Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reinflating the Housing Bubble: Making the Same Mistake Again

Don't people ever learn? This is from Big Government:
Charles Gasparino does a very nice job exposing Freddie Mac,  Fannie Mae, and their advocates for the destructive forces that they are. Everyone, even Obama for a while, recognizes that at the heart of the financial markets meltdown was the collapse in the US housing market, which itself was a bubble enabled in various ways by government programs explicitly designed to increase the percentage of people owning homes.

Whether through the Community Reinvestment Act or through a relentless Federal Reserve bank policy of next-to-zero percent interest rates or guarantees of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (and major incentives to them to buy any mortgage on secondary markets no matter how dubiously documented or financed), it’s clear that pro-home-ownership policies massively increased housing prices and risky loans.

Yet what blows my mind, is that currently the government is again pumping billions of dollars into various programs to increase home ownership rates and to stabilize or increase home values throughout the country.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

I don't know if I buy this 'world government' claim, but...

...I do think people should at least watch Lord Christopher Monckton and John Bolton discuss the upcoming Copenhagen conference on climate change and what it may mean.

There is a killer arguement from Lord Monckton though to my scepticism on that point - Europe.

People in Europe, especially the British, have been told time and time again that claims that a particular treaty would cede sovereignty from a democratically elected government in Whitehall to unelected European officials were just right-wing or nationalist scaremongering.

And yet that is exactly what has happened. (Don't let the existence of a basically impotent and pointless European parliament fool you here.)

Treaties, just like charters of rights, are living documents that take on a life of their own once passed and very often have consequences that their framers never even imagined.

Mr Bolton is not as concerned as Lord Monckton about the particular significance of Copenhagen.

Part 7 seems to start with the same bit as part 5, but is longer.

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"Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."

Blogger Donald Sensing has a fascinating analysis of President Obama's war against Fox News. He describes the effort as "directly out of the Saul Alinsky playbook." Alinsky was the author of "Rules for Radicals," bible of left-wing community organizers. One of his rules, or "power tactics": "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Sensing analyzes how Obama is carrying out this advice:

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David Marr - Prince Charles knows best

The Bolter again:

David Marr detects a sinister pattern:
The leading monarchists left in Canberra are Tony Abbott and senators Nick Minchin, Connie Fierravanti-Wells, Cory Bernardi and George Brandis. Here’s something strange: Brandis to one side, they are all global-warming sceptics.
Wow. Four out of five politicians picked by Marr are sceptics of two Leftist theories they suspect may, on the evidence, leave us worse off.

But then Marr immediately ruins his own conspiracy:
This puts them seriously out of sync with the Mountbatten-Windsors who are as green as royal families get. In Brazil in March, the Prince of Wales declared global warming the “greatest and most critical challenge” facing the world.
Er, so Marr, the virulent republican, now suggests Prince Charles, the frequent-flyer hypocrite, as the source of wisdom? I mean, if Charles wants us to cut emissions, why was he in Brazil?

But let me offer Marr a rival conspiracy:
The strongest global-warming sceptics in the Rudd Government are reputedly Martin Ferguson, Craig Emerson, Stephen Conroy and Gary Gray. Here’s something strange: they are all republicans.

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Alarmist goes cool on alarmism

Sir David King's hypocrisy here can only be described as breathtaking. But like a number in the alarmist camp, including some in the media, they have sniffed the breeze and noted a change in the wind direction, (I think that's a mixed metaphor, but never mind), and are starting to reposition themselves.

This is from Andrew Bolt's blog:

David King was once one of the most notorious of global warming alarmists:
Antarctica is likely to be the world’s only habitable continent by the end of this century if global warming remains unchecked, the (British) government’s chief scientist, Professor Sir David King said last week. He said the Earth was entering the ‘first hot period’ for 60 million years when there was no ice on the plane and “the rest of the globe could not sustain human life”.
That was just five years ago, when alarmism was all the rage. (Certainly King didn’t feel any need to dispute then the accuracy of that report. Indeed, he even preached the falsehood that global warming was melting the snows of Kilimanjaro.)

But since then, the planet has cooled and so has the public to such scaremongering. Now King worries that this kind of frantic exaggeration - by others, of course - is staining his credibility:
Exaggerated and inaccurate claims about the threat from global warming risk undermining efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and contain climate change, senior scientists have told The Times.

Environmental lobbyists, politicians, researchers and journalists who distort climate science to support an agenda erode public understanding and play into the hands of sceptics, according to experts including a former government chief scientist…

“I worry a lot that NGOs [non-governmental organisations] are very much in the habit of doing exactly that,” said Professor Sir David King, director of the Smith School for Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, and a former government chief scientific adviser.

“...The danger is they can be accused of scaremongering. Also, we can all become described as kind of left-wing greens.”
King seems to have tried to distance himself from the greens even more than he did last year, when he said:
There is a suspicion, and I have that suspicion myself, that a large number of people who label themselves are actually keen to take us back to the 18th or even the 17th century. [Their argument is] ‘Let’s get away from all the technological gizmos and developments of the 20th century’,..
I think King is finally cooling, too.

Benny Peiser notes it was only a year ago that King was still up for some alarmism himself. Claiming:
If all the ice on Greenland were to melt, sea level would rise by seven metres. Is that likely to happen? Well I was saying six years ago unlikely [but] I’m afraid that that’s having to be revised… 80 percent of our human population lives within less than a one metre rise of sea level so imagine the destabilisation of our geopolitical system with a sea level rise of the order of one or two metres. And that is on the cards I’m afraid.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chris Uhlmann commits heresy on our ABC

From the ABC:
Popper became famous for his epistemological work demarking science from pseudo-science. It boiled down to testability. If a theory could be falsified by experimentation it was science, if it couldn't it wasn't.

