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Archive February 2010

This game looks familiar Ken Perrott Feb 27

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Tree Lobsters!: #118 Skeptics & Charlatans.

Thanks to Dave C at Auckland Skeptics in the Pub

Anti-science lies being exposed — slowly Ken Perrott Feb 26

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This is a sane word of advice at the time of hysterical attacks on climate science and scientists under the “climategate” tag.

It comes in a submission from the  University of East Anglia to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Science and Technology investigating the “climategate” business. It finishes with the comment:

“Given that the stakes for humanity are so high in correctly interpreting the evidence of global warming, we would meanwhile urge scientists, academics, journalists and public servants to resist the distortions of hearsay evidence or orchestrated campaigns of misinformation, and instead to encourage open, intelligent debate.”

Ah, if only! Recently on another thread we had a denier accusing scientists of ’Lying’ and being ’eco-fascists,’ ’lying parasites,’ and ’parasites of the environmental movement.’

For those of you who want a bit more sanity in this discussion have a read of the university’s submission. It’s avalable as a word document (submission) and together with an appendix.

The submission covers the key accusations being made by the climategate deniers and might be an eye-opener to some.

They say “Lies get half way around the world before truth gets its boots on.” It takes time but truth will eventually out.

I look forward to the time that all these inquiries report their findings.


Update (or BREAKING NEWS as Ian Wishart would claim): It’s also worth having a read of this statement Climate change and the scientific process from the Office of the NZ Prime Minister’s Science Advisory Committee. A printable version of ’Climate change and the scientific process’ is available for download here ( PDF file, 139 kb).

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Deniers distort Phil Jones Ken Perrott Feb 25

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Let’s differentiate again between climate change sceptics (who are prepared to rationally consider and discuss the science) and climate change deniers (who have an emotional commitment to denying climate change and see the science as just the result of a huge conspiracy). Currently there is a feeding frenzy amongst the deniers. Hysterical claims are being made and promoted on the flimsiest of evidence, even against the evidence. They are promoting anything and everything that can possibly be misinterpreted to discredit scientific conclusions and scientists. And, yes, these attacks do get nasty and personal.

This must be making the true climate change sceptics very uncomfortable. More of them should publicly dissociate themselves from this hysterical anti-scientific campaign.

Warming since 1995?

Predictably, several local blogging deniers took on the misreporting of the recent BBC interview with climate scientist Phil Jones. Several of his statements have been used to make distorted, even completely fraudulent, claims. Here I only consider the misreporting of Jone’s comment on global warming since 1995:

Here is the question and answer (see Q&A: Professor Phil Jones for full interview):

Question: Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming

Answer: Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.”

At least three local bloggers reported this as a u-turn. A concession that warming was no longer occurring. A denial of previous work! Essentially they were repeated the headlines of overseas conservaqtive and denier newspapers and blogs.

Now you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see these bloggers are completely distorting the whole meaning of Phil Jones’ comment. But, if you want to dig a bit deeper and get your head around the implications of statistical comments like this watch this video by potholer54. It deals specifically with this distortion:

YouTube – 8a. Climate Change – supplement.

An earlier video from potholer54 deals with the more general question. See  8. Climate Change — Has the Earth been cooling?

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Faith schools Ken Perrott Feb 24

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Here is something for parents to consider.

I think that, under the humour, there is a serious message.

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New Zealand has bigots too Ken Perrott Feb 23

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I actually thought this wouldn’t happen in good old New Zealand. We are a tolerant lot and seem quite happy with our largely secular society. But there’s always some die-hards wanting to spoil it, isn’t there?

This press release from the NZ Atheist Bus Campaign describes how the NZ Bus company has reversed their approval of the adverts because of public complaints.

The NZ Atheist Bus Campaign, which late last year raised in excess of $20,000 from public donations, has met a set back in their plans. Nationwide bus company NZ Bus, who had tentatively approved the campaign’s ads on buses in major city centres, have now rejected them.

NZ Bus stated that they have received a number of complaints from the public about the proposed ads, which read “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Spokesperson for the Atheist Bus Campaign Simon Fisher says “It’s concerning that peaceful atheist messages are not allowed on buses while religious messages are often seen on buses and in public. Messages of atheism are rare in New Zealand and we aim to raise awareness for the one-third of New Zealanders who are unconvinced by the claims of religion.”

Organisers of the Campaign tried to reach a resolution with NZ Bus, and later attempted mediation sessions through the Human Rights Commission. NZ Bus refused to participate in these mediation sessions. Because they are refusing to discuss the matter and reach an agreement, the organisers of the Campaign are now investigating the possibility of taking this case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

Simon Fisher says “we’re disappointed at the response from NZ Bus and plan to look at options going forward. We owe it to the thousands of Kiwis who have supported this campaign with donations and messages of support.”

