Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Relevance" means I should have been taught only Thomas the Tank Engine and Train Driving for Dummies

I cannot believe that after all the evidence that has accumulated about how this kind of 'relevance' hunting actually hurts the most vunerable kids, ie those from low socio-economic and immigrant backgrounds, most, that it is still being pushed by an educational elite that clearly needs to be sacked en masse.

Teachers aren't there to be the friends with "the kids." They are supposed to be there to pass on an inheritance of great value, not to dish up whatever happens to be fashionable at any particular moment with "the kids."

Another generation of children are going to be short-changed by an education that failed in its duty to challenge them and broaden their horizons and their imaginations.

This is little more than a highly refined type of child abuse.
SHAKESPEARE has been dumped from an HSC English course to make the subject more relevant to students.

The English Studies course has abandoned classical works in favour of contemporary texts such as Catcher In the Rye and movies such as The Matrix and is being piloted in 75 high schools for senior students who have no plans to go on to university.
Aah, the old “relevance” argument. Part of my youth was spent in a railway town on the Nullarbor plain, among the children of fettlers. “Relevance” means that I and my fellow students should have been taught nothing more than Thomas the Tank Engine and Train Driving for Dummies.

(Thanks to reader CA.)

A fashionable and destructive shame-Australia myth is to be bracketted with Anzac Day for impressionable Year three students:
The draft curriculum shows students in year 3 will learn about national celebrations and days of significance ”including Australia Day, Anzac Day, Sorry Day”.

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Another arts wanker on why he's so special and you should pay for it

A-grade artistic arrogance from British playwright Jonathan Holmes:
A mature democracy should have the courage and the understanding to see the debt it owes its artists …
If only we were brave enough to pay them even more.
The benefits of the arts are such a no-brainer, so obvious, that the sole genuine reason for cuts is censorship of some form. In the 20th century, the only governments to systematically attack the arts have been the ones that also attacked democracy.
By “systematically attack”, he means “reduce public funding”.
Yet the most profound argument for art runs much deeper than any of this. Art, very simply, is how we comment on our world, how we …
Dear God, I do believe he’s actually going to say it:
… speak truth to power.

While I’m speaking vomit to carpet, please visit David Thompson for a far more comprehensive review of Holmes’s pleading. In other news of our superiors, James Campbell joins the queue of those taking exception to the views of Cate Blanchett.

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British Labour Party being infiltrated by islamic extremists?

We've written many times about the seemingly odd-bedfellow alliance between the Left and Islamic radicals. Today, the Telegraph reports on the "infiltration" of the Labour Party by Islamists:
The Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) -- which believes in jihad and sharia law, and wants to turn Britain and Europe into an Islamic state -- has placed sympathisers in elected office and claims, correctly, to be able to achieve "mass mobilisation" of voters.

Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Jim Fitzpatrick, the Environment Minister, said the IFE had become, in effect, a secret party within Labour and other political parties. ...

IFE activists boasted to the undercover reporters that they had already "consolidated ... a lot of influence and power" over Tower Hamlets, a London borough council with a £1 billion budget. We have established that the group and its allies were awarded more than £10 million of taxpayers' money, much of it from government funds designed to "prevent violent extremism".
Full post here

A 21st Century version of Militant's effort to subvert the Labour Party.

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China feeds its pet Mugabe

Beware the Chinese century - and the kind of leaders who will eat the Chinese cake:

A picture posted on the Zimbabwe Foreign Ministry website showed the president at his 86th birthday party, cutting his cake, and addressing about 100 guests at the Chinese Embassy in Harare.

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Beware of Greeks with their hands out

"So you can’t borrow against the future because, in the most basic sense, you don’t have one. Greeks in the public sector retire at 58, which sounds great. But, when ten grandparents have four grandchildren, who pays for you to spend the last third of your adult life loafing around?"

"Unfortunately, Germany is no longer an economic powerhouse. As Angela Merkel pointed out a year ago, for Germany, an Obama-sized stimulus was out of the question simply because its foreign creditors know there are not enough young Germans around ever to repay it. Over 30 percent of German women are childless; among German university graduates, it’s over 40 percent. And for the ever-dwindling band of young Germans who make it out of the maternity ward, there’s precious little reason to stick around. Why be the last handsome blond lederhosen-clad Aryan lad working the late shift at the beer garden in order to prop up singlehandedly entire retirement homes? And that’s before the EU decides to add the Greeks to your burdens. Germans, who retire at 67, are now expected to sustain the unsustainable 14 monthly payments per year of Greeks [yes, that's right, public sector workers receive 14 "monthly" payments a year] who retire at 58."

So really, Greece (and Italy and Spain and Ireland and Portugal - the so-called PIIGS) desperately need a Margaret Thatcher to get them out of the mess they've made for themselves.

Mmmmm, handsome blond lederhosen-clad Aryan lads.

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JoNova deconstructs Tim Lambert's trick against Lord Monckton

Damn. Just when I try to do the noble thing and give Tim Lambert credit for having argued the science against Lord Monckton, rather than engaged in his more typical sneering and sliding, along comes JoNova to demonstrate that a willingness to believe the best of the worst is usually an error. Her deconstruction of Lambert’s trick against Monckton here.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Bolter blogs K R Puff'n'Fluff's return to Insiders

Kevin Rudd ends his ban on Insiders.

First question from Barrie Cassidy is on whether Peter Garrett is now just a vice-minister.

The answer is pure spin about Garrett needing to concentrate on his core responsibilities. Making Garrett seem like he’s got bigger fish fo fry is not the message he needs to send, when his spinning and lack of accountability are the issues.

Cassidy is right: the problem isn’t just some failing by a bureacrat but the very notion that the Federal Government should be running such a program at all. As he says:
If you can’t run an insulation program you certainly should not be thinking of running the hospitals.
Rudd’s response? He’s backpedalling now on that bold threat to take over hospitals by this year. Now he stresses that he really wants local control of hospitals.

Barrie: Was last year’s deadline of July for a hospital takeover “ridiculous”?

Rudd: Didn’t realise how hard it was to get things delivered. Offers the excuse of the financial crisis, and says that’s not an excuse (sic).

Barrie: Why did you underestimate how hard it was?

Rudd: ???? Blather.

Barrie: 600 promises was surely too many.

Rudd: But we delivered on many (oh yes?). Says will take a pounding on non-delivery of promises, and admits they deserve it.

The rest here

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After home insulation, overpriced and unsafe school buildings?