So Popper would argue that to say any theory is "settled" means that you are not talking about science but pseudo-science.

By now it should be clear that I am building towards an act of heresy. In mainstream political and scientific debate today what held true for Einstein does not hold true for climate science. Climate science we are endlessly told is "settled".

But to make the, perfectly reasonable, point that science is never settled risks being branded a "sceptic" or worse a "denier".

"Denier" is one of those words, like "racist", which is deliberately designed to gag debate. And what is wrong with being a sceptic? The Greek root of the word means "thoughtful" or "inquiring" and that used to be a virtue.

If to question a science which relies so heavily on computer generated modelling is to be a denier or a sceptic, then stack me up with the heretics and go find the matches. Because modelling is a black art and the models will be wrong. They might understate or overstate the outcome but they will change over time. Model failure is so common there is a name for it: model risk.

If you doubt how badly things can go with impressive models then consider for a moment the recent financial crisis. A lot of very big companies paid a fortune to a cadre of mathematics and physics PhDs, called "quants", who developed models that were supposed to eliminate risk. Turns out they got it hideously wrong and some believe they made a bad situation a whole lot worse.

As he goes on to say, you can be denounced as a denier even if you accept that man-made claimate change is a reality, but don't agree with the supposed solutions.
And what is wrong with being a sceptic? The Greek root of the word means "thoughtful" or "inquiring" and that used to be a virtue.


Another crack, at the ABC of all places, in the virtually total media blackout of voices expressing doubt about climate change.

And doubt can be in the form, yes the climate is changing, and we probably have played some part in it (though maybe a minor part), but that doesn't mean the world is coming to an end as those seeking to profit from engendering a sense of panic and hysteria, (money making rackets like Greenpeace or the WWF, or the various rent-seeking businesses flogging over-priced solar panels or those in government and academia whose funding and career prospects are now tied to it), say it is.

Read it all.

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Jewish settler saves gay Palestinian man

It is heartening that even in situations fraught with conflict and chaos, with actors highly polarised and suspicious, extraordinarily, decency and humanity survives.
Ynet News reports:
Young Palestinian man who lives with his partner in Israel visits his parents in West Bank, not allowed back into Israel. Residents of his villages threaten to kill him. Rescue comes from unexpected source: Religious Jewish settler who agreed to hide him in settlement
Read the rest of this story here.

Many young gay and lesbian Palestinians flee forced marriage and even murder by trying to enter Israel.

This isn't an apologia for the settlement movement.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Quack who claimed to cure ALL cancers dies of...

...yes, you guessed it. Cancer.
Multiple myeloma. Cancer of plasma cells, a form of lymphoma.

Don't believe me? Check out Hulda Clark's death certificate (certain addresses whited out) for yourself. Even Hulda Clark's own website admits that she had multiple myeloma:
Dr. Clark helped many people get well, but she couldn't help herself. Her first symptom was excruciating pain in her arms. Pain medicines were ineffective. It would turn out she had deterioration in her neck vertebrae which was pinching those nerves. Her hands stopped functioning. It would turn out later she had carpal tunnel syndrome. So as soon as Dr. Clark knew there was something wrong, she physically could not use her Syncrometer techniques to investigate it because her hands and arms did not work well enough. Her health deterioration was a mystery.
Well, not really. The cause of her health deterioration, while perhaps a mystery initially, is quite clear now. She had multiple myeloma. It's also a pretty lame excuse. I mean, come on! Clark "trained" dozens of acolytes to use her Syncrometer. Are they really saying that not a single one of them could use her device, which she claimed as part of the "cure for all cancers," to cure her cancer, as she claimed she could cure all cancers? Not that it would have done any more good for Clark than it did for any of the cancer patients who misplaced their faith by putting it in her, but the excuse used to explain why Clark died of cancer when she had spent so many years claiming that she could cure it is lame in the extreme. Surely there must have been someone who could have operated the Syncronometer for her!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Organic metals now?

Organic food tough? Try new organic metal

The breathtaking and insouciant ignorance we all have to live with

When I began to learn about chemistry as a boy at school, I was introduced to the world of the organic and the inorganic. The term "organic", I was told, referred to the presence of carbon and identified livings things such as plants and animals, while "inorganic" described non-living things such as minerals, metals and rocks.

Over the last decade I rode out the non-sequitur of "organic" vegetables with the begrudged understanding that the advertisers were claiming that pesticides had not been used in the production process. But I still winced when people earnestly tried to tell me the advantages of organic eggs and organic milk. It was, and is, impossible to argue against such frustrating nomenclature.

But now a line has to be drawn in the sand, before we enter the linguistic nightmare of the "post-organic". The ultimate misuse of the term came on Saturday morning when I needed to buy some magnesium tablets to keep the leg cramps away - these are one of the joys of cycling later in life. In my local health food shop I discovered a small bottle of Organic Magnesium. "How can magnesium be described as organic?" I asked the woman who so gushingly wanted to assist me. "It's healthy, it's organic!" she gushed. "But magnesium is a mineral and a mineral can't be described as organic … it's like talking about organic steel."

She stared and blinked, like a knowing owl. "The organic label," she explained, trying not to sound condescending, "tells us that no pesticides were used in producing it. This magnesium is completely organic." My mouth opened slowly, quietly and stupidly. "Ah, magnesium doesn't grow on plants, so you don't need pesticides. It's a mineral."

The woman shrugged. She seemed to size me up: pot belly, white beard, I could almost hear her say: "What would you know about health food?"

