Monday, 29 August 2011

Links of interest

1. The Australian Labor Party - the gift that keeps on giving.

THE federal government has come under unprecedented attack from one of its biggest union allies over the failure to bail out hundreds of family businesses owed more than $7 million from collapsed Building the Education Revolution (BER) projects.

A sordid tale of unintended consequences, some of which have already devolved upon the public school system (late completion, shoddy workmanship, schools forced to accept buildings that didn't match their needs, and so forth). "Unintended consequences" seems to be what this government does best. Unfortunately, all of those consequences are bad. From the link:

A spokesman for Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans said last night the government sympathised with sub-contractors who worked for builder Project Kendall. "It is, however, the state and territory governments and non-government education authorities who are responsible for managing the implementation of BER projects in their schools including tendering, contracting and procurement," he said.

He can 'shift the blame all he likes, but this was the Federal Government's baby and the ultimate responsibility rests there. Specifically it was the current Prime Minister's baby - this was her ministerial portfolio at the time. In retrospect, that should have been a warning sign. It's a bad sign for a Labor government when the unions take up the cudgel against it.

2. It's a bad sign anyway, because in related news...

Hard-working Federal MP for Chisholm Anna Burke, popular lefty Bendigo MP Steve Gibbons, painful and Ruddite Daryl Melham, grumpy teddy bear Laurie Ferguson, NSW Right patriot John Murphy, and former Minister and Left factional titan Alan Griffin have all decided not to re-contest their seats.

There was a lot of this sort of thing in the lead-up to the New South Wales state election, an event which saw NSW Labor utterly routed after a long string of scandals, screw-ups, and more leadership changes than you can poke a stick at. The rats are deserting the sinking ship. (I use the phrase metaphorically; there is every possibility that these are honest men and women who are despairing of their chances and would rather retire than face inevitable defeat - the political equivalent of tipping over one's king in chess.)

3. When your position is under siege, when the 'facts' you spruik are eroded by observations, and when the science suddenly isn't all that settled any more, there's always ad-hominem attack:

One day climate change skeptics will be seen in the same negative light as racists, or so says former Vice President Al Gore.

Um, no. From the article:

When Bogusky questioned the analogy, asking if the scientific reasoning behind climate change skeptics might throw a wrench into the good and evil comparison with racism, Gore did not back down.
“I think it’s the same where the moral component is concerned and where the facts are concerned I think it is important to get that out there, absolutely,” Gore said.

The most fascinating part of this is that Gore is trying to reframe the debate as a moral one. It isn't - it's firmly scientific. The thing about science is that it's very rarely "settled", and those parts of it that are settled are the ones which can be subject to rigorous analysis - shifting one variable at a time while the others are held constant and seeing where theory and observation diverge. The other problem I find with "settled" climate science is that we have detailed historical records of massive climate shifts with no human input at all, which suggests that the science either isn't really all that well understood or that the models have massive holes in them, or possibly both. As for Gore's assertion that...

This is an organized effort to attack the reputation of the scientific community as a whole, to attack their integrity, and to slander them with the lie that they are making up the science in order to make money,

I would point him to this and this and this as evidence of the sort of money there is to be made. In addition, this is by no means an attempt to attack "the scientific community as a whole", which is not a monolith on the topic of climate change and never has been. When those who question a majority opinion in science are vilified and have their ethics and morality called into question for doing so, especially by public figures who are not themselves scientists, we have stopped doing science and started doing dogma. The way you "beat the climate denialists" is by repudiating their opinions scientifically, not by attributing dubious motivations in the first instance.

The other big problem I have with the whole carbon-trading business is that it is an invitation to a South Sea Bubble of enormous proportions, mostly because it's a trade in toxic intangibles - and that should remind you of something.

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