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A fellow of infinite jest

By Owen Paine on Sunday December 27, 2009 01:14 PM

"Progressive circles [are] 99 per cent inhabited by True Believers in anthropogenic global warming"
That hyperbolic Dr Benway-like spurn comes from this weekend's painted screed of Alex C., and he's at his best, I think. The catamount of Whoville, the panther of mauve paddy-land is always at his best standing straight and tall and throwing bolders down at the rest of us progressives -- albeit, in this case, blindly, like Polyphemus. But he never loses his suave, dare I say Edwardian, panache.

Alex is attacking those crafty corporate submariners, silent-running right past all of us green pwog gulls in what's got to be the biggest hoax since that bright spring Sunday morning in Jerusalem.

I know, I know, why oh why must he take such a crazy out-there position as this madly pwog-defying stance over (my God!) climate change? Of all apple-pie left "issues" -- why that one?

I'll tell you why: it's his scorpion moment, his chance to self-destructively sting, and sting savagely, the great docile green amphibian creature on whose back he regularly rides, that "99%" of us rads.

"The CRU emails graphically undermine the claim of the Warmers – always absurd to those who have studied the debate in any detail – that they commanded the moral high ground. It has been a standard ploy of the Warmers to revile the skeptics as intellectual whores of the energy industry, swaddled in munificent grants and with large personal stakes in discrediting AGW. Actually, the precise opposite is true. Billions in funding and research grants sluice into the big climate modeling enterprises. There’s now a vast archipelago of research departments and “institutes of climate change” across academia, with a huge vested interest in defending the AGW model. It’s where the money is. Scepticism, particularly for a young climatologist or atmospheric physicist, can be a career breaker."
Can you imagine anything more delightfully topsy-turvy? I can't. The guy is a treasure, a pinko Yorick still wearing his lips. For that, let us be thankful.

Comments (24)

Save the Oocytes:


Al Schumann:

Comrades! This is what comes of spending too much time with readers of, and writers for, The Nation. You begin to get the impression, and I don't say it's wrong, that whatever noble cause they claim to support has the monstrous maw of the Democratic Party lurking just around the corner. AGW, though real and threatening, is indeed another tooth in that hideous orifice. The pwog remediation program consists of -- you guessed it -- personal mandates and corporate welfare, with some humanitarian bombing, a bit of torture, endless sanctimony and lots of reckless provocation thrown in to add zest. It's differentiated from the the Republican response by 6.3% fewer bow ties and 3.7 % less gratuitous feces-flinging. Together, they constitute the venerable Dime's Worth of Difference®

For the sake of your sanity, comrades, I implore you: stay away from The Nation and all its horrid works.

Peter Ward:

Granting all he says is true for the sake of argument, why the gushing sympathy for climate change "skeptics" of all people? I can think of a fair few much worse off, those in DR Congo mining coltan, e.g. Additionally, there are plenty of right wing organizations eager to employ such scientists in the event they can't find work in the mainstream--in fact, I recently met a girl who works for a publisher printing a book against AGW. The author was flown here at private expense (from the UK) and shown a good time while in town by some shady NGO/non profit Project for a New American Century type thing. Thus not only are there jobs to be had, there are clearly people in high places with a vested interest subverting climate change fears.

Finally, whatever the truth of the matter re: AGW, Cockburn is both crazy (in this case) and being a douche bag (most of the time). I'm not even sure he's all that anti-DP. His articles on Obama have been ambiguous at best--I sometimes wonder if his niece over at GritTV isn't rubbing off on him (I do have to give Grit credit for featuring my subway station in their intro, however).


I don't know what to make of AGW, but he has some nerve calling Cindy Sheehan a conspiracy kook after that outburst.


There's just something about British socialists/sectarians who hit some rancid senescence when they are too long in the American sun.
Christopher Hitchens turned into a Laura Ingraham Bushite, a particularly revolting aping of he-man Americanism, and Cockburn has driven his gas-guzzling Detroit special into anti-science quackery, and not just on AGW - he seethes with anti-peak oil and libertarian populism, delighting as an Elmer Fudd type in militias, Huckabee, and Palin.
I think the "pwog" male archetype becomes the figure of opposition for these aging autologic islanders - gun-totin' Daniel Boone becomes more attractive as an alpha figure than folk music recorder players like Dennis Kucinich.
This doesn't mean that these classically-educated Brits don't write corkers on other subjects, but that you'd better just let them babble at the leftie family picnic when they come dressed in their re-enactor outfits.