At this stage I knew I had lost, and began to wonder if there were such a thing as "orgasmic magnesium". Now, that would lead to some interesting discussions. Anyway, I bought that particular bottle of Organic Magnesium, probably out of a sense of personal perversity. Later I recounted the incident to my grey-haired girlfriend and showed her the bottle. She laughed, "You have made a good choice," she said, "look at the fine print: 'organic magnesium is good for preventing PMS'."

Just what I needed: an affront to science and a question over my sense of masculinity. I grimaced and we took off up the highway in our organic car. Organic? Well, no pesticides or chemical fertilisers were used in its production. Therefore, ipso facto, my car is the latest commodity to become truly organic.


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The government is spending $524,000 to what?

It seems incredible that no one in 91 years has asked this question, so who can object to the Rudd Government now spending $524,000 to find out the answer? From the latest list of approved Australian Research Council Grants:
Approved Project Title

2010 :$ 106,000
2011 :$ 107,000
2012 :$ 105,000
2013 :$ 105,000
2014 : $ 101,000

ARF Dr EP Greenhalgh
The University of New South Wales

Wars are expensive undertakings, and an understanding of Australia’s successful part in the First World War will prove helpful in avoiding expensive mistakes in any future coalition operations to which Australia might contribute. This research will provide a better understanding of Australia’s military contribution in 1914-18 by revealing how the international coalition worked. In addition, the success of 1918, in contradistinction to the failed offensive on Gallipoli, should provide lessons for military planners, logistics experts, and civil-military relations generally. The analysis of how wars end will provide especially useful lessons as the messy conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan follow the Vietnam War into history.
The last time this area was investigated, it cost Australian taxpayers zero and resulted in a much-admired besteller.  How the allies won in Iraq might actually be a better guide to undertaking future operations, but that’s been written, too, and again at zero cost to taxpayers.

Reader MudCrab answers the question for free in comments below. Half a mill saved, right there.

[Hmmm, I wonder how much of this grant money will be spent putting the "researcher" up in Paris for an extended period?]

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Drinking blood makes vampire spider sexier

Ed Yong can be followed on Twitter too

In East Africa lives a species of spider that drinks mammalian blood. But fear not - Evarcha culicivora is an indirect vampire - it sates its thirst by preying on female mosquitoes that have previously fed on blood themselves.


Even though its habitat is full of non-biting midges called "lake flies", it can tell the difference between these insects and the blood-carrying mozzies it carries. Robert Jackson from the University of Canterbury discovered this behaviour a few years ago and one of his colleagues, Fiona Cross, has now found that the blood isn't just a meal for the spiders, it's an aphrodisiac too.




Photo of E.culicivora eating a mosquito, by R. Jackson.


Cross made spiders choose between two adults of the opposite sex, by wafting their smells down a tube on different days and seeing which drew the choosy spider's attention for the longest time. The contenders had been fed on one of four diets: blood-fed female mosquitoes, sugar-fed female mosquitoes, male mosquitoes, or lake flies. 

Also at his blog, "a spider that must be an arachnophobe's worst nightmare."

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Colossal 'sea monster' unearthed

Infographic revealing the pliosaurs size

The fossilised skull of a colossal "sea monster" has been unearthed along the UK's Jurassic Coast.


The ferocious predator, which is called a pliosaur, terrorised the oceans 150 million years ago.

The skull is 2.4m long, and experts say it could belong to one of the largest pliosaurs ever found: measuring up to 16m in length.

The fossil, which was found by a local collector, has been purchased by Dorset County Council.

It was bought with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and it will now be scientifically analysed, prepared and then put on public display at Dorset County Museum.

Palaeontologist Richard Forrest told the BBC: "I had heard rumours that something big was turning up. But seeing this thing in the flesh, so to speak, is just jaw dropping. It is simply enormous."

The Nude Socialist has an article for all of your extinct marine reptile needs here.
Marine reptiles were among the first vertebrate fossils known to science and were key to the development of the theory of evolution. In the late 18th century the massive jaws of a lizard-like beast were found in a mine in Maastricht in the Netherlands. Later named Mosasaurus, the creature helped convince scientists that animals could become extinct, a radical concept in its day. In the early 19th century, ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs discovered by legendary fossil hunter Mary Anning around Lyme Bay in south-west England helped establish the science of palaeontology. Marine reptiles were among the best-understood extinct creatures of the first half of the 19th century and played a major role in the intellectual debate nurturing Darwin's theory of evolution.

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1796 treaty says the US not founded on Christianity

From the 1796 Treaty between the United States of America and The Bey and Subjects Of Tripoli Of Barbary:
Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Hillary Clinton stands up for free speech

Okay, let's be fair and give praise where it is due.

"Some claim that the best way to protect the freedom of religion is to implement so-called 'anti-defamation' policies that would restrict freedom of expression and the freedom of religion," she said on presenting a department report on religious freedom.

"I strongly disagree. The United States will always ... stand against discrimination and persecution ... But an individual's ability to practice his or her religion has no bearing on others' freedom of speech," Clinton said.

"The protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faith will inevitably hold divergent views on religious questions. These differences should be met with tolerance, not with the suppression of discourse," she added.

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You! Yes, you! Put that chop down!

From Andrew Bolt. In the same post he points to an interesting phenomenon where the comments sections to stories like this are increasingly sceptical and dismissive about them.

And really, given this type of nonsense, is this at all surprising?
Your steak is killing the planet:
PEOPLE will need to turn vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change, according to a leading authority on global warming. Lord Stern said: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”
So will the UN’s Copenhagen summit on global warming in December ban meat from the delegates’ menu? No way. Vegetarianism is for the mob.

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Death to Adelaide! Again and again and again.

