August 17, 2014 | Graham

Being contrary on climate isn’t enough

Generally it is more interesting and important to point out problems with the orthodoxy on climate change than its opponents, because it is orthodoxy that gets put into policy, not heterodoxy.

But as the climate debate fractures in the face of evidence, a wider range of views becomes significant.

Climate skeptics have recently been excited by research suggesting that the world has been warming for the last 10,000 years in a way that leaves little room for the CO2 mechanism.

Was the Earth in a period of global warming or cooling before the 20th century?

Attempting to answer this question has thrown up a conundrum for scientists, with some studies showing a warming trend, while others suggesting it cooled until humans intervened.

Now a new study hopes to settle the issue by arguing that data points to the fact that Earth’s climate has been warming over the past 10,000 years – long before human activity is thought to have changed the climate.

With their current knowledge, Professor Liu and colleagues don’t believe any physical forces over the last 10,000 years could have been strong enough to overwhelm the warming.

The study does not, the authors emphasise, change the evidence of human impact on global climate beginning in the 20th century.


But contradicting the orthodoxy is not in itself sufficient reason to get excited about a study.

The graph accompanying the story shows some of the competing views.

The blue line most closely represents the orthodoxy, reproducing Mann’s Hockey Stick at the end of it. Professor Liu and colleagues come to the conclusion represented by the green and black lines.

So what is different between the various methods?

The reconstructions showing cooling during the last 10,000 years are based on “biological thermometers” – temperature reconstructions generated from analysing ice core samples and the like.

Professor Liu shuns these, because they could be wrong, in favour of a computer model.


Most of the debate in climate actually boils down to just how good models are.

Rather than breaking with orthodoxy, Liu appears to be using its tools to try to erase the temperature record that exists from actual data.

His model might not conform to the hockey stick paradigm, but then that has more or less been jettisoned as being an artefact of statistical manipulation.

But it does conform to the orthodox paradigm that this is the hottest time in recorded history – you’ll notice his reconstruction erases the Roman and Medieval climate optima.

And it follows established form in thinking that the imaginary world of models trumps the real world of data.

And just as other climate models appear to have a warming bias, what is to say that is not the cause of this model showing an increase in temperature over the last 10,000 years when data show the opposite?

Just because something appears to buck the orthodox doesn’t make it right. Sometimes there’s a little too much of that thinking on the skeptic side.

In this case that appears to lead to welcoming a new version of the orthodox paradigm in the mistake that it is somehow different, and therefore supportive of your case.

Models never trump data.

Posted by Graham at 4:39 pm | Comments (21) |
Filed under: Environment

August 15, 2014 | Graham

Let’s rub out bigotry (and Catherine Deveny) Bill

I always thought that George Brandis was right – it is legal to be a bigot in this country – but Bill Shorten has corrected him, a correction which he tacitly seems to have accepted by abandoning his attempt to change section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act.

According to Bill “bigotry has no place in modern Australia.”

So lets get going on cleaning up bigotry in this country.

I’m not sure what remedies Bill has in mind…maybe jail, or exile to a foreign country, or perhaps in this cyber age, complete isolation from social or any other media, could all achieve this aim.

Perhaps a re-education camp might suffice from which the offender could only be released once they had proven to a medical or psychiatric board that they had fully recovered.

This way we could eliminate either the person, or the thoughts, from “modern Australia”.

I intend to draft legislation, which I’ll ask Bill to introduce as a private member.

But to do this and to work out what penalties or treatments might apply, and indeed, what might constitute bigotry, we need to start dealing with some actual cases.

As my first case study I put forward Ms Catherine Deveny who tweets as @CatherineDeveny.


Catherine labels herself as a comedian, but it’s hard to know who would laugh at a piece of religious vilification like this.

I’m not sure what Bill Shorten has in mind as a definition of bigotry, but it appears to have certain elements.

  • The opinion should be offensive
  • It should be unreasonably held

On these grounds there is no doubt Deveny is a bigot. I’m a practising Christian and I find it offensive. And it is offensive partly because it is untrue.

Anyone who reads the Bible would know that it comes in two parts; that the second part is superior to the first; and that it urges people to even lay down their lives, for others, and not just those they do like, but those they don’t.

The New Testament doesn’t support hate, violence or discrimination.

Parts of the Old Testament do, but so what? You read the Old Testament so as to understand the New.

No intelligent person could reasonably hold Deveny’s view.

