Friday, 26 February 2010

The Tories answer to Alastair Campbell?

It seems that the prime requirement for being a 'communications manager' - or the editor of the News of the World - is a very flexible moral code. Obviously, employing a louse in human form requires a similarly ambivalent attitude on the part of the employer. From the Indie:
David Cameron's communications director, Andy Coulson, will come under fresh pressure to defend his editorship of the News of the World and his knowledge about the illegal activities of his journalists amid new allegations about the paper's involvement with private detectives who broke the law.

The Guardian has learned that while Coulson was still editor of the tabloid, the newspaper employed a freelance private investigator even though he had been accused of corrupting police officers and had just been released from a seven-year prison sentence for blackmail.

The private eye was well known to the News of the World, having worked for the paper for several years before he was jailed, when Coulson was deputy editor. He was rehired when he was freed.

Evidence seen by the Guardian shows that Mr A, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was blagging bank accounts, bribing police officers, procuring confidential data from the DVLA and phone companies, and trading sensitive material from live police inquiries.

Coulson has always insisted he knew nothing about the illegal activity which took place in the News of the World newsroom, telling MPs last year: "I have never had any involvement in it at all."

Mr A cannot be named now because he is facing trial for a violent crime, but his details will emerge once he has been dealt with by the courts. Coulson tonight refused to say whether he was aware of Mr A's criminal background, or of his return to the paper following his prison term. He said: "I have nothing to add to the evidence I gave to the select committee." (1)
Good to see that the Tories, confronted with a chance to make the decisive difference between them and Labour one of decent versus immoral corrupt spin obsessed dishonest corrupt wank off merchants, decide to try to beat Labour at their own stinking game.

I suppose the counter argument would be that, if Labour can employ someone as sulphurous as Alastair Campbell, why shouldn't they? Which is effectively saying that if Labour can be corrupt, useless, incompetent, dishonest spin mongers who lie and cheat and steal, why not us?

Following that line of 'reasoning' just a little bit further, it become apparent that all the frothing righteousness provoked whenever the names Campbell or Mandelson are mentioned, the reason for the outrage isn't that they are venal, dishonest weasels, but because they aren't venal, dishonest Tory weasels - a tacit admission that it is all tribal, about making sure your team wins, and any silly notions about principles, giving people something positive to vote for, or what is best for Britain aren't a relevant consideration.

Seriously, how could anyone bare to vote for the Tories if it wasn't for Labour? How could anyone countenance voting Labour if it wasn't for the Tories?
1 - "Andy Coulson hit by new tabloid trick charges," by Nick Davies. Published in The Independent, 24th of February, 2010. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/feb/24/andy-coulson-news-of-the-world)

Why are we so concerned over 'Climategate' and the IPCC 'blunders'

... and less worried about the everyday misrepresentations and lies about the climate rreproduced by the media? Take this, for example - a headline from CNSNews:
Fifteen Years With No Global Warming Doesn't Mean There's No Global Warming, Says EPA Chief
Of course, once you actually read the article, you discover the rather important bits that have been left out of the headline.
Fifteen years with no statistically significant increase in global temperatures does not mean that the human race is not causing the climate to change, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told CNSNews.com on Tuesday.
Note how "Fifteen years with no global warming" becomes "Fifteen years with no statistically significant increase in global temperatures".

This might seem a minor gripe, but it is headlines that get remembered.

the justification for the question is comments made by Phil Jones, referred to later in the article - beyond the point where a lot of readers would have stopped paying attention, I suspect:
In a Feb. 13 interview with the BBC, Prof. Phil Jones, ex-head of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and among the world’s leading experts on global warming, was asked: “Do you agree that from 1995 to the present that there has been no statistically significant global warming?”

“Yes,” said Jones, “but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period from 1995-2009. This trend (0.12 per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95 percent significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.”
It's worth noting that Phil Jones, for obvious reasons, is using the HADCRUT data set. Real men GISS.

However, even with that in mind, claiming he said there had been no warming trend for 15 years is disingenuous - there was a warming trend, just under the certainty threshold he used, and, over that short a time frame, you probably wouldn't expect to see a significant warming trend.

By concentrating on such a short time frame, the elepant in the room is ignored. There might not have been a 'statistically significant' global temperature increase in the last fifteen years, but that obscures the far more noteworthy
fact that these fifteen years have - individually and collectively - been the warmest we have a reliable instrumental record of. 2005 is the warmest year on record, according to the best data (2). 1998 and 2009 are the join second place warmest years.