From Tim Blair:
Environmental researcher Tim Flannery has warned that Brisbane and Adelaide – home to a combined total of three million people – could run out of water by year’s end.
The water problem is so severe for Adelaide that it may run out of water by early 2009.
Our fifth-largest city, Adelaide, may be out of drinking water next year.

Let’s put money on it this time. Your call, Flannery. Any amount.
UPDATE. He do offset! Further from the interview in which Flannery makes his latest annual death-to-Adelaide prediction:
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Tim, as you head off to the airport to increase your carbon footprint, we’ll let you go, because I know you have to catch that flight. Tim Flannery, Australian—

TIM FLANNERY: Thank you, Amy. I do offset.

He probably gets a bulk discount.

UPDATE II. Keep up with the science, man! According to a study released last month:
The average Australian now emits more carbon dioxide than the average American – which means Australia has surpassed the United States, claiming the dubious distinction of world’s largest per-capita carbon emitter.
Yes! But in the LA Times, Flannery claims:
The U.S. remains the biggest per capita carbon emitter in the world …
Don’t talk us down, Perfesser. That’s our title. We’ve earned it.

I don't know how Flummery continues to get away with it or why anybody still takes him seriously.

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Senator Cory Bernardi levels with voters about the new tax on everything

Rudd’s new tax on everything will hurt us all

Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi levels with voters: the ETS is a fraud. Cutting our emissions will do nothing for the climate, but sure will kill jobs.

I think that’s one vote Malcolm Turnbull can’t count on in the Senate to help pass Kevin Rudd’s colossal “$50 billion tax on everything”. I wonder how well he’d be travelling if he’d taken this tack himself a year ago - minus the populist flourishes that diminish the deadly serious message, that is.

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Clive James on those who should know better

Clive James on those who should know better:
It’s a nasty word to be called, denialist, because it calls up the spectacle of a fanatic denying the Holocaust. In my homeland, Australia, there are some prominent intellectuals who are quite ready to say that any sceptic about man-made global warming is doing even worse than denying the Holocaust, because this time the whole of the human race stands to be obliterated.
Really they should know better, because the two events are not remotely comparable. The Holocaust actually happened.

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Peter Schiff issues a Red Alert: "Get out of the US dollar"

Given the fact that Peter Schiff was one of the few analysts out there who [saw] the 2008 economic crisis coming two years ahead of time, this is well worth listening to.

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So maybe Uncle Wilson isn't that mad after all?

A SENIOR member of the Australian Tamil community says former Tamil Tiger fighters are definitely among the influx of boatpeople to arrive on our shores.


Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations secretary Victor Rajakulendran said the high proportion of young men on the boats, coupled with the risks faced by the Tigers in Sri Lanka, made it certain some arrivals were members of the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Now, as Mr Rajakulendran goes on to say, there's no reason necessarily why any Tigers who might slip in this way would pose a threat to the general community, but this yet again highlights just how bogus and pretended the prime minister's "outrage" at the recent comments by Wilson Tuckey were.

And it's not that Mr Tuckey's comments were particularly over the top:
There could be the occasional terrorist in a boatload of people. If you wanted to get into Australia and you have bad intentions, what do you do? You insert yourself in a crowd of a hundred for which there is great sympathy for the other 99. You go on a system where nobody brings their papers, you have no identity, you have no address.

Which is not much more than has been said previously by Kim Beazley and Labor refugee advocate Michael Danby.

Yet Mr Rudd goes into hyperbole overdrive in describing Mr Tuckey's remarks as "deeply divisive, disgusting."

It's also interesting to see how most members of the media are quite happy to reflexively frame anything Mr Tuckey says within the "mad uncle" meme, without ever bothering to consider what he actually says.

Now I realise that Mr Tuckey has given ample examples in the past of some pretty 'out there' comments, but one of the things I believe we have a right to expect from journalists is a constantly sceptical mind set that always seeks to look behind and beyond commonplace assumptions, and not just repeat them.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Benjamin Franklin and daylight saving

From Paul Eggert (2001-03-06):

Daylight Saving Time was first suggested as a joke by Benjamin Franklin in his whimsical essay “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” published in the Journal de Paris (1784-04-26). Not everyone is happy with the results.

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The obsessive self-absorption of identity politics

"Was 9-11 bad for women?"

What? Oh dear, you know what's coming don't you?
I don’t know Joanne Lipman, whose op-ed in the New York Times asks the salient question: was 9-11 bad for women? Maybe she is a cagey humorist, a sly provocateur who seeks to remind us that for some victimologists, it’s always about their peculiar gripe. But I suspect Ms. Lipman is serious.

She solemnly recounts the many slights and hazards that recently have befallen women (except those who in much greater numbers than men kept their jobs during the recession and those who populate high positions in government). Got it? Things are bad for women. Bad. She finds a significant cause for this sorry state of gender affairs in the 9-11 attack:

But, as Jennifer Rubin from Commentary Magazine notes: You can hunt in vain for the connective tissue between “women are getting the short end of the stick — again” and 9-11. You won’t find it.

But that's the thing with so much of today's identity politics. Everything has to be about you and your besetting concerns. Stuff just can't happen without reference to you. And so it goes round and around. In an ideal world of course these people and their concerns would end up disappearing up their own arses, but it never seems to happen sadly.
Here’s the thing, Ms. Lipman: respect is earned. And you’re not going to get it writing columns that recycle every cliche in the 1970s feminist playbook. You’re not going to get it by suggesting 9-11 was responsible for some women not getting everything they want. And you’re not going to get it by using the New York Times to explain why the magazine you headed failed because of some ongoing conspiracy by chauvinists.

via the Instapundit

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Jesus!, is that an alligator coming out of the sewer?!

