Author Topic: Episode #345  (Read 3408 times)

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Offline werecow

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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2012, 02:57:56 AM »
Ah, the dangers of early reporting on a breaking story! The Heartland Institute documents story has been developing very rapidly since this podcast was recorded.

- Peter Gleick, climate warrior, has confessed to falsely pretending to be a Heartland Institute board member in order to obtain the documents http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-h-gleick/-the-origin-of-the-heartl_b_1289669.html

[...]

- in Gleick's confession, he says that he was supplied the Strategy memo in the mail, anonymously, so it has no Heartland provenance whatsoever. He says it prompted him to seek confirmation, leading to his later false impersonation


Yeah, he said he did that to go back to the source and try to verify the information he had received (the alleged fake). What a monster! Admittedly, it was a somewhat deceitful tactic, but compare this to illegally hacking into people's emails and distributing their out-of-context private conversations to show a nonexistent conspiracy. Personally, *if* these documents are real, I think the guy deserves a medal.

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- the single most damning statement to which Rebecca referred (about how they were going to educate against science) was drawn from the so-called Strategy memo. Heartland had firmly denied authorship of this. Megan McArdle, in her examination in The Atlantic of the story prior to Gleick's confession had noted that this document 'reads like it was written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic.  By an intern.' http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/02/leaked-docs-from-heartland-institute-cause-a-stir-but-is-one-a-fake/253165/

[...]

- several people have suggested that the prose style is reminiscent of Gleick's own writing. Some of these suggestions were made before Gleick's confession. Were this true, then an alternative explanation for the document would be that Gleick obtained the real documents, found them insufficiently exciting, and 'sexed them up' by creating the memo. It was only this memo that contained such inflammatory proposals as the Heartland Institute plan to develop a school curriculum aimed at 'dissuading [K-12 teachers] from teaching science'.

If you're talking about that exact wording, yes. If you're talking about the gist of it (teaching the controversy), then no. From the fundraising plan (so, not the alleged fake):
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Dr. Wojick proposes to begin work on “modules” for grades 10-12 on climate change (“whether
humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy”), climate models (“models
are used to explore various hypotheses about how climate works. Their reliability is
controversial”), and air pollution (“whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial. It is the global
food supply and natural emissions are 20 times higher than human emissions”).

These are the usual pseudoscientific objections against climate change science that have been refuted a zillion times over. Whether they explicitly say the "dissuading teachers from teaching science" line is not really relevant - that's still exactly what they're doing. The rest of it is just word play. Pretty much everything that is in the alleged fake is also in one of the more detailed documents that by heartland's own admission probably came from them. The wording may be ever so slightly more subtle, but all the important stuff is in there. The way I see it, all this focus on the one of the documents is just a way to distract from the real issue, which is more than sufficiently highlighted in the rest of them. I'll withhold judgments on whether the climate strategy one was faked.

More to the point: how about the Heartland Institute survives an equivalent shit storm of investigations into their ethical practices to that experienced by the climate gate subjects. Five or six investigations should do it for me. Let's not talk about their science standards, seeing as we already know they're sub-par.

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- in his confession, Gleick says 'a rational public debate is desperately needed. My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts -- often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated -- to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved.' On 13 January this year, the Heartland Institute invited Gleick to a debate. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/23/peter-gleick-debate-invitation-email-thread/

- after some exchanges of emails, in which Gleick sought 'transparency' in Heartland's funding arrangements (see the link above for the reasons on both sides), Gleick finally declined on 27 January. The first email in Gleick's impersonation was sent by him on the same day. http://fakegate.org/


To be fair, I doubt that WUWT is what Gleick had in mind when he mentioned the need for "rational debate". Watts et al are so far removed from the reality of this issue that there is no use in talking to them. See, for instance, their reaction to the BEST study. Or the rest of that site, actually. After you're done picking apart their arguments and find them stumped, you'll find the same claims repeated in the very next post. They're exactly like creationists in that way.

One peripheral matter on the Heartland coverage in this episode. Steven Novella: 'it always seems like there's so much money on the other side'.

