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Monckton and the mob Gareth Renowden May 22

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Scrotum stood looking down King Street towards St James’s Square. The spring wind was chill, and the young leaves on the trees in the square were struggling to look green. The old fashioned street lights gleamed on the rain-swept road and glistening pavements. He pulled his collar up around his neck, tugged at his trilby and shivered. This was no night for an assignation, this was a night to pour the Laird a stiff snifter of Glenfarclas in his suite at Pratt’s and to then retire to the kitchen for a drink with the Georges. A fresh blast of rain blew down over Christies and bounced off the front of the Golden Lion. He retreated to the shelter of a doorway and sighed. His breath swept out of his nostrils and hung in a brief mist before being beaten to the ground by the ice-sharpened rain. The things he did for the cause…

Monckton, meanwhile, was relaxing in front of the fire in his rooms at the club, sketching out some notes for the keynote he expected to deliver in Chicago in a few days. It would be a triumphant return, he was sure, though he thought he had detected some reluctance from his American comrades in arms in the great climate fight to pick up the tab for his first class airfare and extra baggage allowance. Perhaps Scrotum could travel in a trunk in the hold? He would phone British Airways in the morning.

Scrotum looked at his watch. A quarter past eleven. He snorted. Five more minutes, and he would be off. A soft whistle began to echo down the deserted street. The Third Man theme. Scrotum smiled and stepped out onto the pavement, but a hand reached out and grabbed his coat, pulling him back into the doorway. A voice hissed into his ear.

’For God’s sake, man, remember your tradecraft.’ It was Mycroft Monckton, the Laird’s twin – the evil twin, he called him – the opposite of his Lordship in every way. Denied the title and family seat in the House Of Lords lavatory by the accident of being born ten minutes after Christopher, Mycroft prided himself of being everything that his brother wasn’t. Subtlety was his greatest attribute, and though he lost very few opportunities to embarrass his sibling, he always did it with great style.

’Bloody hell, you gave me a fright,’ Scrotum croaked. ’If you’re here, who’s that whistling over there?’

’The mob,’ Mycroft replied, pulling Scrotum through the door and into an oak panelled reception. He pushed the door closed. ’I had to borrow this place in a hurry. There have been developments. Follow me.’

Mycroft opened a door and stepped into what looked like a broom cupboard. He tapped the back wall. It swung open to reveal a staircase heading towards the basement. ’Come on, man, hurry up,’ he said, setting a brisk pace down the worn stone steps.

It seemed to Scrotum that were descending into the very depths of the city. The ground rumbled beneath his feet, suggesting they were near a Tube line. The walls began to glisten with rancid damp. Yellowing old posters clung to the walls – it must have been part of a of bomb shelter during the last war. His knees began to ache at the unaccustomed exertion and his breath came in short pants, bringing unbidden memories of childhood.

At last they reached a large room lit by a few yellowing bulbs. Chairs were arranged around a table at the centre. A single old fashioned black telephone, the handset cord worn and knotted, stood at one end.

’Churchill used that phone, y’know,’ said Mycroft, seating himself in front of it. ’Tea!’, he called out loudly, and a young woman emerged from the gloom carrying two large, chipped white mugs.

’Milk, two sugars’, she said to Scrotum. He nodded, surprised that his personal tastes were so well known. He sipped at the brown liquid. It was hot and tannic.

’What’s going on, Mycroft? I thought we were just meeting to run over arrangements for the Laird’s next trip to Chicago. A bit of rabble-rousing at the Heartland climate conference. Standard stuff, same as the last few years. You want me to tape some of the backroom goings-on…’

’He’s not going to Chicago,’ said Mycroft.

Scrotum coughed and spluttered in surprise. ’What? Nobody’s told him. Why on earth not?’

’Usual thing. He went a bit too far.’

Scrotum tugged at a pendulous ear lobe. ’You mean the Unabomber billboard affair?’ Mycroft nodded. ’But I thought that was a huge success?’ A puzzled look spread from Scrotum’s eyes and found easy purchase on the wrinkles crinkling around his chin.

’From our point of view, yes,’ said Mycroft. ’Heartland made to look like vulgar idiots, their backers withdrawing left and centre, big coal being forced to step out of the shadows and front up with money. All good stuff.’

Scrotum sipped his tea and recalled the numerous phone calls between Tannochbrae and Chicago a month ago, the long ’marketing plan’ the Laird had put together for Joe Bast, the helpful artwork he’d drawn up for an advertising campaign. ’This’ll make the buggers sit up and pay attention,’ he’d said.

To begin with, the Chicago lobbyists hadn’t been too keen on Monckton’s proposals. ’Hitler’s passé,’ Bast had said. ’Doesn’t test well with the focus groups. They seem to think he was a vegetarian and liked cats. Might be different in England.’

The Laird had been non-plussed. His plus fours were around his ankles in surprise, pantalogically speaking.

’I always find that an occasional swastika goes down well with the base,’ he said.

’We are aware of your thinking,’ Bast replied icily. ’But I want the Unabomber and Bin Laden. Hitler and Lulu are out, and that’s final.’

’What about my poster designs?’, Monckton asked plaintively.

’They’ll do,’ Bast had replied. ’The first one’s up tomorrow.’

’Great,’ said Monckton. ’Now, about my conference keynote…’

’We’ll get back to you,’ said Bast. The line had gone dead, and Monckton’s brow had ruffled with odd thoughts and insecurities. Surely they still loved him?

Scrotum dragged his wandering thoughts back to the present. ’So what’s the problem?’, he asked Mycroft. ’He was supposed to get Heartland into hot water.’

’Yes, but not to give them third degree burns. Not only will they never trust him again – which means we’ve wasted a lot of time and effort in making him into an unwitting double agent – but some of the more excitable Americans have hired a hit team to ‘take him out’, as I believe the cousins put it.’