Yet again, us evil neoliberals could have warned the government about the likely consequences of programs designed to spend vast amounts of borrowed money quickly by said government. Maybe that could be the topic of K R Puff'n'Fluff's next article in The Monthly?

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott launched a stinging attack on the $16.1 billion (Building the Edcuation Revolution) program, the most expensive element of the government’s economic rescue package....’’This hurried $16 billion program will end up delivering only $7 billion in value...”

At Berridale Public School in southern NSW, children are unable to use their newly installed $908,000 library as parents believe the building poses a safety risk. While the library, the same model of which is going into hundreds of NSW schools, complies with building codes, it has only one door. Parents say the building needs an emergency exit.

Students and staff at Tyalgum Public School in the state’s north can’t use their $850,000 library and office block as it doesn’t fit its foundations. The building is on temporary footings until the local contractor can rectify the work.... And parents at other schools have been told they will not get items they were promised such as solar panels and rainwater tanks because their projects are over budget.

Original costings by the BER office 12 months ago show significant price discrepancies. Small libraries originally costed at $285,000 are now costing triple that amount. Covered outdoor learning areas have more than doubled in price. (The original costings excluded GST, site works, professional fees and cost escalation beyond February 2009.)

The program is the subject of an Australian National Audit Office investigation, the results of which are due to be tabled this autumn.
The audit may prove deadly to the Government.

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California is a greater risk than Greece, warns JP Morgan chief

Jamie Dimon, chairman of JP Morgan Chase, has warned American investors should be more worried about the risk of default of the state of California than of Greece's current debt woes.

Full article at The Torygraph

Wasn't Glenn Milne going on just a few months ago about how wonderful California was as it led us into a future of green jobs and whatnot?

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Found: 'Jurassic Parkette' – the prehistoric island ruled by dwarf dinosaurs

Found: 'Jurassic Parkette' ? the prehistoric island ruled by dwarf dinosaurs

The creatures lived on an island – a kind of pigmy Jurassic Park – and were up to eight times smaller than some of their mainland cousins.

One of the island-dwelling dinosaurs, named Magyarosaurus, was little bigger than a horse, but was related to some of the largest creatures to ever walk the Earth – gigantic titanosaurs such as Argentinosaurus, which reached up to 100 feet long and weighed around 80 tons.

Full article here

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Taking a look at the last 65 million years

From Jo Nova via Tim Blair:
David Lappi is a geologist from Alaska who has sent in a set of beautiful graphs–including an especially prosaic one of the last 10,000 years in Greenland–that he put together himself (and which I’ve copied here at the top).

If you wonder where today’s temperature fits in with the grand scheme of time on Earth since the dinosaurs were wiped out, here’s the history. We start with the whole 65 million years, then zoom in, and zoom in again to the last 12,000 from both ends of the world. What’s obvious is that in terms of homo sapiens history, things are warm now (because we’re not in an ice age). But, in terms of homo sapiens civilization, things are cooler than usual, and appear to be cooling.

Then again, since T-rex & Co. vanished, it’s been one long slide down the thermometer, and our current “record heatwave” is far cooler than normal. The dinosaurs would have scoffed at us: “What? You think this is warm?”

With so much volatility in the graphs, anyone could play “pick a trend” and depending on which dot you start from, you can get any trend you want. — Jo

Go to the post for David Lappi's piece, but here is the graph of the last 65 million years:

65 million years of global temperatures

Then there is graph of the last 10,000 years (which is basically the present interglacial period since the end of the last ice age). Look at the big picture and global warming disappears and is replaced by long term cooling (and that is very worrying):

Greenland Temperatures - last 10,000 years

In fact, it appears that there has been an overall cooling trend now for 5 million years:

65 million years of global temperatures

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The Times: "University 'tried to mislead MPs on climate change e-mails'"

Reposted from Climate Audit:

A savage article in the Times today by Ben Webster about the UEA submission to the UK Parliamentary Inquiry – the letter in which they tried to “trick” the Committee about the contents of the letter from the Information Commissioner. (A “trick”, according to Gavin Schmidt and the Penn State Inquiry, is a “good way” to solve a problem.)

The article – worth reading in full – re-caps correspondence discussed in yesterday’s post on the topic.

The UEA has now posted up all its correspondence.

Webster provides an interesting new statement from Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat member of the Science and Technology Committee:
“It seems unwise, at best, for the University of East Anglia to attempt to portray a letter from the Information Commissioner’s Office in a good light, in evidence to the select committee, because it is inevitable that the Committee will find that letter, and notice any discrepancy.

“It would be a wiser course for the university not to provide any suspicion that they might be seeking to enable the wrong impression to be gained.”

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The real reason for AGW: Post Normal Science

When the history of the exposing of the anthropogenic global warming scam is written, I hope a special place is reserved for the contribution of people like James Delingpole.

And yes, if you aren't reading the Spectator, why not?! And following Delingpole on Twitter too.

I promised I would write about Post Normal Science. The Institute of Physics has given me the perfect peg. It has just made the following devastating submission to the Parliamentary investigation into the Climategate scandal. It argues that the behaviour of the scientists involved has “worrying implications” for “the integrity of scientific research in this field and for the credibility of the scientific method as practised in this context.”

Too right it does. Of course the Institute of Physics is doing no more than people like Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick have been arguing for years. What’s refreshing, though, is to see a serious scientific institution with a membership of 36,000 physicists worldwide taking such a firm, outspoken public stance on scientific integrity. Compare and contrast the behaviour of the Royal Society – once perhaps the world’s most distinguished and revered science institution, but now with its credibility almost irretrievably damaged because of its uncritical stance both on AGW and on the dubious scientific method behind it.

How has it happened that so many distinguished scientists around the world have got it so very wrong? Why is that more than a few of them think it’s OK to manipulate evidence, hide or destroy data after inconvenient FOI requests, conspire to silence dissenting scientists, lie and cheat in official hearings, and generally engage in the kind of activities that those of in the non-scientific world had naively assumed that a real scientist would never do?

In three words: Post Normal Science (PNS).

Without PNS, the whole AGW scam might never have got off the ground. PNS was the evil philosophy that gave the scientists involved the intellectual justification to do the wicked things they did.

You’ll find a handy basic guide to the phenomenon in a piece I did for the Spectator the other week. (Why incidentally do so few of you seem to read the Spectator? I know I’m biased but there’s some seriously good stuff in there and its editor Fraser Nelson – by a million miles the most brilliant political journalist of his generation – has the kind of views which will delight readers of this blog, I’m sure).