Of the last fifteen years - 1994-2008 - according to the NOAA rankings, only two (1994 and 1996) are ranked outside the top 15 (coming in at 18th and 20th, respectively). The other thirteen places are crammed with the years between 1995 and 2008. The interlopers, from outside that range, by the way are 1990 and 1991, appearing at 13th and 15th on the list, so that is hardly bucking the trend.

And of course, the best way to look at the data is by viewing the rolling average - Hansen's paper includes the usual 5 year and 11 year rolling averages, which show a very clear, sustained, long term warming trend.

GEDDIT?
1 - "Fifteen Years With No Global Warming Doesn't Mean There's No Global Warming, Says EPA Chief," by Karen Schuberg. Published by CNSNews.com, 24th of February, 2010. (http://cnsnews.com/news/article/61804)
2 - "If It’s That Warm, How Come It’s So Damned Cold?," by James Hansen, Reto Ruedy, Makiko Sato, and Ken Lo, 2010. (http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2010/20100115_Temperature2009.pdf)
3 - As per the Wikipedia article, "Temperature record since 1980," viewed on the 26thof February, 2010. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperature_record_since_1880)

Billy Bragg at Speaker's Corner

Mentioned on teh (sic) radio the other day, so I thought I'd check it out(1).



I've always admired Billy Bragg for the gusto that he set about pursuing a singing career even though he couldn't sing - not in a Tom Waitsy can't sing sort of way, but in a genuine can't sing sort of way - and because he's always been staunchly left.

This clip seems to be part of a longer sequence. Just as well he left the guitar behind, though.
1 - "Billy Bragg at Speaker's Corner," posted on You Tube by photoandpolitics, 10th of february, 2010. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMftdDvXWYk)

600

... posts on lefthandpalm since I started blogging in February, 2007.

And yet the world is still All Wrong. What's that all about?

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Brown denies control of Hellish forces

Gordon Brown tonight denied claims that he ever unleashed demonic forces on his Chancellor, Alastair Darling.

This follows a statement, by Mr Darling, that the "forces of hell were unleashed" at him after he stated the recession would be the most severe in sixty years (1).

In a surprise statement, Mr Brown announced that he did not, in fact have control over any Satanic or Hellish minions, not could he depend on a third party to unleash them.

"No-one in the prime minister's office, from myself up to the senile monkey I consult on key decisions, has any regular contact with the Legions of the Damned. I might, occasionally, talk to Silvio Berlusconi, but that is as close to hob-nobbing with the Lord of the Flies as i come, said Mr Brown.

The government's previous policy has been to refuse to confirm or deny whether the prime minister is a servant of Satan, has sold his soul to Satan, or is, in fact, Satan.

Insiders have speculated that mr Brown's unprecedented statement was the result of frequent billows of brimstone emerging from Number Ten, and the large flocks of bats seen flitting about the upper windows of the prime minister's residence.

It had also been alleged that the cabinet start each meeting by drinking warm blood and consuming human flesh in a perverted parody of the Christian mass. This has also been hotly denied.

"I don't need to be in bondage to the devil to be an appalling bastard," snarled Mr Brown, biting the head off a kitten. "I've had to fight for everything I've achieved. My inate Hellishness is entirely my own work. No-one ever helped me with it, I did it all myself.

"I was born in Glenrothes, that's as near to Hell as I have ever been."

David Cameron has so far refused to comment on the affair embroiling the Labour government. he has stated, categorically, that the state of a politician's soul is a private matter.
1 - "Darling 'faced forces of Hell' from No 10," by Michael Savage. Published in The Independent, 24th of February, 2010. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/darling-faced-forces-of-hell-from-no-10-1908534.html). I suppose I should point out that everything else in the above is untrue, made up, invented and intended only for amusement.

The most depressing story I have ever read

Thankfully, this tale of someone whose life has been ruined before he even became a teenager stems from Britain. But we had Bailey Junior Kuariki, who took part in the killing of Michael Choy, and Hermanus Theodorus Kriel, who killed Liberty Templeman. And there are plenty of New Zealand kids whose lives are as blighted and twisted by the time they are able to see above the wheels of the cars they steal:

A 12-year-old boy who has committed more than 30 crimes was temporarily remanded in secure accommodation today after youth workers told a court he could not be "contained".