Advertisements with identical wording ran in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Spain. Similar campaigns also ran successfully in Croatia, Finland, Holland, Italy, America and across the Tasman in Australia.

“We are gravely concerned that in New Zealand we’re unable to present an atheistic message, showing that we do not have the same practical freedom of expression as in other first world countries. It highlights why this campaign is so necessary.” said spokesperson Simon Fisher.

The Campaign will continue to accept donations for advertising, see http://www.nogod.org.nz for further details.

Why don’t these complainants identify themselves? Let us hear their arguments. A complaint to the Human Rights Review Tribunal might provide us that opportunity.

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Belief and social identity Ken Perrott Feb 22

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Glenn, at “Say Hello to my Little Friend” has a very useful post on a Christian perspective of open-mindedness (Scepticism, Open Mindedness and Mistrust). I think this perspecitve is not just a Chrsitian one. It is one that I recognise also in those advancing dogmatic secular ideologies. For my generation his analysis applies equally well to Maoists, to the Red Guards of China’s so-called “Cultural Revolution.”

Here’s how Glenn justifies a closed mind to non-Christian viewpoints:

“So it is when a Christian is asked to consider atheism. It’s not true that the Christian should be as open minded to the possibility of atheism as he would like people to be to the possibility of Christianity, any more than I should be as open to the possibility of my wife’s unfaithfulness as I would like people to be to the possibility of her faithfulness. A person who is a Christian has what he or she takes to be a relationship of trust. They have a prior commitment (and in fact the relationship between Christ and the church is likeness, in the Bible, to a marriage e.g. Ephesians 5:31-33). When I talk about a prior commitment here, I do not just mean a prior belief, something that they affirmed before and don’t want to give up. I mean not a commitment to a proposition but to a person — to a relationship, call it what you will. It is a relationship of trust, and more than that, of worship.”

So, this religious conviction is not about primary beliefs. It’s about a “relationship of trust,” “a prior commitment,” even a relationship “of worship.”

Maoism as a religion

This describes very accurately the attitude of Maoists and “red guards” during the 1960s and early 1970s. For them it was not about the real ideas of Mao Zedong which could be accessed through his writings. Or even about the barstardised representation of them in “the Little Red Book” they used to wave high. It was about their “prior commitment” to Mao (and his opposition to the Chinese Communist Party or “capitalist roaders”). It was about a “relationship of trust” with Mao. Even a relationship “of worship” of Mao.

I imagine these prior commitments and relationships of trust (and worship) were also characteristic of earlier dogmatic secular ideologies (I almost said “religions” here) like Stalinism and Hitlerism.

The philosopher Adèle Mercier describes this dogmatic attitude in her article Religious Belief and Self Deception (in the book 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists). This attitude is more about “belief in belief” and identification with that rather than the beliefs themselves. “Most people who claim to have relgious beliefs have scarcely ever analysed the contents of their belief, and indeed are reluctant to do so even when prompted.” That was so true of the Maoists.

Religion and social identity

And “there is a good reason why most people refuse to examine the details of the religious propositions they profess. Let’s face it, most first-order religious beliefs are daft.” Well, perhaps politcal dogmatists like the Maoists had more credible primary beliefs but, as with relgionists, they very rarely examined the details.

No, the strength of a dogma (religious or otherwise) is not in commitment “to their first-order beliefs, but to their second-order beliefs about them (a point well made by Dennett). Religion is in more ways than the obvious like a country club: it is deeply about social identity, not one’s golf game.” Again this could be said of those committed to secular ideological and political dogmas.

If religion and other dogmas were just about primary beliefs these could be openly and dispassionately discussed. But that doesn’t happen. Because the secondary belief is a matter of social identity religious people (and Maoists) take “disproportionate offense” when their beliefs are questioned. As Mercier says “doubt the truth of any first order belief and you question only the veracity of its claim; doubt a religious belief and it’s the entire believer who feels called into question. Call any 50-year old Canaanite with sexual designs on an 9-year-old a lecherous pedophile, and from those who disagree with your assessment you’ll get a disagreement; say the same about Mahommed and you’ll get a death warrant.”