Spencer: AGW has all the characteristics of an “urban legend”

24 10 2009
An Expensive Urban Legend
by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Urban legend? Gators don't really live in the sewer. describes an “urban legend” as an apocryphal (of questionable authenticity), secondhand story, told as true and just plausible enough to be believed, about some horrific…series of events….it’s likely to be framed as a cautionary tale. Whether factual or not, an urban legend is meant to be believed. In lieu of evidence, however, the teller of an urban legend is apt to rely on skillful storytelling and reference to putatively trustworthy sources.

I contend that the belief in human-caused global warming as a dangerous event, either now or in the future, has most of the characteristics of an urban legend. Like other urban legends, it is based upon an element of truth. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas whose concentration in the atmosphere is increasing, and since greenhouse gases warm the lower atmosphere, more CO2 can be expected, at least theoretically, to result in some level of warming.

But skillful storytelling has elevated the danger from a theoretical one to one of near-certainty. The actual scientific basis for the plausible hypothesis that humans could be responsible for most recent warming is contained in the cautious scientific language of many scientific papers. Unfortunately, most of the uncertainties and caveats are then minimized with artfully designed prose contained in the Summary for Policymakers (SP) portion of the report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This Summary was clearly meant to instill maximum alarm from a minimum amount of direct evidence.

The full article here

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Easier to shout "neocon" than to engage in honest debate

Certainly the lazy use of "neocon" as a cover-all term of abuse and self-sufficient "argument" by members of the Left really pisses me off.

Over at The Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan has been debating the United Nations's Goldstone report on war crimes committed in Gaza (whose critics, including the State Department, say it was unfairly hostile to Israel) and the fallout from this New York Times opinion piece, in which a founder of Human Rights Watch denounces the group for having "written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region."

In the Times editorial, Robert L. Bernstein points out that "Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and an expert on warfare, has said that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza 'did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.'" Noah Pollak also pointed to Kemp's testimony, which was made on behalf of the group UN Watch (though it wasn't first time he has defended the tactics of the IDF). In response to these two invocations of Kemp, Sullivan responds with an attack on the group that hosted him:
For a little background on this neutral observer, here's the Wikipedia entry on UN Watch, the hard neocon group Kemp is representing.

The rest at Reason Online

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The campaign against debate

Business writer James Kirby on the usually hidden campaign to silence even a sceptic as qualified as Professor Ian Plimer, author of the best-seller Heaven and Earth:
Last week I was asked to chair a question-and-answer session for Plimer at the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), a non-political business association. I was sceptical about associating with Plimer and so were many of those attending. Just before Plimer took to the stage, a senior AICD member whispered: ”We’ve had more complaints about hosting this guy than anyone I can remember.’’
In this case, the whisperers and character assassins failed to move even these timid business souls, and Kirby confesses:
By the time Plimer had finished his address, one thing had become clear - climate change is a debate in which one side has dominated media coverage.... Like most investors or business people, I am not a scientist and I can’t tell if either side is fudging the figures. But I know that when a highly qualified scientist is sidelined and demonised to the point he can’t get a book published - and that book later becomes a bestseller - we may not be getting the full story.
No wonder the very idea of debate is bitterly opposed by the ABC preachers and Greens candidates.

The makers of the eco-alarmist The Age of Stupid are even more determined to silence dissent:
Post your reviews and ratings of The Age Of Stupid below. Any comments from climate deniers/sceptics will be deleted.

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Monkeys fly outta my butt with ice cream cones

The Obama administration now claims it did not try to exclude Fox News from Thursday’s round of network interviews with pay czar Ken Feinberg.  A treasury department spokesperson claimed, “There was no plot to exclude Fox News, and they had the same interview that their competitors did. Much ado about absolutely nothing”. 

Unfortunately for the Obama administration, four other networks are fully aware of the situation and have proof that the treasury department is lying.  Fox did have the same interview as their competitors, only because the other networks came to FNC’s defense.  They refused to do the interviews with Feinberg unless Fox was given the same opportunity

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Dozens turn out for Day of Apathy

Or as my friend down under, Andrew Bolt, calls it: “Day of apathy”


Sydney yesterday demonstrated the depth of international passion about global warming through several highly pictorial stunts:
It was part of a series of events across Sydney yesterday by the environment movement Australia was the first of 179 countries to take part in 4500 events worldwide as part of the International Day of Climate Action.
Counting the people in the picture, though, I’d say that this is not a global day of action, but global day of apathy. Or, let’s hope, a global day of mounting scepticism.

Left: People outside the Opera House take a stand on climate change yesterday. Top: . Protesters at Manly and bottom, Marton Hidas at the Opera House.
Left: People outside the Opera House take a stand on climate change yesterday. Top: Protesters at Manly and bottom, Marton Hidas at the Opera House. Photo: Adam Hollingworth, Janie Barrett

And that’s even without discounting for the tourists and the unfortunate children who were simply dragged there by parents warning them they may not have a future:
Among those on the Opera House steps showing their support was Rae Lawrence from Croydon, who brought her sons, Cameron, 6, and Nicholas, 8. ‘’We care about the future and I want them to have one to live in,’’ she said.
Apologies. From Greenpeace, this proof that the crowds in Sydney may have been even bigger than I sneeringly suggest:


The global day of apathy rolls on in Rome:


And in Kiev:


And Dunedin, just the one:


In Copenhagen, where the world’s leaders will meet in December to discuss slashing emissions – or not:


And Shanghai, city of 17 million, in a country that is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases:


But you know it’s a snoozer, media-wise, when “balloon boy”, his mom, and the death of Soupy Sales gets above the fold on Google News and “350″ doesn’t:

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Europe gave Russia heaps of imaginary money and now has a problem

From Greenie Watch too:

They are in a bind over their own fantasies. Excuse me while I laugh!