’Good God.’ Scrotum was shocked. ’You mean the guy in the street was a hit man? You said ‘the mob’. You mean mafia?’

’Nothing that mundane,’ said Mycroft. ’A team of former special forces operatives who normally ride shotgun for Bankroll Barry, the last big Heartland backer. We call them The Mob because they come from Chicago and like to go around in fours.’

Scrotum whistled softly. ’So the Laird’s in danger.’

’Yes. They know he’s in London. We think they’ve had a little help from inside the Pentagon, which is why that bloke in the street knew our signal. My best guess is that they were planning to snatch you then force you to lead them to Chris.’

Scrotum turned a whiter shade of pale. The room was spinning harder, and his mind was turning cartwheels across the floor. He steadied himself with a deep draught of tepid tea.

’Do they know he’s in Pratt’s?’

’We’re not sure,’ said Mycroft grimly. ’We need you to get him out of there, and to a place of safety.’

Scrotum leaned across the table towards Mycroft, and listened to a machine gun list of instructions.

’Got that?’, said Mycroft.

’Roger,’ said Scrotum.

***

The trip back to Pratt’s had left the wrinkled retainer as short of breath as he was short in stature. Mycroft’s young assistant had ushered him through a warren of tunnels and past a multitude of doors. Passages spread out into the gloom like the tentacles of a particularly armful octopus, a decapod of directions, but only one led to the cellar at the Laird’s club. At the foot of the steps, the black-stockinged young lady had thrust a little phone-like object into his hand.

’What’s this?’, he’d asked.

’A one-time routefinder,’ she’d explained. ’Follow the green arrow on the screen, and it will take you to the rendezvous.’

The Laird was unimpressed by Scrotum’s appearance – the retainer was puffing, sweat dripped off his long lank eyebrows, and there was a wild look in his eye.

’What’s the matter with you, man. You look like you’ve just seen, or possibly shagged, a ghost!’ Monckton took a sip of whisky and leaned back in his chair, which creaked alarmingly. ’Now, listen to this…’

’Your lordship,’ Scrotum raised his voice to an unaccustomed pitch and tried to look severe, ’your life is in danger. We must leave the club now.’

’What poppycock!’ cried Monckton. ’Who would want to bring harm to me?’ His brow furrowed, and seagulls gathered behind the plough looking for worms. ’Unless…’ He paused. ’It’s the enviro-fascist left, isn’t it? It’s the UN-sponsored green Nazis who can’t tolerate open debate. They’ve given up on beasts of prey and are about to resort to…’ He paused again. ’What are they about to resort to, Scrotum?’

’I have no idea, your lordship,’ said Scrotum, ’but I am assured your life is in danger.’ He sidled to the window and pushed the curtain cautiously until he could see down to the street. In a doorway opposite he could see four men in trenchcoats carrying what looked like violin cases. ’Look,’ he said, waving Monckton towards the window.

Monckton peeped around the edge of the window. ’Blimey,’ he said. ’You think they’re after me?’

’I’d move back from the window if I were you sir,’ said Scrotum, pushing the Laird a trifle too firmly, sending him staggering backwards into his chair. As Monckton collapsed into the old leather, the window made a loud cracking noise and a little round hole appeared in the curtain material. A bullet buried itself in the ceiling and dropped a little spurt of plaster onto Monckton’s silvery pate. The Laird began to whimper softly, clutching his arms across his chest and swaying backwards and forwards. ’Get me out of here, Scrotum,’ he cried. ’For pity’s sake..’

’For your father’s sake, sir, I will.’

***

They’d been in the tunnels for at least a quarter of an hour. Monckton had insisted on putting on his anti-raptor body armour and solar topee, and was beginning to perspire furiously as he struggled to keep up with the old retainer’s new found fleetness of foot.

’Stop here for a moment, will you?’, he said hoarsely. ’I need to catch my breath.’

Scrotum looked at the routefinder, then at his watch, and nodded. He pulled a handkerchief from the breast pocket of his tired black suit and mopped the Laird’s brow. It was deathly quiet down here, just an occasional drip of water from the ceiling, and then a strange susuration wandered down the tunnel to the two men’s ears. It sounded as though a group of people were grunting ’hear hear’ in unison. It meant nothing to Scrotum, but Monckton’s ears pricked up like a terrier’s, and his nose twitched like one of the beagles he’d hunted at Cambridge. He began to walk slowly down the tunnel towards the sound, muttering to himself. Scrotum followed, listening intently. The Laird was chanting softly to himself. ’The Lords, My Lords, Lords temporal, Lords templars…’

Scrotum knew he had to move fast. They were obviously under the Houses of Parliament, and Monckton was back in the thrall of that odd place. Ever since they’d told him he was not and could never be a member of the House of Lords, the Laird had wanted nothing else. He was prone to interminable fugues of lust for parliamentary status, aching with desire to sit on the cross benches and guffaw along with all the others, to the free bus pass and privileged use of gold-painted Boris bikes that was their preserve.

Monckton pressed his ear to a grating in the wall. A tear formed in the corner of his eye and his lower lip quivered. Scrotum looked at his watch, shrugged his shoulders and gave the Laird a swift but servile kick to the fork. Monckton yelled in pain, and looked around to chastise his attacker. Scrotum grabbed his arm, and got him moving once more.

’Sorry, sir,’ he said softly. ’But we have to hurry. The mob may yet be on our tail.’

***

The grating was heavy. Through the thick bars Scrotum could see trees and lights against a dark sky. He wedged his back against the iron and pushed up as hard as he could. The grating popped up easily, and his head emerged in the middle of a pavement. A couple of passers-by looked at him in astonishment. He touched his forelock and smiled at them, then reached down into the hole to help Monckton climb the last few rungs of the ladder. While Monckton dusted himself off, Scrotum looked around. They were under the London Eye, the gleaming white ferris wheel that whirls tourists around above the Thames. The river was black and choppy, the South Bank walk almost deserted – except for four men carrying violin cases, trotting towards them from the direction of the Festival Hall. Scrotum tugged at the hem of his Lordship’s coat, and pulled him towards the bottom of the great wheel. Where the hell was Mycroft?