Anyway, here’s the link to the piece, which I urge you to read in full because it’s not rubbish. And here’s the bit where I talk about PNS.
In 1991 a Marxist philosopher called Jerome R. Ravetz had helped to invent a seductive and dangerous new concept called ‘post-normal science’ (PNS). No longer was it considered essential that scientists strive after objectivity. Their new duty, Ravetz held, was not to ‘truth’ but to what he called ‘quality’. And by ‘quality’ he meant something more akin to rhetoric — the ability to manipulate evidence and present it in such a way as to achieve particular political ends.

Post-normal science and the AGW movement were made for one another. No need for any of that tedious objectivity; no need for careful observation or the risk of frustration through falsification. All that mattered now was the quality of the ‘narrative’, the scariness of the future scenarios cooked up by computer models which — as the hockey stick curve demonstrated — could predict for you whatever you wanted them to predict.
Then I have a dig at Mike Hulme of the Tyndall Centre, who always sounds so nice and reasonable when he appears on the radio but is an arch Post Normal Scientist, followed by a wholly deserved pot-shot at the utterly reprehensible Royal Society.
‘Climate change’, in other words, has little if anything to do with science. (Or as Mike Hulme once put it: ‘Self-evidently dangerous climate change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth seeking, although science will gain some insights into the question if it recognises the socially contingent dimensions of a post-normal science.’) It’s not a genuine problem to be solved, but a handy excuse — with a fashionable green glow — to advance a particular social and political agenda under the cloak of ecological righteousness and scientific authority.

After Climategate, we are entitled to ask: ‘What scientific authority?’ It’s all very well for someone like Lord Rees to defend the Royal Society’s position on global warming by brandishing ‘Nullius in verba’ as if it were still the kitemark of irrefutable truth. But the fact is his institution’s integrity lies in tatters precisely because it has done the thing its motto says it never does: it listened to a coterie of post-normal scientists who were more interested in political activism than objective truth — and went and took their word for it.
Meanwhile, over at Watts Up With That, who should have been invited to make not one but two guest postings – but the arch-fiend himself Jerome Ravetz? Because Ravetz has a rambling, long-winded style, an air of mild reasonableness, and a gift for academic double-speak and obfuscation, the readers at WUWT rather took to him at first. They even fell for his line that Post Normal Science was the best way for science to negotiate its way out of the post-Climategate mess – completely missing the point that it was thanks to PNS that science got into that mess in the first place.

Fortunately he was rumbled just in time, most notably by ScientistForTruth whose brilliant expose here remains the best thing anyone has written – and probably ever will write – about the sly dangerousness of Post Normal Science. It’s long but worth reading in full.

I also highly recommend the spanking he gets from Willis Eschenbach in the comments below his follow-up post. It may seem unduly harsh if you look at the sweet elderly gent in Ravetz’s byline photograph or if you’re taken in by Ravetz’s gentle, let’s-all-be-reasonable-here style. To which I say: “Smooth, easy, inoffensive down to hell.” And Eschenbach is of a similar persuasion, as here when someone tries to defend Ravetz on the disingenuous grounds that he was only observing the phenomenon of Post Normal Science not actually advocating it.
Nor do I care whether Ravetz is “is looking at a certain instance, or set of instances, of behaviour associated with science, in which values play a greater part than normal”, whatever that might mean. So what? He’s left a trail of wrecked lives and blasted science and wasted trillions behind him, and you want to talk about what he’s looking at? I don’t give a rodent’s fundamental orifice what he’s looking at, Scarlett, frankly I don’t give a damn.
(PS one tiny thing: re-reading my Speccie piece I was mortified to notice that the introductory paragraph kind of implies that I think I broke the Climategate story. Which I don’t, obviously. It was careless writing, nothing more. I think I’d probably meant to say something like “In the British blogosphere” or whatever. It’s OK, I do know that loads of US websites were there before me.)

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CRAZY IVAN: Su-33 near-miss with Kuznetsov carrier deck

"The pilot came in way to high and should have been waved off a long way before crossing the deck. He must have thought he was going to land in front of the flight deck and get run over by the carrier so soiled his pants and pulled back too much on the stick."

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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Beat The Devil's Tattoo

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Their names were !Gubi, G/aq'o, D#kgao and !Ai and they spoke Tuu, Ju/'hoansi and !Kung

The research was conducted by a team headed by Schuster and geneticist Vanessa M. Hayes of Children's Cancer Institute Australia in Sydney. They completely sequenced the genomes of one Bushman and one Bantu and sequenced the protein coding regions of three other Bushmen.

The Bantu was Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who served as a surrogate for the agricultural peoples who account for about 80% of southern Africa's population. The four Bushmen, also known as Khoisan or San, were the heads of their tribes living in the Kalahari Desert. Their names were !Gubi, G/aq'o, D#kgao and !Ai and they spoke Tuu, Ju/'hoansi and !Kung. (The unusual characters denote clicking sounds in the languages.) One immediate surprise to emerge from the research, at least for Tutu, was that one woman in his lineage was of Bushman origin. It is not clear, however, how many generations back that woman lived.

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Well, if Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy had practiced Anglo-Saxon Neoliberalism...

...that is, economic rationalism, they wouldn't be in the mess they are now in.

Man who broke the Bank of England, George Soros, 'at centre of hedge funds plot to cash in on fall of the euro'

Mr Soros, who made more than $1billion by currency speculation when the pound was ejected from the Exchange Rate Mechanism on Black Wednesday in 1992, believes the structure of the euro is 'patently flawed'.

Hitting back: Greek PM George Papandreou blames 'speculators' for preying on the country's troubles

He said: 'Makeshift assistance should be enough for Greece, but that leaves Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland.

'Together they constitute too large a portion of euroland to be helped in this way.'

Well yes, as neoliberals warned would happen sooner or later.

Both Greece and Italy owe more money than what their entire economies are worth.

Australia's prime minister, K R Puff'n'Fluff, may play the philosopher prince in writing long essays about how neoliberalism caused the Global Financial Crisis, (which has turned out to be not so much a global crisis, as one mostly affecting the North Atlantic), but the reality is something very different.

One message of neoliberalism is that even countries cannot go on living beyond their means forever.

