Brandon Shollenberger to Steve McIntyre

A number of us here at Cliscep and on other sites recently received this email:


I’m sure this e-mail comes out of the blue, and I am sorry to bother you like this. Some of you may not like me. Some of you may not care about me, one way or another. Some of you may even be fond of me. I don’t know. And to be honest, it doesn’t really matter.

The reason I write this e-mail is I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about the influence Stephen McIntyre has had on me, and on my life, and I finally decided to put my thoughts into words. You can see them here:

I know I’m not a particularly good writer. No words I could come up with could hope to express the extent of my sentiments. I know that. I know writing that post may accomplish nothing. I know writing you about this post may accomplish even less. To be honest, I don’t know what I hope to achieve by sending this e-mail.

But whatever may come of it, I feel it is important I at least try to express my feelings toward one of the most amazing men I’ve ever known, even if I’ve never had the privilege of actually meeting him. Feel free to ignore this e-mail, to mock it or do whatever else you might want with it.

I just felt it was something I needed to send to anyone I knew who might read it.

Best regards,

Brandon Shollenberger

Here is Brandon’s article in full (with a few corrections):


This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I’ve thought about it time and time again. I’ve tried to write it a hundred times, and I’ve deleted it for a hundred different reasons. The thoughts and emotions I want to convey are so great no words I could ever come up with could suitably express them. The words I type today will never be adequate.

To Stephen McIntyre, I want to say something. Above and beyond anything else, I want to say this. Thank you.

I will probably never meet you. I will probably never see your face or hear your voice, save for some copies technology provides me. I will probably never sit with you, to speak with you on any topic. This is something I truly lament.

I first saw you name while I was in high school, a callow youth with no real understanding of the world around him. I found your original site,, due to a random internet search brought upon by casual discussion on a message board somewhere about something I had no grasp of. In truth, I remember nothing of what led me to discovering you.

What I do remember is something simple, something wonderful. It is the idea what matters is the truth. When I came upon your site, I didn’t think, “This guy says something I like therefore it is right.” In fact, I didn’t really understand what you said. You talked about mathematics beyond anything ever heard and discussed science beyond anything I had ever been exposed to.

But in the process, you demonstrated ideas. I didn’t know what an eigenvector was. Looking at matrices as you discussed linear combinatrics made my head spin. Looking at the things you discussed made me understand how out of my depth I truly was. I always thought of myself as a bright individual, but reading your commentary showed me being bright didn’t mean I knew anything.

But at the same time, it showed me something else. It showed me even if I didn’t understand all the technical, nuances of a topic, I could understand the conceptual points. I might not understand what it meant when you argued some series showed up in eigenvector #4 instead of eigenvector #1. The linear algebra was beyond anything I had ever seen. But I didn’t need to understand the math to understand the concept that what matters was what data went into the eigenvector you used, regardless of what number you assigned to it.

There is so much more I could say. There are hundreds of examples I could discuss where a “respected” scientist like Gavin Schmidt or Michael Mann said you were wrong.
In terms of math, I couldn’t contradict them. I was nobody. I was a kid with no training for or knowledge of the math you were discussing. But I was a kid who understood sometimes you didn’t need to get the specific details and nuances to understand the concepts involved.

Back then, if you asked me to explain the difference between NOAMER PC1 and NOAMER PC4, I would have blanked. I had no idea what meant. I didn’t understand why short-centered PCA was wrong in any mathematical sense. All I understood was what you said, that what matters wasn’t the output of some complex, arcane formula, but what that output meant.

I didn’t understand the math. I didn’t even understand the science. But what I did understand was an idea you expressed. That idea was it doesn’t matter what the results of any particular calculation were, but what those results meant. That you couldn’t just look at numbers given by a formula and say, “That’s the answer.” That you had to understand what those numbers meant, what questions and concerns they left unanswered.

With this in mind, I remember spending years reading what you wrote. I remember spending years reading what your critics wrote. I remember time and time again when I saw your critics disagree, dissemble or outright lie to contradict you. I remember time and time again where even without understanding the technical issues involved, I could see through the nonsense people threw up to say you were wrong.

I could go on. I could write a thousand words about how I sat and watched you, listened to you, and I wouldn’t cover a fraction of what I remember. I spent years feeling so inadequate I couldn’t bring myself to comment just to say, “Thanks.”

I will always regret not expressing my thoughts sooner, and no amount of words I write now will ever convey the gratitude I feel toward you. You influenced me in ways you’ll never understand. You helped shape my understanding of the world you’ll never know. The person I would have been had I not happened upon you is a person I cannot begin to imagine. To put it in the bluntest of terms, you have likely influenced me more than anyone else in my entire life.

I won’t attempt to describe the ways you’ve influenced me. I won’t attempt to list the ideals you’ve helped instill in me, with your words and with your actions. I won’t attempt to describe the encyclopedic knowledge you’ve obtained of seemingly arcane topics which I’ve attempted to create a poor facsimile of. Nothing I say could ever be adequate.

But it is for that very reason I must speak up today. It is because of the ideals and concepts you helped imbue in me I must write this post, no matter how much it pains me. It is because you are the person I respect more than perhaps anyone else in the world, that I must say this.

You are wrong.

This isn’t some academic dispute over an arcane detail. If it were, I probably wouldn’t feel adequate to challenge you. After all, you’ve done more to influence me as a person than anyone else in this world. My friends, my family, they were fine for what they were. They just didn’t teach me what it meant to believe in something, in ideals about what is right and wrong.

I understand you’ve grown older than you might like. For reasons I won’t go into here, I know what it means to feel one’s body break down and decay with time. It is unpleasant. In fact, it is miserable. It is horrible to feel you have so much more to contribute yet are unable to because of things beyond your control.