The Heartland Institute's total 'Issues' budget for 2012: $US4.4 million.

World Wildlife Fund's 2011 public education budget: $US68.5 million.

http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/why-climate-skeptics-are-winning_631915.html?page=3


OK, but you're making a couple of faulty assumptions here. First of all, the heartland institute is one of dozens of these kinds of think tanks. Just to name a few, there's the George C. Marshall Institute, the CATO institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, TASSC, and so on. They're also backed by some of the largest companies in the world. For example, in 2006, the Royal Society politely asked Exxon, the largest company in the world at the time, if they'd please stop funding the same kind of pseudoscience spread today by these kinds of institutes.

Second, the "other side" here is not the WWF. That's not who they're fighting. The other side is climate science. And scientists generally don't have those kinds of resources for PR, nor the savvy.

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The Australian Government's 2011 climate change advertising campaign: $AUS12 million (approx the same in US dollars) http://www.climatechange.gov.au/minister/greg-combet/2011/media-releases/June/mr20110616.aspx

As of 2009, the US Government was putting over $US2 billion per year into climate science, and over $US4 billion per year into climate-related technology. http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/climate_money.pdf

Apples and oranges. Most of that money goes into making satellites and sending them into orbit, not PR. And how much did the US government put into R&D for fossil fuel resources? This has very little to do with the PR stuff that is the bread and butter of institutes like Heartland.

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Money does not appear to be the issue.

Could it be that one major contribution to climate change scepticism is two decades of overblown claims by some elements of the climate change community (including some scientists), and denial of any doubt at all, have had the effect of the boy crying 'Wolf!' once too often? Their predictions of doom have time and time again failed to eventuate.


Maybe it's because I'm not from the US, but I find that that runs exactly counter to my experience in looking into this topic. For example, it appears from later research that the 2007 IPCC report has underestimated a lot of the projected impacts - far more than it has overestimated. That is the synthesis that governments are supposed to rely on. It's a conservative report, and it's not a particularly uplifting read. By contrast, the first time I really got into this topic, it was because I read a -to me at the time pretty convincing- book by a climate skeptic geologist who argued it was all pretty insignificant. Maybe we've just had different experiences though.

I watch a lot of climate talks, and I've seen maybe a couple out of dozens of scientists who are perhaps somewhat less conservative than they aught to be, and a lot of them who are far more conservative than they should be when we're talking about a risk/benefit analysis (as we should be), because most of them don't think in those terms; they think in terms of pure probability estimates, without the associated costs or benefits. Read the science sections of the IPCC report, and that's what you find. For example, they did not include the contributions of continental glaciers in their calculations of sea level rise projections because the dynamics of the melting of these glaciers were poorly understood. Not surprisingly, revised estimates that include this factor are far worse than those originally projected in the report.

Although, to be fair, politicians and activists are a different matter. There, you may have a point when it comes to sensationalism.

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Here's a scary thought: what if human-induced climate change is real and catastrophe is imminent, with near complete certainty, and the public (and, consequently, the policy makers) refuse to believe? Climate science is hard. It's not something that the great majority of the public have any interest in fully understanding. So they rely on authority. Rightly or wrongly, scientific authority is in the process of being undermined by serial failed predictions.

That's what is really scary to me.


The main problem, it seems to me, is that it's not imminent, at least in the literal sense. That's the real tragedy here. It's a disaster scenario that unfolds so slowly that no one actually notices it except for the people who spend dozens of years of their lives studying it. And on top of that, it's mainly an amplifier on top of other disasters, so that it's obscured by the more obvious disaster explanations like "people are killed by floods" and "a heat wave causes extreme draught", with no easy way to connect the amplifier to the individual occurrences except through long term statistics that are too boring for most people to pay any attention to.

