Sunday, January 30, 2011

Yes Virginia, English history is a crucial part of Australian history & politics. A Marxist says so.

Came across this blog post by Strange Times: The English Civil War Is A Crucial Part of Australian History via Twitter.

As I read it I suspected that the blogger was something of a lefty, and indeed it appears he's some sort of Marxist. (Or is it she? I'm not sure.)

Does my heart good though to see an article in Crikey being described as "arrogant, dismissive and, frankly a joke" by someone of the old (older?) left that still believes in a discourse based upon rational argument, and not the modern 'pseudo-left's' (it's term, not mine) parading of assumed moral virtue as a substitute for reason.

It's this article in The Age, which reports comments on the proposed history curriculum by opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne, that started it all.

Mr Pyne will today accuse curriculum writers of neglecting the contributions of Britain, Ancient Greece and Rome to Western civilisation because of an undue emphasis on indigenous culture, Asia and sustainability.

This produced the previously mentioned response by Associate Professor Tony Taylor of Monash University in Crikey.

After criticising some aspects of Pyne's comments, Strange Times moves on to Professor Taylor:

However, the response in Crikey is arrogant, dismissive and, frankly a joke. Taylor’s lowest moment is when he says the English Civil War is “arguably just a series of confused and confusing localised squabbles that may have a special significance for UK history, but not for anybody else (unless they like dressing up in period costume).”

As the blogger says, nothing could be further from the truth for Australia (or for that matter, Canada or New Zealand). Our political and constitutional systems are built on the bedrock laid down by the consequences of the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Anyone with even a basic knowledge of how bourgeois Parliamentary democracy [I think that was the giveaway line that this person is a Marxist] works knows that this is ridiculous. Most of the assumptions behind it come directly or indirectly from that Civil War. The most important tenet of parliamentarism – the idea that only the parliament, not the executive on its own, may tax – is a direct result of the war and the main issue it was fought over. You can’t understand the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, which lead to the sacking of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, without understanding that crucial point.

But as Strange Times notes, the worrying thing is not that Taylor can be so wrong, but that this is a person "in a position to affect the curriculum of Australian schools."

And Taylor's basic point is not that Pyne is wrong, but rather he's an outsider. He's not part of the history club and therefore has no right to criticise what the club decides we should know.

What’s worst of all about this article is it carries on the smarmy pseudo-left habit of congratulating themselves that they must be right, because the slightly more right-wing ruling class party is against them. This is part of the nature of the bureaucratic pseudo-left; they push the line that their work must be done behind closed doors because evil right-wingers and the stupid populace they fool are too dumb to know what’s best for them. There is no sense at all of actually trusting ordinary people, of welcoming outside debate or being ready to submit their decisions to the judgment of the great unwashed.

We need to keep attacking the pseudo-left with this – with the idea that, while they parade their moral virtue, they are utterly unwilling to actually try to win public debates.

Had to chuckle at the implied description of people like Taylor and Crikey as only slightly less right-wing than Mr Pyne.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

About 160 million years ago a female pterosaur with an injured wing dropped from the sky into a watery grave...

Rare Fossil Preserves Pterosaur Mom and Egg

She was carrying a single, nearly mature egg. "After this she drowned, her carcass became waterlogged, sank to the bottom and, as decay processes began, the egg was expelled from her body," wrote researchers who described the fossil in the January 21 issue of Science.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Linhenykus, a new one-fingered alvarezsauroid dinosaur from Inner Mongolia

A one-clawed theropod.
An artist's rendering of the one-fingered, short-armed new dinosaur Linhenykus monodactylus (National Geographic)

Scientists named the new dinosaur Linhenykus monodactylus, after the nearby city of Linhe. The work was recently published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The new dinosaur belongs to the Alvarezsauroidea, a branch of the carnivorous dinosaur group Theropoda. Theropods gave rise to modern birds and include such famous dinosaurs as Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor.

