Whaling for a big Gerry Mander

Ever heard of a gerrymander? Yep, that’s what happened for many years in Queensland, when Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s National Party held power there with as little as 20% of the popular vote.

Anyway, here’s Cameron Slater – and again, and again, and again – advocating that New Zealand’s National Party should be advocating a vote against MMP:

News flash National, all your political enemies are conspiring to retain MMP and pouring lots of time, effort and money into it and some in National are even helping them. Silence is no longer an option, silence in 1993 on the issue is what got you 9 long years in opposition and silence is what will see your coalition partners disappear, and with it your chances of governing again for a very long time.

Slater’s argument is about as unprincipled as it gets. He is advocating gerrymandering the electoral system to make it less fair and less proportional because that would advantage the political right by giving the National Party a share of seats in Parliament well in excess of their share of the popular vote.

I somehow suspect he wouldn’t be running that argument if ACT were polling 12%, rather than being terminally ill at 1.2%.

Bad, bad, bad Greens for encouraging people to obey the law

The Young Greens are running a campaign to encourage people, particularly young people, to enrol to vote.

As a gimmick aspect of the campaign, it has a few prizes – the Greens are offering an incentive to encourage people to comply with the law – enrolling to vote (as opposed to actually voting) is compulsory under our electoral law.

But (suspiciously, within minutes of each other) blog posts appeared today from the Nats’ attack team of Cameron Slater and David Farrar, attacking the Greens for encouraging people to comply with electoral law.

I guess Slater and Farrar figure that a low enrollment increases the Nats’ probability of retaining power. So much for the commitment of the political right to encouraging democratic participation. They have decided that is against the interests of the Party they support, and the end of re-electing a National-led government justifies the means of discouraging democratic participation to ensure that end is achieved.

Huge Whale fail on MMP referendum

Cameron Slater, most likely deliberately, has got it completely wrong  on the MMP referendum.  Slater blogs:

Some peo­ple are already sug­gest­ing that MMP should be reformed but that is not the ques­tion in this ref­er­en­dum. What we are being asked to do is choose MMP warts and all as it cur­rently stands, or vote for change. If we vote for change then we can choose one of four other systems.

If you like MMP just as it is then vote for that option, if you like any­thing else, includ­ing a changed MMP sys­tem then Vote for Change.

That’s utter crap! There are lots of voters who think aspects of MMP could be improved. But the referendum process specifically allows for a review of MMP to consider such potential improvements should MMP be endorsed – see sections 74 and 75 and 76 of the Electoral Referendum Act 2010.

76 Scope of review
(1) The matters that the Electoral Commission must review are—
(a) the requirement that a party must achieve at least 5% of the total number of party votes before it may be eligible to be allocated the number of list seats (if any) needed to ensure that the party’s total number of seats reflects its proportion of the total party vote; and
(b) the alternative requirement that a candidate of a party must win an electorate seat before the party may be eligible to be allocated the number of list seats (if any) needed to ensure that the party’s total number of seats reflects its proportion of the total party vote; and
(c) the ratio of electorate seats to list seats that results—
(i) from the effects of population change on the number of general electorate seats; or
(ii) if a party’s constituency candidates have won more seats than the party would be entitled to as a result of the party vote; and
Dual candidacy
(d) the capacity of a person at a general election to be both a candidate for an electoral district and a candidate whose name is included in a party list in a general election, and the capacity of a member of Parliament who holds a list seat to be a candidate in a by-election; and
Order of candidates on party lists
(e) a party’s ability to determine the order of candidates on its party list and the inability of voters to rank list candidates in order of preference; and
Other matters
(f) any other feature of the voting system referred to the Commission under section 5(d) of the 1993 Act.
(2) In addition to the matters specified in subsection (1), the Electoral Commission may, in undertaking the review, consider other aspects of the mixed member proportional representation voting system.
(3) Despite subsections (1)(f) and (2), the Electoral Commission must not review—
(a) Māori representation:
(b) the number of members of Parliament.

A huge fail on the facts for Slater, and an indication that the anti-democratic forces the “Vote for Change ” people represent are going to play an evidence-averse dirty game.

Wingnuts Wishart and Whale wet themselves – several times

Our favourite wingnut conspiracy theorists Ian Wishart and Cameron Slater must have had to buy in additional stocks of adult diapers over the weekend, such was their excitement over the release of emails stolen from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit.

Wishart has managed three posts on the topic in the last four days, as has Whale.

Now, lets start with what happened. Someone hacked into the University of East Anglia’s mail server and stole – yes it is a criminal offence – a 61MB mail file. Does it not occur to Wishart, Whale and the other right wing climate cranks that someone sufficiently dishonest to hack a mail server and steal a mail file is also likely to be sufficiently dishonest to doctor a few of the emails to enhance the effect before release. No, that wouln’t fit their conspiracy theory, would it.

Whale blathers on about:

…an elite group of climate scientists have conspired to massage data, dodging scrutiny, hounding out sceptical editors, fudging figures, the possibly criminal destruction of data under FOI request, tax avoidance, gloating over a sceptic’s death, character assassination of sceptics. admissions of using “tricks” to “hide” inconvenient trends, farming grants, private admissions of grave doubts in their own public warming warnings, close collusion with green groups, the joint concocting of the most alarmist announcements and much more.

Well, a 661MB mail file contains thousands of emails, and I don’t have the time to read all of them. Nor would Wishart, Whale and their fellow cranks. But from what I have read, and it seems that the emails have been selectively released, there is nothing to justify the extravagant claims they are making.

Take the using “tricks to hide inconvenient trends” bit. That’s been thoroughly debunked at RealClimate:

Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the ‘trick’ is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term “trick” to refer to a “a good way to deal with a problem”, rather than something that is “secret”, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem”–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

Good science, rather than the deception the cranks would have us believe.

None of the other generalised allegations stack up either, although I have to admit the email about possibly destroying data to avoid Freedom of Information Act requests, if it was genuine, was unwise (although I’ve seen no evidence that any data was actually destroyed, and I can understand the frustration of scientists having to deal with a never-ending flood of infromation requests from cranks).

Wishart likes to think of himself as an investigative journalist. Perhaps he could turn his skills to investigating who stole the University of East Anglia’s mail file and what their motive was, rather than use the episode to promote his thoroughly discredited crank book.