And by the way, is this *really* such a big surprise to anyone? Every name I know on their board is either (the majority) a hardcore climate denier or at the very least a doubt monger. Heartland has been spreading small-government, big-business related doubt-mongering for years, not just on climate change. For example, they did the same kind of thing for Phillip Morris during the tobacco wars (see, for example, Merchants Of Doubt, Oreskes, pp 247 and on). It has a significant track record that can be verified simply by looking at their own site. Anyone who is not a hard-line libertarian and anti-environmentalist should be able to see that.
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Offline Caffiene

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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #16 on: February 26, 2012, 03:18:50 AM »
Quote
The Australian Government's 2011 climate change advertising campaign: $AUS12 million (approx the same in US dollars) http://www.climatechange.gov.au/minister/greg-combet/2011/media-releases/June/mr20110616.aspx

As of 2009, the US Government was putting over $US2 billion per year into climate science, and over $US4 billion per year into climate-related technology. http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/climate_money.pdf

Apples and oranges.


Not even apples and oranges.

As per the link for the Aus government campaign, this was not climate change funding. It wasnt even climate change advertising funding. This was advertising specifically about the effects of new government carbon tax legislation. And, again as per the link, the funding for the ad campaign was an order of magnitude smaller than that of similar legislation advertising under the previous government.

The post also fails to mention that there was a well funded anti-legislation campaign (the sources I can find say about $10 million) run at the same time by an industry group.
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Offline Jolimont

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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #17 on: February 26, 2012, 03:29:46 AM »
Thanks again for a great podcast! I particularly enjoyed hearing about anti-climate gate which I hadn't heard about yet.

Offline werecow

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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #18 on: February 26, 2012, 03:50:53 AM »
Also, regarding the alleged fakery, I just want to point out that the memo contains segments that are reproduced almost verbatim in the other documents, which are probably real. I work in plagiarism detection, and I guarantee you that our system would get hits on almost every paragraph of the supposed fake if it were to compare these documents. That just doesn't happen if you haven't seen the source material. So if Gleick faked the memo, he'd have to have done it after acquiring the other documents. That's not supported by the metadata, which states it was created on 13-02-2012, 12:41:52. I suppose one could fake that, but why would he? It's barely any more damning than the rest of this stuff. Alternatively, if it's all fake, why has Heartland only come out against the document with the slightly less PR savvy language?

EDIT: And of course, if one were to go for the "it's all fake" explanation, there are also the independent confirmations of significant parts of the document (like WUWT and Wojick) to consider.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2012, 04:46:51 AM by werecow »
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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #19 on: February 26, 2012, 05:15:33 AM »
So the most damning document is "fake but accurate"? 

Global warming (climate change? or is it climate chaos this week?) advocates can hardly claim that thier public relations is under supported. The three major American TV networks, AP, the BBC, Yahoo news, the US government and the UN to name just a few organizations are all very much "on side" with the warmists. 
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Offline Stephen Dawson

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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #20 on: February 26, 2012, 05:23:44 AM »
Also, regarding the alleged fakery, I just want to point out that the memo contains segments that are reproduced almost verbatim in the other documents, which are probably real. I work in plagiarism detection, and I guarantee you that our system would get hits on almost every paragraph of the supposed fake if it were to compare these documents. That just doesn't happen if you haven't seen the source material. So if Gleick faked the memo, he'd have to have done it after acquiring the other documents. That's not supported by the metadata, which states it was created on 13-02-2012, 12:41:52. I suppose one could fake that, but why would he? It's barely any more damning than the rest of this stuff. Alternatively, if it's all fake, why has Heartland only come out against the document with the slightly less PR savvy language?

EDIT: And of course, if one were to go for the "it's all fake" explanation, there are also the independent confirmations of significant parts of the document (like WUWT and Wojick) to consider.
Some people are making a big thing about the metadata on the strategy memo. I think it's neither here nor there.

All the documents sent to Gleick by Heartland were, according to their metadata, time-stamped in January with a midwest time zone, and generated as PDFs directly from their source documents on the computer. The disputed document was time-stamped west coast (where Gleick is based), and showed an Epson scanner as the source.