Who's responsible for all the violence in America?

Ex BBC frontman - how the BBC became a propaganda machine for climate change zealots

The Daily Mail (shoosh back there!) continues its serialisation of Peter Sissons' memoir of his four decades as a television journalist.

‘What happened to the journalism? The BBC has ­completely lost it.’

It's quite astounding reading in so many ways.

Back in the studio I suggested that we line up one or two sceptics to react to the report, but received a totally negative response, as if I was some kind of lunatic. I went home and wrote a note to myself: ‘What happened to the journalism? The BBC has ­completely lost it.’ 

But there's worse.

Roger Harrabin, wrote a piece on the BBC website reporting some work by the World ­Meteorological Organization that questioned whether global ­warming was going to continue at the rate ­projected by the UN panel.

A green activist, Jo Abbess, emailed him to complain. Harrabin at first resisted. Then she berated him: ‘It would be better if you did not quote the sceptics’ — something Harrabin had not actually done — ‘Please reserve the main BBC online channel for emerging truth. Otherwise I would have to conclude that you are insufficiently educated to be able to know when you have been psychologically manipulated.’

Did Harrabin tell her to get lost? He tweaked the story — albeit not as radically as she demanded — and emailed back: ‘Have a look and tell me you are happier.’ 

This exchange went round the world in no time, spread by a ­jubilant Abbess. Later, Harrabin defended himself, saying they were only minor changes — but the sense of the changes, as specifically sought by Ms Abbess, was plainly to harden the piece against the sceptics.

Or that Al Gore "entertained the BBC’s editorial elite in his suite at the Dorchester and was given a free run to make his case to an admiring internal audience at Television Centre." (Can you imagine the brouhaha that would have occurred if it had been evil oil industry executives doing the entertaining instead?) 

All very funny and dispiriting at the same time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Interesting. More rain fell on Brisbane in 1974 and even more in 1893

But what data the bureau has suggests 1893's rainfall was extreme.

Crohamhurst in the Glass House Mountains, inland from the Sunshine Coast, received 907mm on February 3, 1893.

That remains an Australian daily record.

"But what data the bureau has." Probably worth remembering this the next time you hear someone going on about some record weather event or other. Our records don't go back very far and are often of inconsistent quality.

Dr Judith Curry writes on the upcoming Lisbon conference "Workshop on Reconciliation in the Climate Change Debate"

This week, I will be in Lisbon attending a Workshop on Reconciliation in the Climate Change Debate.  The Workshop was conceptualized by Jerome Ravetz,Silvio FuntowiczJames Risbey, and Jeroen van der Sluijs.

While I (relatively) rarely travel overseas for meetings, I jumped at this invitation.  The topic is certainly intriguing and an issue that I have spent a great deal of time pondering over the last year.  Further, I really want to meet Ravetz, Funtowicz, Risbey, and van der Sluijs, whose papers I have been avidly reading over the past year, including citing them on a number of Climate Etc threads:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Peter Sissons on his time with the BBC - left-wing bias written through its very DNA

For 20 years I was a front man at the BBC, anchoring news and current ­affairs programmes, so I reckon nobody is better placed than me to ­answer the question that nags at many of its viewers — is the BBC biased?

In my view, ‘bias’ is too blunt a word to describe the subtleties of the ­pervading culture. The better word is a ‘mindset’. At the core of the BBC, in its very DNA, is a way of thinking that is firmly of the Left.

By far the most popular and widely read newspapers at the BBC are The Guardian and The Independent. ­Producers refer to them routinely for the line to take on ­running stories, and for inspiration on which items to cover. In the later stages of my career, I lost count of the number of times I asked a producer for a brief on a story, only to be handed a copy of The Guardian and told ‘it’s all in there’.

Published in, shock horror!, The Daily Mail.

