NOAH’S RAINBOW SERPENT – observations by Ian MacDougall


Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on June 18, 2018


“No investigative journalism in my lifetime can equal the importance of what WikiLeaks has done in calling rapacious power to account. It is as if a one-way moral screen has been pushed back to expose the imperialism of liberal democracies: the commitment to endless warfare and the division and degradation of “unworthy” lives: from Grenfell Tower to Gaza.”

Thus spake John Pilger, at the generally worthwhile website known as New Matilda. I have given up posting there, due to its management’s policy of censoring posts by taking them down if they do not abide by the House’s ideological standards.

The above quote from the work of the generally excellent Pilger shows pretty well a fundamental problem of the man’s praxis. The authoritarian governments from Eisenhower on got America into the moral and political quagmire of the Vietnam War, an antidemocratic neocolonialist cause that stank to High Heaven. For the ten-year  (1965-75) course of that war, Pilger along with the rest of the western Left opposed America, and rightly so. But in the process, the syllogism  was forged: America bad; America’s Vietnamese National Liberation Front enemy good; therefore ANY ENEMY OF AMERICA good; Islamists oppose America and its liberal-democratic foundations; therefore Islamists a bit extreme but on the right side of History; but America and liberal democracy definitely both hollow shams. Therefore opponents of liberal democracy in the Islamic world, such as the father-and-son Assad dictatorship team in Syria, ARE TO BE SUPPORTED, and their aspiring liberal-democratic opponents opposed.

I do not think I do Pilger any injustice in portraying his position that way. He after all, never has a good word to say for America, or for liberal democracy, as he pours all the bile within him onto the enemies of Islam.

On this basis, he can maintain good relations with the antidemocratic heads of the authoritarian and dictatorial regimes of the Islamic world so vital to his work as a journalist, AND be a political gadfly to all the Western governments who physically or just morally supported the rotten US cause in Vietnam. So it has to be win-win as far as he is concerned.

Except that I put it to my readers on this site (both of you) that Assange in his present predicament needs the support of Pilger like he needs a proverbial hole in the head.







Posted in Natural Science by Ian MacDougall on December 26, 2014

DSCN1746We know where and how to hunt Alaska brown bears and our sucess [sic] at taking big bears shows it.


Mileur’s Guide Service, Alaska.

From their website:

Management of the harvest of Kodiak bears is currently based primarily on population assessments and regulation of sport hunting. With a healthy population of bears on the archipelago, the emphasis has been on maintaining a stable bear population that will  sustain an annual harvest of 150 bears, composed of at least 60 percent males.

Just inside the entrance to Departures at the Anchorage International Airport, Alaska, there stands a large case of thick perspex. (Perhaps it is glass – I was in a bit of a hurry.)

Inside the case stands the stuffed hide, suitably mounted on a realistic rock-like platform, of a magnificent Kodiak bear. Kodiak Island is 160 km long and of area 9,300 sq km, and is the largest island in the Kodiak Archipelago on the south coast of Alaska.

Also inside the case is a photo taken of the bear shortly after it was shot. It lies in what appears to be a dry creek bed, with the presumed and clearly proud shooter sitting behind it.


A small placard gives some additional information:

May 5th, 1996

Shot by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S.  [ie Doctor of Dental Surgery; Master of Science – IM.]

Male 9.4 years.

Wt 1,300 – 1,500 lb.

Taxidermist: Bret’s Wildlife Artistry, Willow, Alaska.

The services of Bret’s Wildlife Artistry, Willow, Alaska probably did not come cheap. How much public money was spent on this exhibit by either the airport or the government, I have no idea, but I suspect it was not much. More likely, the exhibit is a generous and proud donation to the airport’s interior décor by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S.


Neither have we any way of determining the degree of personal risk taken by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S, and please understand that it could have been anything between trivial and considerable, depending on the exact circumstances. The Kodiak bear, Ursus arctos middendorffi, is the largest subspecies of Ursus arctos, and the grizzly bear: Ursus arctos horribilis is another. Apart from the polar bear Ursus maritimus, the grizzly is without doubt the most aggressive and dangerous of all the North American bear species. Shooting at one, even from a distance and using a high-powered rifle with a telescopic sight, can still land a shooter in a heap of trouble: well, in principle anyway.

In 2007, Alaska had an officially estimated 30,000 brown bears state-wide. Of these, about 1,900 were shot (the wholesome-sounding euphemism is ‘harvested’) in the hunting season. Though every now and then a careless hunter gets harvested by a bear, human hunters pose far more of a danger to bears than bears do to humans.

Kodiak bears are a unique subspecies of the brown or grizzly bear… They live exclusively on the islands in the Kodiak Archipelago and have been isolated from other bears for about 12,000 years.

 There are about 3,500 Kodiak bears; a density of about 0.7 bears per square mile.

 Kodiak bear populations are healthy and productive. They enjoy relatively pristine habitat and well managed fish populations. In most areas the number of bears is stable, but there are some places where bear density is increasing.

Of that 30,000 total Alaskan brown bear population, about 15,000 will be male and the same number female. There are restrictions on the killing of females (‘sows’). Male bears (‘boars’) are more highly prized as trophies by the hunting brotherhood; the bigger, the better. So the majority of those shot can be assumed to be male, just like the one ‘harvested’ by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S.

That gives us a rough mortality rate for Alaskan grizzlies of say 1,500 / 15,000 per year, or 10%: about four bears are shot every day, on average. Statistically, as we shall see, few can get to die of old age. Their maximum life expectancy? The oldest known wild Kodiak bear was a sow 35 years old. The oldest known boar was 27 years old. As the maximum weight of Kodiak bears as cited by the government is up to 1,300 lb, Aberle’s specimen at “1,300 – 1,500 lb” was truly a whopper. And it was in the prime of its life.

For the fraternity of bear hunters, and all others interested, Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S has obligingly supplied some details of the ammunition he used. It is on the placard in the glass case along with the other information. Take it for granted that the mass, velocity and gauge of his bullet was adequate for the task of turning the bear, over however many seconds, minutes, hours or even days, from a virile and healthy young animal into the collapsed bag of pelt, meat, bones and offal shown in the photo. The exhibit gives no information on the time taken for this bear to die, but many no doubt are injured by bullets but get away none the less.

An estimated 100,000 black bears (Ursus americanus) also inhabit Alaska. Statewide, and between 2003 and 2007, the annual ‘harvest’ of this species increased steadily from about 2,500 to 3,250 bears. But modern bear hunting is only potentially dangerous. Far more hunters survive an encounter with a bear than the other way around. But bears are not the most dangerous big game. That honour seems to go to the cape buffalo, an animal that will take to stalking the hunter at the drop of a hat, particularly if wounded.

However I did hear a story (retold second hand from a friend) from a big game hunter, in whose opinion the most dangerous animal was the male wild pig, ie original wild boar. It lives in dense vegetation or rainforest understorey, and in those conditions, it is only a matter of three seconds between the time he breaks cover and when he’s got you; with tusks that can rip you open as if you were a wet paper bag. That means you have three seconds to locate him, take aim, and get your shot away; probably not to be followed by a second one.

The preferred weapon, according to this source, is a large bore (preferably 12 gauge) shotgun, and the preferred ammunition is not a standard shotgun cartridge, but one loaded with a single slug: a cylinder of lead about 1 inch (24 mm) long and of diameter to neatly fit the shotgun bore.

AcuTip Slug – solid lead bullets for shotgun use. These are big, heavy, fat hunks of soft lead that have enormous stopping power (e.g. a typical 12 gauge slug is .73″ caliber and weighs 438 grains* – a 9mm bullet is .355″ and 115 grains).

  *(1 grain = 64.799 milligrams, so the slug would weigh 28.4 g: about 60% of the mass of a golf ball, but packed into only one sixteenth of the golf ball’s volume..– IM)

Kodiak bears are remarkably uniform genetically, but not absolutely so. In 1912, the volcano Novarupta, which is 160 km northwest of Kodiak Island staged a one month long eruption, which is held to be the largest eruption in the 20th century. (The largest eruption in recorded history appears to have been the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcano in Indonesia, and the second-largest that of the Santorini volcano in the Mediterranean, circa 1,500 BC, which put an end to the Minoan civilisation.)

