Climate Change: Al Gore meets Adolf Hitler (sort of)

Then……(William Bradford, Ship Trapped in Pack Ice, c. 1871)

Not everyone will immediately remember Lewis Gordon Pugh. He was the ‘explorer, environmentalist and lawyer’ who, in 2008, announced his intention to kayak to the North Pole, in order to demonstrate the terrible and real effects of global warming. He was to be followed all the way by a TV film crew. Presumably as an educated  ‘explorer, environmentalist and lawyer’, he’d done his homework in advance on what to expect, and indeed I recall nearly nightly bulletins, breathlessly describing the heroic progress. To quote the pre-trip publicity, Lewis…

…will be using his unique skill set and talents to accomplish something that hasn’t been done in recorded human history: he is going to Kayak across an ice free North Pole. With many scientists predicting an iceless Arctic Ocean this coming year, Pugh has decided to call attention to the fact by making his away across the now open waters traveling only by kayak, a feat he claims couldn’t have been accomplished even last year, thus affirming the urgency with which he feels we must approach the issue.

…and as Lewis himself modestly said:

“There’s one side of me that desperately wants to get to the North Pole to be able to shake the lapels of world leaders to get them to understand what has happened there, but then there’s the other side of me that says I really hope I don’t get there. I hope I fail because if I am able to get there we really are in deep trouble.”

You can guess what comes next.

Pugh’s kayak trip ended at 81 degrees north, about 1000km from the Pole. (A) barrier of sea ice . . . eventually blocked his route north . . .

This slight setback didn’t shake Lewis’ belief and mysteriously omniscient knowledge of global warming (this was about the time the GW crowd decided to rebrand it all as ‘climate change’, just in case), as he sagely observed:

“Ironically, global warming played no small part in undermining the entire expedition. We believed that the greater melting of summer ice would open up large areas of sea and allow us to paddle north at good speed. What we did not fully appreciate was that to the north of us there was a widespread melting of sea ice off the coast of Alaska and the New Siberian Islands and the ice was being pushed south towards us … The evidence of climate change was stark”

Of course it was Lewis, we should have guessed. Perhaps you should have too, before you set off. Strangely, he’s not made a repeat attempt.

Anyway, fast forward to now. Many people have been sniggering about the antics at the opposite end of the earth, our climate change experts still trapped in Antarctic pack ice, at the hottest time of the year, the Antarctic Summer. As one of the ‘experts’ on the Akademik Shokalskiy said:

“…the ice was much thicker than usual for this time of year”

That’ll be global warming then. Or climate change. Whatever.

Obviously this is all very embarrassing for the climate change fanatics. Their mantra along the lines of “as you know very well, climate is not the same as weather” has worn thin. Particularly as these expeditions were conceived and planned according to their stunning understanding of…er…climate. They’re not normally bashful about how certain they are in knowing what’s going on, even when they clearly don’t have a clue. A fine example is Tom Chivers, on the normally excellent Telegraph blogs:

Personally I’m quite pleased that there are scientists trying to study what’s going on with the fantastically complicated system of ocean currents and ice sheets and atmosphere, and I think hilariously glib little comments of the “it’s snowing outside, so much for global warming LOL” kind are largely unhelpful from purportedly serious commentators.

All of which raises the genuinely fascinating question: why do these apparently intelligent people continue to behave like this?

This blog post implicates a bizarre addiction to cognitive dissonance, and there’s something in that. It’s along the lines of continuing to dig when you’re in a hole. However, I think GK Chesterton was closest with his sublime observation (no less true for now being a bit of a cliche):

When a man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything

That’s not to claim that religious belief is the only way forward, but to point out that religion substitutes tend to be  a menace. Which happily brings us to Hitler.

The author and historian Michael Burleigh has a fascinating habit of unpicking the belief systems behind politics, particularly totalitarian systems, his wonderful book Sacred Causes is a fine exposition of this.  As the Guardian, of all newspapers, helpfully summarised Burleigh’s view of Nazism:  what if you were to explain the Nazi phenomenon, not so much a political ideology, but as a surrogate religion, wrapped up in stylised and sentimental rituals?

