27 November 2009

Malcolm the Manchurian

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The Liberal Party of Australia is currently undergoing a purge. It is quite spectacular. A technicolour yawn of conflicting principles, ideology and power lust is being spewed out across the pages of the press, on the current affairs programmes and in the 'sphere.

Just over a year ago the Party Room removed Brendan Nelson from the leadership in favour of Malcolm Turnbull, ostensibly because Brendan was more circumspect than Malcolm about the pace at which or whether Australia should introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme. Brendan wanted to wait until after Australia had seen what the other nations of the world, mainly the big emitters like China, India and the US, were prepared to commit to before Australia made its commitment. Malcolm wanted to push ahead with an ETS before Copenhagen in the belief that this position would neutralise the electorate characterising the Party as unconcerned about Climate Change. Mal won. Brendan has now been given a gig as ambassador to NATO in faraway Brussells by his opponent Kevin Rudd. Boy does the Liberal Party now wish he was still around.

Most thought Mal's approach to climate politics was just tactics, to prevent Rudd positioning the Coalition in a perceived electorally unpopular posture. Whether they agreed with him or not on an ETS, they saw some political merit in Mal's argument and were prepared to give him a go at putting a dent in Rudd's popularity, since Brendan was languishing in the polls.

But as the year has unfolded we've now discovered something about Mal that few of us knew. He's not only forceful and ambitious, he's also a true believer. He was partially forgiven for his intemperance and unlucky judgement in prematurely going for Rudd's jugular on Utegate before the evidence was in. He was largely though reluctantly ceded the benefit of the doubt that this folly was just a temporary lapse and that he would regain his poise and luck and find new and better ways to take the fight to his Labor opponents.

How wrong this assessment has proved to be. Last night at a 7 pm media conference Mal showed us that he was not a clever tactician on this at all; he is in fact a passionate believer in Anthropogenic Climate Change and was supporting Labor's ETS because of the imperative for moral leadership in the world by Australia, in making economic sacrifices for the good of the planet and our children and our childrens' children.

Who'da thunk it eh?

Mal's media conference was an impassioned defence of the Labor Government's latest proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill. It is currently being considered by the Senate, after some massive changes and concessions that Mal had secured for all Australians in negotiations with the Government.

His stated position is that "We must be a party committed to action on climate change. Anything else is irresponsible ..."

The Liberal/National Coalition still has the power to vote down Labor's CPRS legislation by joining with with the Greens and Independents who oppose it in the Senate, where together they have the numbers. But no, Mal, the Party Leader reckons that this newly negotiated CPRS Bill, with much larger rebates being given to fossil fuel energy suppliers and with all agricultural industry being removed from the scheme, will not just mean less Australian jobs being destroyed because of the scheme, it will also be better for the planet!

He is clearly conceding, in saying this, that the CPRS does serious damage to jobs here. And at the same time he says that because the newly negotiated CPRS is kinder on carbon emitters, it will be better for the environment. Damage to jobs and prosperity is the main reason why responsible citizens in his own party are justly very wary of this scheme. And his claim that his new softer scheme is better for the environment, just looks plain silly. He seems to have inadvertantly made the case against supporting the CPRS for those who oppose him on this.

Yet, typically, the media commentators are not highlighting the manifest inadequacies of the content of his self defence. They are only interested in the outcome of the sporting contest. So the press ignores the ridiculousness of Malcolm's claims, only concentrating on his amazing open attack on the credibility and wisdom of other parliamentary members of the very Party he purports to lead.

It now appears that Malcolm is no different from Rudd on this. He just wants to be able to parade his moral vanity to the world by stating that he is standing for a higher cause than mere Australian prosperity. This ETS legislation is required in the name of the planet. All Australians and the other nations of the world, must follow his noble and magnificent self sacrificial lead on this.

I'm not sure if, when Malcolm gets rolled by his Party on Monday, Kevin will give him one of those cushy government jobs, like he did to Mal's earlier rivals for the Liberal Party leadership, Peter Costello and Brendan Nelson. But he should, because Malcolm deserves a big reward from the ALP. He has done more to contribute to Kevin Rudd's prospects of remaining Prime Minister than anyone in the Australian Labor Party itself. The Ruddbot can now go to Copenhagen and the next election with bragging rights, and the fawning media in Australia will see to it that he gets only credit and praise for this appalling piece of legislation, that can only seriously injure Australia's future prosperity.

05 November 2009

Saint Albert's revelation on the road to Copenhagen

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Seemingly un-remarked on so far, is an admission in the recent new publication from Albert Gore Junior. The Guardian says of his new book:

"...Those conversations led Gore to politically inconvenient conclusions in this new book. In his conversations with Schmidt and other colleagues at the beginning of the year, Gore explored new studies - published only last week - that show methane and black carbon or soot had a far greater impact on global warming than previously thought. Carbon dioxide - while the focus of the politics of climate change - produces around 40% of the actual warming.
Gore acknowledged to Newsweek that the findings could complicate efforts to build a political consensus around the need to limit carbon emissions. "Over the years I have been among those who focused most of all on CO2, and I think that's still justified," he told the magazine.
" [Bolding added]

The consequences of this admission by Al Gore are not insignificant, especially in the context of the hysterical levels of this debate to date. Whatever your views are on the state of the climate science, the Arch High Priest of Anthropogenic Global Warming Alarmism is now telling us that CO2 only contributes 40% towards the projected global warming. 60% of this "problem" lies elsewhere. This admission only comes on the eve of the grand multi nation climate conference in Copenhagen, to agree to put severe restrictions on the economic productivity of the world's industrial economies, by asking them to cut back on CO2 emissions to save the world from CO2's projected bad effects in warming the planet.