Even at this late hour there were a few hardy souls lining up for the Eye. Scrotum and his master brushed past the queue, muttering apologies and trying to look inconspicuous, but their chasers were closing fast. When they reached the ticket office, Mycroft appeared from nowhere and whisked them through the gate and into one of the glass pods. He closed the door.

’We’re safe for now,’ he said with a grim smile. ’Well, Chris, what have you done to deserve this?’

’Mycroft, thank god you’re here,’ Monckton gasped. ’It must be the enviro-fascists. I must be getting close to the heart of their conspiracy to impose a one-world socialist government funded by carbon taxes on every living thing.’

’They’re a bit closer to home, I think you’ll find,’ said Mycroft. ’Those four men…’ He waved at the men as they jumped over the ticket barrier, knocked aside the uniformed attendants and sprinted for the next pod. ’They’re from Chicago.’

Monckton frowned. ’You don’t mean…’

’I do,’ said Mycroft. ’They’re associates of your friends in the windy city, upset that your marketing plan and poster design has got them into such deep trouble.’

The pod began to rise up above the river, and the lights of the London skyline began to spread out around them. In the pod behind, the four mobsters were opening their violin cases and extracting weapons of considerable sophistication. A blob of laser light started to bob around Monckton’s body. The Laird began to shimmy and shiver in as impressive display of the frug as Scrotum had ever seen.

’Don’t worry, Chris,’ said Mycroft. ’This glass is bullet proof. You’re quite safe for the time being.’

’What do you mean, for the time being?’, asked Monckton querulously.

’Well, we have to get you out of here,’ said Mycroft. ’They’ll have a chance to get a few shots off if they’re quick.’ Monckton’s face took on a ghostly pallor, and his shaking intensified.

***

High up on the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster a huge golden eagle stretched its wings and preened an out of place feather. Below its razor sharp talons the clock chimed the quarter hour. Aethon was ready for action.

***

The next twenty minutes passed more slowly than any other period of Monckton’s long and incident-packed life. The mobsters had passed out of sight below their feet as the pod had swung up into the sky, but as they approached the top they came back into view. They were sitting on the bench, their guns trained on Monckton. Mycroft opened his briefcase and pulled out a leather harness.

The Laird laughed. ’Aha, Mycroft. Your secret is revealed. You are a fan of leather and restraint. Now I know why Nanny left us all those years ago…’

’Very funny, Chris,’ said Mycroft. ’Help him to put this on, Scrotum. It’s important that the big loop reach above his head.’ Scrotum fiddled with the buckles and straps while Mycroft opened a panel in the ceiling and began to turn a handle. The roof began to split open. The mobsters were milling around their pod, obviously trying to work out what Mycroft was doing.

As the pod reached the top of its arc above the great city, Mycroft stopped winding the handle. ’Right, brother,’ he said, ’we’re going to give you a boost up so that you can climb out onto the roof.’

’I’ll do no such thing,’ said Monckton, looking truculent. ’I’ll fall to my death.’

’I won’t be able to protect you from those mobsters when we get to the bottom,’ said Mycroft. ’It’s my way or a coffin. Your choice.’

Monckton protested, but stuck his courage to the sticking post and clambered up Mycroft and onto Scrotum’s shoulders until his head and shoulders were out of the pod. Scrotum could see that the mobsters had worked out how to open the roof of their pod. It wouldn’t be long before they were able to get a shot at the Laird. ’You better get a move on,’ he said to Mycroft, who was busy pressing buttons on his mobile phone.

Monckton was oblivious to the danger. He scrambled up on to the roof of the pod and began to look around. The view was amazing. London was laid out at his feet like a brightly lit model city crawling with life, stacked with stories. What tales it could tell, he thought. He got to his feet, spread his arms and shouted ’Look at me, Ma! Top of the world!’

A bullet whizzed over his shoulder. Monckton yelled, and then his voice was drowned by a raucous scream as a giant eagle swooped down and grabbed the loop in the leather harness. More bullets whizzed past his feet as the great bird flapped its wings and lifted him out of the spotlights and towards the stars.

Scrotum watched his master’s departure and the outrage on the faces of the gunmen, and smiled at Mycroft. ’Nicely done,’ he said.

’Thanks,’ Mycroft nodded. ’It means you’ll be in hiding for a while, of course. Low profile, not Tannochbrae or Australia.’

’Understood,’ said Scrotum, taking the glass of Pol Roger Mycroft had poured. ’But what about them?’, he said, waving at the mobsters.

’I think the SAS has plans for them. And I have an idea too…’

[The Third Man]

This is the sixth tale in The Monckton Files.

Previous episodes:

Monckton & The Case Of The Missing Curry,

Mycroft Monckton Makes Mischief,

Something Potty In The State Of Denmark,

Monckton in Australia: Picnic at Hanging Sock.

A Carol for Monckton.

Poisonous Heartland, twisted billboards Gareth Renowden May 04

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The Heartland Institute, the Chicago-based right wing think tank notorious for its coordination, organisation and funding of climate denial around the world (including New Zealand), has set new standards for bad taste by launching an advertising campaign for its upcoming climate “conference” that compares those who want action on climate change to terrorists, murderers and tyrants. The first billboard, featuring “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, appeared beside the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago yesterday:

Heartbomb

Jim Lakely, Heartland’s Director of Communications outlines the campaign:

The billboard series features Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber; Charles Manson, a mass murderer; and Fidel Castro, a tyrant. Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee (who took hostages inside the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in 2010).

These rogues and villains were chosen because they made public statements about how man-made global warming is a crisis and how mankind must take immediate and drastic actions to stop it.

So have the Pope and the Dalai Lama. Are those august personages “rogues and villains” too?

