Joe Bastardi – The Message or the Medium?

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Filed under Global Warming
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Joe Bastardi is a weatherman.  He works for Weatherbell, a US-based forecaster, that provides global weather reports and forecasts through its website, http://www.weatherbell.com/.  Joe also has a number of corporate clients, for whom he prepares specific detailed forecasts tailored to their weather information needs.

If one judges a weatherman by the success rate of his seasonal forecasts, then Joe is a super-weatherman.

When my wife and I came from New Zealand to live in the Haarlem in the Netherlands in 2008, we needed local weather information.  My Dutch language skills were non-existent, so I went looking in the internet for English-language reports on current conditions and forecasts.  The most accurate forecasts for Haarlem at the time were on the website of Accuweather, another global weather forecasting company, at http://www.accuweather.com/en-gb/nl/north-holland/haarlem/quick-look.aspx.

I had long been interested in the Anthropogenic Global Warming debate, which had wide publicity in New Zealand.  My interest (and suspicions) had been aroused by the way in which every weather event was described as evidence of human-influenced global warming.  However, the concept behind the idea seemed worthy of investigation, so I was interested in finding out more.

A Dutch television channel showed a film called “An Inconvenient Truth” featuring Al Gore showing a PowerPoint presentation which presented Michael Mann’s hockey-stick graph and argued in apocalyptic terms that the earth was in danger of a runaway greenhouse effect, caused by human beings, and specifically, the CO2 that we produce.

That film was a tipping-point for me.  “An Inconvenient Truth” was far from being a reasoned, scientifically-based presentation.  It was full of half-truths and special pleading, presented by a salesman.  For the first time, I began to suspect that the AGW scare was a textbook real-life example of the behaviour illustrated by the classic fable of Chicken Little.

One of the blog links on the Accuweather site that caught my attention was also hosted by Accuweather.  Joe Bastardi’s European Weather blog.  Bastardi is no Shakespeare, but his postings were always entertaining and well-argued.

Now Joe Bastardi has left Accuweather, and resurfaced at the Weatherbell site.  Inexplicably, his blog posts are behind a paywall – they are in the premium section of Weatherbell.  That is tragic.  One expects to pay for premium services – after all, they are a big part of the income of a web-based service.  But to pay for blog-posts?

Bloggers blog to be read.  They blog to communicate, to give their ideas the widest possible coverage.  Including pensioners who cannot afford the premium subscriptions. I am over sixty-five years old, and at the end of this month, I too shall be a pensioner.

So long, Joe.  I shall miss your posts.

Obama & Cameron call for “Open Science”. Do they really mean it?

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Filed under Global Warming, Politics
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Anthony Watts reports that Obama’s visit to the UK produced a joint statement, released in a White house memo.  The whole thing makes interesting reading, and can be seen here:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/05/27/interesting-memo-from-the-white-house-on-science-and-climate-collaboration-with-the-uk/

The memo states that “Recognizing the great potential for productive cooperation in these domains, the Prime Minister and President reaffirmed during the State visit their mutual commitment to strong collaboration in science and higher education”.

It notes specific examples of existing cooperation in those fields.  At the end, there is this statement:  “They emphasized the importance of data sharing and open science data policies that support climate research and modelling”.

The trouble is, their own warmist poster boys on both sides of the Atlantic strongly disagree.  The British Royal Society honcho, Paul Nurse, must be very angry with them.  He claims that requests for data amount to intimidation, and even claims that people request information from scientists prior to publication of their findings.  He doesn’t say how people know what to ask for before the scientist publishes – I guess the malicious data requesters must be psychic:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/05/26/nursing-their-wounds-with-salt/

It is possible that data sharing and open science data policies are the last thing he wants to see, and his outburst is simply an attack on those who want data transparency, i.e. those who want scientists to follow the principles of science.

On the US side of the Atlantic, a court battle over the FOI request for the release of Michael Mann’s work-related emails has raged for some time.  The University of Virginia first claimed they had deleted the emails.  After investigation proved that the emails had not been deleted, they then argued that they should be kept confidential in the name of Academic Freedom.  Finally, a court has ordered that the emails must be released:

http://washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/beltway-confidential/2011/05/freedom-information-trumps-academic-freedom

The leaders of the UK and the US both create policies reflecting the views of the AGW-promoting scientists.  The same scientists who refuse to share their working data and working correspondence.  The same “scientists” who do not want their findings scientifically tested.  If the leaders really believe their call for data sharing and open science, they should be taking steps to ensure that scientists comply with the call.