Yet, I know something more. I know that no matter what we feel, no matter what we think, in the end there is an absolute sense of truth and justice we can aspire to. There is no factual basis for it. There is no objective reality which says it is what one must aspire to. But even so, if I understand you the way I think I do, it is something we care dearly about.

So in that light, I would like to tell you something I think is important. I think you’ve allowed yourself to become misled. I think you’ve allowed yourself to become lackadaisical. I think you have a lot of great ideas left to express, and you have written quite a few things in the last year I think are truly insightful.

But at the same time, you’ve said some incredibly stupid things. Maybe it’s fatigue. I’d understand if so. You’ve lived a long life. Nobody would fault you if you were unable to put forth the effort you once exhibited.

Perhaps it’s something else. Perhaps there is some sort of bias which causes you to be unable to view certain topics in a fair-minded way. Perhaps there is something about the topics of your recent discussions which wasn’t present in the discussions I followed for so many years. I don’t know.

And to be honest, I don’t care today. I don’t care about the things you’ve said which I think are wrong, stupid or even morally offensive. Those disagreements are important to me. However, they are not important as something else. No matter what happens, no matter what either of us says or does, there is one inescapable reality.

You have made me a better person. At a time I didn’t know what to think, to feel, about the world around me, you showed me something I can never replace. You showed me a set of standards, a type of behavior, I could believe in and aspire to. That will never go away. No matter what disagreements we may have, no matter what things we say, I will never forget how much you helped shape the person I came to be.

So for that, I want to say thank you. No words I ever come up with will express the true extent of my sentiments. You will never know how important your contributions to my life have been. Writing this post is difficult not because I am bad at expressing my feelings, which I am, but because I know no words will ever express the true depth of how I feel.

So whatever may come of the future, whatever disagreements we may have, one message will always stand above the rest for me. Thank you Stephen McIntyre. I am a far better person because of discovering you.

Brandon Shollenberger


  1. Here at Cliscep we’re supposed to consult with each other before posting, but I put this up without the ok of anyone. Brandon said to do what we liked with his email, so I did, though I’m not at all sure what is the subject of his reproach to Steve McIntyre.

    (Alex Paul and Richard received the same email, which was sent to a long list of bloggers who were in contact about five years ago on the subject of Lewandowsky, so you may well see the same article at other blogs.)

    Brandon’s article struck a cord with me because of the reaction I had to a couple of recent articles at WUWT, one on the hounding of Roger Pielke
    and one a submission to the California Court correcting some of the unpleasant remarks made about Monckton, Soon, et al.
    These articles, plus Christopher Booker’s excellent recent GWPF paper on Groupthink, brought home to me how absolutely peculiar these people are (and I’m talking about some of the most respected climate scientists, plus almost all their fans in the press and the green blobosphere.) Beyond, or perhaps prior to, the question of the right and wrongs of “the science,” is the fact that their behaviour (the attempts at censorship, the petty point scoring, the fantasies of violence) is just weird. And the flipside is that the briefest acquaintance with McIntyre or Watts or JoNova or a dozen of others reveals people who, whatever their quirks, are so obviously normal.

    But how do you get this idea over to people, given that the disagreements are about subjects that must seem totally arcane to anyone not already obsessively committed to the climate cause on one side or the other? The kind of gnat swatting I and many others have been doing for years seems so pathetically inadequate.

    I don’t know the answer, but I’m glad to see that others, like Brandon, realise that there’s a question here, which has little or nothing to do with how many degrees the temperature rises in the next century. It’s about the humanity, or lack of it, of the actors.

    No, not zzzz… In coming years or decades the entire internet will be paywalled and one of the weirdest examples of mass hysteria in history will be whitewashed over. Even if there are still historians who understand that psychology counts in history, they’ll have nothing to work with. Unless there’s an app by then that can scan a photo of Bob Ward’s face and tell what he’s thinking…

    Liked by 4 people

  2. It is Zzzzzzz… Because it’s an overlong, cloying, personal reaction to his own excess in the face of disagreement, which from memory, did not stop short of calling Steve M a Nazi, among other things.

    Which, since you raise the issue of ‘mass hysteria’, seems apt. The boy can whip himself up to a state of mass hysteria, all by himself.

    And it is the same each time BS finds disagreement. It is not simply left there, as a point of disagreement. The point must be made that his counterpart lacks the ‘slightest shred of integrity’ (BS to SM), and double… triple downed on.

    It is tiresome each and every time.

    Apologies do not look like the above. They either demonstrate some self-reflection, or they cut straight to the chase:

    “I am sorry. I was a complete twat”.

    That would have done.

    Digital archaeologists stumbling across the above will move past it.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Ben Pile
    So Brandon and McIntyre are fundamentally opposed on a point of politics which, the way things are going, will be overshadowing climate change and everything else in the near future. Just as I’m fundamentally opposed politically to a number of writers and readers here on a number of subjects which I avoid mentioning. We’ve already seen over Brexit how current events have exacerbated political disagreements and opened up new fault lines. And these fault lines cross the sceptical blogosphere because we’re normal people with normally differing world views. You won’t see such fault lines in the green blob because they’re faultless (you can’t split a blob.)