Heartland’s press release ploughs on:

…what these murderers and madmen have said differs very little from what spokespersons for the United Nations, journalists for the ’mainstream’ media, and liberal politicians say about global warming.

Of course, not all global warming alarmists are murderers or tyrants.

Let’s be thankful for small mercies.

This despicable little campaign smacks of desperation. Unable to win any scientific argument, or to bend an ever-warming reality to its political views, and faced with dwindling interest from the mainstream media in the US, Heartland has resorted to tawdry sensationalism in an attempt to draw attention to its pathetic little denialist networking event. For an organisation that has made a specialism of breathtaking hypocrisy, this sets new standards. But don’t expect Bast & co, or any of their speakers and supporters to apologise. I confidently predict that the high horses that are so promptly mounted when any sceptic perceives the faintest slight will have mysteriously disappeared to some distant paddock. And yes, Anthony Watts, I’m looking at you…

See also: Leo Hickman at The Guardian.

Update: The internet is on the case:

Heartlandkittens

(hat tip: Daniel Bird)

[Richard Thompson]

The Bast Effect: summertime in wintertime Gareth Renowden Mar 18

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Forget the Gore Effect1, Chicago — and much of the eastern half of the continental USA — is now experiencing the Bast Effect — a record March heatwave in the Heartland of climate denial. The figures for this heatwave are truly extraordinary. Here’s Jeff Masters:

For the third consecutive day, Chicago, Illinois hit their warmest temperature on record so early in the year, going back to 1872. The mercury hit 82°F, giving the city its third consecutive day of 80°+ temperatures, smashing the old record by a month. Previously, the earliest Chicago had ever seen three consecutive 80 degree days was back on April 14 – 16, 1976.

Masters quotes the National Weather Service:

Chicago and Rockford have both broken high temperature records 3 days in a row and will likely break record highs for 5 days in a row. There is even the potential they could tie or break record highs for 6 or 7 days in a row depending on how warm temperatures get on Monday and Tuesday. It is extraordinarily rare for climate locations with 100+ year long periods of records to break records day after day after day. At the current pace… it is likely that Chicago and Rockford will not only break… but shatter their current record warmest Marches.

Joe Romm at Climate Progress has a very useful overview of the event, drawing heavily on the views of Masters and the Weather Channel’s Stu Ostro.

Even the most committed US denier can’t fail to notice midsummer weather happening in March, coming on top of a very mild winter. This is exactly the sort of extreme weather event that can drive public opinion in the direction of the need for action. It’s large, widespread and not too damaging (so far), yet undeniable. One can only hope that US politicians notice. And it might be a good idea to invite Bast to give a few talks outside Illinois…

[Badly Drawn Boy]

  1. The occurrence of cold weather in a place where Al Gore talks about global warming

(Not So Simple) Twist Of Fate Gareth Renowden Feb 21

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Something I didn’t expect: Peter Gleick, the director of the Pacific Institute, a vocal opponent of climate denial and a highly respected scientist, turns out to have been behind the leak of the Heartland Institute board meeting documents that have been creating waves for the last week. Gleick made the admission in an article at Huffington Post earlier today (NZ). He reports that he received:

…an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute’s climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute’s apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it.

In order to attempt to verify that document’s contents, he:

…solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name. The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget.

Gleick goes on to apologise for what he calls “a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics”.

As you might expect, the usual suspects are all over Gleick’s admission like a rash, but it’s important to retain some perspective here. The people so ready to decry Gleick’s actions were notably silent about the theft and release of private emails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. The Heartland Institute was central to promoting discussion of those emails, and continues to paint their contents as a scandal. Their hypocrisy, and that of Watts, McIntyre and the rest of the Heartland fellow travellers, is breathtaking.

Nevertheless, Gleick should not have done what he did. However valuable the public service he performed in exposing the reality of Heartland’s climate lobbying and the roots of its funding — and that information is hugely important to any “rational discussion” of why, more than 20 years after the problem was first identified, the USA and the world remains unable to take meaningful action on emissions reductions — the means he chose were not those we would expect from a respected senior scientist.

However this plays out in the longer term, it’s clear that Peter Gleick played the role of whistleblower, bringing the attention of the world to the nefarious activities of a well-funded right wing lobby group with mysterious “anonymous donors” and zero accountability for their actions. It’s a job that any worthwhile investigative journalist would have loved to have done — and which should have been done long ago.

Together with the sterling efforts of John Mashey, the leaked documents confirm in detail what many had suspected. Heartland have made a career out of subverting the truth, the law, and the democratic process.

Gleick might pay a heavy price for his indiscretion, however laudable his goals. Heartland, its funders and the pet “scientists” on their payroll must be made to pay the higher price. Their actions have condemned future generations to far worse than any lapse of judgement or ethics. The real price of Heartland’s policies will be paid in human suffering, and for that there will be no forgiveness.

See also; The Guardian, George Monbiot on why We need to know who funds these tinktank lobbyists, Union of Concerned Scientists report on How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public’s Expense, Josh Rosenau on parallels between Heartland’s climate “education” tactics and that of creationists, plus Peter Sinclair on Heartland’s abject pleading for tobacco money as recently as 1999 — and let’s not forget they arer still getting it today, and are happy to have a “smoker’s lounge” on their web site.

[Amongst many, I like KT Tunstall, Jeff Tweedy and Bryan Ferry, but there's also a worthy Diana Krall, and of course His Bobness when he could remember how to sing.]

What becomes of the broken Heartland? Gareth Renowden Feb 20

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The ramifications of last week’s leak of internal documents from the Heartland Institute — the US lobby group up to its neck in organised climate denial in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and perhaps elsewhere — continue to make news. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Heartland money was used to fund Aussie climate denial campaigners in 2009 and 2010, with funds channelled through the “American Climate Science Coalition” — a member of the coterie of climate “science” coalitions spun off from the New Zealand original with Heartland funding. Heartland’s charitable status in the US — which allows donors to the group to claim a 30% tax deduction (effectively a tax-payer subsidy of Heartland activities) — is being called into question as a result of the latest Mashey report into the links between Fred Singer and Heartland, and the dodgy nature of Heartland’s overseas grants. There have also been calls for some of Heartland’s large corporate donors to cease providing financial support for an organisation so steeped in climate denial.