Dogma as a virus

This “belief in belief, ” “relationship of trust,” “prior commitment” and a relationship “of worship” provides a powerful mechanism for protecting and propagating dogma. Darrel Ray describes how this works in his book “The God Virus: How religion infects our lives and culture” (see Ideological infections). When people develop such relationship with a dogma it is as if they have been infected with a virus. This virus then works, not in the interests of the host,  but it the interests of its own survival and infection of others. “Anti-bodies” are developed to prevent the host properly inspecting the primary beliefs, or being open to other competing dogmas and idea (other virus). Hence Christians feel justified in being non-sceptical about their own religion and being closed minded about competing ideas like atheism. When you have dogma there is a sort of intellectual ghetto formed to protect the dogma (see The ghetto of apologetics ’science’).

Glenn himself provided a beautiful example of this in his article by commenting:Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion, that well known, aggressive (and often lampooned as philosophically poorly constructed) case against religious belief.” A common reaction by religionists who have never read the book – and certainly have no intention of doing so.

So, thanks Glenn. Not only a great description of the real attraction of religion and other dogmas to the  “true believers.” But also a practical example of how this works to protect the host against other ideas.

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Etiquette for the office global warming denier Ken Perrott Feb 19

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One has to laugh.

There have been some rather nasty “humour” on climate change denier blogs attacking scientists lately. So I rather enjoyed. this. It’s much gentler and not personal.

YouTube – SNOWMAGEDDON ETIQUETTE – at work.

Thanks to ecopolitiology and  Kate Sheppard

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NZ blogs sitemeter ranking — February ‘10 Ken Perrott Feb 18

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There are 152 NZ blogs with publicly accessible sitemeter stats on this list. Mind you I have now found over 1000 NZ blogs and most of them just don’t make their statistics accessible. I am sure there are some bloggers who don’t understand how to install a publicly accessible sitemeter or statcounter.

The blogs are listed in the table below, together with daily visits and page view numbers averaged over the previous 7 days. The data was that given by the NZ blog ranking tool on Wednesday February 17th.

This can be seen at NZ blogs average daily visits.

Have a look at that tool. Its a way of comparing your own blog’s performance from day to day – a roller coaster ride which can be quite exciting!

Just be aware that it relies on spreadsheets at Google Docs and data is not always available. If the data is missing or incomplete, wait a while and reload the page. It will eventually show up.

Meanwhile I am still keen to hear of any other blogs with publicly available sitemeter stats that I have missed. Contact me if you know of any.