Here he is, in the introduction to his remarkable history of the Third Reich:

In April 1937…an anonymous writer..explicitly compared Nazism to a secularised religion. He called the result a ‘church-state’ or a state ‘counter-church’, with its own intolerant dogma, preachers, sacred rites and lofty idioms that offered total explanations of the past, present and future, while demanding unwavering dedication from its adherents. Acquiescence was not enough; such regimes demanded constant affirmation and enthusiasm from their own populations.

and citing Robespierre, an antecedent of Hitler in roping in religious tropes to justify mad ideologies, Burleigh goes on:

…it reflected the belief that Providence had sanctified a specific social order through which alone happiness would reign on earth. Anyone who opposed this belief was not only in error, but part of a demonic conspiracy…Opponents were not simply misguided, and hence amenable to persuasion, but fit only for extinction, regardless of whether they had done anything other than exist.

Given the inevitable and intentional implication of climate-change ‘deniers’ being in some way comparable to Holocaust deniers, a standard tactic of the GW crowd, the above quotes don’t seem too far fetched, though it’s ironic that the new Nazis are the climate change fans, not the deniers.

So, Godwin’s Law proves its worth again. Last word to the Guardian: “a surrogate religion, wrapped up in stylised and sentimental rituals”.

Spot on.


Knifonomics (part 26): Paying your way


The Knife is a top rate taxpayer, just.

I get less from the state than I put in, probably, but I can live with that, just.

There’s no doubt though , that tax is a colossal burden, and the idea that “rich” people are getting away without paying it is pathetically misguided. It is, of course, the main plank of Obama’s successful re-election campaign, insofar as he had any coherent economic policy. It’s probably Mili-E’s main policy too, here in the UK.

Look at the existing US data (great article, by the way):

To pay for all this largesse, the federal leviathan borrows money, as Obama has done to the tune of over $5 trillion. But it also redistributes income through the most progressive tax system among advanced economies. In 2009, the bottom 20% of taxpayers earned approximately 5% of the nation’s income but paid just 0.3 percent of all federal taxes. Households in the middle 20%, which earned almost 14.7% of national income, paid only 9.4% of federal taxes. Americans in the top 20%, earned 51% of the nation’s income, but paid 67.9% of all federal taxes. As for the evil 1%, they earned 13.4% of all income and paid 28.9% of all federal taxes. As a result, nearly half of all taxpayers contribute next to nothing to the costs of funding the government’s entitlements.

Another way to see how the tax system redistributes wealth, consider how much each group receives in federal spending compared to how much they pay. According to the Tax Foundation, households in the lowest 20% of income received roughly $8.21 in federal, state and local government spending for every dollar of taxes paid in 2004, households in the middle 20% received $1.30, and households in the top 20% received $0.41. In other words, tax payments exceeded government spending for the top 40%, meaning there was a net fiscal transfer of between $1.031 trillion and $1.527 trillion from one group of taxpayers to another. If this isn’t income redistribution from the “rich” to the “poor,” nothing is.

We’re very similar on this side of the Atlantic, in fact worse.

Painful, especially when you consider that income tax was introduced as a temporary levy to pay for wars, and only really took off in the last 100 years (see Allister Heath’s superb summary). This won’t change as long as the Lib Dems are anywhere near power.

Cable Stunt

There have been a lot of tweets etc on the dismal Vince Cable’s slow torture by Paxman on Newsnight last night, primarily around the Lib Dems’ failure to stop the tuition fees coming in (in England and Wales).  As Dan Hodges says: Anyone who thinks Vince Cable would be an asset to the Lib Dems as leader needs their head examining. Here is Vince’s odd turn of phrase:

It was not a stunt. It was part of a genuinely felt wish to assist the student population. It was deeper than a stunt.

“deeper than a stunt”??

The Lib Dem’s are the bottom-of-the-barrel equivalent of Donald Rumsfeld’s legendary “known unknowns”.

They are truly reliably unreliable.

Vince: a bit of a stunt

Paralympics: saluting the survivors

The Paralympics opening ceremony was not really for me. It is remarkable though, how the whole games seem to be sold out. Nice for the competitors, no doubt.

However, amidst the self-congratulatory stuff, as well as the genuine joy, lurks a monster of hypocrisy. Most of the competitors have acquired disability, such as traumatic amputees, spinal cord injuries and the like. A significant number though were born with their disability. You can easily work it out.