Whether it is vast systems of social welfare and other government benefits that are essentially free money being given away to people, as in most of Europe, or a people financing lifestyles by way of vast borrowings from China that weren't underpinned by domestic savings and productivity, as in the United States, eventually the chickens of such excess come home to roost.

As they have, just as the much maligned neoliberals said they would.

The so-called global financial crisis has yet again shown in terrible detail the long term costs of the unlimited welfare state.

It was Margaret Thatcher who decades ago made the still relevant and now prescient observation that the trouble with socialism is that "sooner or later you run out of other people's money."

Greece has effectively run out of money. It cannot survive economically without the EU bailing it out.

Just remember though, thirty years ago it was Great Britain that had been brought to its knees for similar reasons and needing the IMF to bail it out.

No, I'm sorry kiddies, Britain prior to Margaret Thatcher was not a wonderland of plucky communities mining coal during the day and playing in volunteer brass bands and the like in their spare time until Thatcher wrecked it all.

That's the movie version of history.

The reality is that the post-war big government consensus between Labour and the Tories involving massive welfare payments and large scale government involvement in the economy had failed spectacularly.

It was the country itself that had been wrecked.

Britain was known as the "sick man of Europe." It was an international laughing stock.

Only a person as determined as Margaret Thatcher, armed with a clear and simple understanding of what had gone wrong, had any hope of restoring Britain's fortunes.

Sadly, despite Tony Blair's remark that we "are all Thatcherites now," the hard learnt lessons of this time have been forgotten.

So while Britain may not be in as bad a position as these others - maybe - it too has suffered a continuing errosion of its economic base as government spending on unproductive parts of the economy have gone up and up and up.

So much so, that at the height of the financial crisis there was even speculation that she would become a high profile victim of it.

And it maybe be not over yet. The other thing Mr Soros is doing is buying gold. Lots of gold. The suspicion is that he sees trouble ahead.

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Institute of Physics damns the Climategaters' "science"

I certainly think that those people who think that this genie can just be put back into its bottle are mistaken. Too much has now come out for a return to the previous orthodox status quo.

The Institute of Physics, representing 36,000 members, submits a devastating assessment of Climategate to the British parliamentary inquiry into the scandal:
2. The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law. The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital…

3. It is important to recognise that there are two completely different categories of data set that are involved in the CRU e-mail exchanges:

· those compiled from direct instrumental measurements of land and ocean surface temperatures such as the CRU, GISS and NOAA data sets; and

· historic temperature reconstructions from measurements of ‘proxies’, for example, tree-rings.

4. The second category relating to proxy reconstructions are the basis for the conclusion that 20th century warming is unprecedented. Published reconstructions may represent only a part of the raw data available and may be sensitive to the choices made and the statistical techniques used. Different choices, omissions or statistical processes may lead to different conclusions. This possibility was evidently the reason behind some of the (rejected) requests for further information.

5. The e-mails reveal doubts as to the reliability of some of the reconstructions and raise questions as to the way in which they have been represented; for example, the apparent suppression, in graphics widely used by the IPCC, of proxy results for recent decades that do not agree with contemporary instrumental temperature measurements.

6. There is also reason for concern at the intolerance to challenge displayed in the e-mails. This impedes the process of scientific ‘self correction’, which is vital to the integrity of the scientific process as a whole, and not just to the research itself. In that context, those CRU e-mails relating to the peer-review process suggest a need for a review of its adequacy and objectivity as practised in this field and its potential vulnerability to bias or manipulation.

7. Fundamentally, we consider it should be inappropriate for the verification of the integrity of the scientific process to depend on appeals to Freedom of Information legislation. Nevertheless, the right to such appeals has been shown to be necessary. The e-mails illustrate the possibility of networks of like-minded researchers effectively excluding newcomers...
This submission in effect warns that this recent warming may not be unprecedented, after all, and those that claim it is may have been blinded by bias or simply fiddled their results and suppressed dissent.

I’ll repeat: Climategate reveals the greatest scientific scandal of our lifetime.

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How to turn Eddie McGuire into a martyr

Spare me. Public opinion has already done to McGuire all that needs doing. It’s offensive to have some anti-dscrimination tsar now butt in to declare some speech not merely rude but unlawful:
EDDIE McGuire and Mick Molloy will be investigated over their allegedly homophobic mocking of male ice skaters during the Nine Network’s coverage of the Winter Olympics.

The NSW Anti-Discrimination Board will examine the comments after a complaint made against the presenters by Sydney gay rights activist Gary Burns.

These pointless kangaroo courts really must be abolished. As Mr Bolt says, public opinion has already made it clear to McGuire that he crossed a line and that his foolish and infantile behaviour was not appreciated. That should be the end of the matter.

And really, they just act as lightning rods for time-wasting activists who are consumed by their own self importance and the need to chase publicity.

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Jews, gays and kaffirs are "filth" says fanatical cleric


This is a press release from OutRage!

Jews, gays and kaffirs are “filth” says fanatical cleric

 Universities fail to block “gateways” to fundamentalism and terrorism
London – 24 February 2010

In defiance of its own equal opportunities policy, King’s College London (KCL) is hosting the Muslim fundamentalist fanatic, Sheikh Abdullah Hakim Quick, this Thursday, 25 February, at 6pm in the Raked Lecture Theatre, The Strand, London.

Full post at Harry's Place

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Hamas informant helped prevent dozens of suicide attacks in Israel

Haaretz reports:
The son of a leading Hamas figure, who famously converted to Christianity, served for over a decade as the Shin Bet security service’s most valuable source in the militant organization’s leadership…

Mosab Hassan Yousef is the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a Hamas founder and one of its leaders in the West Bank. The intelligence he supplied Israel led to the exposure of a number of terrorist cells, and to the prevention of dozens of suicide bombings and assassination attempts on Israeli figures.
Yousef has written a memoir, “Son of Hamas” (with Ron Brackin), which will be released next week in the United States. He fled the West Bank in 2007 and now lives in California.

Full post at Harry's Place

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Big winners from climate change alarmism? - insurance companies

Tim Blair:

1. Hitch your insurance company to the climate change panic wagon.
2. Increase insurance premiums due to impending climate disasters.
3. Profit!

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sachin Tendulkar scores 200 runs in one-day international against South Africa

From Tim Blair:

Former Australian captain Steve Waugh once predicted that brother Mark would be the first player to hit 200 runs in a 50-over game. But the younger Waugh never quite made it; his 50-over peak was 173. And now India’s Sachin Tendulkar claims that double-hundred milestone, 126 years after the same mark was first reached in Tests. Remarkably, Tendulkar’s 200 came off one delivery fewer than Waugh faced in compiling his highest score …

UPDATE. Highlights:

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Red wine and dark chocolate cancer killers (?)