    Maybe. Brandon says in his mail which I quote in full that he’s not a particularly good writer. I wouldn’t have written that, and nor would you. We’re different from Brandon and from each other, and we have our differences. The reason I didn’t put this post up for prior approval was because I expected some people to dislike it (though I didn’t have any particular reasons in mind, not having followed Brandon’s anti-McIntyre posts) but I wanted to show that our disagreements could be aired publicly. The point is that one can be in fundamental disagreement with McIntyre (as Brandon is) on a real important geo-political subject and still recognise him for his admirable qualities. We can do that. Warmists can’t, either because of some psychological difference, or because there’s something unreal about their position that they can’t bear to see exposed. Or maybe those two possibilities are one.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What is Steve McIntyre wrong about? I mean, we’re all wrong occasionally, some more than others, but it’s not usually something that should be remarked upon as some momentous revelation. Unless, literally, Steve McIntyre is wrong, in Brandon’s opinion, about virtually everything we respect him for probably being right about?


  5. Jaime
    McIntyre has had a couple of highly technical articles at Climate Audit about the Russian hacking/election interference story, and has been tweeting links (lots of them) to alternative views on that and on the war in Syria.

    Since my whole point in reposting this is to demonstrate something about our relative normality in being able to discuss differences, unlike Warmists who have to filter every comment through their inner Bob Ward, it would be daft of me to moderate comments. However, I’d really prefer this thread not to become a discussion about Syria and Russia.

    Brandon, obviously much younger than me, says things I wouldn’t say, but which need saying somehow. How do we get beyond: “Mann, Schmidt, Oreskes – grrrr! McIntyre, Watts – yey!” Brandon admits he doesn’t know, and nor do I.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Ah, well, if it’s his politics, which he is entitled to have an opinion about, which may differ radically from other peoples’ opinions, even the majority opinion, then this does not mean he is ‘wrong’ per se, unless his opinion can be unequivocally demonstrated to be false. Steven is of the opinion, with the latest sabre rattling and war-mongering deliberations going on about Syria, that the US, UK and France are the threat to peace. I’m inclined to agree with his analysis.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Geoff,

    “However, I’d really prefer this thread not to become a discussion about Syria and Russia.”

    If that is what Brandon thinks Steven is ‘wrong’ about, I can’t see that can be avoided. Perhaps it’s not his political views on Russia/Syria. Maybe something else fundamental. Can anyone enlighten us?


  8. Jaime: “If that is what Brandon thinks Steven is ‘wrong’ about, I can’t see that can be avoided.”

    Well quite.

    However, it’s not that BS merely has a difference of opinion. It is that BS had to claim that SM was almost completely without scruples — that he was merely a ‘Russian mouthpiece’, which unfortunately undoes what Geoff somehow sees in BS’s missive. He might as well call SM a big-oil funded science denier. There is — or certainly was — no contrast between the excesses of the tendency Geoff claims the missive transcends, and BS’s MO, until, apparently, the moment he decided to write it.

    The rights and wrongs of the claims will never be resolved. The Cold War ended before I was an adult, putting most of that era’s proxy wars (such as that which set the scene for the current context) beyond my proper memory, but I’m old enough to see the same script being recycled now, as were rehearsed in previous military adventures. In Yugoslavia, Kosovo, in Gulf War II, in Iraq, and so on, the claim is always the same: to openly express *scepticism* of the casus belli is always the same: you are genocide-denying agent of Serb fascists, an apologist for Saddam, a tool of Bin Laden… Putin’s bitch… Just as we are financed by Big Oil (oh, the rich, rich, irony). These high pitched claims come, invariably, from people who will even admit to their own ignorance of recent history, of the facts on the ground, and who will take hysterical 24 hour rolling news speculation in place of information. They can think only in the terms put forward by Bush Jr: ‘either you’re with us or you’re against us’. As one, not-missed housemate put it “they wouldn’t be looking for WMDs if they didn’t exist”.

    It is a form of ignorance that it is far deeper than, but not unrelated to, what we have seen in the climate debate. The only positive development I can see in this post-Iraq era, however, is that scepticism of globalism, of mainstream news, and of putative authorities, seems to have begun to erode any concrete left-right dimensions to commentary and to scepticism of military adventurism. For instance, we can be thankful for Tony Blair’s intervention today, saying that Theresa May should press ahead with military action in Syria without the consent of Parliament. Only a man who very many people regard as a war criminal (and if not that, then at least culpable for the mess that he caused in that region) can do what 2 million anti-war protesters could not.

    That is why I found BS’s ignorance so astonishing, and Geoff’s post no less so. Steve M deserves credit for his moral bravery, his forensic abilities, and for his not taking sides. It is that which BS claims is “wrong, stupid or even morally offensive”, and that SM has been “misled”, and become “lackadaisical”, and in fact quite sneeringly suggests it may be due to SM’s age. SM, I suspect, saw the Russophobic rhetoric begin towards an inevitable escalation of warmongering. That is the advantage advancing years gives. BS’s missive is condescending in the extreme. Who the **** does he think he is?

    Liked by 7 people

  9. KinkyKeith April 10,18:9:12

    Will,Spot on!…In addition to your points I would add something about the so called “academics” who continually quote absolute values derived from inputs to the S-B equation.They are showing their ignorance of the meaning of that equation.

    For small temperature difference the correct form of the S-B equation is:
    Maximim EMR Power flux, from mass Horespower normalized by L²; W/m²
    flux = 4 ε σ T³ ΔT. The integral of such remains the proper S-B equation! Notice the proper subtraction between temperature limits in parenthesis! Those required parenthesis demand full evaluation before any other mathematical operation in that equation!

    You cannot get a meaningful result from the S-B equation by plugging in measured values: it doesn’t work like that.

    Indeed the complete (S-B) equation is but the integral form (with respect to fixed temperatures) a theoretical maximum spontaneous EMR power flux from the surface of some mass(vector), in the direction of lower ‘radiance temperature’.

    SUPERFICIAL SCIENCE at its best with just enough sciencyness to con the tax payers and voters.

