Saturday, July 14, 2007

Keating, Howard and Hitler

Leftists tend to abuse conservatives rather than argue with them and that is so in Australia as elsewhere. Former Leftist Prime Minister Paul Keating is greatly noted for his talent at abuse and his recent comparison of conservative Prime Minister John Howard with Hitler is entirely in keeping with that.

His comparison was, however, a cautious one -- much more qualified and well-informed than the Bush=Hitler mantra that is so common on the American Left. Keating drew a distinction between patriotism (good) and nationalism (snarl) and said that the one thing which Howard and Hitler had in common was nationalism.

The distinction between nationalism and patriotism is an old one -- and the distinction Keating made (nationalism is bad, patriotism is good) dates back at least to the work of Marxist theoretician Theodor Adorno and his co-authors in 1950. Prior to WWII nationalism was good too. There were few more fervent German nationalists than Friedrich Engels (co-author with Karl Marx of Das Kapital).

The debate over what constitutes patriotism and what constitutes nationalism is however an arid one. Keating has his version of it but there are many others. There is an article here that explores some of the other possibilities. The only consistency these days is that if you don't like it you call it nationalism and if you do you call it patriotism.

I myself have had a great deal published in the academic literature on the subject (e.g. here and here and here) but think it is a waste of time to debate what the objective distinction between the two words should be. One has to look at detailed policies rather than use such broad and tendentious generalizations. And I know of none of Hitler's policies that are also policies of John Howard.

Swindling free speech: True believers seem intent on silencing climate dissenters

THERE have been at least four major ice ages in the history of planet Earth, none of them caused by cars, factories, budget airlines or even burping cows, as far as can be ascertained. So it is somewhat surprising that discussing natural climate variability is viewed by some as not just deeply controversial but downright dangerous.

The ABC has come under intense criticism, mainly from within its own ranks, simply for daring to air the documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle on television last night. To reduce the risk that viewers might be infected with the program's scepticism, it was bookended with a disparaging precis about director Martin Durkin and a panel discussion that Lateline presenter Tony Jones took a week out from regular duties to prepare for.

Scientists of the stature of Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at MIT, have accused Al Gore of scientific flaws and exaggerations in An Inconvenient Truth, including suggesting that sea levels would rise by six metres this century, not up to 50cm, as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Yet this passes without mention on the ABC.

Curiously, one of the most outraged critics of the ABC's decision to screen Durkin's documentary is Clive Hamiliton, author of the seemingly aptly named Silencing Dissent. On this occasion we find ourselves in the unusual position of agreeing with Robert Manne, who wrote in Hamilton's book that the health of a democracy relies on the encouragement of dissident opinion and wide-ranging debate. And on this occasion we also give full marks to the ABC.


Senior Federal minister wants broader climate debate

AUSTRALIANS should not presume that there was one definitive view on climate change, but the Howard Government will press ahead with emissions trading after the next election, Finance Minister Nick Minchin said yesterday. Senator Minchin, who has expressed scepticism about the human's contribution to climate change in the past, said yesterday he looked forward to watching the documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle on television tonight (thursday).

He insisted there were many scientists who were doubtful about man's contribution to global warming. ''I think it is vital that we all expose ourselves to all sides of this debate,'' he said yesterday. ''And to those who say the debate is over I say no. ''I think that is quite wrong to act on that presumption. I think it is important to hear the voices of those many many scientists who don't accept that, to the extent there is a rising global temperature, it is all the fault of human activity. ''So I think both government and individuals need to understand the contrary points of view and the evidence put.''

Senator Minchin said the Government was committed to an inquiry into what an appropriate carbon emissions reduction target should be as the precussor to a trading system. He said it was irresponsible for Labor to set a target - a 60 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050 - without first working out the economic consequences. ''There is a lot of work to be done to ensure that the emissions trading system that we do introduce into this country is done in such a way that in a sense maximises `the bang for the buck' - that we get the maximum containment of the CO2 emissions for the least impact on the Australian economy,'' he said.