Sadly reflective of the pseudo-scientific rubbish about diet and health that so easily gets into the media these days without any background checking or research.

As the Food & Health Skeptic observes:

This is all just assertion. Where are these findings in the published literature? I know of no double blind studies supporting these alleged therapeutic effects of food in humans. On the Angiogenesis Foundation site, all the reported studies about food are just said to be "suggestive"

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Death by diversity

The Boston Globe‘s Bryan Bender:
Army superiors were warned about the radicalization of Major Nidal Malik Hasan years before he allegedly massacred 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, but did not act in part because they valued the rare diversity of having a Muslim psychiatrist, military investigators wrote in previously undisclosed reports.

More about this from Mark Steyn ("‘diversity’ is not a virtue; it’s morally neutral") and Anthony Kang ("politically-incorrect conservatives were right all along”).

Indeed, it is not a virtue. Saw some fool from, I think, the Victoria Police on TV the other day saying how the bashings of Indian students in Melbourne was a reason why they had to recruit more people of Indian descent, because they were under-represented in the organisation (you can't call it a force anymore, literally) compared to the general population......blah, blah, blah.

I'm sorry, I don't want a diverse and representative police force, (oops), I want one that I know and trust will do its job and protect me and mine from violent criminals. How does having more officers from Indian backgrounds prevent other people, (some from Indian backgrounds as it turns out), assaulting Indian students?

Don't get me wrong, from what I've seen of the Sikhs, I'd be more than happy for a dull and monochromatic police force composed entirely of them and their turbans. Have you seen those buggers? Impressive. Traditionally a warrior people from North India and I wouldn't want to mess with them! Perfect police officers.

I don't care if there are no women or no gays (okay, charge me with treason against my 'community').

I just want an honest copper who, when required, can handle himself or herself in a street fight. I want the crims to be scared of them, not the other way round. If that's the case then they can come from whatever friggen group, community or subculture you can point a stick at. It could be the black lesbian everyone keeps going on about, just as long as she isn't missing an arm or a leg.


I know how pleased all we poofs were when Cristine Nixon marched in a pride parade as chief commissioner of the Victoria Police. Seems so long ago now.

The fact remains that she was the most disastrous chief commissioner in a long time, maybe ever. She set about feminising the service, promising that recruitment and training standards would be maintained.

They couldn't be of course, as everyone knew. The training was simply too physically demanding on most female recruits. So what to do?

As the idea was not to get the best people to be police officers, (and I'm sorry, but the job does require you to physically fight and subdue some very violent and dangerous people at times), but to "diversify" the force and make it more representative of the general community (which naturally meant redressing the "shocking" gender imbalance), the way forward was clear.

Drop the standards required so more women could pass the course.

Political correctness became the new orthodoxy.

Now Victoria has a police service where the word "gang" is banned, and crime statistics that are inconvenient for reasons of political correctness or just sheer embarrassment are massaged and adjusted so that they give the, um, "right" result.

The absurd fetishising of diversity as somehow a worthy end in and of itself has got to stop.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

National Geographic: The Sahara and the Sahel becoming green with more rain

Andrew Bolt:

Yet another climate alarmist on Jon Faine’s ABC Melbourne morning show was allowed this morning to claim, unchallenged, that global warming would cause devastating droughts in Africa.

No sooner claimed than disproved: 

Desertification, drought, and despair—that’s what global warming has in store for much of Africa. Or so we hear.

Emerging evidence is painting a very different scenario, one in which rising temperatures could benefit millions of Africans in the driest parts of the continent.

Scientists are now seeing signals that the Sahara desert and surrounding regions are greening due to increasing rainfall. If sustained, these rains could revitalize drought-ravaged regions, reclaiming them for farming communities.

This desert-shrinking trend is supported by climate models, which predict a return to conditions that turned the Sahara into a lush savanna some 12,000 years ago... Images taken between 1982 and 2002 revealed extensive regreening throughout the Sahel, according to a new study in the journal Biogeosciences.

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The New York Times: Salt - good or bad? Nobody knows yet.

The harder the experts try to save Americans, the fatter we get. We followed their admirable advice to quit smoking, and by some estimates we gained 15 pounds apiece afterward. The extra weight was certainly a worthwhile trade-off for longer life and better health, but with success came a new challenge.

Officials responded by advising Americans to shun fat, which became the official villain of the national dietary guidelines during the 1980s and 1990s. The anti-fat campaign definitely made an impact on the marketing of food, but as we gobbled up all the new low-fat products, we kept getting fatter. Eventually, in 2000, the experts revised the dietary guidelines and conceded that their anti-fat advice may have contributed to diabetes and obesity by unintentionally encouraging Americans to eat more calories.

That fiasco hasn’t dampened the reformers’ enthusiasm, to judge from the growing campaign to impose salt restrictions. Pointing to evidence that a salt-restricted diet causes some people’s blood pressure to drop, the reformers extrapolate that tens of thousands of lives would be saved if there were less salt in everybody’s food.

But is it even possible to get the public to permanently reduce salt consumption?

Full article here

Via the Instapundit

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That’s just terrific, Cate. Take our money. You deserve it.

Blanchett explains her demand for a new luvvie levy:
Australia has been enriched, challenged and changed by taking a stronger and more complex place on the world stage, rather than just selling ourselves as a great beach resort populated by smiling outdoorsy larrikins …

I know this from having worked recently with Benedict Andrews.
That’s just terrific, Cate. Take our money. You deserve it.
We process experience and make experience available and understandable. We change people’s lives, at the risk of our own. We change countries, governments, history, gravity and after gravity, culture is the thing that holds humanity in place, in an otherwise constantly shifting and, let’s face it, tiny outcrop in the middle of an infinity of nowhere.

What absolute and astounding (not to mention delusional) pomposity. This is your rolled-gold special pleading for sectional interests from the top of Mount Stupid.

What Cate wants is for ordinary taxpayers to shell out more of their money on an insular and out of touch artistic elite, who make no bones about the fact that they despise said ordinary people and hold them in utter and complete contempt, so that these self-appointed "tellers of our stories" can continue to make films virtually nobody watches and art that hardly anyone goes to see.

Films and art already largely paid for (either directly or indirectly) by taxpayers.