Magistrates in Witham, Essex, ordered the youngster, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, to be remanded in secure local authority accommodation until they had decided on a punishment for his latest crimes. (1)

The 'revelation' of this juvenile menace will, doubtless, prompt hand-wringing and calls for all sorts of measures, such as the return of the birch, Borstal, military service, hanging, whatever satisfies the curious cravings of those who like to see young flesh subjected to violence, and young minds terrorised in the name of 'building character.' given the specifics of the case, a return of Borstals will probably be the favoured option.

Which makes me wonder, why is it that we only favour these big state solutions when it is too late in the game? In this case, some twelve years too late. he's already broken. It would have been better, over all, to try a bit more to stop the breakage in the first place. All the kings horses, and all the kings men, and all that.

Most likely, calling for the return of the Borstal masks a vicious streak in its advocates, who are aware that these institutions served no real purpose other than to institutionalise fear, bullying and buggery. Good, they probably think, as they mouth their hypocritical homilies about a 'short, sharp shock sorting the bastards out.' If we could read their minds, we'd no doubt see that what they were really thinking, "That's what the little swine deserve, I hope he gets it in spades."

I mean, for fuck's sake, we can't run prisons properly, keep them safe and drug free, nor can we effectively encourage reform among adult prisioners. What hope have we got of salvaging whatever potential for good still exists in this kid?

And his current miscreant state will, no doubt, be blamed on "Liberals," "Do gooders," "Politically correct teaching" and the like. Probably, the lack of "real consequences" will be deplored as encouraging criminality in the youth. But someone reminded me, recently, of the infamous Bloody Code, the list of some 200 odd crimes that used to carry the death penalty in Britain, back ing the 'Good old days.' Serious stuff, like"the stealing of goods worth over 5 shillings, the cutting down of a tree, stealing an animal or stealing from a rabbit warren" (2).

I mean, cutting down trees? How anti-social is that? What sort of namby-pamby, tree hugger lunacy is that? And since when were conies valued more highly than a human life.

But, ludicrous as it might seen, under the code, petty theft could land you in fatal trouble:

Michael Hammond and his sister, Ann, whose ages were given as 7 and 11, were reportedly hanged at King's Lynn on Wednesday, 28 September 1708 for theft. The local press did not, however, consider the executions of two children newsworthy. (3)
One of these grisly little footnotes of British barbarity that shows that our 12 year old tearawy is not without antecedents; and that, for all that they might satisfy those with a taste for the mortification of young flesh and the trauma of young minds, harsh penalties do not, infact, deter people who are desperate enough.

It might be countered that out young friend in the dock at Witham was not desperate, not in the way that the luckless Michael and Ann Hammond were desperate. We can deplore their fate, from a safe distance, and understand that what happened to them was monstrous, their crime nothing compared to the crime visited upon them.

But what sort of desperation would drive the boy in court in Witham to behave like this, if not some form of desperation? He is twelve years old. Something must have happened to him to make him behave like this, to make him so alienated and angry that he no longer cares, or fears, what happens.

Back in the late 60s, Mary Bell murdered two young children, in Newcastle, when she was herself only ten years old. She was deplored as evil and vicious. Careful work by the journalist Gitta Sereny revealed that Mary had been prostituted by her mother for years from the age of four, and made attempts to kill her daughter in ways that might seem accidental (4). Is it really so strange that Mary Bell grew up thinking that nothing mattered and that hurting people was simply what you did, if you could?

Well, comes the predictable counter-argument, many people have terrible lives. Not all of them turn in to juvenile criminals or child murderers. Which is a feeble attempt to dodge the obvious truth that we all respond to traumas in slightly different ways, and none of us really have control over the way that our psyches are twisted by events, especially when we're young.

Deny this obvious truth, and what are you left with? The ludicrous 'Demon seed,' the idea that some people are just 'born evil,' and this bent manifests itself from birth without any outside influences deforming the mind and the values system of the child? Or some warped notion of genetic causation, where by criminality and anti-social behaviour is caused by some genetic defect.

Neither holds up to scrutiny, and can't be seriously be entertained - they're essentially the same argument, just styled in different jargon, appropriate to different eras. It's a bitter testament to how bloody little we've progressed that some still cling to the demented ideas of demonic evil.

It's also a bitter testament to the failure of the Labour government in Britain that this happened. New Labour have been in power longer than this child has been alive, and they failed him utterly.