    Indeed Keith, intentional deliberate FR$AUD for profit!
    All the best!-will-


  10. Yep Ben, that sums it up nicely. Having been called a Commie, stupid, naive, etc. merely for expressing scepticism about the extremely odd Skripal affair and now yet another unverified ‘chemical attack’ by Assad’s forces, I can agree that the remarkably credulous can also be remarkably unpleasant when their credulity is challenged.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. BENPILE (10 Apr 18 at 4:37 pm)
    Excellent analysis. I agree entirely that Brandon was utterly wrong to criticise McIntyre in such a crude fashion, and from a position of passionate ignorance. His article, and particularly his mail, which he wrote to just fifteen people but said we could “do what we like with,” express more passionate confusion. But it opens up areas of reflection which we haven’t begun to explore, and which need examining. How much of my early confidence in McIntyre and distrust of RealClimate came down to a question of style? It’s possible to be sarcastic, vindictive and illogical and right, after all, and reasonable, amusing, and wrong.

    Brandon expresses an admiration bordering on hero worship (he was an adolescent at the time). Aren’t we all affected to some degree with these sentiments? I’m quite sure that my opinion that McIntyre, Watts, and many others are admirable human beings, and that Lewandowsky, Cook, Mann and Schmidt are contemptible toe rags is utterly independent of their estimates of the likely figure for equilibrium climate sensitivity. I need to think hard about why this should be.

    On the political debate:

    It [belief in hysterical 24 hour rolling news speculation]is a form of ignorance that it is far deeper than, but not unrelated to, what we have seen in the climate debate.

    Agreed. The parallels are astonishing: elevation of opinion over fact; appeal to emotions (think of the grandchildren / gassed children); narrowing of the terms of debate via cheap debating tactics (us or them; accusations of conspiracy theorising); and of course the argument that you’re being paid by the enemy. You once noted at Climate Resistance a tendency of Greens to appeal to the Blitz spirit. You could read the whole Climate / Brexit / Trump / Russia saga as the movement of an (un)critical mass of hysteria looking for an outlet, failing to find it at Copenhagen and Paris and rolling blindly on to experience its vision on the road to Damascus.

    The only positive development I can see in this post-Iraq era, however, is that scepticism of globalism, of mainstream news, and of putative authorities, seems to have begun to erode any concrete left-right dimensions to commentary

    I don’t find that positive at all. The erosion of left-right dimensions tends to happen in times of crisis; the French resistance united Catholic ultra-nationalists and communists; almost the lone voices for rearmament against Hitler in 1938 were Churchill and the young Michael Foot; in Britain climate sceptics in the political commentariat are at Breitbart or Spiked Online and almost nowhere else.

    There’s a story to be told about what fun Climate Audit has been for over a decade. And the same goes for Donna Laframboise and WUWT and JoNova and Climate Resistance and a score of others. Brandon’s awkward confession awakened me to that possibility. What to do about it?

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Jaime is surely right that the politics can’t be avoided on this thread. Here’s one of the latest articles linked by Steve McIntyre via twitter, so you know what Brandon is complaining about.
    He tweets a lot of links like this, from a huge variety of sources. It would be full time job just checking out all his sources, and of course no newspaper in Britain France or the USA is going to give a journalist a full time job checking out sources.

    You’ll see that it concerns the deaths of not 40 or 80 women and children, but nearly 5000, presumably mainly adult males, since the suggestion is that they died being worked to death digging tunnels for their captors. But that’s just speculation. They were hostages held by our allies (you can find out more about these allies on Wikipedia of course) and they might have been anyone, and have died in any fashion. Amnesty and HumanRightsWatch don’t know, and can’t tell us, so they can’t help us to form an opinion. Only if you’re gassed and still just breathing can you furnish images suitable for rolling news television.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I know exactly where I first ran across Brandon:

    I wrote an Amazon review of Mann’s book, but didn’t understand the technical issues that well, and was being ridiculed and belittled with all kinds of complicated sounding words. He showed up and evened out the score. There was one particular obnoxious commenter with the handle Burrowing Owl. His name is David Rice (I’m not outing him — he’s all over Amazon, Facebook and other comment threads) and he’s got to be Mann’s biggest groupie. Running across his comments through the years and learning more about the technical issues involved was a real eye opener for how someone can sound knowledgeable by using big words, but in actuality, be utterly clueless.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. ..and here’s my reply to Canman verbatim at Brandon’s blog:

    I’ve just read the entire Amazon thread mentioned by Canman. There’s a link in it to Brandon’s work at

    Incidentally, Burrowing Owl refers in one of his vey odd comments to: “several fascist totalitarian “free market” Stalinists (Watts, McEntyre, etc.)”

    These are very weird people.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Steve has picked up on the inconsistencies in videos of the chemical attack. He quite rightly points out that the bodies have been stacked and they could have died anywhere. It’s stage managed. He’s not the only one by any means pointing out that the Douma attack is likely faked. He’s just more thorough than most. If Britain, France and the US initiate airstrikes on the basis of this ‘evidence’, they will be exposed as war criminals in a very short time I suspect. Hopefully, May and Trump will wind their necks in and tone down the rhetoric. If they do, you can hardly accuse people like McIntyre and others of being immoral. Their scepticism is a force for good in this crazy world.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Geoff — The erosion of left-right dimensions tends to happen in times of crisis; the French resistance united Catholic ultra-nationalists and communists; almost the lone voices for rearmament against Hitler in 1938 were Churchill and the young Michael Foot; in Britain climate sceptics in the political commentariat are at Breitbart or Spiked Online and almost nowhere else.