The European Union is wondering what to do with billions of unused pollution credits accumulated by Russia, Ukraine and other former communist states of Eastern Europe under the Kyoto Protocol as lawmakers worry about the continuity of the carbon market beyond 2012.

Environment ministers from the 27-member bloc met in Luxembourg on Wednesday (21 October) to thrash out the position that the European Union will take to UN climate talks in December.

But as an international agreement slowly takes shape, the question of what to do with the billions of unused pollution credits accumulated during the 2008-2012 period has become the "elephant in the room" for negotiators. "There is a lot of money involved," said the European Commission's environment spokesperson Barbara Helfferich. "We haven't clarified our position on this in detail," she told EurActiv after the ministers' meeting on Wednesday.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, countries were granted a certain number of permits to release greenhouse gases in the atmosphere called Assigned Amount Units (AAUs), which are equivalent to one tonne of CO2.

Kyoto targets were decided based on 1990 emission levels. But in the wake of massive deindustrialisation that followed the fall of communism, Eastern European countries are now finding themselves sitting on a huge stockpile of unused pollution credits. "The Russians have accumulated something like five billion units" during 2008-2012, said an EU diplomat from one of the large EU member states. "This is enormous," he added, saying the amount is equivalent to the effort expected from the entire EU during the upcoming 2013-2020 period. "We have a big problem of hot air in the system," the diplomat said.

Stefan Singer, director of global energy policy at WWF, warned that the possibility for Russia and Ukraine to carry over their surplus credits after 2012 would probably "sink" international climate talks.


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Responding to the greenie attack on dogs

In response to a Greenie attack on dogs, a reader writes:

Regarding the carbon footprint of a dog, a rough back of envelope calculation (assuming a linear relation between the size of an animal and its carbon footprint) yields... bison weighing in at a ton is roughly the equivalent of 20 dogs. There were at one time an estimated 60 million bison in the USA, which comes out to 1.2 billion dog/(SUV) equivalents, which is roughly 4 times the present human population of the USA. ...for whatever that might be worth.

One would think the Greenie obsession with death would alert us to their real agenda, killing things. They pretend that having only one child is benign, but such a practice will cause any group practicing it to die out. If I remember correctly, the destruction of a people is called "genocide," regardless of the means employed.

Let's hope the Greenies practice what they preach! --JR

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Durutti Column - Sketch For Summer

Yes, I'm on another nostalgia binge.

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The Triffids - Wide Open Road

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Laughing Clowns - Eternally Yours

Seeing the Laughing Clowns years ago at some pub in Perth still stands out as one of the most memorable gigs I have ever seen.

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Gordon Browns His Trousers and Goes Green Reaching for the Climate Porn

When Gordon Brown spoke of ‘catastrophe’ yesterday, he wasn’t talking about his premiership or worrying about the UK under a Tory government.

Brown has always been rather quiet on climate change. His government hasn’t, but he has. We’ve always had the impression that he went along with the greening of New Labour a tad reluctantly. It’s as if he thought there were more pressing matters, even if he wasn’t quite sure what they were.

He suddenly seems to be making up for lost time
PM warns of climate ‘catastrophe’

But even some climate scientists who are definitely not in the sceptical camp are concerned about such language:
Which would seem like a good moment to remember the cautionary words of climate scientist Mike Hulme:
The language of catastrophe is not the language of science. It will not be visible in next year’s global assessment from the world authority of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)[Note: AR4]. To state that climate change will be “catastrophic” hides a cascade of value-laden assumptions which do not emerge from empirical or theoretical science.

It's of course Mike Hulme who coined the term 'climate porn' to describe the kind of exaggeration that Mr Brown is engaging in.

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The Sisters of Mercy (featuring Ofra Haza) - Temple of Love '92

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Public Image Limited - Public Image

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Peter Schiff - get rid of your US dollars and buy gold, silver

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Wine I'm drinking - Amberley Estate Chimney Brush Chenin Blanc 2008

Not a great wine, but not a bad wine either.

Won it last night at a quiz night (we came second, losing by just one point), so I have no complaints of any kind. As the back label promises, there's plenty of fresh fruit salad flavours and a touch of sweetness (though not too much).

With summer almost upon us, (not that you'd think so today), I can't see why people would buy those bloody New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs when they can get this locally produced number. At least not the cheaper to mid-range ones anyway.

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This gives me the horn


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International Greenie Hypocrisy Day

Asian Correspondent's Edwin Espejo argues that whereas environmentally friendly energy is fantastic it's not a viable option for Mindanao. I think he's right and that wind, geo-thermal, solar and hydro-power can't come anywhere close to meeting the developing world's rising energy demand. The only realistic energy options are fossil fuels and nuclear power. But since nuclear power plants are very expensive and take years to plan and build it looks like fossil fuels will provide power for less well-off nations for the foreseeable future. Developing nations are not going to sacrifice economic development in order to cut emissions. That's just the way it is.

Today's worldwide climate change protests, kicking off in Australia, ignore that reality. Those marching will be well off, high per capita carbon emitting hypocrites. Few rural Indians will participate, neither knowing nor caring that Bianca Jagger – a "champion for social and environmental justice" – will attend the London rally. After doing their bit for the environment the protesters will drive home (the more stylish in fuel-guzzling SUVs), turn on the air-conditioner, grab a beer from the fridge and kick back in front of their big-screen TVs to watch the day's protest action. Bianca and the other high profile do-gooders will, of course, jet back to wherever they jetted in from. The developing world will be enveloped by a warm glow of smug self-satisfaction. Meanwhile, the less well off will be hoping for reliable and cheap electricity to make their lives easier. Oh yeah, and a car. Travel by jet comes later.