We all failed him, because we voted for right wing, small state parties until the only way the old Labour could get itself elected was by transforming itself into a right wing small state party, and pledge to continue the mistakes and blunders of the Tories. that would have been felt most notieceably in the New Labour pursuit of growth and financial freedom - resulting in the economic devastation of the credit crunch - but probably there's no more poignant symbol of the failure of New Labour than a twelve year old boy with thirty two criminal convictions.

1 - "Crimewave boy, 12, locked up after plea to court," by Brian Farmer. Published by the Press Association, reproduced in the Independent, 23rd of February, 2010. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/crimewave-boy-12-locked-up-after-plea-to-court-1908047.html)
2 - "Bloody Code," anonymous Wikipedia article, viewed on the 24th of February, 2010. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Code)
3 - "Capital Punishment," anonymous Wikipedia article, viewed on the 24th of February, 2010. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment#In_specific_countries)
4 - Cries Unheard by Gitta Sereny. Macmillan, London, 1998.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Sceptics? My arse!

The Indie has reported that a quote, commonly bandied about by so-called climate change sceptics, is completely inaccurate. Though reproduced on more than a million websites, and in The Real Global Warming Disaster by Charles Booker, there is no confirmed source for the quote. The man to whom it is attributed - - denies having said it:
Sir John Houghton, who played a critical role in establishing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), was roundly condemned after it emerged that he was an apparent advocate of scary propaganda to frighten the public into believing the dangers of global warming.

"Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen," Sir John was supposed to have said in 1994.

The quotation has since become the iconic smoking gun of the climate sceptic community. The words are the very first to appear in the "manual" of climate denialism written by the journalist and arch-sceptic Christopher Booker. They get more than a million hits on Google, and are wheeled out almost every time a climate sceptic has a point to make, the last occasion being in a Sunday newspaper article last weekend written by the social anthropologist and climate sceptic Benny Peiser.

The trouble is, Sir John Houghton has never said what he is quoted as saying. The words do not appear in his own book on global warming, first published in 1994, despite statements to the contrary. In fact, he denies emphatically that he ever said it at any time, either verbally or in writing.

In fact, his view on the matter of generating scare stories to publicise climate change is quite the opposite. "There are those who will say 'unless we announce disasters, no one will listen', but I'm not one of them," Sir John told The Independent. (1)

I'm sure this remarkable story will receive just as much coverage as the recent stories about errors in AR4 did, and opprobrium will be heaped upon the discredited 'sceptic' goons who have used this false quotation, and all true doubters will abjure them utterly.

I am sure everyone truly interested in the science of climate change, and promoting truth rather than propoganda will henceforth regard all those reproducing the quote as discredited in all ways and never rely on them again for any information whatsoever.

After all, if one petty error in an obscure part of AR4 can invalidate the efforts of the IPCC, then surely sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander applies, and pretty much the whole 'sceptic' movement has now disappeared up its own credulous arse.

Gosh, not one of these people had bothered to check the veracity of the quote? I thought they were meant to be sceptics?
1 - "Fabricated quote used to discredit climate scientist," by Steve Connor. Published in The Independent, 10th of February, 2010. (http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/fabricated-quote-used-to-discredit-climate-scientist-1894552.html)

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Respect is due: Howard Zinn

Great historian becomes history:

In 1980, the historian and activist Howard Zinn published The people's history of the United States, which turned inside out the traditional perspectives of American history. Zinn portrayed many of America's heroes as perfidious villains and transformed the triumphalist narrative of American progress into a litany of unfettered power-abusing and exploitation of the poor, people of colour, immigrants, workers, and all the disenfranchised who had lacked a voice in mainstream histories. Originally published with a print run of 5,000, the book became a staple of many history courses, and its spin-offs, including a young-people's version, a comic-book, and an abridged history of the 20th century, have gone on to sell 2 million copies.

Critics, and even some obituarists, accused Zinn of failing to show "balance", but Zinn insisted his book was one small counterweight to the overwhelming bias of mainstream history toward the political, economic, and social elites, and its implicit assumption of idealistic nationalism, capitalism, and imperialism. His refusal to credit the likes of Jefferson, Lincoln, or the Roosevelts with progressive achievements, while highlighting their shortcomings, infuriated mainstream "liberal" historians, while his steadfast opposition to wars saw right-wingers targeted him as an "appeaser".