    The contemporary crisis is of an entirely different order. Governments since Thatcher have had to invent them. In many sense, the left and right were already all but evacuated, in British politics at least. That is to say that that era being categorically ‘post political’, hence post-democratic, politicians sought to externalise their searches for domestic legitimacy: the war on terror, climate change, smoking, drinking, and all that. (This is the mode of politics championed by Blair’s sociologist, Anthony Giddens, with Ulrich Beck: Risk Society). My comment above, referring loosely to the tendency of the left to mirror the right’s politics of fear in climate change, only divides a nominal left from a nominal right. After Blair and the Clintons, for that matter, the right cannot claim the monopoly on hawkishness (as Peter Hitchens observes in much more detail this week in the MoS website, in relation to the warmongering). It is the right-of-centre which has been more vocal (or at least more coherent) in taking issue with todays Hawks, though absolutely not universally, with many vapid righties in the media (and on Twitter) taking part in a disgusting campaign to use the mood of Russophobia and confusion in Syria to embarrass Corbyn (of whom I have no time for, otherwise), for challenging our sub-moron Foreign Secretary. That is to say that weak political hacks search for crisis.

    And all of that is to say that today’s crisis is categorically internal. I find hope in it for this reason — as long as the likes of May and Bojo do not escalate the crises they have generated to something uncontrollable, which seems possible. It is gratifying to see almost universal disgust, (or at least weariness from the remain camp) whenever Blair makes a statement. His project is in tatters. It is the rubble and dead babies in Syria, whoever and whatever killed them. On the brighter side, it is Brexit. It is becoming clear that very many in the political establishment have no business there: neither the brains nor the guts, nor the vision required. And it is becoming clear that people want more out of politics than the bland gloop that has been served up for generations. While that possibility is on the horizon, politics does not divide between Left and Right, which we should, in any case, be wary of as transcendental political categories. It may be that the battle for the foreseeable future is between the hangers on — an authoritarian, superficially social-democratic (but neither) and technocratic tendency — vs an argument for more autonomy, and more democratic control. Unfortunately for us, climate change is likely to be a backwater of much bigger debates for some time.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I truly now despise both the so-called social and political sciences. There is simply no scientific method whatsoever. Only religious fantasy by those truly arrogant but ignorant,(this is our devine right) but with huge ugly loud mouth for deliberate political\ financial gain (profit)! You have been so totally SCAMMED!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Heya. I said to do what one wished with the e-mail and post, and I did mean that. That said, as poor as the post may have been written, I believe it conveyed my sentiments as intended. As such, I believe I will refrain from pursuing any lengthy discussion of what I wrote.

    That said, I would like to point out the portrayals of what I have criticized Steve McIntyre for on this page have been rather inaccurate, to the point I suspect it is not about the things I actually said. It seems to me to be little more than tribalism, particularly as these sort of reactions have become more common in almost direct correlation to me criticizing people on the “skeptic” side. Additionally, the people who say these things never make any effort to discuss things with me when I supposedly do wrong.

    Perhaps I am wrong in that impression. I don’t know. I also don’t care. The reality is I have criticized McIntyre at times, sometimes quite strongly, because that is what his behavior at the time merited. Being willing to stand up and say a person is wrong is not a sign of disrespect.


  19. By the way, while I don’t intend to pursue any lengthy discussion of these matters, I feel I should point out Geoff Chambers is mistaken when he says it is about McIntyre’s discussions of Syria. While I have been criticized some things he’s said on that topic, I have largely refrained from discussing that due to the futility of the disagreements I had with McIntyre on related issues regarding Russia.

    That futility is what has lad to my harsh criticisms. I don’t get mad at people being wrong. However, I think it is bad when people intentionally avoid addressing their mistakes. Moral issues aside, when you combine that with people around them being unwilling to point out those mistakes, the result is bad work. That was the impetus of this post of mine:

    Which was the one I wrote immediately prior to the one seen on this page. It was also the one which made me realize that given my harsh criticisms of McIntyre, he (and others) could easily get a very inaccurate impression of my view of him. So I wrote another post to try to clarify the matter.


  20. Why did Shollenberger write what he did? Why did he send it to whoever he did and in the manner that he did? It seems rather strange to me, rather quirky, almost perverse. And now an almost enigmatic post achieving what? An opportunity to explain why he thought McIntyre wrong went strangely missed. Deliberately?
    I also find it unusual that no one in this discussion seems to question Shollenberger’s motives. Have you all been set up? For myself I couldn’t care a fig why this seemingly tormented soul owes a debt to McIntyre. It’s a non-issue. I do however regret that Climate Audit now includes much non-climate related partisan politics. But that’s my hang up.


  21. By all means say what you need to say about whatever topic on which you disagree with Steve. But in the mode of objective analysis. Adding a layer of emotive outpouring merely obscures analysis, and therefore hinders, not helps. This open letter just comes across like a soppy internet meme. It doesn’t matter that you genuinely feel this way, it is still not distinguishable from a soppy internet meme, which therefore raises questions about the use of an emotive cocktail as persuader, and in any case what we feel has no bearing on what might be true (despite the popularity of this concept recently on campuses and elsewhere). If indeed you’ve been influenced by Steve M as much as you claim, you will know that minimizing emotional investment in the face of powerful feelings on both sides of a conflict, is the best way to get some clarity.


  22. What AndyWest said.

    Also, Brandon’s intervention here sheds no real light on why he thinks Steve McIntyre is ‘wrong’ and why this should be the subject of a somewhat rambling blog post which builds him up as a hero only to then knock him down.

    As I said earlier, it is entirely feasible that Steve may be wrong about certain things. Some people may think it is wrong of him to use climate audit to air his political views but maybe he just got tired of banging on about climate all the time, who knows.