We can pretty safely substitute ABC for BBC. But as Sissons notes about the BBC, and others about the ABC, people working in both institutions would be aghast at the suggestion that they were biased. They sincerely hold this view by and large, the problem being a pervading mind-set that overwhelmingly sees the world from a limited and partial perspective.

David Williamson reassesses Australia Day and much more

Has Williamson become a conservative, or has this 'wind sniffer' par excellence just sniffed the wind again?

Playwright David Williamson is the muse of the middle-class Left. His ideas seemed to be just the driftwood on the current of the Left’s most fashionable cliches.

So he once despised signs of Australian patriotism - like Australia Day - when it was fashionable. He was a global warmist when it was fashionable. He was a believer in the fundamental racism of Australia when it was fashionable. He was a Howard-hater when it was fashionable. He was a sneerer at “aspirational Australia” when it was fashionable (among those richer than their inferiors).  Indeed, his biggest success was to climb on board the Gough Whitlam bandwagon with Don’s Party.

His eye for ideological fashion has been as keen as his desire to sign up for it. The column he notoriously wrote in 2005 of a cruise he’d taken betrayed all these Williamson characteristics:

It struck me that this cruise ship was a kind of metaphor for Australia. Cruise Ship Australia, all alone in the south seas sailing to God knows where. And in fact, like Australia, many of the passengers didn’t care where we were headed. The cruise itself was the thing. The sunbaking, the chatter, the eating, the very solid drinking, and the all-important on-board entertainment…

Right-wing columnists and commentators have a habit of sneering at what they call “elites”. Elites are presumably those who are not aspirational Australians. We are urged by the columnists to accept that all wisdom resides in aspirational Australia and none in the ranks of the effete elites with their wanky interest in art, films and their bleeding-heart concern for the future of Australia and indeed the world. The pathetic “elites” should accept the ballot box wisdom of the aspirationals and stop their whining, say Paddy, Andrew, Piers and the boys. Perhaps if they spent time on a cruise ship they might start to question this belief…

The credo seemed to be that whatever we Australians had was thoroughly deserved. Not perhaps because a small, manageable population came to inherit a British concern for judicial, parliamentary and human rights in a land that initially seemed limitless in its natural resources. A land of abundant pastures for sheep, wheat and cattle, abundant water, and huge reserves of coal, iron ore, gold and many other metals. A land in which the original inhabitants could be reasonably easily pushed aside.

Except of course that first appearances were deceptive. In fact we’d inherited a very fragile ecosystem; probably after Iceland, the most fragile in the world. And the fact is ... we’re all living on borrowed time…

With climate change now well and truly upon us, the prime agricultural and urban areas are getting less and less rainfall and already NSW has decided a huge desalination plant, with its profligate use of energy, is the only way out… Some economists already believe that we’d be better to shut down our farming efforts completely as they’re a net cost to the country rather than a net gain....

Our present prosperity isn’t from farming; it’s largely coming from our vast coal, natural gas and iron ore deposits… But coal and gas and iron ore are non-renewable… And if President Bush finally concedes that the ferocity of the natural disasters hitting his southern states might have something to do with all that extra energy in the biosphere due to greenhouse warming, then our coal exports might not be as welcome as they are now… Coal is proving such a disastrous polluter (try finding a patch of blue over any Chinese city) and greenhouse gas generator, that its use may well be banned not too far into the future.

But if Williamson is a tide marker in the flow of suburban Leftist thought, what should we conclude about his column today? Several apparent changes in the Williamson world view seem significant.

Linheraptor exquisitus - yet another raptor from China

The new raptor Linheraptor exquisitus runs across desert sands in an artist's rendering

Actually old news, but I've just caught up.

Called Linheraptor exquisitus, the new dinosaur is a raptor, a type of two-legged meat-eater, that lived during the late Cretaceous period in what is now northeastern China (see map).

"We were looking at these very tall red sandstone walls that were all abraded by the wind, and I saw this claw sticking out of the side of the cliff," recalls Jonah Choiniere, a grad student at George Washington University in Washington D.C. who found the fossil on a dig in 2008.