Wildlife on Kodiak Island was decimated by ash and acid rain from the eruption. Bears and other large animals were blinded by thick ash and many starved to death because large numbers of plants and small animals were smothered in the eruption. Birds blinded and coated by volcanic ash fell to the ground. Even the region’s prolific mosquitoes were exterminated. Aquatic organisms in the region perished in the ash-clogged waters. Salmon, in all stages of life, were destroyed by the eruption and its aftereffects. From 1915 to 1919, southwestern Alaska’s salmon-fishing industry was devastated.

That event just over 100 years ago could only have acted as a massive genetic bottleneck or selector, on the wildlife, including of course, the Kodiak bears.

Today hunters kill about 180 Kodiak bears each year under tightly controlled regulations. About 5,000 resident hunters apply each year for a chance at the 496 bear permits that are available for them. Hunters who are not residents of Alaska must hire a professional guide, paying $10,000 – $21,000 per hunt. Over 70% of the Kodiak bears killed by hunters are males. (ie around 135 boars pa- IM)

If there are 3,500 Kodiak bears and around 50% of them are male, the boar population will be around 1,750. If we take the ‘harvest’ rate as being 135 boars per year, then a given boar’s probability of not being shot in any given year, expressed as a percentage, is (1,750 – 135) / 1,750 x 100, = 92%. This of course, is an annual hunting kill, or cull rate, of 8%.

With each passing year, each surviving boar is pushing his luck just a bit further: 8% further, to be more precise. The probability (ps) after the passage of n years, that any given boar will have been shot, assuming all other factors are equal, is given by the equation:

ps = 1 – (92/100)n

As the years go by and the value of n steadily increases, the value of (92/100)n tends towards zero, and the value of ps, the probability of the boar being shot, tends towards 1: that is, towards certainty. For example, after 8 years,

ps = 1 – (92/100)n

= 1 – (92/100)8

= 1 – 0.51

= 0.49,

which means that the boar will have a 50% chance of still being alive, and half its contemporaries born in the same year will have been shot. After 16 years, that chance will have decreased to 26% and after 32 years to 0.07%. Of the original 1,750, only

1,750 x 0.07/100

= 1.225

~ 1

will still be alive. But precisely which one?

For an important factor has been left out of the above equation. Though boars are more desirable than are sows to the trophy-minded hunting population, all boars are not equally so. Some, like the unfortunate individual harvested by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S, have characteristics which make them a particularly desirable compensation for the US$10,000 – $21,000 which has to be stumped up by the non-Alaskan hunter for the shooting of them. They are large, in the prime of life, and with fur, face and hide that has not been marred through losing fights with other boars. They are the winners in the Alaskan struggle for existence. Because they have been the outstanding survivors of their species, they are the fittest. Charles Darwin would have undoubtedly agreed.

Thus the culling process carried out by the likes of Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S, is the diametric opposite of that carried out by any competent livestock breeder on a breeding population of domestic animals, or by nature herself on wild populations. As the years roll by, the effect of all the rifle-toting hunters can only be in favour of a genetic drift in the population: a weeding-out of those with nature’s most desirable and vital characteristics, and selecting in those with the least desirable, from a bear-survival point of view.

There is another distinct possibility here as well. North American bears do not actively seek out and stalk the men hunting them the way cape buffalo reportedly do. But any bears with this aggressive inclination would arguably have better survival chances and leave more progeny than the more shy and elusive of their kind. The hunters might just be selecting this type of bear into the population.

One possible way the hunters can avoid contributing to this outcome is for them to select the smallest, scruffiest and most beaten-up of youngest boars for their ($10,000+) trophies: something I suspect they would be reluctant to do.

The genetic drift will be somewhat glacial in its pace, enabling each generation of hunters to reach its dotage averring that over their entire hunting careers, the target populations have remained of constant apparent quality. But it will happen, because by its very nature, the selection process carried out by the likes of Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S. is non-random.

So what is achieved by the shooting of bears? There are millions of gun owners in America, and a huge number are active shooters of wildlife. Shooting at living animals clearly provides these people with a satisfaction not to be had from shooting at trees, targets nailed to them, bottles on posts and such. The preferred target is a living animal whose remains can be dressed in some way to provide a conversation piece for the hunter’s den. And the bigger, the better. Size clearly matters. The head of a rabbit preserved and mounted by an outfit with the skills of Bret’s Wildlife Artistry, Willow, Alaska and hung up on the wall of the shooter’s den would clearly not be good enough: at least, not enough to start up the right kind of conversation. Not when one can have the head of say, a moose, caribou, wolf, bear or cougar in its place.

Don’t get me wrong. I am also a gun owner, and I occasionally shoot a fox, rabbit, injured kangaroo or other wildlife, and livestock injured beyond recovery. Foxes and rabbits do serious damage to Australian native wildlife, and do not belong in the landscape. I am not at all worried about their genetic future, as they are great survivors back where they came from, and I think that it was a great mistake to introduce them to Australia. They should be eliminated, and as humanely as possible..

But as a teenager, I found considerable satisfaction in a day’s rabbit hunting. Sometimes I think that perhaps we males of the species Homo sapiens have an innate bloodlust very important for survival in our hunter-gatherer past. The same sort of response can be seen when a well fed dog takes off after a cat or rabbit on sight and impulse. It does not need to do it, yet it does it.

So what has been achieved by the killing of this particular bear? Most important I suppose, Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S has had a big boost to his own self-image (ie his ego), and the satisfaction of having taken on a dangerous animal on terms he might persuade himself were equal. But even if we count that as a positive, we are left with little else. I have no doubt that some hunters will claim that their activity is good for the bear population as a whole, and for the species through prevention of overpopulation. But the hide cannot last say, a human lifetime, not even if expertly preserved by America’s most competent taxidermist and kept away from the air inside a sealed glass case. Not even if it impresses hordes of airline passengers and tourists. Ask yourself: how many leather articles you own that are 50 years old? 100 years old? Even 10 years old?

Wood preserves far better than does leather. The oldest wooden artifact that I have ever personally been in contact with is an oak table from Shakespeare’s time that an antique-collector friend bought in England and had shipped out here to Australia, and at an expense so great she would not disclose it. But over the 400 years or so since the Immortal Bard  might have supped at it, slow dry rot has left the table’s wood scarcely harder than balsa.

As for wooden tables, so too for stuffed bears. Sadly, in a couple of generations’ time, Aberle’s prize bear will probably have to be replaced by a fresh, and likely somewhat inferior, specimen. Because that is the way both decay and selection work in nature.

Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S, and his fellow hunters could avoid this outcome by putting their rifles, telescopic sights and ammunition into permanent storage, and reverting to the bear-harvesting techniques practiced by their ancestors earlier on in the Iron Age. They could hunt bears with nothing more dangerous than spears and knives.

They have a precedent to follow. Amongst the native Alaskan Tlingit people, a young man wanting to pass his initiation test and be accepted into manhood had to do something far more difficult than look through the telescopic sight of a high powered rifle at a distant bear, then let fly a pellet of lead with a squeeze of the trigger, and then make himself available for a photo opportunity afterwards.

He had to cover one of his hands with the fine dry dusty spores produced by a certain local species of bracket fungus, sneak up on a wild deer, and leave his palm print clearly visible on its side. After which, he was not only accepted into the company of Tlingit hunters, he was accepted as a man amongst men.

But try that trick on a Kodiak bear, other than maybe one in deepest hibernation, and you will be harvested. London to a brick.

Far better, therefore, to leave the selecting and harvesting to Nature.