So, does the self-assessment of their own vital importance hold up to even cursory examination?

If they genuinely did "tell our stories" (in a phrase redolent with their own fixation with themselves), why do so few of us recognise them as being our stories? Why do we stay away in droves when given an opportunity to make a free decision with the money in our own pockets?

Why do these people then have to get us to pay anyway via the backdoor and the backroom, by way of the various grant and other support schemes?

Are the arts in Australia really operating "at the cutting edge of a science that is now trying to unravel the puzzle of consciousness and identity?"

Gosh, sounds rather grand doesn't it?

But what, if anything, does it really mean?

Is this the "science" that allows them to "change" gravity? Though again, what on earth does this actually mean?

If you have to plead your case with this kind of drivel, what does it say about the strength of your case.

Then she brings out the dodgy economics.
We know the ripple effect of funding the arts leads to better dollar multipliers than many other expenditures and we know that cities with strong arts opportunities are more vibrant and attract more business and tourism.

Er, no we don't know this actually Cate. The argument runs something like this - look at New York or London. They are very rich cities with some of the most vibrant art markets in the world. Therefore, there must be something about promoting us luvvies that attracts wealth and success.


Apparently there are "studies" that prove this. But as anyone who pays attention to these things in relation to public health, government programs of all kinds etc, one thing you do know is that you can pay someone to prove exactly what you want them to prove, and produce a lovely glossy report to prove that you've proved it.


But the same problem with assumed directions of causation that plague so many epidemiological studies about the supposed health benefits or dire consequences of this or that, (with different studies often giving quite contradictory results about the same thing), are manifestly obvious here.


It is not only as likely but, on balance, far more likely that the thriving artistic scenes in places like New York are the products of having so many people with plenty of disposable income concentrated into one place.


Throughout human history it is wealth that has ultimately provided the environment that has allowed high art (if not artists themselves often times) to thrive, not the other way round.


There is zero reason to expect that somehow, other than in the tracts devoted to special pleading for the arts community, this has changed for some reason.


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Monday, February 22, 2010

Clive Hamilton would call it hate speech

James Delingpole celebrates comments:

Without wishing to flatter you too much, you blog-addicted, foaming-mouthed, swivel-eyed loons – I’ve found the comments sections on blogs to be bastions of wisdom, rough-hewn common sense, wit, and often amazingly well-informed insight. And I don’t just mean on my blogs. What I always find equally heartening is when you look up an article online by, say, Polly Toynbee or some crack-papering fraudster from the Met Office and find its inconsistencies and idiocies being torn to shreds by a readership far more intelligent and on the ball than almost anyone in the liberal commentariat.

Yes. What he said.

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We have Smirnoff! A Russian jet takes off. Just!

An Ilyushin Il-76 takes off from Canberra's airport with commentary from the control tower (you'll probably need to turn your volume up).

From Tim Blair's blog

Somebody in comments points to a picture of an Il-86 passenger jet taking off from Phuket's airport. Just. (apparently a total aviation nerd website - depending on which boxes you tick under the photo, you can view other photos of just this particular aeroplane taken at airports around the world)

Also from comments for Tim's post:

"Reminds me of the corporate pilot sitting in the lounge of the local small airport one August afternoon, toying with his calculator. He eventually pronounced, “Given temperature and density altitude, and our fuel load, our legal payload is… me.”"

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British homeopathy funding called waste of money

Called a waste of money? It IS a waste of money.

I have no objection to stupid people wasting their own money on useless quack treatments. They've been warned again, and again and again and if that means they die, well too bad.

(Though of course children in the care of such idiots need to be removed immediately for their own safety, as the tragic case of that poor little girl in Sydney who died because her irresponsible parents put their beliefs ahead of her clearly deteriorating health.)
Ministers estimate the NHS spends around 152,000 pounds ($235,000) -- a tiny fraction of its around 100 billion pound budget -- on homeopathic remedies each year.

In its report on homeopathy, the committee agreed with the government that evidence shows homeopathy is not efficacious -- meaning it works no better than a placebo, or dummy pill.

"Explanations for why homeopathy would work are scientifically implausible," it said.


Homeopathy, which originated in Germany in the 1700s, is based on a principle that "like cures like." The theory is that substances that prompt certain symptoms can also treat those same symptoms if given in a highly diluted form.

The practice is controversial because many of its central concepts do not accord with modern science. Many studies have found homeopathic remedies are no more effective than placebos.

Critics say the homeopathy industry has made millions out of selling little more than "sugar pills" to vulnerable patients.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Oh f*ck, it's actually worse than we thought

Gobsmacking. Just gobsmacking. (Though it is good to see that that my opinion of Nicola Roxon was well founded.)
Myles Peterson was last year hired to write speeches for three Rudd Government ministers, including Health Minister Nicola Roxon. He now writes of the astonishing waste, arrogance and rush-rush spending that’s the defining characteristic of this colossally inept Government and its hyper-distractable leader.

The whole article, by a man who walked out in disgust, is a must read, but here’s just a few of its insights:

I was given my first speech to write. I was not given an induction, training, an occupational health and safety lecture, a security clearance, a standard operating procedures manual, a style guide or anything you would expect when starting a job with the federal government of Australia…

Around the same time a section meeting was called. Our boss arrived late, but in the best of moods. ‘’We’re under budget!’’ she announced proudly. The old-timers let out whoops of joy… Our section was under-budget by hundreds of thousands of dollars, necessitating we blow all the unspent money before the end of the financial year. Unfortunately, ‘’training’’ did not mean I would finally get some training. ‘’Training’’ consisted of hastily booked, dubiously relevant conferences and courses, most of which were conveniently located a long way from Canberra.... 

I started to have my first run-ins with the ministers’ staff, cranky young professionals who were forever firing off orders and then countermanding them.... The ministers’ staff were as fond of cancelling events as they were of commissioning them. Then it fell to someone, usually me, to ring the nursing home or hospital or wherever the planned visit was to be and tell the locals to stand down their troops. The minister would not be coming....

After remaining silent on the issue for many months, the Prime Minister suddenly took an interest in the nation’s health. I found out when a grim-faced boss herded us all together. ‘’The PM is going to make a health announcement and you have to organise it,’’ we were told.

‘’When’s it happening?’’

‘’Monday.’’ (It was Friday afternoon.)

‘’When did we first learn about it?’’


And that is how the department’s major reform initiative, YourHealth, and its associated round of public consultations began. ..