The categories traditionally were:

  • Amputee
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Wheelchair
  • Visually Impaired
  • Les Autres: Athletes with a physical disability that does not fall strictly under one of the other five categories, such as dwarfism, multiple sclerosis or congenital deformities of the limbs.

This is now switching to a functional impairment classification, with ten categories:

impaired muscle power, impaired range of motion, leg length difference, limb deficiency, short stature, ataxia, athetosis, hypertonia, visual impairment and ) intellectual impairment.

My point is that while we celebrate their achievement – and our achievement as a society for doing this – we also readily abort humans with exactly the same physical problems, because we became aware of them in utero. Early enough to get rid of them without any awkwardness.

I don’t see how we can have it both ways.


Nick Clegg – genuinely, what is the point?

Some writing is so good that it’s hard to imagine how you could improve it in any way. Here’s one example:

Nick Clegg seems to be a Muppet of a man. His press conference on House of Lords reform would actually have been more credible if it had featured Kermit and the gang.

Having managed to craft an appalling Bill, with 15 year terms for Senators and a set-up which promised to unbalance the constitution by creating a genuine rivalry between the Commons and the second chamber, Clegg needed to climbdown gracefully whilst exhibiting some statesmanlike panache. He didn’t even manage that.

Instead, he did what Clegg usually does when events have taken a path not entirely to his liking. He put on that pious face with a pained expression, which suggests that it is the great Clegg’s unique misfortune to live amongst so many vulgar idiots who do not grasp the brilliance of his vision for turning Britain into a lesser Belgium. And then he blames everyone else.

It was the Tories wot done it. How dare Tory MPs rally to defend the constitution? Do these people think they’re in the Tory party?

It was Labour wot done it. How dare the Opposition (good heavens, I can hardly say it) “play politics” by trying to make life difficult for Mr Clegg and the government?

And then the ultimate Clegg insult. His opponents have been playing “student politics”. Brilliant. A lecture on conduct from the man who put his name to an election campaign advert (“say goodbye to broken promises“) so pompous and self-regarding that it redefined the genre.

Thanks to Iain Martin of the Telegraph

Give him up for adoption

Knifonomics (part 23): is Osborne a corpse?

The Knife has commented before on PWUGO – People Who Underestimate George Osborne – which has a rapidly increasing membership, it seems. I reckon Osborne’s problem is the Lib Dems, but he’s possibly keeping his powder dry on genuinely attractive and useful policies such as tax cuts, till nearer the election.

In any event, everyone seems to hate him.

However, sad though it may be, I still think that Osborne has a plan that is sort of  working, and I’m not the only one:

In political terms Osborne has become the equivalent of one of those remote Scottish islands that gets used for testing secretive and especially nasty forms of chemical weaponry; in effect the Rt Hon Member for Gruinard. The man is toxic. 50p tax. The hubristic boast that the economy “is out of the danger zone”. The clumsy attempted smear over Libor.

But is he really delivering an equally contaminated economic legacy? To judge by headlines over the last few days the answer is a resounding yes. “’Work experience Chancellor’ George Osborne urged to quit as GDP slumps” – The Independent. “George Osborne reeling as economy enters the disaster zone” – The Guardian.

Really? The “disaster zone”? Osborne’s critics, at least those on the Left, have held to a consistent narrative. Fuelled by ideological zeal, his attempts to reduce the deficit would prove catastrophically counterproductive. The cuts, delivered too far and too fast, would create rising unemployment, soaring welfare bills, plummeting tax receipts and rising debt. This would in turn lead to more savage cuts, and so the vicious cycle would continue.

But despite the apocalyptic headlines, that’s not what’s actually happening. Unemployment, contrary to all predictions, is falling. As the FT reported on Wednesday, “Total employment is up 159,000 over the six months to May. That is a faster average growth rate than the whole expansionary period between 1993 and 2008, a time when GDP growth averaged 0.8 per cent a quarter. Official employer-based surveys of recent job growth are even stronger”. At the same time, tax receipts are rising. In the second quarter VAT revenues and national insurance revenues were both significantly up on this time last year. And even last month’s OBR borrowing statistics, which set alarm bells ringing because of an unexpected monthly borrowing increase, showed an overall rise in tax revenue of four per cent to £41 billion.