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SuperFreakonomics: are solar panels really black and what does it have to do with anything?

Nathan Myhrvold is a polymath’s polymath, the former chief technology officer at Microsoft who, by the time he was 23, had earned, primarily at UCLA and Princeton, a bachelor’s degree (mathematics), two master’s degrees (geophysics/space physics and mathematical economics), and a Ph.D. (mathematical physics). He is co-founder of Intellectual Ventures, a firm comprising many other scientists, including climate scientists, whose counterintuitive views on global warming and its possible solutions are explored in the final chapter of SuperFreakonomics. A climate-activist blogger didn’t like the chapter, accusing Levitt and Dubner of chicanery (a charge that Dubner rebuffed here) and accusing Myhrvold of not understanding the physics behind solar power. Oops. Below you can read Myhrvold’s views on the tenor of the global-warming debate in general and solar power in particular. Watch this space for further rebuttals of shouted claims of error and evil.

One of the saddest things for me about climate science is how political it has become. Science works by having an open dialog that ultimately converges on the truth, for the common benefit of everyone. Most scientific fields enjoy this free flow of ideas.

There are serious scientific and technological issues in studying our climate, how it responds to human-caused emission of greenhouse gases, and what the most effective solutions will be for global warming. But unfortunately, the policy implications are vast and there is a lot at stake in economic terms.

It seems inevitable that discussions of climate science would degenerate to being deeply politicized and polarized. Depending on which views are adopted, individuals, industries, and countries will gain or lose, which provides ample motive. Once people with a strong political or ideological bent latch onto an issue, it becomes hard to have a reasonable discussion...

The rest here at The New York Times

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Let's push on to 450ppm! Plants will love you for it!

I'd have to agree with this commenter on this post of Tim Blair's I pointed to earlier:
I’ll just go off and turn on some lights, start the dishwasher and wash some clothes.

I’ve already burnt some petrol for no reason other than it is fun in my MX-5.

How about we go for 450?  Man loves a challenge and the plants will thrive!

JBG of Sydney (Reply)
Sat 24 Oct 09 (04:03pm)
And yes, plants will love you for the extra carbon dioxide. Greenhouse keepers don't artificially raise its concentration in their greenhouses to 1,000ppm or more for nothing you know.

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St Kevin's halo may choke him

The ABC's Chris Uhlmann writing in this morning's The Weekend Australian:

Now his post-church sermons have become a regular feature of Sunday political fare.

Pause for a moment and imagine what the reaction would have been if John Howard had done that.

We have some idea what Rudd would make of it because in two essays for The Monthly in 2006 he railed at "how right-wing Christian extremism has become John Howard's religious handmaiden in his political project to reshape Australia". It is hard to imagine that Rudd would have stayed mute if Howard had appropriated a church as a backdrop for political statements.

Much was made of the rise of the religious Right in the Howard years and some ministers, such as Tony Abbott, did wear their beliefs on their sleeves. Howard did not. He was old enough to remember the great divide in Australian history was sectarianism and, save for funerals, he scrupulously avoided pictures at church.

But Rudd has made a parade of his beliefs and is given to cloaking political arguments in moral garments.

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Tim Blair gets into the spirit of the International Day of Climate Action!

Some $350 worth of mud crabs are presently in my kitchen. Occasionally I can hear them scraping at the sides of their polystyrene prison. Only a few hours to go, little ones. Then you will be at peace – rich, delicious, Singapore chilli peace.

Also on tonight’s menu: rock oysters, scampi, and whatever other sea-beasts guests can trap (Joe, who misunderstood the concept, is bringing KFC). It’s just our way of celebrating the global day of action.

You can read more of him here.

Mmmmm, chilli crab.

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Where are the Hurricanes Mr Gore?

By Alan Caruba, Warning Signs (for the full post)

That god among men and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Al Gore, told us in “An Inconvenient Truth”, his Oscar-winning documentary, that we had to brace for increasing numbers of hurricanes as the result of global warming.

So, where are the hurricanes of 2009, Mr. Gore?

The hurricane season that runs from June through October is about to end with nothing more than one weak to borderline moderate tropical storm that hit Florida’s panhandle, but there have been NO hurricanes.

So, where are the hurricanes of 2009, Mr. Gore?

Trying to predict how many hurricanes there will be each year is probably fun, but is a highly risky undertaking. I have a lot of friends among the meteorological and climatological community, men of science, but I always cross my fingers for them when they take a run at it.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Seriously, just nice - the Obamas with their kids

Politically, the SondraK blog is no supporter of Mr Obama and his policies.

But this is a lovely photo of a man and a woman who I'm sure are nice people and devoted parents.

As I said here, I'm not surprised that Mr Obama was one of the presidents who came out looking like a nice guy from a recent book recounting the experiences of Secret Service agents who have guarded American presidents over the years.


"Say what you will...they really are an extremely attractive family."

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Germany burns money to get "renewable" power

But as I keep saying, this is green economics in a nutshell - getting less for more!

An aggressive policy of generously subsidizing and effectively mandating "renewable" electricity generation in Germany has led to a doubling of the renewable contribution to electricity generation in recent years.

This preference came primarily in the form of a subsidy policy based on feed-in tariffs, established in 1991 by the Electricity Feed-in Law, requiring utilities to accept and remunerate the feed-in of "green" electricity at 90 percent of the retail rate of electricity, considerably exceeding the cost of conventional electricity generation.

A subsequent law passed in 2000 guaranteed continued support for 20 years. This requires utilities to accept the delivery of power from independent producers of renewable electricity into their own grid, paying technology-specific feed-in tariffs far above their production cost of ¢2.9-10.2 per kilowatt hour (kWh).