The claw wasn't protruding much: Less than a fingertip's worth of the bone was exposed. But further investigation revealed "bone after bone," Choiniere said, until the team had unearthed a nearly complete skeleton—one of the most complete raptor fossils ever found.

What is it with Hawaii? First carnivorous caterpillars, now amphibious ones!

Several new caterpillar species are equally at home on land or underwater, making them the first truly amphibious insects, scientists say.

The amphibious caterpillars—found only in Hawaii's fast-moving freshwaterstreams—belong to the moth genus Hyposmocoma, a group that includes more than 400 species.

The 14 newfound species are never seen far from water. But unlike purely aquatic caterpillars, these species can behave the same in water or on land for indefinite periods of time.

"When you put these guys in water, they run around and eat. You take them out, and they're perfectly fine too," said study co-author Daniel Rubinoff of the University of Hawaii.

"No other insect that we're aware of can do that. Actually, no other animal that I'm aware of can do that."

Full article here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Some IPCC lead authors chosen not on the basis of scientific credentials, but on where they come from or their gender

IPCC insiders say many of those who shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize have weak scientific credentials. They were chosen because they are of the right gender or come from the right country.

I'd forgotten about this drawing of a large male fist punching Sarah Palin in the face

Low salt diet benefits debunked

Public health advice to minimise salt consumption to lower blood pressure is based on spurious science and does not recognise the complex role of sodium in the body, say scientists whose study attacks the basis of dietary guidelines.

As Australian authorities consider slashing salt recommendations to even lower levels, the most comprehensive survey of salt intake in the US found consumption there had not changed in more than 40 years, despite the recent rise of low-sodium foods, and the average was at least 50 per cent higher than the recommended maximum.

As well, there was relatively little difference between the high and low ends of the salt intake spectrum - suggesting people naturally gravitate towards a similar amount of dietary salt, regardless of changes in food processing.

The research, led by the eminent Harvard researcher Walter Willett, re-analysed all studies between 1957 and 2003 that measured sodium levels in urine - a more accurate method than asking people what foods they ate.

Professor Willett said the finding that salt intake had not changed, while the prevalence of high blood pressure had risen, suggested the ''epidemic of obesity may be a more plausible determinant'' of high blood pressure rates than salt.

His study, published yesterday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, joins an international survey released last year with similar findings.

Full article here.

Michael Fumento - why do we continue to believe bizarre things, from airships that weren't there to Gulf War Syndrome

We also suffer from Paleolithic man's dependence on pattern-seeking -- the only science he truly possessed -- which helped tell when berries would appear or when a wild animal was dangerous. But pattern-seeking also leads to superstition. Stellar constellations, "finding" patterns in random assortments of stars, was a science to the Ancient Greeks.

Today we're constantly offered "patterns" from random events. We personally would never have identified them. But once somebody else identifies them, they become "obvious." Stare at a bunch of dots long enough and you'll eventually find what you seek.

That's especially true for those with an agenda, including some in the media. They thrive on sensationalism and often convince even themselves it's right there in those random dots. Sensationalism brings money, fame and prizes to reporters. But in fairness, they're just giving the public what it wants.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Rational Optimist - Shale gas changes everything

Some people think I am obsessed by the shale gas revolution and that I might be exaggerating its significance.

Well, if anything I'm underplaying it.

The International Energy Agency says so. Here's what it says (from UPI):

"Production of 'unconventional' gas in the U.S. has rocketed in the past few years, going beyond even the most optimistic forecasts," said Anne-Sophie Corbeau, a gas analyst at the IEA. "It is no wonder that its success has sparked such international interest."