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VisitRank Blog Visits/day Page Views/day
1 The Dim-Post 1502 2537
2 Notes from the bartender 1202 1440
3 Sciblogs 1060 1713
4 No Right Turn 1026 1363
5 Tales from a godless monkey 923 7944
6 TUMEKE! 790 905
7 A cat of impossible colour 759 1053
8 roarprawn 500 730
9 Homepaddock 445 627
10 The Hand Mirror 420 556
11 Poneke’s Weblog 418 569
12 The Wellingtonista 359 604
13 Einstein Music Journal# 342 464
14 Home education Foundation 298 399
15 MacDoctor Moments 290 404
16 Rest Area 300 m 286 404
17 Open Parachute 272 342
18 eyeCONTACT 254 417
19 MandM 237 400
20 In a strange land 236 321
21 Canterbury Atheists 230 323
21 Reading the Maps 230 329
23 Offsetting Behaviour 222 343
24 The visible hand in economics 216 360
25 Prostablog 208 261
26 Hitting Metal With A Hammer 184 248
27 Halfdone 183 218
28 Anti-Dismal 169 416
29 The Dropkicks 165 226
30 Code for Life 163 213
31 fisheye perspective 162 245
32 Socialist Aotearoa 160 206
32 Put ‘em all on an island# 160 196
34 Today is my birthday 158 234
35 Quote Unquote 141 196
36 Open Parachute @ Sciblogs 140 167
36 OpenUReyes 140 292
38 Thinking Matters Talk 119 210
39 Neuseeland 117 260
40 Otagosh 102 141
41 Workers Party 100 159
42 Humanitarian Chronicle 99 143
42 Scepticon 99 120
42 The Fundy Post 99 126
45 from the morgue 96 159
46 Sustain:if:able Kiwi 91 164
47 Liberation 83 128
47 Unity Blog 83 114
49 Cluttercut 75 106
50 Show your workings 72 104
51 Dad4justice 64 74
52 Mars 2 Earth 61 109
53 Goings on at the Madbush Farm 58 77
54 Capitalism is bad 55 82
54 Rodney’s Aviation Ramblings 55 69
56 Bill Bennett 53 76
56 Woman Wandering 53 68
58 Pointless and adsurb 50 78
59 Webweaver’s world 49 60
60 Lost Soul 46 91
61 Bibliophilia 45 64
62 Canvassing for opinion 43 56
63 Cimba7200’s thoughts 42 57
64 KiwiSmith Family 41 84
65 goNZo Freakpower Brains Trust 39 51
66 Glenview 9 38 45
67 Media Fetish 37 52
68 Anarchia 36 47
68 Derek’s blog 36 46
68 Joe Hendren 36 46
71 Journey to a mini me 34 58
72 Tararua District Library 32 38
73 Aotearoa: A wider perspective 29 32
74 Hooked on thinking 27 61
75 ICT Teaching and Learning 26 37
75 Manaia Kindergarten 26 49
77 Samuel Dennis 25 28
78 No excuses. Just write 23 39
79 Put up thy Sword! 21 26
79 I am Johnny King 21 27
79 Family integrity 21 36
82 Blessed Economist 20 29
83 Palmerston North.ifo 17 30
83 At home with Rose 17 22
83 Towards Liberty, Prosperity and a civil Southland 17 26
83 Millenium X 17 23
87 Green is good 16 18
88 Tha Fatal Paradox 15 23
88 jo russ photo diary 15 19
88 Stitchbird 15 23
88 Kiwi Chronicles 15 24
92 Clint Heine and Friends 14 18
93 Surfr 12 17
93 The Thorndon Bubble 12 16
93 Life is not a race to be finished first 12 18
93 Toni Twiss 12 19
93 Tash McGill 12 15
93 UpStage 12 23
99 Phrenic Philosophy 11 14
100 Tangled up in purple 10 15
100 I’m a bit of a geek 10 15
100 Looking in the square 10 15
100 ICT in Early Education 10 17
100 Neil Stockley 10 16
105 Deep(ish) Thought 9 10
105 Prior Knowledge 9 11
105 Discovery Time 9 18
105 Frontlawn 9 11
105 global village governance 9 11
105 Home School Nations – NZ 9 17
105 The Well read Kitty 9 11
105 Emeth Elethia 9 12
113 The Home Office 8 11
113 Primal Subversion 8 11
113 A developing Geneticist 8 9
116 Mad Young Thing 7 11
116 Korero Pt England 7 17
118 Relatively science 6 8
118 creative voice 6 17
120 Rob’s Blockhead Blog 5 8
120 Migrating fish swim 5 5
120 Nathanael Baker 5 6
120 Something Interesting to read 5 9
120 And all these things 5 7
120 Pt England Scribes 5 19
126 Here I stand 4 5
126 SageNZ 4 4
126 Island in the Pacific 4 6
126 The Sidestrip 4 7
130 Dragonsinger 3 5
130 Think Beyond 3 3
130 Anna’s blog/pterodaustro dreams 3 4
130 In this moment 3 4
130 Roger Nome’s progressive Politics 3 3
130 Sleeping with books 3 5
130 Virtual North 3 4
137 Scott & Sarah Kennedy 2 3
137 The quiet world project 2 2
137 ObservatioNZ 2 2
137 Lolly Scramble 2 2
137 Digital learning 2 2
137 ICTPD 2 3
137 Heidi’s Ocean blog 2 2
137 Easter Island blog 2 5
145 Beehive Buzz 1 2
145 Heart felt 1 1
145 Flannelgraph 1 2
145 Things I like to do 1 1
145 Rambling Reflections 1 1
145 Making IT Happen 1 2
145 Boganette 1 2
152 Ozy Mandias Warning 0 0
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Climate change confusion — a conspiracy of sorts Ken Perrott Feb 16

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The current “climategate” attacks on science must bewilder many scientists. Why the hysteria? Why the wild claims? The facts don’t warrant that sort of reaction!

One is tempted to see a conspiracy – and no doubt there are all sorts of links between organisations and campaigns are easily plotted. But I think what we have is something a bit more uncoordinated. More an accident of history.

A conspiracy of sorts

I think what we are seeing a coming together of three things:

  1. The climate deniersphere – blogs, conservative newspapers, denier and sceptic organisations – international and well linked to New Zealand;
  2. The ultra conservative US Republicans (pro-Palin) “teaparty” “revolution” against President Obama, climate change, science and anything liberal;
  3. A growing effectiveness of social media like Twitter in communicating propaganda.

Do I sound paranoid to you? Have a look at twitter searches for “climategate.” Most of these are in the hysterical denier mould. Many are disseminating links to very recently published articles. And most distort the content of the articles.

Finally – check out the hashtags used (these help identify communities involved in propagating the messages). Here is a list with their description (from tagdef) – in decreasing order of use:

  • #tcot – Top Conservatives on Twitter is a coalition of conservatives on the Internet. This hashtag has over 1 million followers.
  • #teaparty- Tax protests held nation-wide against the spending for TARP, stimulus, and big-budget government.
  • #ocra – Organized Conservative Resistance Alliance
  • #cot – United Conservatives On Twitter
  • #sgp – Smart Girl Politics – A Conservative Women’s Movement.

