Tuesday, July 24, 2012

why earthlings should leave Think Tanks to the libertarian SkyGods

Helping others murder our planet - with our own tax dollars !

For every one dollar in annual income that earthling oriented (aka green,steady state, perhaps a few of the left) think tanks have, the SkyGod libertarians have $1000.

There are about 10,000 think tanks world wide and most of the ones we could even begin to call earthling (and Earth) friendly are small in income, small in numbers, in uncertain health or already effectively moribund.

The vast number that are both very rich and very active in their strident advocacy are the libertarian denier tankers.

We earthlings only add our considerable credibility ( precious and scarce) to the alleged legitimacy of the thousands of denier tanks by supporting the idea of think tanks in general.

If instead, we steered totally clear of them - instead of trying to feebly compete within their world - we could then strongly denounce them and all of their works as that of the Devil.

This is because all advocacy think tanks are but a money laundering scheme.

Albeit the sort of money laundering Yale and Oxfords grads would get into : morally dubious but perfectly legal (who writes the laws after all ?) and highly profitable for all concerned.

Life was so much more straight forward in the 1940s.

Just before election day, the boss put a little piece of paper in your pay packet, telling you that if you voted for Party X on Tuesday, you could kiss your job good bye on Friday - and then he signed it.

He ran ads in the newspaper saying the same thing - and he signed it.

Flash forward to today.

Now the super rich 1% have their tax free family foundations donate to tax free charities called strident advocacy libertarian think tanks.

The think tank then pays an unknown denier with just enough degrees to be called "a scientist" or "an academic" to "author" a "book" and then do a "book tour" of the world denying climate change at think tank sponsored "seminars".

Since the super rich own or control all the big media, they ensure their employees "cover" these meetings like the dew, and then splash the contents on their front pages and TV screens for all of us to endure.

Just imagine how ineffective a denial would be that insists burning coal does not cause smoke pollution , if delivered by a coal mining heiress  in all of her newspaper chain ?

Even Stephen Harper might see through that gauze !

Now imagine if our obese heiress choose instead to launder her money through foundations to think tanks and tame publishing firms and tame newspapers.

So now it appears that a 'disinterested, objective' academic had delivered this 'balanced review' of the evidence for and against coal's atmospheric effects and rendered a reasonable verdict in favour of the innocent coal mines.

All are opinions but not all opinions are EQUAL

Look there is already a place for people who claim to be either (or both) academics and scientists : it is called inside peer-reviewed papers.

The best science and academic journals demand so much transparency on your data, funding and conflict of interest that 99.999999999999999% of advocacy think tank research would never make it past this first hurdle.

Next your toughest critics are asked to tear your actual data apart and if the editor doesn't feel you answered them effectively, you're dead.

Pass these two stages and the hardest by far still remains : "is what you are saying truly new and if so is it global enough in IMPACT to make other people outside your narrow field waste their time to read it ?"

Getting a paper into NATURE or SCIENCE or about 10 to 20 others is rather like how a Patent Office should work - but rarely does - patents then would only be issued for truly new and workable processes.

The advantage of a paper in NATURE for over-busy  journalists is obvious : it has been pre-vetted, you don't have to read it or think about it, merely act as a public steno and paraphrase its abstract to your readers.

Journalists who are over-busy and under-intellectualized dig themselves even deeper into the quicksand : they don't bother to check to see if the paper they are being pitched has seen a peer-review, they don't read the paper.

They read the author's CV , if it is more impressive than the journalist's, then they are regarded as an expert and even an academic and a scientist.

So an economist whose life work has been Iowa pork belly futures is allowed to spout off opinions about climate changes effects on the ocean currents of the  South Pacific.

I spout off opinions - all the time, I am a blogger - but I never claim to be an expert/scientist or an academic on the subject : just a blogger with an opinion.

And, by design, I have no CV full of  expert credentials .

Most journalists trying to assess the value of my opinion need both time and the ability to contrast it with the widely held scientific or academic consensus on the subject, before they could tell if it is worth them passing on to their readers.

My blog opinion then is in the same position as a big think tank's new policy paper : it is merely a bucket of spit until conventional peer review or a bunch of smart competitive journalists or perhaps the entire blog-o-sphere has assessed it thoroughly.

All this takes much time, thinking , researching, reflecting , re-reading and reflecting again.

It is a process, not an event ; it is ongoing and never stops.

It is all just opinions or hunches.

Sometime those hunches come in fancy dress : theories or hypotheses.

But all - from dashed-off blogger rant to cover article in NATURE - are just opinions.

But some opinions, like reports from NATURE or SCIENCE or LANCET or the IPPC have a much bigger and deeper consensus around them than others : thoroughly peer-reviewed articles from the biggest journals and the biggest international panels.

Think tank funders - the greedy libertarians - crave that sort of prestige and credibility.

But being lazy as well as greedy, libertarians want all of that  without going through all the rigour and dreaded transparency of peer-review.

Libertarianism ( and think tanks) is the natural home of the hard-to-get-along-with academics who tank in the world of collegiality.

the poet Longfellow had great advice

If we earthlings let them, they will fall back on the pseudo academic halo of the think tanks.

But we shouldn't let them ; we should abandon all of our side's feeble think tanks and denounce the entire concept of think tanks as intellectual money laundering.

To paraphrase the poet Longfellow:  if Gina loves Priscilla of the Desert, great - but she should tell Priscilla herself - not pay some john inside Canberra's The Triangle to do it for her.

Gina, go pimp your own opinions ......

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