Archive for August, 2012

“Science” vs. Science

Many observers are salivating at the opportunity to watch the potential spectacle that would come about if Michael Mann makes due on his threat to sue Mark Steyn and NRO for this blog post. Not least of which is James Delingpole, who is suggesting that people contribute to a legal fund for the case: not in support of Steyn et al. but to encourage Mann to go ahead with the lawsuit.

Here’s part of Delingpole’s position:

[T]he “Climate Science” community is a bubble in much the same way that the Westminster and Washington DC villages are bubbles: these people spend so little time living in the real world that they lose the plot completely. In the weird, weird world of Michael Mann and his fellow climate “scientists”, Climategate was just a case of ordinary decent scientists doing their job, the IPCC remains the gold standard of international climate science, the Hockey Stick is not a standing joke and man-made global warming remains the greatest threat to the planet ever. The facts speak otherwise. But when you’re working in a business as awash with cash as the Climate Change industry, why would you ever let facts get in the way of a good story?

My focus here isn’t the pending lawsuit which, if this response indicates, could be a whole lot of fun, but with the semantics use by Delingpole and possibly others.

Notice the use of “scare quotes” around the term “science” and “scientists” in Delingpole’s post. It’s his way of suggesting that Mann and his collaborators aren’t truly scientists, that they practice some sort of pseudo-science as a guise toward their ultimate goal of normalizing the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.

But writing these guys off as not being scientists is dangerous thinking. Mann is a scientist, as are many of his fellow global warming propogandists. I wrote about this a few months back:

[T]here is good science and bad science, and often they clash. That’s because science moves along with the intent of solving individual problems as they arise. It’s a process of unveiling the unknown, and it’s messy and fraught with wrong turns and tangents and dead ends. It’s far from perfect, but that’s why we keep trying to do better.

Therefore, when describing something as complex as the earth’s climate, we need to be damn sure as to what is actually going on before we move toward defining our collective priorities.

Which brings me back to these ridiculous accusations that AGW skeptics are somehow “against” science. No, they — we — just want better science. As in, you’d better get it right before blowing my money and subjugating the world in your orgiastic socialistic frenzy.

In the same way, it’s not that Mann et al aren’t doing “science”, it’s that they are doing arguably “bad” science. They may be poor scientists, but they are scientists nonetheless.

This is an important distinction because it treats scientists as they are, that is to say, scientists are human. They make mistakes, they follow false premises, they have their biases. To treat scientists you agree with as the purveyors of “true” science is to place them on a pedestal, and that their science is akin to the Word of God, while those who disagree with “true” conclusions are heretics, and it simply allows others the licence to do the same.

That’s the false premise used by Al Gore and his CAGW cronies. When we start elevating scientists to be above the foilbles of Man, that scientists we trust are somehow immune from our human weaknesses, we take away our right to criticize the findings, methodology or motives of any scientist.

Again, science is not the Word of God, but instead a practice. There is good science and bad science. Michael Mann is not a so-called “scientist”; he is a true scientist and his science is wrong. Mann’s hockey stick is bad science. That’s the fundamental issue.

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Letter to the Editor

This letter was submitted earlier today.

In the past couple of weeks, StarPhoenix readers have been treated with a spate of letters from known (though not selfidentified) NDP operatives, including Nettie Wiebe, David McGrane and Mitchell Anderson, indicating their support for changes in the federal constituency boundaries. These changes would introduce urban-only ridings to Saskatchewan.

Of course, NDP supporters believe that this would benefit their party by consolidating the urban vote and reducing the influx of rural (read: conservative) voters in urban ridings.

While this is an understandable position for the NDP to take strategically, one cannot help but catch the unstated, larger message: that the NDP have given up trying to win the hearts and minds of rural Canadians altogether. After all, it is much easier to jerry-rig electoral boundaries than it is to actually attempt to gain the support of rural Canada and capture polls outside city boundaries.

Perhaps this issue will serve as an historic marker as to when the NDP finally severed themselves from their rural CCF roots. How times have changed.

UPDATE: The letter was published, but among the edits was the removal of the term “operatives”, as if the three NDP operatives I had mentioned weren’t operators in the party. Mustn’t state the obvious, eh?

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Climate Economics Mnemonics

Remember when I said, “the whole debate on energy and climate is not a purely scientific exercise; it’s an economic one”?