The Sydney Morning Herald‘s investigation traced payments to Australian denial groups:

Documents from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show that a group funded by the Heartland Institute, via a thicket of other foundations and think tanks, provided the vast majority of the cash for an anti-carbon price lobby group in Australia in 2009 and 2010.

The Australian Climate Science Coalition, an offshoot of a conservative lobby group called the Australian Environment Foundation, received virtually all its funding from the International Climate Science Coalition, which has been financially supported by Heartland.

In 2010, the Australian group had an income of $50,920, and $46,343 of that came from the American Climate Science Coalition, an offshoot of the International Climate Science Coalition, the ASIC documents show. The amount of public donations received was nil.

In 2009, the US arm kicked in $60,699 in funds – virtually all the Australian organisation’s entire budget of $62,910 – the ASIC documents show. Donations from the public, at a time when debate over the federal government’s proposed emissions trading scheme was at a peak, were just $138.

It seems likely that these payments — made through the ICSC and its US affiliate, the Climate Science Coalition of America — are in addition to the sums declared in Heartland’s Form 990 returns for 2009 (excerpted here). A total of US$115,000 was granted to bodies in “East Asia and the Pacific” in that year, following on from US$180,000 shipped overseas (with no regional designation) in 2008. The largest overseas grant made by Heartland — US$120,000 in 2008, categorised as “research/publication” — remains untraced, but it seems likely that it will also have been paid to either Australia, Canada or New Zealand. One major denial publishing project under way at the time was Joanne “Nova” Codling’s Skeptics Handbook, which Heartland later distributed to 12,000 US school board presidents — perhaps one of the unsuccessful attempts to influence school curricula referred to in the leaked documents.

The Guardian reports that John Mashey’s massive effort to analyse the links and financial flows between Heartland, Fred Singer and the Idso family firm, the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (CDCDGC), is leading to calls for an IRS investigation of Heartland’s charitable status. The funds sent to Australia and New Zealand over the last five years seem to be in clear breach of IRS rules1, and likely to cause Heartland and the recipients considerable embarrassment.

Heartland has also been attacked from its own heartland — the Republican Party. A group called Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP) has called for Heartland to stop campaigning against action on climate change. In a press release issued on Friday, REP said:

While Heartland has done commendable work in other policy areas, such as risk management, its climate operation has become a public relations servant of special interests–sowing confusion, misrepresenting science, and spreading distortions that pollute what should be a robust, fact-based debate about climate change.

That’s not conservative. As William F. Buckley once said, “Conservatism implies a certain submission to reality.”

Climate change is an opportunity for conservative organizations to actually be conservative, by acknowledging facts and laying on the table conservative policies for dealing with the climate issue.

That’s a wonderful encapsulation of what we really need in a “climate debate”. Instead of the endless sniping at science and scientists, why not sit down and contribute to a solution? Heartland, of course, supplies the answer by being in thrall to the special interests of its funders.

Finally, allow me to commend an excellent article by Elaine McKewon at The ConversationThink tank’s talking points deepen the divide over climate change. Based on a recent study of the output of the Institute of Public Affairs, an Aussie think tank with close ties to Heartland, McKewon examines the fantasy world created by opponents of emissions reductions. She notes nine “fantasy themes” in common use:

The nine themes were grouped into two categories. In the first category, ’a plea for scientific truth’, there are four fantasy themes:

  • climate scientists as rent-seeking frauds
  • climate scientists as dissent-stifling elite
  • Plimer as Galileo
  • Plimer as the people’s scientist.

The second grouping, ’religious, political and economic conspiracies’, includes five fantasy themes:

  • climate science as religion
  • environmentalism as religion
  • climate science as left-wing conspiracy
  • green as the new red
  • climate change mitigation as money-spinning scam.

Sound familiar?2 McKewon points out that these themes, acted out by stereotypical heroes and villains create a self-supporting belief system:

Together, these fantasy themes construct a rhetorical vision — an alternative reality — that is consistent with the ideology promoted by neoliberal think tanks such as the IPA and the hostility they provoke towards traditional ’enemies’ such as the environmental movement and the political left.

These fantasy themes serve as important markers of group identity for the IPA and its coalition of associate scholars, editors, opinion columnists and readers. They repeat the narratives — for example, in letters to the editor or in online comments or discussion forums. This repetition is a strong indication that they see themselves as members of the group.

It’s a compelling analysis that underlines just how successful Heartland and its allies have been at co-opting a large sector of right wing opinion in the service of their paymasters, and how powerful the myths they’ve carefully created can be.

[Jimmy Ruffin]

  1. See Mashey’s Fake Science…, p64
  2. Most of these themes are on display in just about every comment posted here by Joe Fone, Roger Dewhurst and the usual denialist suspects.

The real Climategate: Heartland’s hypocrisy on display Gareth Renowden Feb 17

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It’s been a bad week for the Heartland Institute — the US lobby group recently shown to have funded New Zealand climate denialists. Documents leaked this week expose Heartland’s fund-raising and climate strategies to the cold light of day, and a major new piece of research by John Mashey demonstrates that Heartland has been acting outside of the rules governing the tax-exempt status it claims for itself.

Documents relating to a Heartland board meeting held in January were sent to a number of bloggers earlier this week, and have been made available by DeSmogBlog. The papers give a very full account of Heartland’s budget and plans for 2012, right down to individual staff salaries, and provide details of funding streams from players big and small. The largest — described as the “anonymous donor” — provided Heartland with $8.6 million over 2007-11 for its climate campaigns (see pps 20 and 21 of this document).