Safety 'sanitises' science

STUDENTS have been robbed of the fun of Bunsen burners and the whiff of sulphuric acid as fears of litigation rule out classroom experiments. A federal inquiry into Academic Standards heard yesterday Australia will regret the day it sanitised science. Megan Motto, from the Association of Consulting Engineers Australia, said science and maths were being left behind in the prevailing shift to humanities studies. Engineering students often spent the first year of their degree doing remedial work in maths and science, she said. Ms Motto suggested parents be invited into classrooms to help oversee science experiments. "This could make a great difference to the way science teachers teach."

The inquiry also heard from the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, which said literacy levels in Australians schools were not as bad as portrayed in some sections of the media. Vice-president Mark Howie said Australian standards were considered quite high from an international perspective. But he said Australia could learn from Finland where literacy standards were more consistently high across demographic areas. Mr Howie said one area of concern for all teachers was computer skills, with school kids often better skilled and better equipped in the technical area. Teachers seldom had the luxury of picking up the phone and calling the Information Technology department when computers crashed, he said. "We ring some poor colleague who might not be able to get to your problem for the next few days."


Media Watch's jihadi sources

One of the more Leftist programmes of a Leftist broadcaster uses jihadi sources, not very surprisingly

The ABC has launched an inquiry into accusations that Media Watch relied on research supplied to it by an Islamic website that peddled anti-Semitic and jihadi messages. Media Watch has been accused of colluding with IslamicSydney, which has published bloggers calling on children to "arm themselves" with machineguns, and supporting the use of violence and weapons to "fight injustice".

The allegations against the self-proclaimed media watchdog were made by David Penberthy, editor of Sydney's The Daily Telegraph, in a letter to the ABC's managing director Mark Scott after Media Watch last month broadcast racist and inflammatory comments made by bloggers on the newspaper's website. Penberthy wrote to Mr Scott after IslamicSydney's forum published comments by some of its members boasting about the information they gave to Media Watch. On June 12, Ahmedk -- believed to be Ahmed Kilani, the co-founder of the website -- writes: "For those who thought (of) collecting these racist comments (from the Telegraph's website), watch Media Watch next Monday."

The message was followed up on June 18 by the same blogger after the program ran on Media Watch that evening: "Alhamdoulillah (praise to God) we were able to help Media Watch researchers with the story. So there was the great benefit to collecting these quotes. Please keep them coming."

Racist and jihadist comments on Islamic Sydney's Muslim Village Forum website include one posted on May 15 by username Malik-Shakur: "I will bring my children up to believe that there is no better thing in life than to struggle in the path of God, whether its (sic) with their speech, their wallets or their hands in fighting ... and that there is no better honour than to die as a martyr."

On May 21, username Tas wrote: "Don't know about Palestinians as a nation, but our prophet has prophesised that eventually every single Jew will be eliminated from the face of this earth by the Muslims, after a major war between us and them (kafirs) ... and the Messenger of Allah says nothing but the truth. Just a matter of time I guess."

The ABC's director of television Kim Dalton yesterday admitted that some of Media Watch's tips came from "quite unsavoury" characters but refused to be drawn on some of the hate-filled and poisonous messages published by IslamicSydney. "Judge the information that was provided. Don't try and discount the information on the basis of the source of the information," he said.

While Penberthy stood by his website's publication of offensive blogger messages, he said they did not represent the newspaper's editorial policy. Penberthy said such comments were balanced by other messages from Muslims that were anti-Australian and combative towards the paper and its staff. "We've run comments that are critical of Muslims, critical of Lebanese Australians, but equally we've run comments from Lebanese Australians that are attacking our columnists, attacking our news reporters, attacking Australia: calling Australians rednecks, bigots, dills," he said. Penberthy accused Media Watch of deliberately selecting a small sample of some of the most extreme comments on his website and holding them up as being representative of the entire site. "The reality is they're not indicative of the massive and overwhelming majority of the comments that we do publish on the site. The voices in the middle are constructive, conciliatory voices," he said.