If they fail to do so, Obama and Cameron will succeed only in inviting scepticism about their real intentions.

“Proportional Representation” is actually Disproportionate

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Filed under Politics, Random Grumps & Raves, Rights and Responsibility, The Demise of Democracy and Freedom
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In the traditional FPP (First-past-the-Post) system, the candidate receiving the most votes is elected.  And even though most electorate candidates are chosen by the party heirarchy, at least the voters in the electorate can chose between them.  Poorly performing MPs can be voted right out of parliament, and they face the vote every three years.

Unlike NZ, Britain retains the traditional system.  A recent referendum overwhelmingly rejected a form of proportional representation called the Alternative Vote, which is similar to the STV (Single Transferable Vote) system used in Australia.  Both systems require voters to rank candidates in order of preference, and if no candidate scores more than 50% of the vote, a formula is applied counting up all the preferential votes.  The result can be the election of candidate who was the first choice of very few voters, but the most popular second choice.  In other words, nobody gets what they wanted.

NZ’s MMP system at least does not have that drawback.  Each voter votes twice – one vote for the member for his or her electorate, and one party vote.  The elected members representing each constituency are still chosen by FPP according to the electorate votes, so the one with the most votes wins.  “Proportional” representation is supposedly achieved by having list MPs.  A party that wins no electorate seats must achieve at least 5% of the overall party vote before it has any MPs in parliament.  The total number of  MPs for each party in parliament (electoral plus list MPs) is proportional to the party’s share of the overall “party vote”.  So MMP has another advantage – it is not vulnerable to gerrymandering.

But it does have other drawbacks.

Any party with 5% or more of the overall party vote will have 5% or more of the MPs in parliament.  Thus, small parties that may possibly never gain an electoral seat in parliament can be represented there by one or more list MPs.  Gee, that sounds fair.  Bingo – proportional representation!

Except that it is not really proportional.  The result of MMP is a much higher likelihood of coalition government, in which no major party gains a clear majority and so must go into coalition with one or more other parties in order to form a government.  Because they wish to maintain public perception of their points of difference, the major mainstream parties do not form coalitions with each other.  Inevitably, the coalitions are formed with one main party and one or more minor ones.  And that is why the representation of the minor party is in fact disproportionate.  A minor party in coalition with a major one has a proportional share of the total seats, but much more that a proportional voice in parliament – it has real power.  Because the price it demands for of going into coalition is the promise of the major partner to promote and vote for an agreed set of its policies or private member’s bills.  It is, remember, a minor party.  If  only 5% of voters have given it their party vote, there is no assurance that the 95% of those who did not do so actually accept its policies.  Yet with this arrangement, some of them will become law.  The tail ends up wagging the dog – a recipe for bad law and bad government.

It has another major drawback.  List MPs are never directly elected by the voters – the public has no opportunity to chose who is in an who is out.  Each party creates its own list of potential list MPs, in order of party preference.  When all the party votes are counted and the numbers allocated to each successful party, the seats are allocated strictly in party list order.   And naturally the parties tend to stack the top order of the list with MPs they want to retain, even if the public rejects them.  The top of the order is usually occupied by senior electorate MPs, to keep their positions safe regardless of what the voters might prefer.  In effect, MPs at the top of the list can almost never be voted out.  That can hardly be called democracy.  MMP should be scrapped – it is neither truly proportional nor truly democratic.

The NZ Herald thinks otherwise.  After the British result, and in anticipation of the forthcoming NZ referendum on the future of MMP, the Herald has published an editorial (see Appendix) calling for the survival of MMP.  The Herald firmly believes it is a Good Thing, giving the voters of NZ the government they want.  The Herald article even says that “tails have not wagged dogs”.  I disagree, firmly.

Were it not for MMP, NZ First, the Greens, the Maori Party and ACT either would never have been represented in parliament or would have had only a couple of seats.  Under the cosy coalition arrangements with MMP, this is the reality:

  • In coalition with Labour, NZ First’s Winston Peters scored the plum role of Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Hardly the choice of the NZ voter!
  • In coalition with Labour, the Green’s Sue Bradford rammed through the most hated legislation in NZ history, the unnecessary and totally ineffective anti-smacking bill that has had zero effect on child abuse.
  • In coalition with National and against the wishes of almost everybody, the Maori Party has overturned the Foreshore and Seabed act

God knows what will happen if ACT under Brash forms a coalition with National after the forthcoming elections.

Appendix – the Herald Editorial:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10724716