However, this is not just any old bigotry. It is what I will call “aggravated bigotry”, because it is aimed at undermining people’s belief in Christianity, and their acceptance of Christians.

So let’s add another limb to define this more severe type of bigotry

  • The opinion is designed to lower the reputation of a person or group

I’ve only just started thinking about this issue, so I’m open to refinements on both my definitions and suggested remedies, so please read this as a tentative work.

But one thing is sure – if politicians are to deliver on this new bigot free world, there is a lot of work to be done, and it has just started.

Posted by Graham at 7:49 am | Comments (26) |

August 13, 2014 | Ronda Jambe

Cookin’ it up in the melting pot

For the first time in many decades I am spending a long summer break in the land of my birth and childhood. I escaped New Jersey shortly after university, but now events require my presence. Mostly my visits have deliberately avoided the extremes of summer and winter, but this year I have no choice but to sweat it out and put in some hard yakka.

We are halfway through two months of sorting out my mother’s affairs and placing her into assisted housing. Thank heavens for clever and obliging spouse, for without him the myriad tasks with so much process and detail could not be accomplished in this timeframe.

Houses with attics and basements, I conclude, are conducive to the storage of unwanted items and (occasional) treasures. We sold a crumbling box with Kennedy assassination newspaper headlines and even old high school yearbooks.

Burdensome as it is to quickly pack up someone’s life and home and memories, there are some rewards and reminders of the good as well as the bad and ugly dimensions to life in this extremely multicultural society. What a parade of accents and backgrounds have come to look at the ‘estate sale’, and poke around at the house for sale! How nice to speak French with a pretty Algerian woman!


The suburb of my childhood was settled by Germans in the mid 19th century, and still celebrated German festivals when I was a kid. The big wooden beer hall was demolished to make way for a Borough Hall, police station and fire department, as every tiny town has its own full blown facilities. In Australian terms, it would be like Glebe and Annandale in Sydney having separate services, including a Board of Education. No wonder the local taxes can be up to $20K per year in more salubrious areas.

The next suburb is fully Polish, and every shop and business has Polish speaking staff. Other areas are Italian, and you can speak Spanish pretty much anywhere. Turks, Koreans, Syrians, Africans, you name it. The only thing that has changed since my childhood is that the mix has become even richer.

But the tasks at hand require great concentration and much patience. If there is anything more frustrating than a stubborn old German, it is a stubborn old German with dementia. Knowing that the responsible person is often the main target for anger and aggression doesn’t make it more pleasant. She will be safe in the Altenheim:


She is fortunate to be there, despite what she says about her mean daughter. To begin with, the retirement home was founded about 117 years ago. In those days they would only accept northern Germans, not Bavarians like my mother. It is also a non-profit, and one of the few that operates like Disneyland: pay once to enter and after that all care is included.

The staff is of course also a diverse mix of Filippinos, Latinos, etc. A stone’s throw from NY, we have found time to catch up with another visiting Australian, and even lured him into the MOMA to see a show by another foreign observer of exotica, which you are sure to recognise:


Friendly as Americans are, aspects of the culture leave me sweating. The weekend paper has an unhealthy (IMHO) balance of ads to news, and a young guy we met who works in NY (and therefore should be ‘sophisticated’) had never heard of the political party called The Greens.


As I write this, the US news is awash with sadness at the untimely death of Robin Williams. He was an American prince, the best of the best. He was one of the actors you would always go out of your way to watch, and never come away disappointed. Vale.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 7:52 am | Comments (3) |
Filed under: Uncategorized

August 12, 2014 | Graham

Why OLO has published on the link between abortion and breast cancer

After the treatment meted out to Eric Abetz, possibly the last thing I wanted to see in my email inbox was an article from a credible academic, with credible evidence, that there could indeed be a link between abortion and breast cancer.

But there it was, and it has been published today. Despite the media reports there is an argument that can be made, and the fact that some people might take offence to that argument is no reason to avoid it.

The abortion breast cancer link is not one that I had heard much of before this article by Dr Lachlan Dunjey we published last week.

Eric Abetz was attacked on The Project by Mia Freedman, because of the views of speakers at a conference held by an organisation he supports. Freedman specifically chose the claim that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer as her point of attack.

While there was a range of speakers of varying points of view, some of whom represented political parties at odds with Abetz’ Liberal Party, apparently there was only one speaker he was supposed to support entirely, and that was Dr Angela Lanfranchi, who asserts that the abortion link exists.