Key points from the documents:

  • Heartland plans to create a “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Schools” that “isn’t alarmist or overtly political”, and plans to pay Dr David Wojick $25,000 a quarter to develop the materials.
  • Heartland is planning to fund Fred Singer’s Not the IPCC project to the tune of $1.5 million over 2010-13, and is budgeting monthly payments of $11,600 to Craig Idso, $5,000 to Singer and $1,667 to Bob Carter during 2012.
  • Anthony Watts (of µWatts fame) is being funded to the tune of $88,000 to develop a web site featuring US temperature data.
  • Current funders include tobacco companies, fossil fuel interests, and even Microsoft.

Heartland claims the documents were stolen, and that one — relating to their strategy on climate denial — was faked, even though the main points in that “confidential memo” are corroborated by the other documents. The Heartland response includes threats of legal action against web sites and media carrying stories based on the documents, and says:

…honest disagreement should never be used to justify the criminal acts and fraud that occurred in the past 24 hours. As a matter of common decency and journalistic ethics, we ask everyone in the climate change debate to sit back and think about what just happened.

Those persons who posted these documents and wrote about them before we had a chance to comment on their authenticity should be ashamed of their deeds, and their bad behavior should be taken into account when judging their credibility now and in the future.

Back in 2009, when the emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia first hit the web, Heartland president Joseph Bast wrote:

The release of these documents creates an opportunity for reporters, academics, politicians, and others who relied on the IPCC to form their opinions about global warming to stop and reconsider their position. The experts they trusted and quoted in the past have been caught red-handed plotting to conceal data, hide temperature trends that contradict their predictions, and keep critics from appearing in peer-reviewed journals. This is new and real evidence that they should examine and then comment on publicly.

The hypocrisy burns…

Meanwhile, the news that Bob Carter is retained by Heartland to undermine the work of mainstream science through the NIPCC is making waves in Australia (Graham Readfearn, SMH), but hasn’t yet been picked up in New Zealand. Carter’s role as a “science advisor” to the Heartland funded NZ Climate Science Coalition and its ICSC spin-off, as well as to Nigel Lawson’s secretive Global Warming Policy Foundation raises serious questions about just how lucrative denial can be, as well as illuminating the international web of climate denial.

See also:

Richard Black at the BBC

New York Times

LA Times

And [List updated17/2 - courtesy of Adam Seigel]…

Puppets on a string: US think tank funds NZ sceptics Gareth Renowden Jan 24

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The Heartland Institute, the US organisation that plays a key role in organised climate denial, has directly funded New Zealand’s most prominent sceptics, a search of US Internal Revenue Service documents has revealed. In 2007, Heartland granted US$25,000 (NZ$32,000) to the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, sending the money to NZ CSC member Owen McShane. They also gifted the International Climate Science Coalition US$45,000 (NZ$59,000), forwarding the cash to NZ CSC webmaster and ICSC founding chairman Terry Dunleavy. The documents do not reveal what the money was used for, but four NZ CSC members attended the December 2007 Bali conference as part of an ICSC delegation. Bryan Leyland, energy advisor to both CSCs, confirmed in 2008 that “some expenses” for the trip had been covered by Heartland, but the NZ CSC has never revealed the full extent of the Heartland Institute funding of their operations, or its role in the expansion of their “climate science coalition” franchise.

Details of the payments from the US lobby group come in the “Form 990” statements the US Internal Revenue Service requires non-profit and tax-exempt bodies such as Heartland to file every year. These are available to the public, either by direct request to the organisation, or at various web sites. The Economic Research Institute web site provides a handy search tool for 990 forms, and here’s what they have for Heartland. This is an extract from the return for 2007, annotated by me:

HeartNZCSC2007

The destination for the NZ payments is easy enough to trace. The Kaiwaka, Northland address belongs to Owen McShane and his Centre for Resource Management Studies, and the PO Box in North Shore City is used by Terry Dunleavy.

Payments of US$25,000 were also made to two Canadian groups actively involved in climate denial — the Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP), then run by PR man Tom Harris1, and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a neo-liberal think tank which boasts Owen McShane as a member of its expert advisory panel2. $15,000 was donated to Fred Singer’s Science and Environmental Policy Project.

In all, Heartland shipped US$70,000 (NZ$91,000)3 to New Zealand in 2007. The money appears to have been used to fund a sceptic presence at the UN conference in Bali in December, and to fund the birth of the International Climate Science Coalition — a spin off from the original NZ climate “science” coalition, which had been established by McShane, Dunleavy, Leyland and others in April 2006.

For details of the Bali beano, I can do no better than to point you in the direction of Vincent Gray’s “what I did on my holiday” essay at the NZ CSC web site. It is amusingly Pooterish, but provides much interesting information4:

I have just returned from the United Nations’ Climate Conference in Bali where I was part of a small delegation of climate sceptics, as members of a new organisation, the International Climate Science Coalition.

There were four people from New Zealand; myself, Greg Balle, Owen McShane, and Bryan Leyland, three from Australia, David and Joanne Evans, and David Archibald, Will Alexander from South Africa and Viscount Monckton of Brenchley from the UK.

The merry band had some minor triumphs:

We had not managed to book a stall, so I tried being a cuckoo, I found a comparatively unoccupied stall and displayed my pamphlets on it. I had two interested customers before the owner returned. It turned out he was a sympathiser (an organisation called “One World”) and took several pamphlets.

We managed to organize several lectures and a press event where we distributed copies of DVDs of the UK Channel Four programme, “The Great Global Warming Swindle” which is yet to be publicly shown in New Zealand, although it created quite a sensation in Australia. The lectures were given by Lord Monckton, David Evans and Bryan Leyland.

The high point, though, was when they got to play at dressing up:

We carried out a “stunt” in front of the main conference entrance when six of us dressed in lab coats and dark glasses displayed a banner saying “Kyoto 2 is not needed”. This created wide media attention and several at-length interviews. It was given particularly wide TV coverage in China, Malaysia and Japan.