    Unfortunately, the impression I’m getting is that Brandon is merely seeking attention and he has achieved that, but to no real advantage that I can see. Which is a shame, because you’re obviously very bright Brandon and you have a lot to contribute, but this is just pure theatre.


  23. So Shellenberger’s second post does identify the topic which he believes McIntyre is wrong about. Oddly he doesn’t explain why, nor why this completely non-climate topic should find fertile ground here. Any normal person feeling what he purports to do about McIntyre might write directly to him, not gush as he has done to others. Others in a position to spread his angst(?) This could merely be an indication of seeking attention or pure vanity as others here have suggested, but I would have thought it likely that he gets enough of this from being a blogmeister. Or am I seeking deviousness where it is absent?
    I have to constantly have to ask myself – do I really care? Then I realize that I do because others here, that I respect, seem to care. But I am bewildered why.


  24. McIntyre has gone nuts. This is what Brandon’s post is about. Virtually everything he posts on Trump, Mueller, Ukraine, Syria, etc is unfiltered nonsense. I’m not as emotional about it as him but it’s still rather troubling to see a formerly skeptic person turned into a mouthpiece for propaganda.

    Just from yesterday
    a: McIntyre retweets a claim by Syrian govt supporters that rebels in Douma have executed 3,800 captives, taken from the town of Adra in 2013. They arrived at this number of executions because supposedly 4,000 had been abducted, and only 200 released now.

    But the 4,000 figure was BS from the first day. A few hundred were abducted, not a few thousand. Of course some captives have died in the five years of captivity (not sure if their mortality was higher than that of East Ghota as a whole). Govt forces have been in Douma for several days – surely it’s not that hard to find the 3,800 dead. The issue of the missing mass graves applies more broadly, as Assad has retaken most long-time rebel-held areas like East Aleppo… so where are the bodies? Are the rebels digging up corpses and taking them to Idlib every time they evacuate a town?

    b: he pins a tweet with two photos of the alleged chemical attack on Douma, showing the same room with a different number of bodies. (This is what a previous commenter has claimed is “picking up the inconsistencies” of the attack).

    He must believe he’s a genius by identifying that it’s the same place. In fact there are not two but THREE videos of the attacked building. Nobody has claimed they’re different buildings. Guess what: it’s a multi-storey property and there were dead in more than one floor. Of course one could have moved bodies from the upper floors to the bottom floor, or viceversa… so what?

    McIntyre claims that, because the bodies have been moved, these people “could have died anywhere”. Could they have foamed out of their mouths anywhere? Could they have died a bloodless death anywhere? Presumably the rebels didn’t just move the corpses from other places into the building; they also must have strangled these people to death so that they didn’t show blood.

    And why the hell would Jaish al Islam stage this attack *the day before they surrender*? If they wanted to prompt action from the international community why didn’t they do it, well, weeks before? By contrast, from Assad the logic is clear: Douma was about to fall, so even if there was a reaction from the West (as now seems there will be) it would not alter the course of the battle.

    Don’t get me started on Khan Sheykoun. Just think: if the attack was staged, how the hell could the rebels have known precisely that town would be attacked from the air precisely that day, precisely in the morning? Do they keep a fake-dead video team in every town so as to stage a chemical attack whenever there’s an airstrike? If the theory is that the bomb hit a (rebel) sarin depot, where is the geolocation of that depot? And how come that, after the strong US reaction to Khan Sheykoun, there were no dead in chemical attacks for a year? (There were reported chlorine attacks but these only left wounded)

    “Conspiracy theorist” is an overused term but it actually fits today’s McIntyre like a glove.


  25. Hmm, yes, I have no idea if the Russians did, or did not hack the DNC in the run up to the presidential elections. If they did, does this imply that Trump was elected unfairly as a result? Probably not, so who really cares? I guess we are all in a sense struggling to maintain relevance in a fast changing world. Nothing really new or terribly exciting is happening in the climate change debate. Both sides seem to be entrenched. No really new science is emerging from the AGW camp; mainly just the same old tired reframing of the original argument. Research on NATURAL climate variability is setting the pace however, and a few good blogs cover this ongoing research, but nobody seems to take that much notice, even though the combined growing weight of such research seriously brings into question central aspects of the CAGW religion. We’re all just waiting to see what the next few years have in store re. the actual climate it seems, before final pronouncement is made on the AGW meme. McIntyre’s musings on Russian involvement (or not) in presidential election campaigns and Shollenberger’s disagreements with his conclusions in that respect are totally non relevant as regards the unfinished business of supposed ‘dangerous’ man-made climate change and the ludicrous attempt to mitigate it. McIntyre’s considerable body of work on climate change remains unaffected by his politics or his analysis of alleged Russian hacking attempts.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. We’ve never deleted a whole post before Hans. Compared to people having the freedom to read it or not, as they choose, I think it’s a poor option. This post is actually the reason I’ve read CiScep today, the first time for a while – as Geoff had done a pre-emptive apology to a few of us by email and that intrigued me, in addition to Brandon’s original email.

    I’m a great admirer of Steve’s, for various reasons, but I also take Brandon’s point that even with great analytical skill it’s possible to get the big picture wrong. (Well, that’s a point I take from Brandon, as I like the guy. I wouldn’t have said it quite the way he did but hey.)

    It has been a different kind of Steve on Hillary – DNC – Russia – Skripal – Syria. He’s used Twitter far more than his blog. He calls himself @ClimateAudit there. That’s kind of funny. But what’s very funny – but I don’t find haha – is that climate has always been treated as a preeminent foreign policy issue. John Kerry as Secretary of State was perhaps the worst. I was thinking of him when I wrote this at the end of my first CliScep post:

    But, whatever some foreign policy leaders say, in their moronic way, this one photo [of a young Yazidi boy desperate that his sister has died] screams that climate isn’t the most important thing. Not even close.