But unlike many of his most virulent critics, Zinn had lived out the positions he argued. He opposed war as a decorated military flyer, championed labour as a former shipyard worker, and had risked jobs and jail protesting and working for civil rights and against the Vietnam war. Indeed, this willingness to ignore careerism appeared to infuriate many of his fellow academics as much as his insistence that meaningful change could only arise from the collective will of ordinary people, not heroic leaders. (1)
A remarkable man, he was still writing cogent and insightful columns for the Guardian right up until October last year (2). His death was the result of a heart attack while on a lecture tour. Obviosuly, indefatigable and still optimistic - in spite of his professed belief that individual 'great men' didn't matter all that much - that he was making a difference.
1 -"Howard Zinn: Historian whose criticisms of American social policy made him a hero of the Left," by Michael Carson. Published in the Independent, 5th of february, 2010. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/howard-zinn-historian-whose-criticisms-of-american-social-policy-made-him-a-hero-of-the-left-1889970.html)
2 - The index of Zinn's recent columns for the Guardian, last one dated 10th of October, 2009, can be accessed here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/howardzinn (As of 7th of february, 2010)

And the prize for stating the bleedin' obvious goes to ...

The Independent, for the SHOCK!! HORROR!! revelation that the fossil fuel industry are funding the climate change denier 'think' tanks:
Free-market, anti-climate change think-tanks such as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in the US and the International Policy Network in the UK have received grants totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds from the multinational energy company ExxonMobil. Both organisations have funded international seminars pulling together climate change deniers from across the globe. (1)
If this is the start of a big fight back by the 'pro'-climate change sane people, then we're all doomed.

First of all, trying to play the anti-goons at their own ad hominem game is not going to work, because they are always going to be able to go further and nastier, and because ultimately, they will have the brass neck to turn around, after a dozen rounds of mud slinging, and say, "Gosh, these peoplearen't interested in debating the science, why is that, do you think?"

Second, because if this is the best mud that we can sling, we're going to get caned. If you want to do it properly, accuse a leading 'sceptic' of being a paedophile. Yes, a paedophile. When they deny and threaten libel, say you are just trying to engage in a healthy debate and that, just because the overwhelming weight of evidence suggests that the 'sceptic' in question isn't a paedophile, equal balance should be given to opposing viewpoints.

n.b. I am joking. Actually lobbing such an accusation at someone wqould be a rather evil thing to do.
1 - "Think-tanks take oil money and use it to fund climate deniers," by Jonathan Owen and Paul Bignell. Published in The Independent, 7th of February, 2010. (http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/thinktanks-take-oil-money-and-use-it-to-fund-climate-deniers-1891747.html)

Monday, 1 February 2010

Those who have nothing to hide ...

Jack Straw has refused a request to release details of conversations he had with a BP lobbyist:
The Secretary of State for Justice has turned down a Freedom of Information request from a Commons select committee to reveal whether, during two phone calls with the lobbyist, he agreed to include Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in Britain's Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) with Libya.

Mr Straw has admitted having two conversations with Sir Mark Allen, a former MI6 agent turned BP consultant, in the autumn of 2007. But he has insisted that "at no stage was any undertaking promised, hinted, given to the Libyans, that in return for an overall bilateral arrangement Mr Megrahi would be released".

At the time of the conversations, the Government's position was to exclude Megrahi from the PTA deal. But that December, Mr Straw announced a change of policy, writing to the Scottish Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill, to say he could not guarantee Megrahi would be excluded from the deal – effectively paving the way for his release.

Megrahi, convicted for the 1988 bombing which killed 270, was released last August on compassionate grounds – rather than under the PTA – by the Scottish Executive.

But Mr Straw's discussions with BP are still contentious because MPs believe ministers gave a smooth path for the release in the interests of trade with the Libyan government.

In early 2007, BP signed a $900m (£562m) oil exploration deal with Libya but the energy giant was concerned that the ongoing stalemate over the PTA would damage the contract. (1)
Come on, Jack. Spill the beans. Apply the same principle that you've forced on the people of Britain for the last eight years, in the name of security and the over-riding public interest - those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear.

Sorry, what's that you say? One rule for us and the other for you?
1 - "Straw fights release of transcripts of calls over Libyan oil deal," by Jane Merrick. Published in the Independent, 31st of january, 2010. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/straw-fights-release--of-transcript-of-calls-over-libyan-oil-deal-1884536.html)

Prediction

There's nothing stupider on the internet than putting down your thoughts in an indisputable form.  So that, of course is what I am going...