Then there is the deficit. Ministers have been quietly pointing out – why they haven’t been shouting it from the rooftops isn’t wholly clear – that they have in fact already been successful in reducing the deficit by a quarter. Labour actually concedes this point, but argues that if the Coalition had just stuck to the Darling plan anyway the same reduction would have been secured, but at a higher level of growth. This is actually nonsense; the Darling plan didn’t take account of the eurozone crisis, for example. But it doesn’t really matter, because the Left’s underlying argument was that the Osborne strategy would undermine deficit reduction completely.

Here is a brilliant article on how dodgy ONS (Office of National Statistics) data potentially is, them being the people who produce the quarterly GDP figures that everyone gets excited about:

Another angle to current economic developments is provided by labour market data. Think about the implications of the following:

employment in the private sector rose by 254,000 (during the final quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012);

the employment rate for all people over the age of 16 edged up from 57.8 per cent at the end of the third quarter of last year to 58.1 per cent in the three months ended May;

the number of private sector job vacancies seems to have been stable at around 370,000 since September;

total hours worked in the UK rose 2.6 per cent between the three months to September 2011 and the three months to May 2012 (hours worked per person increased 1.6 per cent over the period);

the total domestic expenditure increased 0.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to the third and rose another 0.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2012; and,

market sector productivity is estimated by the ONS to have dropped 1.1 per cent in both the final quarter of last year and the opening quarter of this year.

If you only had access to the numbers above (excluding those for productivity), what conclusions about the state of the economy would you draw? Almost certainly, you would surmise that the economy is growing gently, but consistently.

None of this is to praise Osborne, but there’s still time, and if he was to follow the advice of Allister Heath in this terrific article, who knows how quickly we could recover?

Time to tell Cleggy and Vince where to go, George.

Thanks to Max Farquar


I'm an extremely modest man


The truest characters of ignorance are vanity, and pride and arrogance.” Samuel Butler

This is fantastic:

Amid signs that Mr Clegg’s position is weakening, Mr Huhne – his former leadership rival – was accused of ‘disloyalty’ after denouncing the failure of Mr Cameron and the Lib Dem leader to consult him before the decision was made.

 Mr Huhne insisted that as deputy chair of the Cabinet sub-committee on European affairs he should have been kept informed of developments hour by hour.

A source at the meeting said: ‘Chris Huhne said he should have been consulted. It was quite a disloyal thing to say since it was clearly aimed at Nick as well as David.’

The Energy Secretary twice interrupted the Prime Minister as he explained his decision to colleagues. Mr Huhne is privately understood to regard Mr Cameron’s negotiations over the treaty as ‘cackhanded’

Truly, the deputy chair of the Cabinet sub-committee on European affairs is the gift that keeps on giving.

The Pantsdown Paradox

Cabinet Tea Boy OK, Paddy? Great, I'll be there, thank you so much...

When Jeremy “Paddy” Ashdown was bleating about Dave not playing with him – his thesis being Dave had said he wouldn’t fight for the No 2 AV campaign – the following thoughts arose:

1. Is Pantsdown attributing to  Dave miraculous powers? That is, if Dave hadn’t said a few words, would the 70% no vote have been turned around?

2. Does Pantsdown seriously think a politician – even a Lib Dem – would be right to not campaign for what he/she believes in? After all, the referendum was entirely separate from the straitjacket of collective cabinet responsibility.

3. Is the bitter and twisted failed leader (Paddy that is) so lacking in confidence in the merits of the Yes argument, that a special deal was necessary?

4. Isn’t a 70/30 split so massive that even a solipsistic numbskull like “Paddy” can see that the public have indeed spoken on this one (compare with Cleggy’s reaction), and that such post hoc whining (see also Huhne) is just demeaning?

In a way, blogging about the egregious Pantsdown only encourages him. A man of such evident vanity and self-absorption probably googles himself at least twice a day. However, such is the exquisite nature of his (and colleagues) reactions to a comprehensive kicking by the foolish and deeply naive electorate that a little more publicity for his vapid rants seems entirely appropriate.

All it needs now is for “Lord” David Steel to pitch in, and the self-destruct mission will be complete.