The Serpent’s Most Popular Pages

Posted in History, Human Biology, Natural Science, Political Economy by Ian MacDougall on December 17, 2010

Carbon Abatement Submission (Senate Inquiry) Condensed

Though air temperatures whether local or worldwide, daily or annual average, may for various reasons not reflect it, the world is none the less clearly warming. It is now possible to fulfill Lord Franklin’s dream and sail the Northwest Passage over the top of Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific, at least for one month or so in the Northern summer. Possibly within the next ten years ships will be able drop anchor in an essentially ice-free Arctic Ocean, right at the North Pole. That together with the satellite altimetry data on sea levels  testifies to the rapidity of global warming, and of the onset of the positive feedback loops that can only further accelerate it. The safest assumption we can make, in short, is that we face a planetary climate emergency, requiring urgent economic reforms on a comparable scale to those which took place in Australia after the declaration of war in 1939…



Kangaroos, Thylacines and Aborigines 1

As in other areas of human history, inference is needed for the Aboriginal past not only because there are controversial and politically sensitive areas, but because the documentary record alone is insufficient for sound judgement one way or another. While some might find certain inferences to be politically (and mythologically) attractive, on close inspection they turn out to be too improbable for acceptance. Such, I argue, is the case with Keith Windschuttle’s thesis on the demise of the Tasmanians, which he applies also to explain the declines of the mainland populations, namely that the bulk of it was the unintended consequence of introduced diseases, rather than the intended consequence of deliberate frontier violence…



Kangaroos, Thylacines and Aborigines 2

Beside European settlement, agriculture, rainfall and temperature, there is another, related distribution. It is that of the present day distribution of speakers of indigenous languages, mainly found today beyond the Europale. It shows that wherever Europeans settled, the native languages died out. The unavoidable conclusion is that conditions inside the Europale increasingly militated against aboriginal children learning their ancestral language in the process of growing up…

The language decline correlates with the dilution of the aboriginal indigenous gene pool, as increasing numbers of people who describe themselves as Aborigines find themselves acknowledging, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, one or more Europeans in their ancestry…



Kangaroos, Thylacines and Aborigines 3

The British perception was that the macropods were wild in the country and belonged to nobody. The ecological reality of Tasmania and elsewhere was that the biomass of available grass and herbage in any one period of time could feed a related biomass of herbivores only up to a limit, which in turn could support a limited biomass of omnivorous humans, their dogs and a net population of wild carnivores. The latter included dingoes on the mainland, where they had displaced thylacines; thylacines in Tasmania, and also the Tasmanian Aborigines’ dogs (gone feral) as the aboriginal populations crashed. Settlers everywhere in Australia honoured these principles every time they set about clearing the bush to make way for grass; ‘clearing off’ kangaroos and emus to make way for sheep, cattle or crops, and clearing off Aborigines to make way for themselves…



Kangaroos, Thylacines and Aborigines 4

…Windschuttle’s Australia is one where the Aborigines went quietly to their fate as fringe dwellers of the country towns, and in marked contrast to their aboriginal counterparts in the Americas and New Zealand.

If there was no ‘warfare’ of whatever category involved in this transition, then the attendant and marked depopulation of the countryside and Aboriginal population decline can only be due to starvation and/or disease. Windschuttle won’t have starvation, but at the same time there are problems with the disease hypothesis that beg for a remedy, an explanation, or at the very least, a Band-Aid: which leaves warfare of some kind hanging around in the background.

And so we come to the elephant in the parlour of Aboriginal history…



Night Vision and Bipedalism

This raises the intriguing possibility that before the discovery of fire and the invention of the thorn-fenced kraal, our distant African ancestors attained their relatively longer legs by wading, swimming and climbing for shelter at night up or down rocky cliffs, bluffs and outcrops, where long non-grasping legs provide no great disadvantage. For the climbing of trees, they do. Getting to where the predators cannot reach you makes poor night vision less of a disadvantage…



Plimer’s Climatology 101

Plimer says that nothing humans do can affect the climate of the whole Earth, and that if it is warming, it is a good thing anyway.  Others disagree, and contend that climate change is occurring because of CO2 emissions. These latter were not put into the air for the purpose of warming the planet. Like the radioactive waste from the nuclear industry, they are a by product of another project entirely, to be justified after the fact…

More >>>


Plimer’s Climatology 102

At a point in the long distant past someone extracted what was found to be useful fuel from a coal outcrop, and the coal industry was born. Only since the work of Arrhenius in the late 19thC have questions arisen about the basing of the steel, power generation and other industries upon it. Established industry has understandably reacted to the IPCC reports and scientific concern about greenhouse gases with counter-argument and delaying tactics regarding the transition to alternatives. Ian Plimer’s book and his talk to the Sydney Mining Club talk are best seen in this context…

More >>>


Plimer’s Climatology 103

The total yearly biomass production of the organisms on Earth is on one estimate at around 170 billion tonnes (164 billion tons)  of which a third is oceanic and two thirds terrestrial: say 60 billion tonnes oceanic. Assuming this roughly to be 10% of the total oceanic biomass brings the total mass of all marine organisms to 600 billion tonnes, or 600 Gt. The potential total CO2 addition to the hydrosphere of 4210 Gt (assuming it all finishes up in the oceans) is thus about 7 times the total biomass in the oceans. That is indeed significant…

More >>>


Plimer’s Climatology 104

…a two degree rise due to CO2 will produce a further two degree rise due to water vapour, making four degrees in all. The next domino to fall in this situation is the methane, locked up in arctic permafrost in Siberia and Northern Canada, and below the deep ocean floors as methane hydrates. In all those locations, it has built up from slow bacterial decomposition of organic matter. Methane is 45 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2, to which it oxidizes in about a year after release to the air. The warming produced by this gas may in turn release the final nightmare gas, hydrogen sulfide. Plimer does not mention these potentially disastrous knock-on effects of methane and hydrogen sulfide…

More >>>


Plimer’s Climatology 105: Lord Franklin’s Dream Turned Nightmare

Pope aside, there’s no need to ask which embodiments of human stupidity Plimer might have had in mind. He has spent the preceding 483 pages denouncing them: ‘activists’, ‘environmentalists’, Greenpeace… but above all, Sir Nicholas Stern, Michael Mann, James Hansen, Al Gore, Ross Garnaut; other practitioners of the alleged quackery and pseudoscience of climatology, the IPCC, the Royal Society, the signers of the Kyoto Accord… If the book’s index was any good I could look them all up.

But that is only half of the last sentence. I have an uneasy feeling that behind the rest of it lies the profound theological thought that there will be no runaway greenhouse or climate catastrophe, because God will not allow it.



Plimer’s Climatology 106: His Lordship’s List

At the end of his book, Ian Plimer hands over the keyboard to his lordship to deal with the question ‘What if I am wrong?’ In Plimer’s view Monckton (previously an economic adviser to Margaret Thatcher) had already dealt with it splendidly in a speech to the Local Government Association at Bournemouth, on 3 July 2008. So Plimer reproduces the speech in its entirety (with his lordship’s permission) on pages 489-493 of Heaven+Earth. We can take as noted the usual ‘ITS?’ (is that so?) in the margin against each one of the following points as they occur, and as well a ‘WIIFY?’ –  an abbreviated form of ‘what’s in it for you?’


Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Team sport and social organisation

Posted in Political Economy by Ian MacDougall on June 28, 2010

28 June, 2010

Global civilisation began with the appearance of the town of Jericho around 11,000 years ago. It is still recognised as the world’s oldest town, but its history is a mere blink beside the history of life, or even of humanity. What civilisation could be like 10,000 years from now is more knowable than what it will be like, but the key to such knowledge lies in an understanding of how power and control is exercised in human society and its institutions, and how created wealth is shared around.

Strangely enough, a deep insight is provided by team sports such as the various codes of football… Read more>>>

All pages should be listed at the right of your screen

Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on March 21, 2010


If they are not, scroll right down to the bottom of this page, and you should find them there.

MacDougall’s Music

Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on March 4, 2010

I am currently recording a new CD: Songs From the Shed. Those interested in my existing CDs can read more at my other WordPress site >>>

Tagged with:

Good Planets are Hard to Come By

Posted in Natural Science, Political Economy by Ian MacDougall on February 7, 2010



GUEST POST: Good Planets are Hard to Come By – Andrew Glikson

ANU Earth and paleoclimate scientist Andrew Glikson puts an extraordinary amount of effort, well above and beyond the call of duty, into keeping the rest of us informed on the science behind the global warming issue.

The Earth’s climate system is commonly likened to a supertanker, meaning that in order to avoid disaster later in the 21st Century, we have to start turning the wheel now. Unfortunately there is a political problem in this, because the short-term interests of many in politics and business demand all ahead full.  –IM



 As sea level rises the planet is drowning in an ocean of untruths

 Andrew Glikson

Earth and paleoclimate scientist, Australian National University

We’re simply talking about the very life support system of this planet.  (Joachim Schellnhuber, Director, Potsdam Climate Impacts Institute, advisor to the German government.)