What do the heavy thinkers at SMBIVA make of AC's argument from the Laws of Thermodynamics?

When I am cold, I put on a coat and generally find myself warmer after a bit. The outside of the coat remains at a low temperature, however.

Al Schumann:

If AC were to follow a similar remedy for feeling cold, I'd attribute the warmth he experiences to anthropogenic gases trapped inside the coat.


I'm not sure what to make of the whole AGW thing.

I've actually done a fair bit of environmental work in my younger days (quite literally WORK, as in cleaning up toxic pollution, rehabilitating wetlands etc., not sitting around musing about policy or attending conferences). My first impression of AGW (years ago) was that it seemed kind of silly. We're dumping tons of extremely harmful chemicals into our water supply, but instead people want to focus on perhaps the most natural and least harmful inert, benign byproduct of human activity. The earth has a carbon cycle - it is perfectly natural to produce CO2 and there are mechanisms for the ecosystem to deal with it. Other man made chemicals have no corresponding mechanism through which the ecosystem can process them.

Anyways, that was just my initial response, but after the consensus appeared and the importance of AGW was being hyped, I basically took their word for it. In general I found Hansen's writing on AGW to be fairly logical and not hysterical nonsense like a large part of the non-scientific AGW writing. There was a lot of hysterical bullshit being floated around (which Hansen criticized, but us mere mortals were expected to accept for fear of being labelled a denier) but I thought that the core argument must have been correct.

Now, I'm not so sure. It wasn't so much those climate emails, as it was the reaction to them that gave me reason to pause. Initially I thought that it was a case of a few bad apples, a couple Kurtz characters who had resorted to unsound methods. When the leak came out, I found it appalling the way that they immediately and reflexively circled the wagons around the bad apples. They took ownership of those lies instead of distancing themselves. That makes me think that those emails weren't an aberration, but are actually par-for-the-course in what passes for a scientific discourse. That they immediately lashed out at the anti-AGW "forces" without really offering any explanation of the emails seemed to indicate that they don't really care about setting the record straight, just beating the other side.

I find the whole rush to action/shoddy evidence/moral denunciation of skeptics combination to be most closely reminiscent of the push to invade Iraq.


Admittedly, as a physicist, Ace is a good Communist. He shouldn't have taken that foray into the Second Law, which hardly showed him at his best.

I don't myself know what to make of the whole AGW business, either; I don't know the science at all and can't evaluate the arguments.

I do have a contrarian tendency to distrust bandwagons, though, and it's hard for me to believe that anything embraced by Al Gore could possibly be any good: Ἐκ Ναζαρὲτ δύναταί τι ἀγαθὸν εἶναι? And any time people start deploying the term "denier" in that lofty righteous way, all kinds of alarms go off in my head.

Cockburn has no valid arguments re AGW, Boink. He has distractions.

The point of the distraction is getting people to focus on IT, rather than the real problem itself. Eh?

Thermodynamic laws suggest AGW can't exist? No thanks. Not in this world, bubba. Not even close.

As with most of the self-appointed AGW skeptics, Al Cocky is focusing on the 0.0001% "maybe" arguments as if they are the dominant theory. He is making a Kuhn bid against a Popperian wave of theory and evidence. Sadly, Al Cocky doesn't know enough science or philosophy of science to stick with his gambit in the face of those who actually know science. He's preaching to a choir of science ignorami.

Let that guide you on how wise it is to suggest Al Cocky is plying a sound angle here.


Al Cocky has done a perfect Chris-craft Hitchens -- so much time spent with the upper-middles who fund pseudo-left faux-dissident journalism, he's become one of them. He fears AGW because he fears the Al Gore-ifying corporate welfare angles it will raise from skull orchards.

It's highly possible -- even probable -- that (1) AGW is a real thing; (2) we can do some things to help remedy it; (3) those things won't destroy our system of commerce; and yet that (4) some people will use AGW as a vector for corporate welfare scams.

The point of (4) doesn't make points (1), (2) or (3) invalid. It merely means we have to be wary of politicians who pretend to be tackling Problem A (AGW) while actually addressing Issue Z (returning favors for those who contributed to one's campaign).