It’s not possible to be certain how much of Heartland’s 2007 grant money was intended to orchestrate denialist “stunts” in Bali, but it’s worth noting that during the conference Tom Harris and Bob Carter of the NRSP coordinated an “open letter” to UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon signed by the crême de la crême of climate denial5. A good chunk of the money, however, was clearly intended to “launch” the NZ CSC spin-off, the International Climate Science Coalition.

The ICSC business plan published last year by current executive director Tom Harris (pdf here) includes a helpful section on the history of the organisation. In “late 2007″:

In response to strong international interest in the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition’s (NZCSC) science-based approach to the climate debate, ICSC was created by NZCSC participants. ICSC’s mandate was to act as an international organization to:

  • Represent climate science realists at UN and other climate conferences, especially the December 2007 Climate Science Conference (COP13) in Bali, Indonesia.
  • Coordinate a more effective worldwide climate realists’ response.
  • Spawn the creation of ICSC country-specific affiliates around the world so as to help bring
    rational science, economics and policy to the debate at national/state/municipal levels.
  • Terry Dunleavy, MBE, JP, became ICSC Founding Chairman.
  • Bryan Leyland, M.Sc. (Power System Design), FIEE, FIMechE, FIPENZ became ICSC Secretary.
  • An advisory team of 20 climate science experts and 15 specialists in climate-related economics,
    policy and energy engineering were recruited–10 countries represented.

That’s the official version. Plucky Kiwis make the global big time is the preferred narrative. However, it is now clear that Dunleavy, Leyland et al were working hand in glove with the Heartland Institute during the creation of their new baby. The ICSC was being groomed to fit into the global network of organisations committed to climate denial, and it looks likely that Heartland was pulling the strings6.

Dunleavy and Leyland’s key roles in the founding of the ICSC were to prove short-lived. The NRSP’s Tom Harris was appointed executive director7 in early 2008, and he gave a presentation about the nascent ICSC to the Heartland Institute’s First International Conference on Climate Change in Chicago in March of that year8. The New Zealanders weren’t ignored however. McShane and Gray were flown over to the US to speak at the conference, and received US$1,000 fees for their exertions. Dunleavy and former ACT MP Muriel Newman also made the trip9.

Heartland and Dunleavy obviously had high hopes for the ICSC — at least, at the time. Announcing Harris’s appointment, Dunleavy wrote:

ICSC is committed to providing a highly credible alternative to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) thereby fostering a more rational, open discussion about climate issues. ICSC will promote a new level of international cooperation and information sharing among climate realist scientists and organizations.

Heartland also had great expectations — both for their sceptic networking event and for their new coalition. Here’s Heartland’s James Taylor waxing optimistic in the conference announcement:

…Other possible follow-up activities now being discussed include:

  • an event in London in 2009;
  • launch of a new journal devoted to climate change;
  • launch of an association of philanthropists willing to support further research and public education opposing global warming alarmism;
  • support for an International Climate Science Coalition that will act as an alternative voice to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [my emphasis]; and
  • expanded cooperation among the scores of organizations currently sponsoring research, publications, and events on the dubious claims in support of the theory of man-made catastrophic global warming.

Unfortunately for the ICSC, Fred Singer was also in Chicago, giving an early look at his Not the IPCC project. Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate: Summary for Policymakers of the Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change appeared in mid 2008, and quickly became the preferred denialist alternative to the IPCC. Heartland thought enough of Singer’s efforts to publish the 880 page “full report” in June 2009.

The ICSC, meanwhile, became more Canada-centric and began to resemble Harris’s old home, the NRSP. Harris appointed a Canadian scientist as chairman, and brought in his former NRSP science advisor Bob Carter to fill the same role at the ICSC. Dunleavy continues to be listed as “founding chairman and strategic advisor”, Leyland as “energy issues advisor”, and there are numerous New Zealanders on the various panels and boards — ranging from Alan Gibbs to Chris de Freitas — but it’s not clear how much, if any, input they have to the day-to-day running of the ICSC.

The discovery of Heartland funding of the creation of the ICSC puts the organisation in a difficult position. Its web site has this to say about funding:

Since its formation in 2007, ICSC has never received financial support from corporations, foundations or governments. 99% of all donations have come from private individuals in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, United States and Canada.

Heartland’s $45,000 seed money makes a mockery of that claim — unless of course private individuals have actually donated $4.5 million to the ICSC over the last four years, or an “institute” somehow counts as an individual. But we may never find out: the “funding” statement includes this:

The identities of all donors are kept strictly confidential to protect their privacy and safety.

Heartland’s 990 returns for the next two years are much less informative than that for 2007. The 2008 form records $182,072 as being granted to overseas organisations, but does not identify where or to whom the money was sent, as this excerpt shows:

Heart9902008

The 2009 return is slightly more helpful, recording that $115,000 was granted to organisations in “East Asia and the Pacific”.

Heart9902009

Given Heartland’s very public links with Australian deniers and the NZ CSC, it would seem probable that “East Asia and the Pacific” is intended to cover activities in the two countries. It would be very interesting to learn where this money went. Half of 2007′s Heartland cash went to New Zealand, or through New Zealand sceptics’ hands. It must be at least possible that similar amounts were paid in the following years. In the interests of complete transparency — something the members of the NZ CSC and Heartland Institute demand of climate scientists and science institutions — perhaps McShane, Dunleavy, and Leyland, together with their US paymasters would care to disclose the full, unvarnished truth.

The members of New Zealand’s climate “science” coalition like to insist that their opinions cannot be bought. Yet by some strange coincidence their views align very neatly with those of the Heartland Institute, its funding sources and the tangled web of organisations that benefit from Heartland’s funding and networking efforts. They are clearly not averse to accepting money from US lobby groups, going on sponsored trips, or performing to the beat of an American drum when it helps what they consider to be “the cause”. Every time you see or hear McShane, Leyland, de Freitas or any of the usual suspects advocating that New Zealand do nothing about global warming, remember who is calling the tune.