The sleep of reason produces monsters (Francisco Goya)

While Earth is undergoing a sixth mass extinction in its history, dominated by oxidation of hundreds of billion tons of carbon derived from fossil ancient biospheres, with consequent shift in the state of the atmosphere-ocean-cryosphere system, the feeble efforts of civilization to mitigate the climate is drowning in medieval conspiracy theories aimed against climate scientists by vested interests and fundamentalist man-over-nature ideologues.

The release of more than 320 billion tons of carbon (GtC) from buried early biospheres, adding more than one half of the original carbon inventory of the atmosphere (~590 GtC) to the atmosphere-ocean system, has triggered a fundamental shift in the state of the atmosphere at a rate of 2 ppm CO2/year, a pace unprecedented in the geological record with the exception of the effects of CO2 released from craters excavated by large asteroid impacts.

Read on >>>

Are Denialists in Denial?

Posted in Natural Science, Political Economy by Ian MacDougall on November 19, 2009

                                                                                                                                                                                      November 19, 2009

It is clear from these various facts, therefore, that a warmer planet than today’s is far from unusual. It is also clear that climate changes naturally all the time. The idea that is implicit in much public discussion of the global warming issue – that climate was stable (or constant) prior to the industrial revolution, after which human emissions have rendered it unstable – is simply fanciful. Change is what climate does.

Bob Carter, ‘Knock, Knock: Where is the Evidence for Dangerous Human-Caused Global Warming?’

The reader will recall that Faust, in Goethe’s play of the same name, was offered a deal by the Devil: a life of every pleasure imaginable in return for his soul. The deal was accepted, and became the classic a metaphor for shortsightedness; and subsequently the basis of one of the funniest films ever made: Bedazzled, featuring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

I try to avoid shortsightedness, but three times in my life I have found myself in the related condition of extreme denial: the result in each case of receiving serious bad news affecting me personally. Confronted with an elephant in the parlour, in the shape of an elephantine tragedy, one looks around it, over the top of it, and anywhere but at it. On each occasion, I started looking for whatever scant threads there were of hope. My conclusion from these experiences is that living in denial and hope is about the most futile state of existence there is, but we do it on occasions because at the time there appears to be no better alternative. Added in is the fact that acceptance of an apparently dismal reality can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So hope, furious, fervent and all too often futile, springs eternal.

Are those like Bob Carter, who deny that there is anthropogenic global warming (AGW) going on in this state of being in denial? (Read all you might want of their reasoning at Quadrant Online.)

Up to a point, we believe what we want to believe. This applies particularly to ideas which are in themselves beyond the scope of rationality and science, such as the propositions of the major religions; though devotees seeking consolation and grounds for hope in them also deny that this is the case.

I stumbled upon this issue thanks to the ABC Four Corners program Malcolm and the Malcontents,  put to air in Australia on Monday November 9, 2009. That dealt with the battle within the Liberal-National Coalition between AGW denialists and those who take a more alarmist and at the same time, truly conservative approach. It is tearing the Coalition apart and so ruining its electoral prospects. Their problem: how to deal with the Rudd Government’s policy on climate change. Then I happened to read George Monbiot’s Why the sudden surge in climate change denial? Could it be about something else altogether? published in the Guardian on November 2. It begins on the pessimistic note

There is no point in denying it: we’re losing. Climate change denial is spreading like a contagious disease. It exists in a sphere which cannot be reached by evidence or reasoned argument; any attempt to draw attention to scientific findings is greeted with furious invective. This sphere is expanding with astonishing speed.

Be that as it may.

Denialists are divided on what they deny. Most in my reading experience assert that the Earth is cooling, not warming, but add that whatever it is doing, humans cannot possibly be responsible. So if there must be GW, they want no A associated with it. But while I and many of my alarmist co-thinkers would be only too happy if they turned out to be right, we are not prepared to stake the lives of our children and grandchildren on it. By advocating a do-nothing policy with respect to CO2 emissions, the denialists finish up doing just that. This inevitably involves a dismissal or explaining away of evidence to the contrary. So they:

  1. look for flaws in the evidence on which AGW alarmism is based; and when I say ‘the evidence’ I mean all  the evidence. None of it can be allowed to pass;
  2. have to assert that any global warming detected post 1750 is purely natural, and part of a solar or other cycle or phenomenon.
  3. erect a straw man, then proceed to knock it down. (See the quote above from the prominent denialist Bob Carter. Does he seriously assert that the people raising the loudest alarm in the ‘public discussion’ – ie the bulk of the world’s climatologists – believe that the global climate only began to change after 1750 AD?)
  4. deny any useful role for computer models of climate;
  5. dismiss alarmist scientists for allegedly having venal motives, and being unable to see beyond their next  research grant. Given the extraordinary weight of scientific opinion now standing against the denialist case, this amounts to a full-blown conspiracy theory.
  6. dismiss any suggestion that they could have such motives themselves, or be influenced by any connections of individuals in their ranks to the fossil fuel industry;
  7. dismiss the Precautionary Principle or any sort of approach based on it as ill-advised;
  8. deny even the remotest possibility of runaway greenhouse establishing;
  9. assert (with Senator Nick Minchin et al) that AGW alarmism arises from the extreme left of politics; left causeless at the end of the Cold War;
  10. deny that anything humans do either way can possibly have any significant effect on the world’s climate;
  11. welcome the prospect a warmer Earth, arguing that our species only really got going in the last 10,000 years, after the retreat of the Pleistocene glaciers;
  12. assert that apart from its allegedly negligible greenhouse effect, carbon dioxide can have no significant effect on life in the oceans when it dissolves in water to form carbonic acid.
  13. admit of no possibility of their being wrong;
  14. nor admit of any serious consequence if they are wrong, particularly if their do-nothing approach has meanwhile become state policy.

Accordingly, every bit of data on which the alarmist case is based must in turn be challenged, leading the denialists to argue that:

  1. the last 100 years of thermometer-based surface temperature data is unreliable, thanks largely to the ‘urban heat island effect’ by which urban recording stations are influenced by waste heat from industry and automobiles, and the solar radiation absorbed and re-emitted by buildings and roads.
  2. at the same time, what little reliable data there is indicates that the Earth is cooling;
  3. as the ‘greenhouse effect’ of atmospheric CO2 diminishes logarithmically, from here on added CO2 will have minimal effect anyway (say perhaps raise average temperature by 0.1 degree Celsius.)
  4. the Precautionary Principle would actually have us keep on with business as usual, for by that principle, CO2 and other emissions must be assumed innocent until proven guilty.
  5. the complexity of the global weather system, and the difficulties implicit in attempts to isolate the effect of any one component (eg anthropogenic CO2 vs ‘natural’ CO2) are a point in favour of their do-nothing case.

Their use of such arguments, and their tendency to close association with the political Right, have not deterred major world scientific organizations and many governments from urging strong action at the forthcoming Copenhagen summit. One such is the Letter from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to the US Senate (link) which says to each US senator:

As you consider climate change legislation, we, as leaders of scientific organizations, write to state the consensus scientific view. Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science. Moreover, there is strong evidence that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and on the environment. For the United States, climate change impacts include sea level rise for coastal states, greater threats of extreme weather events, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, urban heat waves, western wildfires, and the disturbance of biological systems throughout the country. The severity of climate change impacts is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades. If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced…

As well as being sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Letter is endorsed by the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and 14 other scientific organisations. Whatever its advocates elsewhere may claim, denialism has not exactly won the day in the scientific community.

All of the above denialist wisdom will be found in the paper already referred to; by leading denialist Bob Carter, a climatologist and Adjunct Research Professor James Cook University, Townsville.


Independent scientists who have considered the matter carefully do not deny that human

activities can have an effect on local climate, nor that the sum of such local effects represents a hypothetical global signal. The key questions to be answered, however, are, first, can any human global signal be measured, and, second, if so does it represent, or is it likely to become, dangerous change outside of the range of natural variability?

The answer to these questions is that no human global climate signal has yet been measured, and it is therefore likely that any such signal lies embedded within the variability of the natural climate system. Meanwhile, global temperature change is occurring, as it always naturally does, and a phase of cooling has succeeded the mild late 20th century warming. (Carter 2008, 190)


That human-caused climate change will prove dangerous is under strong dispute

amongst equally well qualified scientific groups. The null hypothesis, which is yet

to be contradicted, is that observed changes in climate or climate-related phenomena

are natural unless and until it can be shown otherwise. (Carter 2008, 193)

If made the captain of the SS Null Hypothesis, a liner sailing on its maiden voyage in the North Atlantic, Carter would order full speed ahead until it could be proven beyond reasonable doubt that the ship was about to collide with an iceberg. .As I have argued in the ‘Plimer’s Climatology’ series on this site, the most compelling evidence that the planet is presently warming is to be found in the:

  1. worldwide retreat of glaciers and the loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, and
  2. satellite altimetry data that shows a consistent global sea level rise of 3 mm per year ever since readings began in 1992.