No? Sure you do. I said it right here.

I neglected to follow up on this point because of life etc., but I never forgot about it because it is an important point:

Whether or not the “science” is “established” by the “scientific consensus”, there remain many questions left unanswered before we all go down the hellish road of One World Government in order to stave off Armageddon. The questions go beyond “science” and into the realm of economics, where every action and change has a cost and a benefit. If we intend to react to these changes, then we must find a way to measure these costs and benefits so that we have an adequate comparison before we react.

Luckily for us, Steven Horwitz hasn’t forgotten to post some of these economic questions, which I’ll reproduce in part here:

1. Is the planet getting warmer?

2. If it’s getting warmer, is that warming caused by humans?

3. If it’s getting warmer, by what magnitude?

4. What are the costs of global warming?

5. What are the benefits of global warming?

6. Do the benefits outweigh the costs or do the costs outweigh the benefits?

7. If the costs outweigh the benefits, what sorts of policies are appropriate?

8. What are the costs of the policies designed to reduce the costs of global warming?

This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. An even better start would be to answer the first four questions, which to my knowledge have not been adequately or honestly answered yet. After all, we need to agree on an opening premise before we move into logial debate of an issue of this magnitude.

Even if you disagree with me, we can’t just go from “The sky is falling” to “Let’s all live in caves” in one step. If this is as serious an issue as many claim it is, we have to be able to have a serious debate about the subject and not jump directly to hackneyed solutions without giving any thought to the unintended consequences.

But of course, the solution for One World Government types never changes, just the rationale; whether we’re dealing with the class struggle, social welfare, or the environment, the economy of Western liberal democracy must give way to international socialism.

The global warming debate has always been and remains ultimately about power. Never forget this.


So, should we worry or not about the warming climate? It is far too binary a question. The lesson of failed past predictions of ecological apocalypse is not that nothing was happening but that the middle-ground possibilities were too frequently excluded from consideration


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Quote of the Week

Another excellent post at Cafe Hayek:

If the choice were between, on the one hand, all the commerce and industry and its attendant greenhouse-gas emissions over the past 250, 260 years, and, on the other hand, none of that industry and (hence) no industry-released greenhouse gasses over the past 250, 260 years, how many rational people would choose the latter?

Worth reading in full.

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Missing the Point, Part Deux

This column by the Regina Leader-Post‘s Bruce Johnstone is one of the best arguments in favour of free markets and individual rights recently made in this country. However, you have to read it ironically, which I suspect wasn’t Johnstone’s intent:

Rights relative in Harper’s world

Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where we only had to obey the laws we liked and disregard or flagrantly flout those we didn’t? And wouldn’t it be nice if, having broken those laws, someone came along afterward and wiped away our criminal record?

Yes, it would be nice, especially if the laws broken were unjust.

Welcome to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s world.

Harper was in Kindersley this week exercising the Royal Prerogative of Mercy to pardon 13 Alberta farmers who defied the Canadian Wheat Board and illegally transported grain across the Canada-U.S. border in the 1990s and early 2000s. “These people were not criminals, they were our fellow citizens, citizens who protested injustice.”

Hear, hear!

By praising and pardoning scofflaws as “marketing freedom fighters,” Harper is essentially condoning and counselling Canadians to disobey the laws of the land. In Harper’s world, marketing freedom is like any other human right, like freedom of speech and expression, freedom of assembly and association. But is it?

I would argue that marketing freedom – the economic right to market your own grain the way you see fit – is a lower order of human right and freedom.

So Johnstone is arguing that rights are relative to one another, which works well with the title of this piece.

Why shouldn’t farmers or anyone else have the right to sell their own property or produce? The answer is: When it is deemed to be in the public interest to do so, and legislation is duly passed by Parliament to restrict that economic right.

So rights are only rights when the government “deems” them to be in the public interest and if they don’t pass legislation otherwise? Nope. Human rights and freedoms supersede legislation and government decree. This includes property rights, which were conveniently left out of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but still remain inherent and inalienable. Furthermore, one can persuasively argue that the public interest does not supersede the individual interest unless there exists a compelling reasonable argument to do so, which Johnstone wants to provide for us.