Hatchet job on Phil Jones

The “climategate” treatment of a recent BBC interview of Phil Jones by conservative social media entries, blogs and newspapers provides an example of this in action.  See Q&A: Professor Phil Jones & ‘Climategate’ expert Jones says data not well organised for the original articles.

One could question Jones’ decision to be interviewed, particularly as the questions were largely selected by climate change sceptics and Jones got little chance to put his answers in context. However, his responses were balanced and open. He expressed some regret at language used in the emails and his treatment of freedom of information requests. However, in no way did he back away from the science of climate change.

But the resultingconservative headlines were complete dishonest. For example American Thinker - Climategate’s Phil Jones Confesses to Climate Fraud; Daily Mail – Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995; Gateway Pundit – It Was All a Lie: Climategate Scientist Admits There Is No Global Warming; News Busters – ClimateGate’s Phil ‘Hide the Decline’ Jones Admits Manipulating Data. And, of course the twitters with #tcot and similar tags were just as misleading and hysterical – fo not worse.

Along the chain the conservative bloggers took up the “message,” with varying degrees of deception in their post titles. And in New Zealand we get local conspiracy theorist Ian  declaring BREAKING NEWS: CRU’s Jones admits climate data problems, and Medieval Warm Period and ADMISSION: No statistically significant warming since 1995. Poor old Ian – he does tend to overuse words like “breaking news” and “admission”, doesn’t he. The New Zealand Conservative asked sarcastically No kidding Professor; and the Climate Conversation Group declared Phil Jones: ’No global warming since 1995″.

“In an interview with the BBC, Phil Jones, the embattled director of the British Climatic Research Unit, said that an observed warming trend of 0.12 degrees C per decade between 1995 to 2009 was ’not significant at the 95% significance level.’ On the other hand, he said, it was quite close to being statistically significant.

Predictably, the deniosphere jumped all over this. For example, here was Marc Morano’s headline at Climate Depot:

The Jig is Up! Climategate U-turn as Phil Jones admits: There has been no warming since 1995.

Either Marc knows nothing about statistics, or he is deliberately twisting the facts – or both. Phil Jones simply did not say that there has been no warming since 1995.

A 95 percent significance level simply means there is actually a 5 percent chance of a particular finding occurring purely by chance. So here’s what Jones is saying, in essence: There is a very slightly greater than 5 percent chance that the measured warming of 0.12 degrees C per decade between 1995 and 2009 was a statistical fluke – in other words, not real.

Or flop it around: There is a slightly less than 95 percent chance that the observed warming actually happened.

By convention, 95 percent significance often is considered ’good enough to be believed.’ But this is purely arbitrary, and it does not mean that something with a 94 percent significance level is categorically untrue. If a doctor told you that there was a 94 percent chance that you would die of cancer unless you underwent a particular treatment, what would do? Would you say, ’Well doc, if there was a 95 percent chance, I’d accept the treatment, but since it’s just a 94 percent chance, I’ll decline’?

Somehow, I doubt it. I think you’d probably take the treatment.

The problem with the temperature record between 1995 and 2009 probably is not that there has been no warming during that period. The problem, as Jones told the BBC, is this: ’Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.’

You probably won’t hear that important statement from skeptics like Marc Morano, or from the news media for that matter. But it’s important, because it emphasizes a crucial fact: Climate change is best documented over the course of decades, not years. And over the course of decades, Jones told the BBC, the trend is very clear: The global climate has warmed at a rate of approximately 0.163 degrees C per decade since 1860.”

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WARNING! People might find us out! Ken Perrott Feb 15

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Skeptical Science available on Itunes Iphone App StoreRecently I passed on detail of a new iphone/ipodtouch app providing access to the facts of climate change science (see Get your climate change science on the run). This seems to be catching on.

Anyway it’s upset some of those involved in trying to create confusion about climate change.

Yesterday one of their blogs, Climate Realists, sent out this alert see (WARNING! New Site set up as an iphone app to put down “Climate Realists”):

WARNING! There is an iphone app trying to put down what we have to say under the heading of “Skeptical Science”.

We need as many of you as possible to promote that this iphone app is yet another attempt to discredit “Climate Realists”.

I can only hope the general public can see through this as a cheap trick to prop up the FAILED SCIENCE OF MAN MADE CLIMATE CHANGE.

We need another iphone app that shows our side of the argument as it is, rather then what a supporter AGW thinks it is!

Please send this message to all known friendly sites that support our side.

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