The rest here

Watch this, you'll love his nuts

DJ Steve Porter featuring Vince Offer - "Slap Chop Rap"

Vince? I never knew he existed before today, but this 'remix' of his Slap Chop ad has made me a fan.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Greenpeace co-founder on the environmental group's descent into extremism

From The Vancouver Sun:

You could call me a Greenpeace dropout, but that is not an entirely accurate description of how or why I left the organization 15 years after I helped create it. I'd like to think Greenpeace left me, rather than the other way around, but that too is not entirely correct.

The truth is Greenpeace and I had divergent evolutions. I became a sensible environmentalist; Greenpeace became increasingly senseless as it adopted an agenda that is anti-science, anti-business, and downright anti-human. This is the story of our transformations.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Goat sings along with Usher

It started out simply enough:

But before long, the goat was jamming with the best of them:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tiny fossils offer clues to 'dawn of the dinosaur era' (with complete reevaluation of Eoraptor)

Eodromaeus, new basal theropod from the Triassic in Argentina.

Triassic Park was a more diverse place than we thought, according to the latest finds from the 230-million-year-old Ischigualasto formation in north-eastern Argentina. Dinosaurs make up one-third of all vertebrate genera found in the fossil beds, and all three major dinosaur groups had already appeared – not bad for a time when the beasts were thought to be rare.

Steve Brusatte, quoted in the same story makes the important point about the tendency of even scientists to build narratives around scrappy and incomplete evidence, warning:

against drawing major evolutionary conclusions. He points out that huge holes remain in the Triassic fossil record – the next-oldest well-preserved dinosaur fossils are about 15 million years younger. "You have to be careful in drawing big pictures from one site," he warns.

Chicago Tribune article here.

Mike Taylor in a post to the Dinosaur Mailing List has reaction similar to mine this morning, (though for me it was the newspaper article):

Seriously?  Even freakin' Science is not capable of mentioning a theropod without throwing in an extraneous T. rex reference?  It makes me want to weep.

Well, I didn't want to weep, but I did roll my eyes.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Is the international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944 on the verge of breaking down?

The international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944 is on the verge of breaking down. It could still be saved by heroic measures, especially if these were taken in the United States. They would include an immediate slash in projected government expenditures, an immediate balancing of the budget, and a halt in any further increase in the stock of money.

But in the present political and ideological atmosphere, these measures are very unlikely.

The advice at the end appears to be: buy gold.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Prehistoric Bird Had Wings Like Nunchucks

Two prehistoric birds fight.
The flightless Xenicibis bird used its wings, like two clubs hinged at the wrist joint, to swing at one another, a new study says.

A flightless bird with wings like martial arts weapons once thrashed its foes on what's now Jamaica, a new study says.

Dubbed Xenicibis, the prehistoric bird wielded its unusual wings like nunchucks, or nunchakus, swinging its upper arms so that thick, curved hand bones hinged at the wrist would deliver punishing blows.

The weapon-like wings are so unique that study co-author Nicholas Longrich of Yale University at first assumed the odd limbs were evidence of a deformity.

"There are a lot of birds that do have weaponry," Longrich said. "Tthey just don't have anything like this."

The rest here

Beaks Transformed Dinosaurs, Expanding Diet

The emergence of the beak on dinosaurs was "an evolutionary innovation," according to a new study that found this seemingly simple trait is like nature's Swiss Army knife because it functions as many tools in one.

Pterygotid sea scorpions: No longer terror of the ancient seas?

Experiments by a team of researchers in New York and New Jersey have generated evidence that questions the common belief that the pterygotid eurypterids ("sea scorpions") were high-level predators in the Paleozoic oceans. This group, which ranged the seas from about 470 to 370 million years ago (long before the dinosaurs appeared), included the largest and, arguably, scariest-looking arthropods known to have evolved on planet Earth.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The King speaks to his peoples around the world (interesting in the light of the film The King's Speech)

His Majesty King George VI addresses his peoples around the world from Buckingham Palace in light of him being at war with Germany, 3 September 1939.

You can hear him wrestling with his speech impediment, the subject of the recently released film The King's Speech, in this recording.