Without recounting the history of the Canadian Wheat Board, suffice to say that the CWB’s monopoly on export sales of western grain for human consumption was legislated in 1943 because previous attempts to voluntarily pool grain through the CWB and other pools failed miserably or ended in bankruptcy.

The CWB monopoly was legislated because a statist, protectionist government sought to control western Canadian farmers under the guise of insulating them from market forces. However, ignoring the market doesn’t mean the market doesn’t exist. Until recently, Canada was alone among Western liberal democracies in recognizing this.

By the way, that restriction on the economic freedom of western farmers continued to be reviewed by Parliament every five years and was never opposed by a majority of MPs – until Bill C-18, which removed the CWB’s monopoly on Aug. 1, was passed last December.

Irrelevant. Unjust legislation remains unjust, no matter how often parliament endorses it. Furthermore, even if a million parliaments reviewed and never opposed changes to the monopoly, past parliaments cannot constraint future parliaments.

Did some farmers disagree with their economic rights being restrained? Absolutely. Did a majority of farmers disagree with the CWB’s monopoly powers? We’ll never know the exact answer to that question, but the CWB’s own plebiscite of nearly 70,000 producers last year indicated that a majority supported the monopoly for both wheat and barley. And since 1998, producers have elected single-desk supporters to the CWB’s board of directors at a ratio of fourto-one over its opponents.

Might does not equal right.

Of course, Harper and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz would argue it doesn’t matter whether the majority of farmers support the CWB’s single desk or not. It’s a question of economic rights. Either you have them or you don’t.

That’s why the Harper government blithely ignored Section 47.1 of the CWB Act, which calls for a plebiscite of producers before making major changes to the single desk.

Didn’t Johnstone just tell us that there was a plebiscite? True, it didn’t go in favour of the free market-supporting farmers, but neither is a plebiscite binding; it’s not a referendum.

If duly passed legislation and the views of the majority don’t matter to this government, what does? Well, economic rights, in this case, the freedom to market your own grain.

If that’s the case, what’s to stop the federal government from giving Canadians the economic freedom to choose their own health care insurance provider (instead of the government, under our single-payer health care system)?

Yes! Yes!

What about our economic right to buy basic auto insurance coverage from whatever company we want (rather than SGI, under our single-payer public auto insurance system)?

Yes! Yes! (Even though Harper has nothing to do with SGI or provinvial auto insurance, but he’s on a roll here.)

Some will say that you can’t compare universal health care or public auto insurance with a monopoly imposed upon a minority (producers) by the majority (government).

I wouldn’t say that.

If that’s the case, why do we have marketing boards for poultry, egg and dairy products, which are provided for by a legislated monopoly given to dairy and chicken farmers?

For obvious political reasons, the Harper government seems less committed to giving farmers in vote-rich Ontario and Quebec marketing freedom.

He’s absolutely right. Down with poultry and dairy monopolies!

Similarly, will Harper adopt the same enlightened attitude to civil disobedience when it comes to environmentalists protesting pipeline projects or chaining themselves to trees in old-growth forests?

Indeed, and thus Harper is applying this attitude with the Northern Gateway project. He’s dismissing the ridiculous interventions by thousands of people, many of whom are not Canadians, from the environmental assessment process so that more care and attention will be given to those with an economic stake in the project as well as to those whose constitutional rights may be impacted.

Somehow I can’t see Harper using the Royal Prerogative of Mercy to pardon members of Greenpeace or other “environmental terrorists” for their crimes against the state or private property.

Nor should Harper pardon members for criminal acts of “civil disobedience”, particularly if these acts threaten the health and well-being of people or property. Who was hurt by a few farmers hauling a few bushels of grain over an arbitrary border?

After all, rights are a relative thing, aren’t they, Mr. Harper.

You said it, Johnstone.


Missing the Point

Now is the time when we juxtapose!*

Ottawa Citizen, August 3, 2012:

TMZ,  August 3, 2012:

Drama at the Chick-fil-A same sex “Kiss-In” event in Hollywood … TMZ has learned the chicken joint called police today claiming the MEDIA was harassing its employees.

Law enforcement sources tell us … the Chick-fil-A staff wasn’t bothered by the pro-gay marriage event taking place inside the restaurant, but felt the media was being too aggressive in trying to get commentary from Chick-fil-A employees.

These idiots just don’t get it.

(h/t Ace)

*With apologies to Kate (and The Flea)

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