were hungry, why couldn’t you eat a hamburger? After all, isn’t it just bread, meat, lettuce, tomato and sauce? Which one of those perfectly normal everyday food items is “junk”? Could it be that every expert that looks down their nose at a Big Mac would regard having a focaccia (containing basically the same ingredients) at a hip café as a cultural experience.

Which brings me back to Junior Masterchef. Of course I’m kidding, it shouldn’t be banned. My point is just that the way we look at food has a strong class-based bias to it. In a nutshell it goes like this – Ronald McDonald, evil; Alain Ducasse, genius.

And finally, once and for all, there is no such thing as “junk food”. There are, however, junk diets. Sure there are some people who don’t have the education and life skills to know the difference between a junk diet and a good diet. So here’s a thought – instead of taxing “junk food” (and remember there’s no way to define what that means) why don’t we work with those people in raising their social capital?

Or is that too much like hard work?

Full article here.