Indeed, on Freedman’s logic, I ought to be held responsible for Dunjey’s article as well.

Abetz has been criticised not just by Freedman, but by the AMA and others, on the grounds that this claim is scientifically incorrect and akin to alleging a link between autism and vaccination.

A quick search of the Internet was enough to prove this claim wrong. While the preponderance of medical studies shows no link, there are some that do. There were no studies demonstrating the autism/vaccination link.

So it is more like studies of mobile phones and cancer where some studies show a link, but most don’t. On that basis I have been using a mobile phone, holding it close to my head, and in a pocket in my trousers, for about 22 years. I don’t feel the need to castigate someone who produces a new study contradicting what I believe to be the likely science.

Abetz was correct in everything he said to Freedman, and as she cut him off, we only have his word for what he was going on to say.

Which leads to this morning’s article by Joel Brind, Professor of biology and endocrinology at Baruch College, City University of New York.

In the end the decision to publish was easy. Brind is an expert in the field, and the evidence to back his case is strong, recent, and published in peer reviewed journals.

I do not warrant that he is right, but I do warrant he has a right to be published.

The reaction to Eric Abetz is yet more of the soft fascism currently invading our society where anything that offends collective beliefs is to be ridiculed and summarily dismissed because it doesn’t suit powerful vested interests – in this case the medical and female identity industries.

The problem is that not only does the right to free speech, including the right to say things that might not be right, rest on the basis of human rights, but it is a scientific necessity.

Those who try to limit it not only limit individual rights, but are anti-science, disputing the very methodology that has given us our extraordinarily wonderful and technological modern world.

And if in 20 years time the scientific consensus has swung to support Abetz and Brind, how would our soft fascists like to be treated then?


Posted by Graham at 8:28 am | Comments (7) |

August 02, 2014 | Graham

Bikie WAGS as human shields

The Courier Mail headline claims they’re “collateral damage” but it’s just cheap PR spin: “Bikie WAGS collateral damage in Queensland war on bikies”.

In fact these women are complicit – they’re not “collateral” to anything.

Neither are they, strictly speaking, “human shields”, as I’ve claimed, because human shields don’t deliberately put themselves in the way of danger, and there’s no danger of these “shields” being hurt. But the strategy is similar.

If you go out with, or marry, someone who is a member of an outlaw bikie gang, you can’t claim to be innocent of what your partner does.

This type of bikie gang calls itself “outlaw” for a reason, and it’s not because it’s an elaborate joke.

It’s no joke. The gangs regard themselves as outside the law, and are major suppliers of drugs to Queenslanders, as well as enforcement muscle for a number of other shady operators.

If your partner is involved with a criminal organisation it might cause problems for you, but the solution is not to ask the government to go easy on criminals. The solution is to insist your partner leave the gang.

That’s if you are sufficiently troubled by the criminality.

If you’re not, then not only will you stay around, but what you might also do is allow yourself to be used to milk sympathy from the public as a way of allowing your partner, or at least his mates, to continue in their criminal ways.

MUM-of-two Sarah Trappett works in childcare and is a former nanny who doesn’t really like motorbikes. 

Yet this quietly spoken 28-year-old is a bikie WAG.

Husband Chris has been a member of Australia’s largest motorcycle gang, the Rebels, for 3½ years.

And that, according to Ms Trappett, makes her collateral damage because of the Newman Government’s tough anti-bikie laws.

“It’s been very stressful,” she said as she cradled the couple’s two-week-old son Carter. “I just think these laws are ridiculous.”

Not only has her husband been branded a “criminal” ¬because of his Rebels links, he also faces losing his job as a tattooist under a new licensing crackdown.

My heart bleeds for her. And perhaps hers could bleed for other people’s children who are damaged by the drug trade that her husband’s cronies prosecute.

I wonder how the stress of someone whose son or daughter is addicted to crystal meth shapes up against hers – sons or daughters who have lost more than their jobs because of their addictions.

To avoid the “Newman Government’s tough anti-bikie laws” all her partner has to do is walk away. He doesn’t have to give up his bike, just his cronies.

It’s not the government who are using these women, their relationships and their children – it’s the outlaw gangs and their publicists.

On the basis of this article, it’s also the women themselves, who are as much a part of the criminal conspiracy as their partners.


Posted by Graham at 10:07 pm | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Uncategorized