Via @lifeasdaddy and @Colvinius on Twitter.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Geologist: 9,099 Of Last 10,500 Years Warmer Than 2010

On Watts Up With That?, Dr. Don J. Easterbrook notes the attention 2010 is getting as a contender for the warmest year of the century. And then he calms everyone down:

Another graph of temperatures from the Greenland ice core for the past 10,000 years is shown in Figure 5. It shows essentially the same temperatures as Cuffy and Clow (1997) but with somewhat greater detail.  What both of these temperature curves show is that virtually all of the past 10,000 years has been warmer than the present.

Figure 5. Temperatures over the past 10,000 years recorded in the GISP2 Greenland ice core

So where do the 1934/1998/2010 warm years rank in the long-term list of warm years? Of the past 10,500 years, 9,100 were warmer than 1934/1998/2010.  Thus, regardless of which year ( 1934, 1998, or 2010) turns out to be the warmest of the past century, that year will rank number 9,099 in the long-term list.

The climate has been warming slowly since the Little Ice Age (Fig. 5), but it has quite a ways to go yet before reaching the temperature levels that persisted for nearly all of the past 10,500 years.

From Planet Gore

Area Of Thick Arctic Ice Has Doubled In The Last Two Years

US Navy PIPS data shows that the area of ice greater than 2.5 metres thick – has doubled since the same date in 2008.

As usual, Britain's wind farms generated almost no power during the recent freeze

Wind farms in Britain generated practically no electricity during the recent cold spell, raising fresh concerns about whether they could be relied upon to meet the country’s energy needs.

Despite high demand for electricity as people shivered at home over Christmas, most of the 3,000 wind turbines around Britain stood still due to a lack of wind.

Even yesterday , when conditions were slightly breezier, wind farms generated just 1.8 per cent of the nation’s electricity — less than a third of usual levels.

The failure of wind farms to function at full tilt during December forced energy suppliers to rely on coal-fired power stations to keep the lights on — meaning more greenhouse gases were produced.

Experts feared that as the Government moved towards a target of generating 30 per cent of electricity from wind — while closing gas and coal-fired power stations — cold, still winters could cause a problem in the future.

The wind turbines may even use up electricity during a calm period, as they were rotated in order to keep the mechanical parts working. There are more than 3,000 turbines in Britain and the Department of Energy and Climate Change planned to have up to 6,000 onshore and 4,000 at sea by 2020.

Charles Anglin, of Renewable UK, which represented the wind energy industry, said that over a normal year wind turbines were working about a third of the time. He said future energy plans took into account periods when wind turbines were still, just as current models had backup available for when nuclear or coal plants were down. “There are periods, of course, when it is not windy but year on year we are seeing growth,” he said.

Britain had 2 per cent of electricity from renewables in 2002, but that figure was now almost 10 per cent, with wind providing about half.

Via Greenie Watch

I'm sorry, all this money is being poured into useless windmills that work "about a third of the time?!"

A brief history of wrong (and lessons in denial)

David Viner is the first act in Maxim Lott’s list of Eight Botched Environmental Forecasts:
1. Within a few years “children just aren’t going to know what snow is.” Snowfall will be “a very rare and exciting event.” Dr. David Viner, senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, interviewed by the UK Independent, March 20, 2000.
The response: “A spokesman for the government-funded British Council, where Viner now works as the lead climate change expert, told that climate science had improved since the prediction was made.” Paul Ehrlich’s forecast is also worth a look:
7. “By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people ... If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” Ehrlich, Speech at British Institute For Biology, September 1971.
Ehrlich’s defence is brilliant:
“When you predict the future, you get things wrong,” Ehrlich admitted, but “how wrong is another question. I would have lost if I had had taken the bet. However, if you look closely at England, what can I tell you? They’re having all kinds of problems, just like everybody else.”

So he was just a little bit wrong. England still exists, but it has “problems”.