Both the above features are of geographic scale, and screen out the ‘noise’ of the ‘urban heat island effect’ and with it all the other strands of denialist argument. It may of course be the case that (say) so far undetected solar flux or bursts of heart coming up from the Earth’s interior are responsible for the ice loss and ocean level rise. It may be a mere coincidence that the rise from 270 ppm pre-industrial 383 ppm in 2009 is happening at the same time as a completely unconnected process of global ice loss and sea level rise. But I’m not betting the farm on it.

But interestingly, Carter and the other denialists never say what would constitute the unambiguous evidence of AGW that they proclaim does not exist. One is forced to the conclusion that in their view it cannot exist; that there is no way the signal of anthropogenic CO2 induced warming can be separated from natural background climate change, and that for them, by its own inherent nature it is both theoretically impossible and practically unknowable. Thus for them, if humanity was heading into self-inflicted climate catastrophe it would be doing so completely, inevitably and incurably blind. Nobody on the Titanic could have an inkling of the looming disaster. Whether conscious of it or not, as passengers on this planetary ship, the denialists seem not the slightest bit concerned at this possibility, which is implicit in their own thoughts on the matter.

One of the leading denialist Ian Plimer’s most enthusiastic supporters is Cardinal George Pell of Sydney.  On 24 May 2009, Pell had a column in the Sydney Daily Telegraph supporting Plimer’s position on AGW. A critical response from Michael Mullins, editor of the Catholic journal Eureka Street testifies that Catholics are not united behind him on the issue. However, Ian Plimer saw fit to include a significant theological aside on page 493 of his purportedly scientific book Heaven and Earth.

Human stupidity is only exceeded by God’s mercy, which is infinite.

In the context, the ‘stupidity’ referred to is what Plimer has spent his preceding 492 pages attacking: the proposition advanced by climatologists and other scientists that the Earth is being unduly warmed by human activities. This leaves the reader open to the conclusion that for Plimer, God is the ultimate thermostat. Of the Earth. There will be no climate catastrophe, because He will not allow it.

Well, it has this going for it: it is the most powerful and convincing argument in Plimer’s whole book, and the safest refuge for the denialist.

Without the atmosphere, the surface of the Earth would not be its present average temperature of 14 °C (57 °F), but as low as −18 °C (−0.4 °F).  In order of abundance, the main greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are (with their contributions to the greenhouse effect in [square brackets] ):

  1. water vapour (H2O)                   [36–70%]
  2. carbon dioxide (CO2)                [9–26%]
  3. methane (CH4)                          [4–9%]
  4. nitrous oxide (N2O)                   [neg]
  5. ozone (O3)                                 [3–7%]
  6. chlorofluorocarbons (‘CFCs’)     [neg]

All except the CFCs are products of natural chemistry, and have been generated in and by the atmosphere and ecosystems of the Earth since life began. All are likewise generated by human activities like the burning of fuels and the pasturing of ruminant animals such as sheep and cattle. The effect of the ‘natural’ as distinct from the anthropogenic CO2, N2O and CH4 can only be surmised from the known properties of each compound and the calculated concentrations of each in the air. If however, a significant percentage of the air was (say) chloroform (CHCl3), we could say that that any particular greenhouse effect due to that was 100% anthropogenic, because chloroform does not occur in nature.

However, that is a card we have not dealt to ourselves.

At this stage it would appear that there is no way the Earth can avoid a two degree rise in average temperature this century. That is an order locked in, thanks to the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that have been added to the atmosphere since around 1750. But a global average of two degrees involves a much higher rise of temperature in the high latitudes, threatening significant releases of methane from the Arctic permafrost and ocean floor deposits, which would in turn drive the temperatures still higher. While climatologists say that global warming involves an increase in the number of extreme weather events, it would be simplistic to attribute, say, a run of hot days in Adelaide in November 2009 to global warming alone, or to say that it even provides evidence of it. The global weather system is like a supertanker. Its momentum when underway is so huge and the time it takes to respond to alterations to engine speed and rudder settings so long that collision and running aground can only be avoided if anticipated well in advance of their happening. As all-too-often happens in shipping, those on the bridge are condemned to watching disaster steadily loom, knowing that the opportunity for taking evasive action is well past and gone. Vide the Exxon Valdez.

This year the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) changed the start date of the Pleistocene from 1.8 to 2.588 million years BP. In the last 650 000 years, the Earth has experienced seven major cycles of glacial advance and retreat, as seen on the  graph at the following  source,  [and my apologies for not being able to cut and paste it ditrectly.]

 We are now approximately in the warmest phase of the 7th cycle to occur in the last 650,000 years. It will be seen that corresponding warm periods in interglacials occurred at 130 000, 225 000, 325 000, 400 000, 475 000 and 580 000 BP.

It will be seen also from the above cited graph that the glacial-interglacial cycle has not been regular. In the last half million years or so, the glacials have been getting steadily longer and the interglacials shorter, as if the Earth was shaping up to plunge into a freeze-lock. If it were to do so, it might take a considerable time emerging on the other side and warming up again.

We are at a strange conjunction in the history of the Earth, with icecaps at both poles and the two American continents forming a north-south barrier to oceanic circulation that extends almost from pole to pole. It is pretty safe to assume that without the icecaps there would be no great mass of methane trapped in the permafrosts of Siberia and northern Canada, and thus considerably reduced possibility of runaway greenhouse establishing.

Since the start of the Cambrian 542 million years ago, the mean temperature of the Earth has kept between the lower and upper limits of 10 and 25 degrees Celsius; except for two brief periods in the late Permian (at 251 million years BP) and the end of the Paleocene (at 55.5-54.8 million years BP) when it went as high as 27 degrees Celsius.

Both of those periods have distinct names: the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event, and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Both involved massive reduction of life, and should be taken very seriously by those who would avoid another one in the very, very, very near future of geological time.

As the old proverb has it, there are none so blind as those who will not see. Elvis may have left the building, but the elephant is still here.

Another Open Letter to Stan Grant

Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on March 1, 2018


And also my critique of Keith Windschuttle’s line on Aboriginal history post 1777 at:

Stan: At the National Press Club (link above) you reportedly said:

For so many of my people, Aboriginal people this is true. There is a deep, deep wound that comes from the time of dispossession, scarred by the generations of injustice and suffering that have followed. And this wound sits at heart of the malaise that grips indigenous Australia. It is there in our life expectancy ten years shorter than other Australians, it is there in statistics that tell us we are not three percent of the population yet a quarter of those in prisons. These are the things that kill, the things that send us mad or steal our sight.

How often we are told to get over it, leave it in the past, but these wounds are fresh. My family like so many Indigenous families is still shackled to its past. We are told to let it go, but our history is a living thing. It is physical. It is noses and mouths and faces. It is written on our bodies.

-Stan Grant []

The above as I read it is an attack directed at the whole present non-Aboriginal population of Australia. I and my family are amongst them. But there are quite deep historical issues here.

Firstly, your people, whom you identify as “Aboriginal people” in the quote above, were not one ethnic group, nor as one people given a hard time by one lot of invaders of this continent. The 19thC anthropologists identified three distinct ethnic groups amongst the people we now refer to as ‘The Aborigines’:

(1) The Tasmanians – apparently the first to arrive. They were short-statured people rather similar to African pygmies: short stature being a trait selected in by the demands of a life lived in rainforest, of which there was no shortage in the regions they came from and the Australia they moved into. They, being the first to arrive, had the continent to themselves, but were pushed south by the next distinct invading population, who pushed the Tasmanians to the southern extremity of the continent before the Bass Strait rose as the Pleistocene Ice melted: that southern extemity is now called Tasmania.

(2) the Murrayans, who were on average a taller, heavier-bodied people than the Tasmanians, and who occupied the southern mainland, and who pushed the Tasmanians before them. Then came

(3) the Carpentarians, taller, and like the modern native Nilotic peoples of Africa, adapted for life in the hot, dry climate found today in northern Australia, and who kept ethnically distinct from the Murrayans on the mainland; showing that there was not much interbreeding there either.