The Prime Minister’s office staff feared nobody and respected them less. The only time they shut up was when the Prime Minister himself was speaking. Any other speaker, including Minister Roxon and the commission’s spokeswoman, could go to hell. One grabbed my pen from my hand and stormed off with it. I later asked for it back and was laughed at....

A (YourHealth) website was thrown up that looked ghastly when it first went live, so ghastly the Prime Minister refused to promote it as had been planned… The gossip was the Prime Minister’s attention had been caught by the Web 2.0 phenomenon, as had many Western leaders in the wake of Obama’s presidential campaign, and would be the first to jump on the bandwagon.

Along with the tidal wave of events we suddenly had to organise, I was given a new duty: ensuring photographers were always present to capture our ministers nodding gravely as they consulted. There was no limit to the cost. Fortunate photographers around the country suddenly found themselves hired, whatever quote they supplied.... Money was thrown at local production companies to create sincere-looking website testimonials. Staff were ordered to use the site and vote on the polls to generate hits…

Peterson’s insights ring so absolutely true of Rudd and the government he’s corrupted with his wild mix of impulsiveness, arrogance, authoritarianism and short attention span. His article help to explain Rudd’s extraordinary series of bungled programs and crashed dreams - Fuel Watch, Grocery Watch, the free insulation disaster, the Asia forum, the threats to prosecute Japan and the Iranian president, the emissions trading scheme, the Oceanic Viking fiasco, the $43 billion broadband, the $15 billion spendathon on school halls and canteens, the bungled roll-out of school computers…

I repeat. Read it all.

A regular reader who this time withholds their name comments:
As a public servant, I am appalled by the whoop-it-up decisions made by his managers to fritter away under-spent budgets. This (in Peterson’s article) is particularly galling:
“I was attending a conference on Web 2.0, a topic I was mildly interested in but which had nothing to do with my duties.”
As it happens, Web 2.0 has everything to do with my duties but thanks to Lindsay Tanner’s additional 2% productivity dividend (ie, budget cut) applied across the the board (that impacts smaller agencies more than it does large agencies like Health} I am struggling to hang on to staff, let alone send them off to conferences in Sydney. It is sickening.

No wonder the public service is increasingly demoralised. downer I am not surprised at all about the flibberty-gibbert way the Health Minister is carrying on, eg building pointless, meaningless and expensive websites, having speeches written for events that never happen, using up health professionals as props for her PR stunts. She was appalling in Opposition and even worse than could be imagined in Government. That applies to all of them. The only ones who are not getting on my last nerve are Stephen Smith and John Faulkner, and that is only because their Departments resist the sort of nonsense that Myles has reported and will not let their ministers derail their mission. Look what happened to the last one who tried (Joel Fitzgibbon}. He had the rug pulled out from under him.

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Real Climate lurches from a mistake to a lie

If you want to understand why so many people have lost trust in the climate science community, due to the acts of a few, just take a look at what Real Climate has done to spin the disaster issue regarding the IPCC. They write in a post that (emphasis added):
WG2 did include a debatable graph provided by Robert Muir-Wood (although not in the main report but only as Supplementary Material). It cited a paper by Muir-Wood as its source although that paper doesn’t include the graph, only the analysis that it is based on.
As readers here well know, the analysis of the Muir-Wood mystery graph does not appear in the cited source (or any other). Real Climate's claim is easily shown to be wrong. Perhaps they made an honest mistake. I pointed this fact out to them and asked that they correct the error:

This statement in your post is in error:
“It cited a paper by Muir-Wood as its source although that paper doesn’t include the graph, only the analysis that it is based on.”
The cited paper does not include the analysis that the graph is based on. In fact, it includes no discussion of temperature trends and disasters. You can confirm this for yourself:
You should correct the error in this post.

Real Climate has decided to leave the error uncorrected. When does an honest error become something different?

Instead of just correcting the factual record Real Climate responds to my request with the following:

You've been working hard to scandalize your personal quibbles with IPCC here - how consistent is this with your self-proclaimed role as "honest broker"?
Lies on top of lies. Not good. If they want to understand why their community has lost so much credibility, they need only look to their own actions.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

As one Sunderban island disappears under the waves, another grows (& a journalist has fit of scruples!)

The disappearance of the island of Lohachara from the Sunderban chain was of course trumpeted by the media as "the first inhabited island to be claimed by climate change".

Except it wasn't.

And then there is New Moore island...
Journalist Richad Orange confesses to trying to feed one of the most popular warmist hoaxes:
You couldn’t hope for a more perfect climate change victim than Ajay Patra, the head man of Ghoramara — the island in India’s Sunderban chain that is next in line to be submerged beneath the rising sea. The hungry tide has already claimed all but seven of the 100 hectares his family had once owned, Ajay told me…

As we sipped tea outside Ajay’s large mud bungalow, I excitedly scribbled notes, imagining how all this would go down in the Ecologist magazine, or perhaps the London-based Independent. It had already run an article reporting the disappearance of the next-door island of Lohachara, “the first inhabited island to be claimed by climate change”. I felt sure they’d love this too. But when I asked Ajay what he made of the fact that all of his troubles were the direct result of heavy industry thousands of miles away, he looked at me like I was mad.

“It’s not because of global warming, it’s because of natural erosion”, he said…

I smiled inwardly. It was, perhaps, too much to expect a simple village leader to have a full grasp of the science of global warming. But later, as I examined the dramatic waterline of Ghoramara, I began to have doubts… Then there’s New Moore Island, which appeared in the Sunderbans for the first time in 1970 and has been growing apace ever since… It’s around 10,000 square metres today, and such is the scale of the sedimentary deposits building up around it that it’s expected to hit 25 square kilometres in a couple of decades.

To my shame, I must confess that I still tried to make the story work long after all this was apparent. And I imagine every other journalist who has arrived on these islands with global warming in mind has done exactly the same thing.
His exhausted body a prisoner to the Bay of Bengal’s violent tides, Dependra Das stretches out his bony arms to show his flaky, ravaged skin. He is covered in raw saltwater sores…

Alongside him, stretched across the beach in long, thin lines, the villagers of Ghorama Island – including the women, elaborately dressed in their purple, orange and green saris – work daily to prop up the same black mud-and-sand fortress.

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Somebody needs to put Peter Garrett out of his (and our) misery

The interview below is just painfull. And I do actually feel sorry for Garrett (for a certain value of sorry anyway). This isn't just his stuff up. It was the government's need to throw vast amounts of free money at as many people it could as quickly as it could that inevitably caused this disastrous and tragic mess.