With a feed-in tariff of ¢59 per kWh in 2009, solar electricity generated from photovoltaics (PV) is guaranteed by far the largest financial support among all renewable energy technologies.

Currently, the feed-in tariff for PV is more than eight times higher than the wholesale electricity price at the power exchange and more than four times the feed-in tariff paid for electricity produced by on-shore wind turbines.

Even on-shore wind, widely regarded as a mature technology, requires feed-in tariffs that exceed the per-kWh cost of conventional electricity by up to 300% to remain competitive.

By 2008 this had led to Germany having the second-largest installed wind capacity in the world, behind the United States, and largest installed PV capacity in the world, ahead of Spain. This explains the claims that Germany's feed-in tariff is a great success.

Installed capacity is not the same as production or contribution, however, and by 2008 the estimated share of wind power in Germany's electricity production was 6.3%, followed by biomass-based electricity generation (3.6%) and water power (3.1%). The amount of electricity produced through solar photovoltaics was a negligible 0.6% despite being the most subsidized renewable energy, with a net cost of about $12.4 billion for 2008.

The total net cost of subsidizing electricity production by PV modules is estimated to reach US $73.2 billion for those modules installed between 2000 and 2010. While the promotion rules for wind power are more subtle than those for PV, we estimate that the wind power subsidies may total US $28.1 billion for wind converters installed between 2000 and 2010.


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There is no such thing as a happy greenie, part 3,975

Tiny bat pits green against green

There's no such thing as a happy Greenie

Workers atop mountain ridges are putting together 389-foot windmills with massive blades that will turn Appalachian breezes into energy. Retiree David Cowan is fighting to stop them. Because of the bats.

Cowan, 72, a longtime caving fanatic who grew to love bats as he slithered through tunnels from Maine to Maui, is asking a federal judge in Maryland to halt construction of the Beech Ridge wind farm. The lawsuit pits Chicago-based Invenergy, a company that produces "green" energy, against environmentalists who say the cost to nature is too great.

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When our cultural gatekeepers make celebrities out of violent criminals

Our cultural debasement continues apace. From Andrew Bolt:

ALAN Kohler is only the first to finally apologise for making a hero of Mick Gatto, but even then it’s one of those modern sorrys that just makes it worse.

You see, there he was last month, standing up in front of a room full of crooks and spivs, and the gagglers and cheaper celebrities who feed off them.

What he was doing there, God knows. With an underworld figure like Gatto sitting right next to him, grinning! Gatto, feted as our newest celebrity!

Even Kohler’s wife and friends, he now admits, were upset he could be so dumb, as am I.

After all, he’s a wealthy publisher of financial newsletters, an ABC presenter, a former Age editor and now the chairman of Melbourne University Publishing. He’s establishment, suit and tie. Respectable.

If anyone would resist this reckless push by so many of our culture makers to scrub Gatto clean and hold him up for the admiration of the knuckle-cracking restless, I’d have bet it would be Kohler.

Yet the first thing he said to those assembled crooks, lairs, carpetbaggers and oglers who’d packed the Grossi Florentino in Bourke St was - get this - how ”proud and delighted” he and his MUP were to now publish Gatto’s self-penned whitewash of his career as crook, killer (only in self-defence!) and reputed strongarm man.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Biofuels 'worse than petrol' for climate

This is of course the result anyone with a brain would have expected when bad science drives bad policy!

A new generation of biofuels, meant to be a low-carbon alternative, will on average emit more carbon dioxide over the next few decades than burning petrol, according to a study published in the journal Science.


Governments and companies are pouring billions of research dollars into advanced fuels made from wood and grass, meant to cut carbon emissions compared with petrol.

But such advanced 'cellulosic' biofuels will actually lead to higher carbon emissions than petrol per unit of energy, averaged over the 2000-2030 time period, the study said.

That is because the land required to plant fast-growing poplar trees and tropical grasses will displace food crops, and so drive deforestation to create more farmland, a powerful source of carbon emissions.

Full article here.

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Vitamin supplements could do more harm than good

At last the word is getting out

People taking high-dose vitamin and mineral supplements may be doing more harm than good, an expert has warned. Professor Martin Wiseman, medical and scientific adviser for the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), said it was difficult to predict the impact vitamin supplements had on the chances of cutting cancer.

While low dose supplements can be a "valuable safety net", high doses could be harmful. Research over the last few years has suggested some vitamins can actually increase the risk of some cancers. Beta carotene for example can increase the risk of lung cancer in those who already smoke.

"Many people think they can reduce their cancer risk by taking supplements, but the evidence does not support this," Prof Wiseman said. "Just because a dietary pattern that provides a relatively high level of a particular nutrient might protect against cancer, it does not mean that taking it in tablet form will have the same effect. "In fact, at high doses the effect of these micronutrients is unpredictable and can be harmful to health.

"Although there are some studies that have shown a reduction in cancer risk from high-dose supplements, others have not, and these supplements have normally only been tested on a select group of people.

"This means we simply do not know enough about what the effect will be for the general population to confidently predict the balance of risks and benefits. Some people may be doing themselves more harm than good.

"There are also studies that show high doses of some supplements can increase risk of some cancers.''

Prof Wiseman said multivitamins would not contain all the good nutrients found in food, such as fibre adding that the best advice was to have a "health, plant-based diet with lots of fruits and vegetables".

Prof Wiseman's comments echo similar sentiment from Professor Brian Ratcliffe, a leading nutritionist, who last month said Britain's "worried well" were wasting their money and possibly risking their health by taking supplements.

Prof Ratcliffe said multivitamin and mineral supplements were "completely pointless" for the majority of people with a healthy diet and that topping up on vitamins could potentially be dangerous.


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