[Sandy Shaw]

  1. The NRSP also featured Bob Carter as its science advisor.
  2. Other NZ members of the FCPP expert advisory panel include market fundamentalist politicians Sir Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson.
  3. At the NZ$/US$ exchange rate in late 2007.
  4. See also Joanne “Nova” Evans’ account of Bali doings here. Includes pictures!
  5. Solicitation of signatories archived here by Deep Climate. Final list at the SPPI site here.
  6. It should be noted that when the NZ CSC launched they did foresee the formation of an “Asia Pacific Climate Science Coalition, or equivalent”, presumably to bring Australia under their umbrella, so they were planning to widen their franchise from the beginning.
  7. NRSP became defunct after Harris’s departure.
  8. Heartland page here, full speaker list.
  9. Confirmed in another holiday report by Vincent Gray.

Cooling-gate: the 100 years of warming Easterbrook wants you to ignore Gareth Renowden May 27

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Evidence that Don Easterbrook did more than misrepresent and alter a graph in order to remove evidence of recent warming in his presentation to the recent Heartland “climate conference” is beginning to emerge. It now appears that he has been misusing one of the most important paleoclimate temperature data series, compiled from the GISP2 Greenland ice core, effectively hiding a full 100 years of recent warming. His “rebuttal” of my revelations that he had misused a graph from Global Warming Art includes this assertion:

…below is the Greenland data for the past 10,000 years (Holocene) from the published paper by Cuffy and Clow (1997), two distinguished US scientists. Note that temperatures for almost all of the past 10,000 years have been warmer than present.

In my post yesterday, I suggested (on the basis of the notes accompanying the raw δ18O data), that the “present” Easterbrook was referring to was 1950. It now appears I was being far too generous. Thanks to a bit of detective work by MartinM in the comments to that post, the data set used by Easterbrook to draw his version of a Holocene temperature graph turns out to be the temperature series derived from the δ18O data by Richard Alley: Alley, R.B. 2004. GISP2 Ice Core Temperature and Accumulation Data. IGBP PAGES/World Data Center for Paleoclimatology
Data Contribution Series #2004-013. NOAA/NGDC Paleoclimatology Program, Boulder CO, USA
(ftp download here). The most recent temperature data point in that series is 1905, and that’s the point Easterbrook labels as the present. To make his case he has to make a full century’s worth of warming disappear.

I downloaded Alley’s data and plotted it with my new favourite graphing tool. This is what it looks like:

GISP2graph

I’ve inset the graph from Easterbrook’s “rebuttal”, and added a couple of helpful lines (click for a bigger version). I think it’s pretty clear that the data behind both graphs is the same. There’s more detail in my plot, but the key features are all in the right places. I’ve added a blue line to represent Easterbrook’s “present temperature”. The green line represents an estimate of current temperatures in central Greenland. I looked at the nearest station with a 100+ year record in the GISS database (Angmagssalik), and used a Mk 1 eyeball to estimate a 2.5ºC increase over the century (I’d welcome a more accurate estimate, if anyone’s prepared to dig one up). The difference between the green and blue lines is the warming that Easterbrook wants to ignore. His statement that temperatures for almost all of the past 10,000 years have been warmer than present is shown to be complete nonsense. There are three points in the last 10,000 years when temperatures high up on the Greenland ice sheet were similar to today, but by no stretch of anyone’s imagination can it be said to have been warmer for most of the time. The incline he’s trying to hide is one of the largest and steepest in the last ten millenia…

The same temperature series also appears to form the basis for Monckton’s famous “Curry & Clow” slide from early 2009:

Monckton credits the wrong people, of course, but adds a helpful “300 years of warming” arrow. Like Easterbrook, he omits the last 100 years of warming. This is what he said at the time:

Seen in the geological perspective of the last 17,000 years, the 300 years of recent warming, nearly all of which must have been natural, for we could not have had any significant influence except in the past 25 years, are manifestly insignificant.

The 300 years of recent warming are of course the 300 years up to 1905. What has happened since then is manifestly significant. This sort of misdirection is par for the course for Monckton, but what about Easterbrook?

If he knowingly misrepresented 1905 as the “present” (and given that he claims to have “the entire Greenland oxygen isotope data in my computer and use it extensively to plot data” that has to be a real possibility), then he is clearly misusing the data and misleading his audience. The intellectual dishonesty involved is breathtaking. His audience may want to be mislead, but that is irrelevant. On the other hand if, as a distinguished academic with a long career studying (amongst other things) glaciers and climate change, he really doesn’t know that the data series stops in 1905, then he is demonstrating ignorance of a sort that would embarrass any student.

So where’s the investigation of this academic fraud? Where are the hordes of bloggers and journalists screaming blue murder about the manipulation of data to tell a convenient story? Here’s Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, writing about the so-called “climategate” affair last November:

Looking at how past disclosures of fraud in the global warming debate have been dismissed or ignored by the mainstream media leads me to suspect they will try to sweep this, too, under the rug. But thanks to the Internet, millions of people will be able to read the emails themselves and make up their own minds. This incident, then, will not be forgotten. The journalists who attempt to spin it away and the politicians who try to ignore it will further damage their own credibility, and perhaps see their careers shortened as a consequence.

How very true. I look forward to Bast issuing a statement apologising for being a party to Easterbrook’s fraud, for providing him with a platform to mislead and misinform, and instituting an in-depth investigation into the background of Cooling-gate. But I suspect he will be doing his best to ignore the whole affair. I leave it to the reader to decide what that does for the credibility of Bast, Heartland, and the scientists who shared a stage with Easterbrook at Heartland’s Chicago conference.

[Update 29/5: My graph revised and improved, see comment below]

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