As any Neo-Liberal could have warned Mr Rudd and the rest of the cabinet, governments handing out free money invite every shonk and rent seeker around to come out of the wood work.

It was inevitable and totally predictable. And I am prepared to be fair and non-partisan in this regard. Any government distortion of the market inevitably produces trouble, much of it in the form of unintended consequences, though others again perfectly predictable, such as when Mr Howard and Mr Costello decided to give a tax break to rich doctors and lawyers so they could indulge their fantasy hobby of growing vines and making wine.

Colour me unsurprised when a few years later there had been so many hectares of new vines planted that the over-supply of grapes caused prices to crash.

A lesson that seems never to be learnt by some.

COLVIN: The Environment Minister Peter Garrett is on the line now. Mr Garrett, you tabled the Minter Ellison risk assessment today, how long have you had it?

PETER GARRETT: Mark I haven’t had it for a significant period of time. It was sought for tabling and I arranged for the tabling to take place today.

MARK COLVIN: The Opposition says that you’ve hidden it for over half a year now.

PETER GARRETT: Well, I don’t accept the Opposition making claims of this kind.

MARK COLVIN: You might as well tell us how long you actually have had it.

PETER GARRETT: Well, I’m not providing sort of dates and numbers to you over the phone, Mark, in relation to this. When, when the call came for this particular document to be identified, I identified it in my statement when I spoke to the Parliament last week. I said in the Parliament, that this document was a risk assessment document which had been drawn on …

MARK COLVIN: Why, I’m sorry …

PETER GARRETT: Just let me finish …

MARK COLVIN: But why wouldn’t you, why wouldn’t you just answer the question?

PETER GARRETT: I am answering the question …

MARK COLVIN: About how long you’ve had it?

PETER GARRETT: I’m answering the question.

MARK COLVIN: It’s a simple question. Why, why won’t you answer the question about how long you’ve had this report?

PETER GARRETT: Mark I’m answering the question by saying this: I produced for the Parliament a statement detailing all of my responses in relation to what both the department and I had, actions had taken in relation to the home insulation program.

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Newsflash: Snowless in Vancouver is Perfectly Normal Mr President

The wonderful Donna Laframboise sets Mr Obama right:

Oh, for heaven's sake. If the President of the United States is going to lecture people about the science of climate change, could someone on his staff do a bit of homework beforehand?

The fact that snow is conspicuously absent from some of the venues at the Vancouver winter Olympics was held up by President Obama yesterday as evidence that global warming is, in fact, occurring. Responding to a question, the President declared:

I want to just be clear that the science of climate change doesn't mean that every place is getting warmer…But...Vancouver, which is supposed to be getting snow during the Olympics, suddenly is at 55 degrees… [bold added]

Excuse me, but I happen to not only live here in Canada, but to have had family and friends who resided for years in or near the breathtakingly gorgeous (not to mention murderously expensive) city of Vancouver.

I know, therefore, that they don't own many winter coats in that part of our vast country - and that mowing their lawns is a perfectly ordinary February activity. Vancouver's weather is much like Seattle's and, as a friend of mine who lives in the American city mentioned this week, her daffodils have begun to bloom.

You can read her full post here.

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Video response to Keith Olbermann's claim that the Tea Party movement is white only

¿Y ahora? ('and now?' in Venezuela)

At least one former Chavez supporter in Venezuela, yet again sitting in the dark during a power outage, is reconsidering.

He’s probably not the only one.

Not to worry, though. Chavez has brought in Cuba’s vice president Ramiro Valdes as a consultant on Venezuela’s electricity crisis. A former interior minister, Valdes “oversaw secret police operations and gained a reputation for being ruthless when it came to suppressing dissidents,” CNN reports.

Seems like the perfect choice to solve Venezuela’s electricity problems– or, if that fails, to solve the problem of Venezuelans who criticize Chavez for those problems.

Chavez has, after all, equated the Internet with terrorism when it is used to criticize him. He has called for more state control of the Internet.

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Britain's bleak winter could be the worst for 81 years

The long, hard winter looks like dragging on into March. And if the bitter winds carry on for the next two weeks, there is a very good chance that this winter will turn out to be the coldest across the UK since 1929.

The National Trust reports that spring flowers have been set back by up to four weeks compared with recent years, although they expect that when some decent warmth arrives it could unleash a huge burst of flowering.

In the latest outbreak of wintry weather, heavy snow swamped much of the South West, Wales, the Midlands and parts of East Anglia, with the threat of ice on those roads not covered with snow. There’s a risk of a similar snowfall returning on Monday, stretching from the M4 corridor across Wales, the Midlands, East Anglia and parts of the North.

These snowfalls have come from a collision of wet, mild, Atlantic air smashing into freezing colder air stuck over northern parts of Britain. This stems from a problem that has plagued much of this winter — the weather patterns have become blocked and sent the jet stream running south.

This wind runs a few miles high and marks the battlefront between Arctic air and tropical air, and usually lies close to the UK during winter, delivering mild but wet weather. This winter, though, bitterly cold air from the Arctic thrust down into Europe and sent the jet stream off-course.

And the same happened in the eastern US, where the bitter cold has produced monster-sized snowfalls that have set new records in many places.

While much of Europe, North America and Asia have shivered, other places have been ridiculously warm. Just like squeezing a balloon, mild air has shifted to other regions such as Vancouver, where the Winter Olympics are in dire trouble with incredibly warm weather, heavy rains and fog.

The blame for this mess is partly thanks to El Niño, the warming of the tropical seas of the Pacific, which causes a huge upheaval in weather patterns across much of the globe. [Though as I understand it, the current El Niño reached its peak some seven weeks ago, and the values for the anomaly has since "dropped like a stone." Garth]

This current El Niño is fairly powerful, and has swept warm air across Alaska and the West Coast of Canada, which is why Vancouver broke its record for the warmest January. Even the UK has caught the turmoil from El Niño, despite being thousands of miles away. Warm air from El Niño shot up into the stratosphere and shunted a surge of cold air from the Arctic down across the Continent and the UK this month.

Despite the snow and recent rain, this winter could turn out to be one of the driest on record, based on Met Office figures up to February 15. Although snowfalls through January and February were often heavy, they did not amount to much in terms of rainfall. Even showers forecast next week will not substantially change the average rainfall for the whole winter.


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