But those effects are now 60% less than we were previously led to believe. We've been misled.

Al Gore's revelation means the IPCC's global temperature projections, which assume a much higher contribition from CO2 to this problem in their models, are a crock.

Can all CO2 emission reduction targets now be reduced by 60%, or is it only half?

Cancel Copenhagen!

Forget CO2. Methane and soot are now the number one enemies of planet Earth.

So, a global change of strategy is now called for folks:

1. Eat charcoal (even feed it to livestock; to absorb flatulence); and

2. Reduce your soot footprint (no more blacking your face for variety shows).

03 November 2009

Horse race politics is now a losing bet

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It's Melbourne Cup day in Australia: a day full of strained horse racing metaphors, lots of forced jollity, and much illusion about chance; hence the superficial inspiration for my segue to:

The interesting, refreshing and credible view now developing that "horse race" style politics is currently (if temporarily) on the outer in the big democratic conversation in the US. The argument runs along these lines:

The triumph for grass roots democracy seen in the presidential election of Obama last year, cuts both ways: to big central planning idealists like Obama, but also to small government idealists like Ron Paul.

This means that the previously dominant gamers and tacticians in politics (Karl Rove, Josh Lyman, Bill Clinton), who downplay substance and the ideas of candidates and who look primarily to the sport of political contests (the horse race metaphor), are now less important than they have been for ages.

Triangulating, seeking the middle ground between poles, which was the hall mark of Clintonian politics, is a process beloved of journalists and the media who seek to commentate on political contests without openly engaging with the merits of the ideas being fought over.

Obama's win was a win for a politician of ideas, however goofy (hope'n change anyone?). Grass roots conservative citizens have seen now that idea politicians can win. This has defused the logic and power of the once powerful political tacticians in the GOP, who would advocate non-confrontational moderates in contestable seats, because winning the idea debate wasn't the point, winning was the point.
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But in the current atmosphere in the US citizens want a debate about the ideas. The question seems to be: is more Government the answer? Enough electors are seeking authenticity from their representatives on this issue, that candidates who vacillate and triangulate and whose positions on such issues are suspected of being merely convenient, are losing. Hilary might even be characterised as having lost the Democratic presidential primary race for being identified as the smarter politician, but lacking authenticity.

The message of the current race for the New York House race for congressional district New York 23 seems to be the same. The old back room political wisdom that you need to find a compromise candidate who won't scare the horses if you are to win tight contests, is losing ground. Dede Scozzafava was a moderate Republican with a public profile as a former mayor of a town in the district. She was the "safe" moderate candidate for a New York district. Doug Hoffman was a boring accountant who nominated for the same vacant GOP seat, but was overlooked by the party grandees (there was no primary for procedural reasons) who nominated Scozzafava.

Apparently Glenn Beck on Fox TV and Rush Limbaugh on syndicated radio didn't think much of Scozzafava due to her "liberal" voting record, so they and other right of centre commentators publicly got behind the fiscally conservative climate sceptic, Hoffman. And what's happened so far?

Hoffman jumped out to a big lead in the polls early, with the Democrat, a Pelosi loyalist named Bill Owens, in second place with Scozzafava third. Next the GOP tacticians went to work on Scozzafava to prevent the conservative vote being spilt to let Owens through the middle. Over the weekend she did the seemingly honourable thing, and stood aside (that was big news), but then dropped an even bigger bombshell, she endorsed Owens, the Democrat. The GOP is not impressed. Boehner and Gingrich had put considerable weight behind her candidacy for the GOP and political donations of over $1 million had been put into her GOP campaign for the seat. She has thrown egg in their faces.

Now the question is, can a non-GOP "small government" candidate beat a Democrat on Tuesday in a New York State congressional district? The late polling suggests Hoffman has the "mo" to win.

This would be a serious blow to the O's political cred. If the current governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey also go to against the Democrat's (and even if they split), then the O's honeymoon is not just over, he could visibly be in the doghouse. This could permanently cripple his government run healthcare agenda and the carbon cap and trade legislation (Waxman Markey) would be doomed.

What it means for the GOP is even more interesting. The conventional wisdom in the press has been conspicuously wrong or confused on this to date. The press is a natural supporter of the horse race school of political commentary, which is a losing horse at the moment. They will interpret (spin) this development as a set back for the GOP, because it looks like the GOP is fragmenting. But the bigger picture is that there appears to be a real coalescing of conservative voter support for small government idealists. If the GOP can appropriately adapt to this by recognising the clear signals being given from voters, it could march back in spades in the mid-terms in 2010, and give Obama a real contest in 2012.

There are some minor echoes and repercussions for this in Australian politics (can Malcolm, the tactician, survive?), but the real casualty in the short term could be the Copenhagen Climate Conference in early December. If Nobel laureate Obama is now losing his political clout, then there is less likelihood that he would be prepared to risk what's left with a strong endorsement for really painful carbon reduction commitments in any accord coming out of Copenhagen. There are plenty of hints that the only real chance for meaningful commitments at Copenhagen would be if Obama appeared there in force, actively arm twisting other nations to accept steep carbon emmission reductions.

Is that likely?

UPDATE:

GOP has easily won the Virginia and New Jersey governor's races.

DEMs narrowly win the notionally conservative NY 23 rd congressional district, with the "moderate" GOP candidate (Deidre Scozzafava) finishing third after quitting the campaign and endorsing the DEM candidate over an independent conservative candidate, who finished a close second.

The lessons here seem to be:

For the DEMs: Obama's support can't save marginal Democrat candidates.

For the GOP: Conservative voters won't vote for non-conservative GOP candidates.

For Copenhagen Climate Conference: Obama unlikley to be able to deliver on US committments to deep carbon cuts.


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