This is consistent with Gleick's explanation (he received hard copy anonymously in the mail, so he would have had to scan it into, say, PDF format in order to email it). It is also consistent with a theory which would have had Gleick creating that document, quoting chunks of the other stuff he'd got from Heartland and embellishing it, and, being uncertain about what identifying metadata might end up in a PDF, printing it out and then scanning it back in in order to launder it.

Which of these will not be known until Gleick clarifies matters further, or some investigation results in him producing the original document mailed to him along with its envelope, or discovers evidence of the original document creation on his computer.

In either case, there was no particular reason for him to scan it until immediately prior to sending out the email with this (and the other documents) as attachments.
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Offline Stephen Dawson

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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #21 on: February 26, 2012, 05:31:58 AM »
Quote
The Australian Government's 2011 climate change advertising campaign: $AUS12 million (approx the same in US dollars) http://www.climatechange.gov.au/minister/greg-combet/2011/media-releases/June/mr20110616.aspx

As of 2009, the US Government was putting over $US2 billion per year into climate science, and over $US4 billion per year into climate-related technology. http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/climate_money.pdf

Apples and oranges.


Not even apples and oranges.

As per the link for the Aus government campaign, this was not climate change funding. It wasnt even climate change advertising funding. This was advertising specifically about the effects of new government carbon tax legislation. And, again as per the link, the funding for the ad campaign was an order of magnitude smaller than that of similar legislation advertising under the previous government.

The post also fails to mention that there was a well funded anti-legislation campaign (the sources I can find say about $10 million) run at the same time by an industry group.


Hey, I didn't claim that the Australian advertising was good! Indeed, it was widely scorned in conservative political circles. It largely consisted of a booklet delivered to all households, and a TV campaign in which celebrities stood in front of a smoking power station (incredibly, they took a graphic of the long-closed Battersea power station from the UK, for goodness sakes, as their icon!) insisting that climate change was real and that something had to be done (the something being a $23 per tonne CO2 tax).

The 'other similar legislation' was nothing of the kind. That was the introduction of a 10% goods and services tax back in the early 2000s as a tradeoff for reducing and eliminating a bunch of other taxes. The only reason it was mentioned in the press release was to contextualise the spending level on the carbon tax advertising program.

The 'anti' advertising program was actually about something different. This was in opposition to a proposed mining tax the Australian government was introducing. Nothing to do with CO2, this was intended to fund a new superannuation program.
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Offline werecow

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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #22 on: February 26, 2012, 05:40:51 AM »
This is consistent with Gleick's explanation (he received hard copy anonymously in the mail, so he would have had to scan it into, say, PDF format in order to email it). It is also consistent with a theory which would have had Gleick creating that document, quoting chunks of the other stuff he'd got from Heartland and embellishing it, and, being uncertain about what identifying metadata might end up in a PDF, printing it out and then scanning it back in in order to launder it.

Which of these will not be known until Gleick clarifies matters further, or some investigation results in him producing the original document mailed to him along with its envelope, or discovers evidence of the original document creation on his computer.

In either case, there was no particular reason for him to scan it until immediately prior to sending out the email with this (and the other documents) as attachments.

I agree that both are possible, but the one document being a fake just sounds odd to me, considering how little was added in terms of damning content. The only thing that differs slightly is the language. Seeing as the bread and butter of these types of institutes is PR, and PR has a lot to do with the way you phrase things, it makes sense to me that this would be phrased more delicately in later versions, especially "official" documents as opposed to in a memo that would be targeted only at the senior staff.
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Offline Stephen Dawson

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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #23 on: February 26, 2012, 06:48:06 AM »
Werecow, I don't want to quote that monster response post. Too much work in editing down to the bits I need. So here are a few thoughts.

First -- and perhaps there's something wrong with my moral compass -- I don't find Gleick's actions in the sense of phishing out the real Heartland documents particularly reprehensible, although lots of other people seem to, and there is some sense that he had broken one or more laws at both State and Federal level in doing so. If he faked the strategy document, well that is reprehensible.