Thanks one and all.

I remain a fan of AC but did not find his appeal to 2nd law persuasive (as the parable was intended to suggest).

BTW has anyone else been rejected for "registration" at Empire Burlesque? What does that even mean?


Bob, help me out here -
We have burned fossil fuels at an astounding rate since the dawn of Industrial civilization, sending noxious pollutants in ever-increasing clouds from our ever-increasing cars and boats and planes and furnaces and cows and whatnots -

and it was all - natural?

With no research, no oversight, no regulation, no restraints, we can all just relax, not consider that there might be any reaction coming from the natural world - it was just all unforeseen purity and goodness?
Jesus, what good luck.

Also, in that black op of stealing e-mails, purloining these dastardly academic twitters about the pizzas, there should be some consolation for the Bushites, since the blogosphere almost always features revelations of, oh, say torture and genocide from documents, not some specious in-fighting.


mjosef -

carbon that is sequestered in the earth naturally ends up in the atmosphere, and is naturally removed from it via plant growth and ocean absorption. That's all I meant in terms of "natural". Obviously when you start taking mass amounts of carbon out of one part of the cycle and putting it in the atmosphere its not so natural, but compared to say dumping mercury or CFCs or filling massive landfills full of plastic, it is relatively natural.


"and it's hard for me to believe that anything embraced by Al Gore could possibly be any good."

It's worse than that -- embraced by Gore AND Newt Gingrich. And other gasbags on both sides of the aisle. Like bankster bailouts and terror wars, et al. Is there ANY other issue that both of these men would agree on that has any chance of being even close to right/good?


Chris Floyd's site is often under cyber attack so that may explain the issue there.

I want nothing to to do with any heavy status, but isn't the core problem with this AGW thing that people, apparently now including Cockburn, want to treat it as an either-or, when it is patently a question of odds/estimations?

FWIW, I say peak resources is a) far more likely to be happening, and b) far more pressing in its implications.

I posted a lightweight item on this here:


I also sent CP and rebuttal to its pathetic piece on Peak Oil. They didn't run it, so I tossed here:


Happy New Year, SMBIVistas!

Druff, I agree with Coldtype. Chris Floyd's site is attacked constantly, he gets hacked more than any other e-journalist I follow. Maybe try contacting his webmaster, Rich Kastelein. I registered at Floyd's a long time ago, my registration has survived a few hacks but maybe 6 mos ago Floyd got hacked severely and I had to register again -- but I've had no problems acccessing the posting there since that re-registration.

...uh, sorry, not Druff. Boink. duh.


Even when, or perhaps especially when, AC is being a shameless crank, I adore him.

That said, I think his sidekick J. St. Clair has the more admirable eco-political position on AGW and capitalist climate managerialism:



I always wondered what Mr. St. Clair thought of his outre confrere - thanks for the link. Evidently he thinks he's a moron.

I admit to the world that I probably had the worst physics/biology grades in public high school of any commenter on SMBIVA.

So I feel duly qualified.


"I admit to the world that I probably had the worst physics/biology grades in public high school of any commenter on SMBIVA.

So I feel duly qualified."

how am I not surprised



"how am I not surprised"


uncalled for
parlor cat act

no one here
has a basis for pulling rank eh ??

The CRU was founded in 1971 with funding from sources including Shell and British Petroleum. At that time the supposed menace to the planet and to mankind was global cooling, a source of interest to oil companies for obvious reasons.

Coolers transmuted into warmers in the early 80s...

=v= Cockburn does himself no favors by working the "global cooling" distraction into his conspiracy timeline. Awareness of the greenhouse effect goes back to the Industrial Age, so a cooling hypothesis never got much traction amongst scientists. Its greatest flowering was as a "man bites dog" story in an 1975 issue of Newsweek.

Certainly the fossil-fuel industry of the day tried to make hay with the cooling hypothesis, just as the nuclear power industry tried to do the same with global warming (and, as Cockburn correctly points out, are trying to do so again). But "[c]oolers transmuted into warmers" is just flat out wrong.


To backtrack, AC is the best journalist we have stateside. His Saturday wrap-ups and year-end re-airing of his wrap-ups are national treasures.
And yet he goes off the deep end, while correctly observing others going off the deep end - so where does the deep end lie? And no, I don't think he's a man of "infinite jest." He's a serious fella.

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