    I’m not sure about the substance of Brandon’s differences with Steve but the older man hasn’t held back on Twitter on the claimed use of poison gas by Assad:

    I retweeted that one but that of course doesn’t mean I would agree with Steve on every foreign policy matter since the Vietnam War. Also yesterday there was this, pointing to the article Geoff’s already mentioned:

    As well as retweeting that I responded like this today to one of the strongest campaigners for all-out war against Assad because he purports to believe the poison gas attack stories:

    So I follow Steve on this and I speak with a different tone than in discussing the finer points of equilibrium climate sensitivity. But we should in any case think more about how climate was hitched to foreign policy way too early, when it should have been all about science and humility: that is, realising what we still don’t know. There’s great evil there too.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Steve McIntyre should not have used the climate audit tag for his comments on ball tampering, russia leaks or syria. But neither is cliscep the platform to discuss this. That’s about all I have to say about this subject.


  28. BS made the letter bs, all about himself.
    But it still a nice sentiment underneath the bs.
    We all owe Steve McIntyre a debt of gratitude.


  29. @Brandon Shollenberger : 11 Apr 18 at 6:35 am says

    “That said, I would like to point out the portrayals of what I have criticized Steve McIntyre for on this page have been rather inaccurate, to the point I suspect it is not about the things I actually said. It seems to me to be little more than tribalism, particularly as these sort of reactions have become more common in almost direct correlation to me criticizing people on the “skeptic” side”

    you really think that Brandon !!!

    ps @ Hans – Steve has often wandered of the climate theme at his blog (maybe he has other interests other than the central theme)


  30. What I took away from this piece: McIntyre has grown senile, and wrong.

    My personal views on international politics were formed around the 9/11 Iraq War period. I respect Steven’s viewpoints and they match closely with mine. I am yet to see one person whose views are aligned with mine but yet supports Obana/Clintonian/now Trump interventionism.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. This whole issue seems to me to be overblown by Brandon. If you disagree with McIntyre on his political views, just ignore those things. Steve still publishes lots of really good stuff at Climate Audit. I personally don’t have the interest in the recent posts on hacking and cyber issues so I ignore them.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I think there is a place for putting climate change and (mainly Western) foreign policy into the same perspective. As briefly alluded to upthread, both are instances of the politics of fear: to build a basis for policy and for political institutions on imagined or exaggerated threat. The rebuttal to this criticism is that, both climate change and terrorism are real. But this rebuttal falls well short of understanding the point: 1. that the risk perspective belies an absence of a positive political agenda; & 2. that extant serious problems do not require special forms of politics, political institutions, or the suspension of normal politics and civil & political freedoms. For e.g., even when the UK faced a much more sophisticated and capable domestic terrorist threat, it largely did not cause the comprehensive roll back of long fought for, hard won, and historic legal, civil, and political freedoms (notwithstanding restrictions on broadcasting, and the right to trial by jury for accused terrorists in NI, in the ’70s & ’80s).

    That may be extremely frustrating for people who prefer to understand the climate debate as a scientific issue. But I believe that has been the shortcoming of climate scepticism since the late 1990s: not understanding climate alarmism as a political or ideological phenomenon, and merely discounting its excesses as fraud or error of calculation. Richard notes, for instance that ‘climate was hitched to foreign policy way too early’, but the truth is that global environmental policy and political institutions were constructed in the hope of being at the centre of global governance long before the UNFCCC, IPCC, or the Climate Change Act, as far back as the late ’60s. It was a remedy in search of a malady. The scientific basis of that agenda was too weak to support the weight until the geopolitical context changed, and a more plausible story than the ones promulgated by Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome. Theirs is a political project half a century in the making. Mere science will not slow it down. Another seismic geopolitical shift might slow it. But that would be no good thing.

    Liked by 5 people

  33. Ben: I agree about the cart of AGW and the horse of global governance hopes since 60s. The surprise collapse of Soviet communism was the big discontinuity. There is an element within the ‘foreign policy establishment’ that has not been happy with the peace dividend arising. AGW was one part of their response. Another was to try and stir up replacement conflict. That’s why I unapologetically post the following sequence this morning

    Hitchens has had some different starting points than McIntyre but we do well to listen and, in our very small way, to act.

    Liked by 6 people

  34. BRANDON SHOLLENBERGER (11 Apr 18 at 6:35 am, 6:50 am)
    Thanks for the clarification. Apologies for my errors about the nature of your disagreement with McIntyre. It was particularly bad of me not to have read the post you link to before commenting
    since your disagreement with Steve is entirely about the necessity of precision in criticising others. A point that Steve has himself insisted on many times.
    I read Steve’s post which is the subject of your article, and your comment, and some grudgingly favourable comments on your comment. It’s a forensic discussion of a detail in a highly technical subject concerning the supposed Russian hacks of the Democratic Party. Assuming you quotes are correct, you deserved an answer, and your disappointment is understandable.

    I roughly agree with the many comments here that the style of your post is “unhelpful”, but then I’ve never believed that we should modulate our comments on climate (or anything else) as to whether they’re helpful to the Cause or not. That’s what politicians and climate scientists and the mainstream media do.

    I disagree with many comments which suggest that it’s irrelevant to the climate question. Russian hacking and the question of chemical weapons, like dangerous man-made climate change, are highly technical questions with potentially momentous consequences which can only be answered by experts, which allows governments to direct and control the discussion. Wherever such unanswered technical questions arise, from the Kennedy assassinations to WMA in Iraq to 9/11, there are conspiracy theories and accusations of conspiracy theorising. No wonder they want to tar us with that brush.