Some of the comments published on the Telegraph's website, which were broadcast by Media Watch on June 18, included anti-Muslim remarks such as "Dogs make Muslim men horny", "I wouldn't be letting Arabs in the country" and another accusing Lebanese Muslims of being uneducated and ending up "barefoot and pregnant at by the age of 20 and then collect welfare for the rest of their lives".

Penberthy said Media Watch should apply the same standards it used to attacking his paper to the website on which it relied for information gathering. "It strikes me as a double standard because they will talk about the research methods of the mainstream media, they will talk about a lack of candour and honesty on the part of the media ... they will expose organisations that are acting as undisclosed sources to the media, people with agendas, all that sort of stuff," he said. "The really hypocritical thing is that Media Watch would outsource its research to a third party (IslamicSydney), which is every bit as racist, and I would argue more racist and more dangerous than anything that we are running."

Media Watch's presenter Monica Attard yesterday said she was prohibited from commenting on Penberthy's complaints because the matter was under investigation. Following his appointment as ABC's managing director last year, Mr Scott said the national broadcaster would search for a "further diversity" of voices and singled out Media Watch as a program that needed to be reviewed. Mr Dalton said Penberthy would get a response to the complaint soon.


Global warming and the "debunkers" of Durkin

They fail to acknowledge that you cannot detect long term trends with short-term data

Durkin's "Swindle" film has just been shown nationwide on Australian TV and furious Warmists have concentrated their attack on the fact that his graphs of solar effects ended in 1980.

It has been known for some time that solar output has been in decline for the last 20 years or so and this is held to undermine the claim that recent global warming can be explained by variations in output from the sun. Apparently provoked by the Durkin film, Lockwood & Froehlich recently produced a paper ("Recent oppositely-directed trends in solar climate forcings and the global mean surface air temperature") that drew further attention to recent solar trends as being inconsistent with the Durkin contentions. They examined a whole range of solar measurements and showed that, by most measures, solar output was falling rather than rising in recent years. And that paper has been widely promoted as "debunking" Durkin's contention that variations in solar output are the only good long-term explanation of climate change.

I have now had a preliminary look at the Lockwood paper and note that there is a very large dog in it that did not bark. If solar output does not explain recent temperature variations, what does? With the monomania about CO2 among Warmists, one would have expected a graph of CO2 levels plotted against temperature. There is no such graph. In other words, CO2 levels do not explain recent temperature variations very well either. The fact that CO2 levels have continued to rise in recent years while surface temperatures peaked in 1998 would appear to be the elephant in the bedroom. If solar output levels and terrestrial temperature have diverged in recent years, so too have CO2 levels and terrestrial temperature.

The important point in the matter, however, is one that climate skeptics have been making for years: There are MANY variables that affect terrestrial temperature from time to time -- not just CO2 and not just the sun. And to tease out the effect of any one variable, you have to look at a fairly long data series -- so that fluctuations due to other sources will be smoothed out. It is partly for this reason that most of the plots of climate against temperature extend over many centuries. A period of just 20 years is too short to detect long-term trends. One needs long-term data to detect long-term tends and there are any number of graphs showing a long term relationship between solar output and terrestrial temperature.

Additionally, many effects may be lagged: the influence concerned may take some time to show up. One reason for this is the vast reservoir of heat, CO2 and much else that girdles the earth: The ocean. It takes some time for a surface temperature variation to show up in the amount of heat stored in the ocean. When the recent drop in solar output works its way through all the systems -- such as the ocean -- that it affects we might therefore expect global COOLING. It is COOLING that the solar data suggests as imminent, not warming.

In the circumstances, one is mildly surprised that Warmists mention solar output at all. Surely even a Warmist realizes that the sun affects terrestrial temperature!

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