But according to his own words, it was against his own sense of ethics. It was also against the standards held by the National Center for Science Education, to the board of director's of which Gleick had been soon to ascend. He offered to withdraw and NCSE accepted. http://ncse.com/news/2012/02/source-heartland-leak-steps-forward-007220

What it does do, though, is cast doubt on how much his word can be trusted. Is he a political warrior or a scientist? How can we separate the two? The same comes up with James Hansen. He's prepared to advocate civil disobedience and get himself arrested in pursuit of his cause.

Now, on one view you can understand how a well-founded concern about the awful consequences of a failure to act could be prompt such passion. But such passion does not sit well with what one would think of as scientific objectivity. His actions have contributed, I'd guess, to a net increase in scepticism on this matter. And a reduction in trust in the scientific endeavour. For what payoff?

Second, you seem to imply that the Climategate stuff was obtained by hacking. This is an open question. The climate sceptics tend to the view that it was a leak from within. Perhaps time will tell. I regard it, either way, with a similar lack of moral revulsion. As to out of context, perhaps there should be a ClimateGate 3 to get all the other stuff out that the hacker/leaker is still holding.

As Dr Steve noted in the podcast, Climategate seems to have sparked an uptick in general public climate scepticism. I doubt that the public in general examined the emails at all. However the general sense of boys behaving badly, whether all too human or not, ill served the public perception of science. Of course it coincided with the utter failure of Copenhagen and some revelations about deficiencies in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report, which also weakened the sense of scientific superiority in the general public.

Thirdly, perhaps Heartland's real programs are in themselves tendentious, but apparently whoever created the strategy memo didn't think them tendentious enough, and so invented the 'dissuading teachers from teaching science' line. That was certainly focused upon in much of the early reporting.

Fourthly, I was perhaps unclear about who invited Gleick to debate (offering to pay airfares and expenses). It was the Heartland Institute. The email exchange does not have the feel of rabid frothings from a climate denier organisation. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/23/peter-gleick-debate-invitation-email-thread/

Fifthly, with regard to the funding of climate sceptic organisations, I grabbed a couple of quick figures from here and there for comparison. My point was to rebut Dr Novella's suggestion that climate sceptics are lavishly funded by big oil, while the poor scientists languish unsupported. You point to other AGW-sceptic organisations, and there are many others beyond them I expect. But then I could in response point to the funding of many other supporters of the climate change consensus. My guess is that Greenpeace alone takes in more money annually than all the climate sceptic organisations all together. The claim that there's stacks of money in it for climate change sceptics is simply lazy.

Finally, as for boys crying 'Wolf!', here in Australia we are constantly pummelled by it. The Great Barrier Reef is going to be destroyed by climate change in 2000, in 2002, in 2004, in 2006, in 2008. It doesn't happen. Tim Flannery -- a palaeontologist, mind you -- has been constantly reported as warning that our major cities will run out of water. The CSIRO -- Australia's premiere scientific organisation -- a couple of years ago said that we were no longer in a drought, (like those experienced in the 1930s, and in the early 1900s), but that drought-like conditions had become the new norm because of climate change. The dams were drying out. One southern state, convinced that the rains had ended, has spent $5.7 billion on a desalination plant in order to replace the lost rainwater that will no longer fill the dams.

Now, in the past two years we have the most horrendous floods (which the leader of the Greens in Australia also blamed on CO2 emissions). Most major dams are at or near capacity. Last year Brisbane was flooded when an emergency release of water became necessary.

Flannery has now been appointed by the Australian government as Chief Climate Commissioner. He has purchased a house with absolute tidal water frontage on the Hawkesbury River, while five years ago he was warning how anyone on a beach front would need to be at least eight stories high to be safe from rising sea levels.

The peoples of Tuvulu and the Maldives are frightened that their islands shall be swamped, when in fact their land areas are actually stable or increasing.

Most of the overstatement comes from non-scientists, or from activist scientists in other areas. The media, or course, presented with a scenario of temperature rises between, say 1.5 and 6 degrees, or sea level rises of between ten centimetres and one metre, always report 'up to 6 degrees', or even 'scientists say 6 degrees', and 'one metre'.