Nor was pre-European Australia exactly a garden of tranquility. Very telling is a study of Aboriginal weapons, the most interesting being in my opinion Aboriginal shields. These, to be used successfully by warriors who were also nomads, had to be both lightweight and easily carried, but at the same time effective against the most devastating attack weapons in the contemporary Aboriginal arsenal. These were spears and the clubs called ‘nulla-nullas’, normally used to despatch game, but also as effective weapons in what is generally termed ‘tribal warfare’: which in one form or another, still goes on in town and country today. ( See particularly the warrior photograph at )

But also:

It takes a high degree of skill to survive when one is the target of several incoming spears, thrown either together or at slightly different time intervals, launched at you with murderous intent. One’s parents, grandparents and other ancestors over whatever timespan you care to name likewise needed such skill.

The First Arrivals

The late ANU scientist Gurdip Singh concluded from a study of pollens from the bed of Lake George, NSW, that there had been a fairly abrupt botanical change from ecosystems dominated by pyrophobic (‘fire averse’) plants like Causuarinas to pyrophytic (fire-tolerant) ones in SE Australia at around 110,000 BP. This apparent increase of fire in the Australian bush led him to conclude that Aborigines with their ‘firestick farming’ practices may have been responsible. That is, a full 70,000 years before the appearance of Mungo Man and his skeleton, the earliest direct evidential remains.

At the Australian Academy of Science website,
we can see graphs that show how the country’s climate has changed over those 110 millennia. There was a marked general cooling, down to around 10,000 BP, followed by a rapid rise in average temperature and heat content of the ocean. The first Aborigines to arrive (ie the ancestors of the Tasmanians) would have had to cross far less oceanic distance than exists today, thanks to so much of the Earth’s water being locked up as polar icecaps. But over those millennia, all our ancestors, of whatever colour, were living somewhere. And there was no book up there in the sky in which it was written by the Gods that the Australian continent belonged to the ancestral Tasmanians, though they possibly or even likely believed it did. The Murrayans would have relieved them of any such illusion, and the Carpentarians likewise both those preceding populations.

The lesson they all learned then taught: by the Tasmanians to the kangaroos, wombats and megafauna, the Murrayans to all those four groups, and the Carpentarians to the lot of them, was a simple one: if you can’t defend it, you don’t own it.

I am 100% of Scots-Irish ancestry according to analysis of my own DNA. My own ancestors were cleared off land they could not defend in the ‘clearances’ carried out by aristocrats supported by Royal armies, or by the first British colonising acts beginning in Ireland under Henry VIII that led on to the building of the vast British Empire, which eventually stretched as far as Australia. Dispossessed Scots and Irish emigrated to Australia, to either dispossess Aborigines, or purchase former Aboriginal land from earlier colonisers who had grabbed it: from the people whose ownership ceased because they could not defend it.

To give them their due, all the Tasmanians, Murrayans and Carpentarians over time took their cultures and technologies as far as they could be taken within the limitations they experienced. Modern scholarship indicates that agriculture actually began, not in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys of ancient Mesopotamia at around 10,000 BP as previously believed, but in New Guinea, at around 20,000 BP. But while neighbouring Australia had plant food and game sufficient to support a pre-1777 population estimated now at around 1 million, it had no domesticable or potentially cultivable plants save the Macadamia nut, (now marketed worldwide under a variety of names.) And the hunter-gatherer nomads, while they had an astounding variety of plant and animal foods both marine and terrestrial, had no grasses from which to develop grain crops, and thus they had collectors’, not croppers’, granaries.

Whereas the Asian peoples had rice and millet, the Ameriindians maize (as well as potatoes) and the peoples of the ‘fertile crescent’ centred on Mesopotamia had what are still the western staples: wheat, barley and oats. They also had cattle, horses and other domesticable animals, spread right across the Eurasian Landmass to China and Japan, and down into Africa in one vast mass of intercommunicating populations.

In Australia, there was what the historian Geoffrey Blainey calls in his excellent book of the same name The Triumph of the Nomads, but only because the nomadic way was the only one that could triumph. And to their credit, the Aborigines took it as far as anyone could, without grain crops, large granaries, ceramics and pottery for storage of liquids like oils and wines, and without the metallurgy that these duly brought forth and the Iron Age weapons that in turn emerged.

So when Captain Cook dropped anchor in Botany Bay and made first European contact with the local Aborigines, it was also the most advanced civilisation in the world greeting people who were about, through no fault of their own of course, the least technically advanced. While clash and interaction across Eurasia had laid the foundations of modern urban civilisation, science and technology, Aboriginal Australia remained contentedly ignorant of all of it: until disaster struck.

But as for me: I was born right here in Australia, as was my wife, as were my children and grandchildren. We all have as much right to be here as anyone else, and I don’t have much time for arguments to the contrary, from you or anyone else: either implied or bluntly stated. But if your gripe is anything to go by, all the apologising for the past will not end with Kevin Rudd. It will still be routinely demanded and expected centuries from now.

And as for the Adam Goodes incident. Well that’s nothing special, is it? Aborigines can’t walk down the street in any city, town or hamlet without getting jeered, booed, heckled and called all sorts of nasty racist names, can they? Well, isn’t that the case?

Bovine excrement, of the non-female variety.

Football games and football fans are subject to crowd psychology. Fans routinely cheer their own teams and jeer their teams’ opponents, and however they can. At times they chuck beer cans: sometimes when full of beer; sometimes full of worse. Adam Goodes got mixed up in just such an incident, and some of the airheads in the crowd picked on his Aboriginality and let fly. Big deal: or only so if anyone wants to make an issue of it.

So on top of all that, we now we have agitation for a ‘treaty’, to be signed presumably by representatives of both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations of Australia as presently set up, and followed presumably, by significant compensation payments. And now we come down to it.

Let’s open the negotiations at say $1 million to each modern Aborigine: enough to buy a house in the upper half of the Sydney or Melbourne real estate markets. And as there are roughly 670,000 such people claiming Aboriginality ( a 2011m estimate: see  that adds up to a tidy $670 billion. That would be quite a low price to pay for a whole continent, but it would swallow most of the Federal Government’s revenue for two successive years. (The Federal taxation revenue in 2015-16, the latest figures available, was only around $465 billion; so the government would need time to pay.)

It would also require the vendors to quit the property completely: normal real-estate practice in both town and country.

But there is also a problem of retrospectivity here. If any money at all is due to be paid by modern non-Aboriginal Australians to Aboriginal ones, then it is payment long overdue. It should have been paid at the time of the original dispossession, and by the people who did that dispossessing. The non-Aboriginal part of your own ancestry, Stan, should have paid the Aboriginal part. Today, you can do it for them. You can take money, however much you like, from your wallet with your right hand on behalf of your ancestor the Irish rebel John Grant, later by your own account to become a wealthy squatter, and as well on behalf of all the other non-Aboriginal people in your ancestry, and then receive it into your left on behalf of all the Aborigines in your ancestry. Then put it back into your wallet.

But please note: without the contribution made by all, repeat ALL to you own genome and of whatever skin colour, you would not exist today, and would never have existed.



Posted in Political Economy, Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on December 6, 2017



Below are extracts from the policy in plain type, as copied from the above AC website. My comments are in bold.

Ian MacDougall

 The AC policy statement includes the following items:

The ‘Canberra Bubble’ isolates politicians and the bureaucracy. Australian Conservatives believe there is a better way, where principles are put before politics, and policies are more important than personalities. We must bring transparency, accountability and efficiency to government.

[Hidden agenda: revive the old squabble between the burghers of the state capitals: mainly Sydney and Melbourne, which gave rise to Canberra in the first place.]

 Donations to political parties, candidates and associated political entities should only be made by individuals and capped at an annual amount. All contributions in excess of the disclosure threshold should be disclosed in ’real time’.

[Real agenda: defund the ALP. Why only ‘individuals’? This can be an excuse for the start of a witch-hunt against the trade unions. (Remember, the ALP historically was set up as a union party, by the unions after the failure of the 1891 shearing-maritime strike.) One obvious way round this provision is for companies and unions alike to pass their party donation through some chosen plausible wealthy individuals. And it will be far easier to find a plausible wealthy donor on the ‘conservative’ side of politics than on the Labor side.

