Hard News by Russell Brown


Let's lynch the liberals!

I actually agree with the bulk of what Phil Goff said in last week's speech in Palmerston North. I do think the Maori Party has sold out poor urban Maori – and for that matter the rest of us – with its ETS deal. Pattrick Smellie makes that case in admirable detail on Scoop.

Even if several major iwi have a case in claiming that the ETS unfairly reduces the value of their 1990s Treaty settlements, the place to deal with that is in the courts, not by building a sweet little side-deal into such an important piece of legislation.

But, as Goff, did, focusing on race, and warning of a future where "one New Zealander is turned against another, Maori against Pakeha"? It doesn't take any imagination to hear in that an echo of Don Brash's Orewa speech, in which the former National leader railed against "those who would divide New Zealanders from one another, not unite us."

As Sacha put it in another thread here: "Goff's message would have been stronger without the distracting whistling noise."

Meanwhile, Chris Trotter's defence of the Goff speech gives me a rhetorical migraine. He states admiringly:

By driving the wedge of class analysis into the Maori Party’s nationalist ideology, Goff has shrewdly exacerbated the tensions and divisions created by the ETS sell-out.

The other benefit here, says Trotter, is that it marginalises the "liberal left", a " risibly small" segment which has selfishly blocked the Labour Party's path to a proper class-based philosophy of the Left.

This is Trotter fighting, yet again, the battle between his assumed traditional Labour values and the "identity politics" (women, gays, non-whites) movement of the 1980s. It's an old and profoundly inward-looking family feud. Which makes it all the more alarming that Goff's advisor John Pagani pops up in comments to declare Trotter's post "the most astute reading of the state of left politics that I've seen recently."

Is this really where they're going? As a commenter to the Dim Post blog on Trotter says: "I proudly number myself as part of the liberal left and think if this what Labour are becoming then it wouldn’t take much for them to lose my vote. If they again become the party of militant class activism I’m out."

See also useful analyses by Gordon Campbell and Tim Watkin on Pundit.


What to think about the hacked climate change emails? (In contrast with Don Brash's correspondence, these do appear to have been taken from a server rather than merely leaked.) They certainly show some scientists behaving badly in a hostile environment. It may be, as The Guardian's George Monbiot argues, that it's a crisis that will demand a senior resignation.

I'm more inclined to go with BoingBoing's Maggie Koerth-Baker, who provides a useful summary of the controversy (and a lot of links so you can make up your own mind):

1) Evidence of vast conspiracy is sorely lacking. Ditto evidence disproving the scientific consensus on climate change. This isn't the "nail in the coffin" of anything. However, the emails do prompt some legit questions about transparency and how professional researchers respond to criticism in the age of the armchair scientist.

In fact, the whole reason the CRU seems to have been hacked is that the Unit was fighting off requests for access to the data sets it used to put together its climate models. This is one of the issues that gets discussed in the e-mails. Basically, some of the CRU researchers didn't want to release the data to people who weren't trained scientists because they were tired of spending their time fighting with bloggers and wanted to focus on research. Which is great, except for two things: First, from what I'm reading it looks like there might have been some ethical lapses in how the researchers went about blocking the release of data; Second, when you block the release of data, no matter what your real reason is, people will assume it's because you're hiding something nefarious. One of the positive outcomes of this whole hacking debacle is that it's forcing some discussion about when circling the wagons becomes protectionism, and might lead to the climate change data sets becoming more open source. Frankly, I think that's a good thing.

She's spot-on there. In New Zealand, there's a philosophical argument within NIWA, in which scientists' natural preference for openness and publication is set against the fear that zealots will take raw data they don't understand and misuse them.

What happened late last week suggests the fear isn't misplaced. Hot Topic's Gareth Renowden covers an attempt by a blogger associated with the Climate Science Coalition to claim that the New Zealand temperature record has been maliciously altered to support a pro-warming agenda.

That's an extremely serious charge. And, so far as I can tell, a baseless one. The CSC was told by NIWA two years ago why the data were corrected, and seems to have simply ignored that explanation in the hope of getting a "gotcha" story to take hold. Poneke appears to have bought the hype, with this comment in a thread in which quite a number of "sceptics" pretend to expertise they do not have.

Call me crazy, but I'm going to trust scientists with relevant expertise before I trust Ian Wishart …

And, finally, thanks to everyone who came to the launch of David and Emma's books on Friday evening in Wellington – especially Assistant Reserve bank Governor Dr Don Abel, who I had no idea was coming to the launch at Parliament. His speech was admirable for both its brevity and its wit. He's a dude.

Mike Roseingrave's pictures of the Grand Hall launch are here.

You are, naturally, very welcome to join us for the Auckland launch, from 6pm Wednesday in the Velvet Room at Sale St bar.

And while we have a full house for the Ignite presentations at Friday's Orcon Great Blend Christmas Party, there's still plenty of room for the party part of the evening, which begins at 7.30. Just RSVP here.

And that may be my last substantial post for what is going to be a very, very busy week – we have Media 7 recordings on Wednesday and Thursday (a standard show and a pre-record of our Christmas show respectively), the book launch after the Wednesday recording, and then the big ol' party on Friday night.

If you'd like to come to either the Media7 recordings, just hit "Reply" and let me know.

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