Actual climate scientists are, for the most part, more circumspect. But science in general is going to have to carry the can for the failed predictions. It seems that in order to build political impetus for policy action on climate change, exaggeration has been common.

When the exaggerated claims all fall apart, who can blame the generally uninterested voter if he regards science with a gimlet eye?
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Offline werecow

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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #24 on: February 26, 2012, 07:42:23 AM »
There's not a lot in your post that I disagree with, but I would say it highlights wrongdoings (e.g. exaggeration) on one side of the issue while essentially ignoring the far greater distortion coming from the other side. It is certainly true that some activist groups or individuals are prone to predictions of utter doom, or, more frequently, highlighting only the most extreme scenarios in the IPCC reports while ignoring the bottom of the range. I hate it when people do that for exactly the reasons you mentioned; it's an easy target for contrarians to make us all look bad. However in my personal experience, the stuff coming from the "denialist" side has on the whole been far more distorted. And even someone like Flannery, who admittedly is too attached to the extreme scenarios in the IPCC report, is a very far cry from the consistent cherry picking and spin you'll get from WUWT or the magical rainbow funland type distortions you find when listening to Heartland (CO2 is good for plants and unicorns!). On top of that, the denialists generally appear (much) better organized, and they are better at PR, whereas the warmists seem to excel primarily at shooting themselves repeatedly in the foot, PR wise.

I'd also say the big voices on the denialist side typically appear much more selfish (and certainly potentially far more harmful). Maybe that's not entirely accurate, though. Oreskes & Conway make the case that the behavior displayed by these modern anti science think tanks is actually rooted in an almost paranoid fear of big government, which found its origins in the cold war, rather than in financial gain (though I'd guess that that explanation does not hold as well for fossil fuel companies like Exxon). It's just that the ends justify the means if your world view finds itself on the wrong side of the science. Creationists are exactly the same. Just substitute free market capitalism for Jesus.
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Offline Moloch

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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #25 on: February 26, 2012, 10:29:19 AM »
Isnt this what we have a global warming ghetto for?  >:D

I was going to say Adam Savage for WTN but someone beat me to it  :(

Offline PHI Guy

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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #26 on: February 26, 2012, 11:44:25 AM »
Regarding island dwarfism, homo floresiensis, and giant rats:
To quote Wesley: "Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist. "

Well, maybe they do after all!

Offline Caffiene

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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #27 on: February 26, 2012, 03:19:04 PM »
The 'other similar legislation' was nothing of the kind. That was the introduction of a 10% goods and services tax back in the early 2000s as a tradeoff for reducing and eliminating a bunch of other taxes. The only reason it was mentioned in the press release was to contextualise the spending level on the carbon tax advertising program.

They are both advertising for high profile tax legislation changes. I call that pretty similar...

Quote
The 'anti' advertising program was actually about something different. This was in opposition to a proposed mining tax the Australian government was introducing. Nothing to do with CO2, this was intended to fund a new superannuation program.

No, Im talking about the $10 million anti-climate-tax campaign by the Australian Trade and Industry Alliance. The anti-mining-tax campaign was a $22 million campaign from the Business Council of Australia. They both had extensive runs of television ads. See getcarbonpolicyright.com.au
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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #28 on: February 26, 2012, 03:50:59 PM »
The Calaveras skull was radiocarbon dated by R.E. Taylor, director of the Radiocarbon Laboratory at UC Riverside, in the mid-eighties, and found to be 740 +/- 210 years old, as I noted in my written debate with Walter Brown in the pages of the _Creation/Evolution_ journal:  http://ncse.com/cej/9/2/further-examination-research-walter-brown

Published report:  http://www.jstor.org/stable/280732

Offline ufo

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Re: Episode #345
« Reply #29 on: February 26, 2012, 03:53:54 PM »
WTN:  Frazier Cain
The spiteful and smiteful Abrahamaic God is the most unpleasant character in all of fiction.

I don't have a god-shaped hole in my soul.  You have a reason-shaped hole in your head!

From The Onion:  "God answers paralyzed boy's prayer.  Gods answer: 'No!'  "