Australian Conservatives support introducing a publicly available, easily searchable database of spending across the whole of government as a means of improving transparency and accountability of public spending.

[ QUESTION:  Does that include military and covert intelligence expenditure?]

 We will respect the division of responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the States in order to improve the efficiency, decision-making and accountability of government and reduce waste.

[Real agenda: stop any repeat of something like Gillard’s mining tax. The Gini C (Gini coefficient, not to be confused with Gina R.) must be held high!]

 We support the introduction of term limits for all politicians and restoring the principal role of the Senate as the States’ house. Australian Conservatives support Senate reform including: having Senators sit in State instead of party blocks, having no Senators form part of executive government and constitutional reform to resolve deadlocks without recourse to a double dissolution election.

[ON THE NOSE: Term limits for pollies simply generates more of them, and the overall cost of them in post-parliamentary entitlements; and such limits restrict the right of voters to elect whoever wins the favour of the electoral majority.]

 Tax bases should be broadened and the tax law streamlined to enable lower tax rates, less complexity and reduced accounting and legal costs.

[ Real agenda: pass more of the tax burden by ‘broadening’ to the poorer levels of the population, while relieving the richer side, with the usual justifications, of course: so they can invest, create jobs, etc, etc. (Competitive conspicuous consumption we need not mention.)]

Individuals are far better placed to decide how best to spend their own money than governments. Our economy will be far stronger and more responsive to changes in preferences and circumstances when taxation and regulation are as low and as efficient as possible.

[Real agenda again: widen income differentials and skew wealth distribution in favour of the rich; enhance the nation’s Gini coefficient.]

 We will streamline the taxation system and reduce the number of personal tax brackets. To support this, we will rationalise the number of tax offsets, rebates and deductions, as well as standardise them and limit their accessibility.

 [So those who qualify must jump ever higher hurdles. Real agenda again: enhance the nation’s Gini coefficient, as above. Nothing is said about the ‘reforms’ introduced in the Howard years by Peter Costello, which cost the individual taxpayer time and money to set up, thus keeping the average mug out of it, but once up and running such a scheme pretty well makes paying tax an optional activity for the deserving rich and upper echelons generally.]

 We will remove the tax-disparity between single income and dual income households with the same income levels.

[Real agenda: we will work this as a cover for increasing the tax paid by single-income people (eg single mothers) as against that paid by couples. Social agenda supported: reduce the number of single mothers by forcing them back into relationships they would prefer to be out of. ]

We will streamline regulation by adopting a one-in, two-out approach to remove the red and green [!] tape strangling business, investment and job creation. We support having an annual Regulation Repeal Day.

[There is a ‘regulation’ that one must only drive on the left hand side of the road. Will that be one of those to go?

Real agenda: where there is conflict between the needs of developers and the natural environment, it will be the latter that has to yield. Or to put that another way: in any dispute over development, there has to be give-and-take. The environment rightly gives, and the developers just as rightly take.

Regulations are nasty, nasty! They should all be repealed!]

We support the removal of taxes and tariffs applying to new car imports, saving Australian motor vehicle purchasers over $1 billion a year.

[Real agenda: so that revenue shortfall can be passed on to those not in the imported new car market.]

By reducing the number of special tax categories, concessions and deductions, the tax law can be simplified and dead-weight accounting and legal costs can fall.

The extra revenue raised from such streamlining can be used to lower tax rates for all. By reducing distortions from taxes imposed, and freeing up resources for more productive uses, we can strengthen our economy.

[Real agenda: this again favours the rich, and enhancement of Gini (easily confused with Gina.) DEFINITELY ON THE NOSE.  Vide again COSTELLO REFORMS.]

We support the removal of all political indoctrination from the [education] curriculum.

(Depends on how one defines it. Real agenda: remove social critique of any kind from education. Teach kids to think critically and for themselves completely free of any examples of it. NB: this is exactly what they do in the Islamic world, with every Islamic country an economic basket case, without exception; and including those with oil money coming out their ears.]

Australian Conservatives support the return to tried and tested methods of teaching.


[We live in an electronic age. Learners of all ages have to be able to search the Internet without landing on porn sites. Real agenda: education must not move with the times.]

 Educational institutions are now used as a way to channel political propaganda on our children (such as the discredited ‘Safe Schools’ and ‘Respectful Relationships’ programs). We believe such indoctrination is wholly inappropriate for a school environment and are committed to their removal.

[Real agenda: remove Left influence and indoctrination, including all social critique: but not the indoctrination of the Right, and of the Religious Right.]

We do not support any renewable energy targets.

We will remove all taxpayer and cross subsidies to electricity generation.

We will require all electricity supplied to the grid to be useable – that is, predictable and consistent in output (kWhrs) and synchronous (at the required 50 Hz range).

We will allow market forces to provide the most efficient power generation available.

We will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord

[This speaks for itself, without need for alteration.

We do not support any renewable energy targets, favouring coal.

We will remove all taxpayer and cross subsidies to electricity generation, favouring coal.

We will require all electricity supplied to the grid to be useable – that is, predictable and consistent in output (kWh) and synchronous (at the required 50 Hz range), favouring coal. 

 We will allow ‘market forces’ to provide the most efficient power generation available. [If renewables’ costs fall further, we will revise this.]

We will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  [Where it suits us to be, we are anti-science].

 Real agenda: we support already heavily-subsidised coal-fired power, and the commercial interests involved in it, but not renewables.

 NB: This planet has a one-off, never-to-be-repeated or renewed store of fossil carbon. About the most short-sighted and bone-headed use of this is for furnace fuel in electricity generation: unless we expect that our descendants will all be flying helicopters or hovercraft over their unsealed roads.

Australia should have the cheapest and most reliable electricity in the world. We have world-scale and world-class coal, gas and uranium reserves. Yet our electricity sector no longer reflects that.

Australian Conservatives are open to any form of electricity generation, and will provide legislative certainty for the ongoing use of fossil fuels.  We will remove the barriers to building more dams for hydro-power and clear the way for nuclear power as well as a nuclear fuel cycle industry.

Real agenda: pass all the costs of it, as far as we can, to the mugs. Nuclear power is not ‘cheap’ when all the true costs, including long-term waste storage and clean-up after the inevitable Three-mile Islands, Chernobyls and Fukushimas is taken into account: which is why investment in nuclear power has all but ground to a halt.

 Australia should also have the cheapest and most reliable gas supply in the world.

We will support landholders’ rights to allow gas production on their properties, and to a reasonable return for that access and extraction, to help ensure there are sufficient quantities available for our domestic and export markets.

Real agenda: incredible.

The GAB [Great Artesian Basin] underlies a large portion of the Murray–Darling Basin (MDB) in northern NSW and southern Queensland…  It consists of layers of aquifers and aquitards [water-confining layers] ranging from 65 to 250 million years old, deposited in the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods…

The GAB also overlies older geological basins, such as the Bowen Basin. These basins are deeper than the GAB and, in the case of the Bowen Basin, have a boundary that extends beyond the boundary of the GAB. The Bowen Basin contains older, deeper coal seams and the Fairview and Scotia gas fields.

In other words, to get to the coal-seam gas, the drillers have to drill down through the aquifer and its aquitards, creating a serious possibility that sooner or later, the fracking chemicals and the groundwater will mix. The common assurance made is that the wells will be permanently sealed with reinforced concrete, preventing such contamination. However, Portland cement was only invented around 1820, so no concrete structure involving it can be older than about 200 years. [How many concrete structures can you think of that are say, a mere 100 years old?] But the gas wells will have to stay sealed as long as there is demand for artesian water: effectively, till the end of time.

By the time ‘concrete cancer’, natural acids in the groundwater, minor earth tremors and also major ones have weakened the concrete and made it porous, the coal-seam gas drillers will be long gone, and their descendants will likely be off overseas living the high life.

 So who will pick up the tab? Why, the descendants of those who were warned, but chose to do nothing about it, of course and as usual.

 Though there are a lot of hot contenders in this particularly tight field, this one has to take the gong as arguably the most short-sighted and brainless of all the AC policies.

Australia produces less than 1.5% of global CO2 emissions. Even if our emissions were reduced to zero, it would make no perceptible difference to the climate.


Ideological obsessions with uneconomic renewable technologies to meet unrealistic emissions targets to prevent ‘climate change’ have made our energy unreliable and expensive.

 [Note the ‘scare quotes’. [And we may ask of course: Is that so? ]

 Targets and subsidies for renewable energy distort the market and disadvantage consumers. Australian Conservatives are open to renewable energy as an option for electricity generation but we oppose taxpayer and cross-subsidies to support it.

China produces 26% of global emissions, and it is the biggest GHG producer of all. So no country produces the ‘majority’ of GHG emissions. Australia’s 1.5% does not make “no perceptible difference to the climate”, even though it is refreshing to see AC’s and Bernardi’s admission there that there is climate change, and that CO2 and other GHG emissions are involved in it.

 The last time I checked, 1.5% did not equal 0%. Arguably, Australia thus produces 1.5% of the total world emissions, which is nothing trivial. Every emitting country, including China, at the top of the ladder with 26% of global emissions, can claim this sort of pseudo-trivial ‘minority’ status.

Australian Conservatives will scrap all taxpayer and cross-subsidies for electricity generation and allow market forces to determine the best outcomes for Australian consumers and business.


[The above should read: Australian Conservatives will scrap all taxpayer and cross-subsidies for electricity generation (but not for fossil-fuel extraction) and allow market forces (and taxpayer-subsidy of outfits like Adani) to determine the best outcomes for Australian consumers and business, and to convert the fossil fuel reserves into harmless, non-global warming, plant-feeding CO2 as rapidly as possible.

 And what will our descendants use for road tar? Let them use cake, and eat it too.]

Migrants must be committed to making a positive contribution to Australia. Welfare payments will be limited in scope and duration to better encourage migrants to participate in our workforce, become a regular taxpayer and be self-sufficient. Those settled in Australia should contribute to our economy, not be welfare-dependent.

[Really? So the money not spent on their welfare payments can be spent on boosting the police forces in order to fight the inevitable increase in crime resulting from this half-thought and half-brained policy.]

 Australian Conservatives recognise the importance of the National Broadcaster to many Australians, particularly those located in rural and remote communities.

[ ! ]

We also recognise that a diversified and financially sustainable media industry is important for all Australians.

Australian Conservatives will merge the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).

We will require the new, merged broadcaster to strictly adhere to enhanced charter obligations of balance and a diversity of views.

We will ensure that it puts a greater emphasis on rural and regional broadcasting and alleviating other important gaps in commercial media coverage.

[ON THE NOSE]  Real agenda:  ruralise and de-urbanise the ABC. So no more programs like Four Corners or Chris Masters’ demolition of the Bjelke-Petersen gerrymandered crony regime in Queensland: thus being truly ‘conservative’ of existing arrangements, no matter how shonky, antidemocratic and dodgy.

 The media sector in Australia and around the world is undergoing significant disruption and national, taxpayer-funded broadcasting cannot be insulated from these changes.

Australian Conservatives will merge the ABC and SBS into a single, consolidated broadcaster saving taxpayers over $1 billion per year with the savings dedicated to debt reduction.

 [Read debt and program reduction.

Real agenda: gradually defund the ABC and SBS, prior to selling what is left of them both off to the highest bidder, probably based overseas. A certain name springs to mind.]

 Australian Conservatives will give the consolidated broadcaster a greater rural and regional focus – to ensure that the few remaining gaps in the Australian media landscape, including providing critical information during natural disasters and emergencies, are well-covered.

[More of the same: See above.]

 We will reform the board arrangements and Charter of the current ABC and ensure that the consolidated broadcaster is truly impartial, unbiased and presents a diversity of views representative of the Australian nation.

 [TRANSLATION:  we will censor it, by tying it up in the same red tape we make a big noise about cutting. Real agenda: So goodbye to Four Corners, and anything anyone to the left of Genghis Khan might object to. ]

 Australian Conservatives will limit the consolidated broadcaster to two TV stations – covering news, current affairs, drama and entertainment.

[Real agenda:  that’s for starters: we will prune them on from there.]

 We will limit the consolidated broadcaster to two radio stations available nationally with local and national content.

Further, Australian Conservatives will limit the provision of online services by the consolidated broadcaster to on-demand viewing of the local news, entertainment and current affairs programs produced by the broadcaster.

[ON THE NOSE. Real agenda: deny the Australian people the right to read and publicly comment on current affairs on the widely read ABC online site. Confine such to the ‘proper channels’ such as Federal Parliament, through us politicians. And constituents’ letters thereto, which we are masters at brushing aside and filing in the Parliamentary Rubbish Bin.]

These changes will save taxpayers over $1 billion per annum which will be used to repay national debt. They will further strengthen the diversity of the media market by limiting the size, scope and reach of government funded broadcasting. 

 [ And generally dumbing it down.]

[ON THE NOSE: Incredibly, Senator Cory Bernardi or whoever wrote this for him, cannot see the self-contradiction in the above: we will increase the diversity of the media market by pulling one of the main players out of it.]

 The West is under a significant threat from ideologies that seek to undermine our way of life.  The gradual dismantling of Western culture in other areas of the world has left a vacuum into which alternate cultures have expanded and taken root. We will stand up for Australian values in the face of these threats, and will ensure that our heritage and way of life are strengthened and retained.

[Add: despite the similarities of our policies to those of the most benighted regimes in the Islamic world.]

 We will abolish the Australian Human Rights Commission. Rather than defending or upholding key Western liberties, rights and freedoms of the individual, this institution has become an expensive agent for their undermining, suppression and destruction, often in the pursuit of identity politics and political correctness.

[But on the bright side, it has provided highly-paid careers for ex-politicians and IPA urgers.]





Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on July 29, 2016


I have recently been involved in something of an online exchange at  Quadrant Online  (where I am a paid-up subscriber) with a participant who goes by the nom-de-blog of ‘en passant’. (   Quadrant Online  is a ‘conservative’ site devoting itself to ‘conservative’ causes like opposition to mainstream climatology; opposition to Islam and increase of the Islamic population of this country; opposition to the Turnbull ascendancy in the Liberal Party and for an Abbott revival there. It also seems to favour trickle-down economics. In short, QO supports an assortment of causes; one or two of which I also support. (nb: NOT Tony Abbott.)

I am also a subscriber at New Matilda , a more leftward site which likewise supports a variety of causes, some of which I likewise support. (

However, in the last 24 hours, there has been something of a cybersnafu in the works at  Quadrant Online . A crucial response of mine to ‘en passant’ disappeared into cyberspace. Repeat postings got the usual ‘looks like you’ve already said that’ site response. An email exchange with QO management followed, and I was told that other site commenters had had similar experience.

So I have decided to post the missing response here.

The discussion was on Trump vs Clinton for the US presidency. The immediately preceding comment from ‘en passant’ concludes as follows:

I thought you just had thought-bubble, but now I realize you live in one as you failed to answer the only question that really mattered. Trump or Clinton for President? As you failed to work that out when broadly asked I will make it easy for you: they are the only choices. Roll of drums …. and the answer is: ….?

In the absence of any (successfully) posted response from me, the site got:

 en passant

 July 29, 2016 at 11:14 am

Oh well, Ian, I think you have made your line of thought clear.

What I had been unsuccessfully trying to post in response was:

Trump or Clinton?

Gee that’s a tricky one. Let’s see…. (While I’m thinking, you might amuse yourself scratching some more through that dirt file of yours. But for that, you might have to find some sort of light down there under that rock you hide under.)

Trump if he becomes US President will have to make a lot of important decisions. But the only decisions of his that I have so far been able to find record of, all directly involve his own financial interest. I think that also may be the reason Trump has failed to gain any  enthusiastic  traction so far here Quadrant Online editorial level. Opinion here seems to be that he is the best of a bad pair.

But Hillary is married to former President Bill. And Bill took a magnificent decision in 1999 to withdraw the US support that the murderous Suharto regime had previously enjoyed re East Timor. That threw the balance in favour of East Timorese independence, particularly after the US Chief of the General Staff got on the phone to the Indonesian armed forces chief thug Wiranto and read him the  Riot Act.

I can’t see Trump ever doing anything half as principled as that. His first question would most likely be “what’s in it for me?” Nor can I see Bill dropping out of influence anytime soon. Can you, ‘en passant’ or whatever your real name is?

So…… Suspense…………. Drum roll…………Bagpipes in chorus…………. Heavenly Choir…………