    Steve McIntyre is almost certainly our top counter-expert. If he’s proved wrong on one thing, he’ll be assumed to be wrong on every other question he treats. I understand nothing and care very little about the technicalities of the enquiry into Russian hacking. I care very much about Steve McIntyre’s reputation for accuracy.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. I do feel I must apologise to the thread owner (and thus moderator) on this score:

    I’d really prefer this thread not to become a discussion about Syria and Russia.

    It’s just your timing mate. Next time, make it a day or two after WWIII has been averted.

    Liked by 3 people

  36. Geoff,

    “Steve McIntyre is almost certainly our top counter-expert. If he’s proved wrong on one thing, he’ll be assumed to be wrong on every other question he treats.”

    Only by people with a vested interest in discrediting him on his thorough-going analysis of climate science issues. I don’t think he’s wrong about Syria. I’m not qualified to even voice an opinion whether he is right or wrong about the DNC hack. But I would point out that it is entirely possible to be very right about most things and very wrong about one, or a few things.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. There is something of the autistic (for lack of a better word) in expecting people to display your preferred brand of ‘consistency.’ The world and its people don’t work that way. Narratives, stories, and scientific hypotheses for that matter, are acts of synthesis – someone has to go to the trouble of bringing together facts and plausible actions, stringing them together into a coherent whole. Of course, there will be holes in any such effort. No one is omniscient.

    For the record, when I objected to Shollenberger’s blind and over-the-top criticism during instances in the past in private, he was supported by both Steve McIntyre and Richard Tol generously – both individuals who have been subjected to unfair attacks by him. Particularly Tol, against whom the invective piled up runs into dozens of blog posts and thousands of words. They could see past certain things – to his ability, his sincerety and doggedness, among others. He is incapable of reciprocity?

    I do too, but I am less sanguine. I developed a nagging suspicion BS draws perverse energy attacking people who give him credit. I only hope a few people in the world would have some good things to say about me when I am in trouble, or in my defence.

    Sometimes you never know what have until you step out of it.

    Liked by 4 people

  38. … Well, life’s messy, likewise the blogosphere. What Steve McIntyre turns his attention and
    auditing skills to now is a new thing not to be conflated with what he did before, seems to me.
    Re climate debate on tree rings and show yr data, Steve Mc meticulously excluded comment extraneous to the science methodology problem. We can be thankful that he didn’t mix science
    and politics in the hockey stick audit, unlike the IPCC and hide-the-decline cli-sci with an
    agenda consensus.

    Re cli-sci, the evidence is out there now, thanks to SM and others, meanwhile, in politics,
    what do they say, ‘ eternal vigilance required.’ Can’t leave the audits to in-house auditors.

    Liked by 5 people

  39. Shub – I developed a nagging suspicion BS draws perverse energy attacking people who give him credit.

    I think so. I looked at his bewildering post about gmail-vs-outlook. I then looked at the email on Wikileaks, and then at the ‘original’, the headers of which clearly indicate a Microsoft, not Google ‘ecosystem’ @ DNC, on Amazon/AWS. A complete waste of time and energy, not the gotcha BS was looking for. I also found his interminable spat with Tol crushingly pointless, though I was warned that failing to take sides (his, not Tol’s) was to be as bad as the climate alarmists.

    To be fair… I bought BS’s eBook a while back. It was reasonable work. I don’t understand why he isn’t content to continue making his own mark, and to find important things to disagree with others about.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Here is a wonderful demonstration of why we are where we are — with ridiculous domestic and global climate/energy policies, and in a spiral of worsening international relations.

    This is Karen Pierce. She is the UK’s Envoy to the United Nations.

    Let me briefly explain the main reasons why the above video shows her to be a moron, not remotely fit for her position.

    1. Karl Marx believed that advanced industrial capitalism was a condition for communism. Accordingly, he identified countries like Germany or the USA as to be the most likely to take the first steps to communism — this being an issue at the time of the revolution. Marx explicitly ruled out Russia, which was largely feudal at the time. Thus, Karl Marx was likely ‘turning in his grave’ before even the revolution had completed.

    2. Almost anyone inside of Russia claiming to hold with ‘Marx’s precepts’ not much longer after the revolution would likely had taken a one-way trip down a dark alley, to join Marx in the ground. Others, met their own end via ice picks and the such like.

    3. Almost anyone outside of the USSR claiming to hold with any of ‘Marx’s precepts’ would have believed that Karl Marx was ‘turning in his grave’ about the excesses of the Soviet Union by 1958. (Except perhaps some people working within Pierce’s very own FCO, of course).

    4. The Soviet Union was dissolved on the 26 December 1991. The Russian Federation which was established in its wake was no more ‘founded on many [Marxist] precepts’ than was Tsarist Russia. By now, Karl Max would have stopped ‘turning in his grave’, to sit up and say, ‘I told you so’ (he was wrong about the USA though, and the willingness of the working classes in advanced capitalist economies to follow his thinking).

    5. Karen Pierce was FCO Team Leader for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova (1996 to 1997), according to Wikipedia. It is extraordinary that anyone in the diplomatic service could not have established a basic grasp of those countries’ recent political history.

    Those are the facts. Karen Pierce’s understanding is at least a century behind the times. Her comments are absurd in the extreme.

    One of the main arguments I put forward to explain the rise of climate-environmentalism is mediocrity. How is it possible that someone like Pierce has risen to such a role? How is it that someone, seemingly tasked with important global affairs, can have such a poor grasp of history. By which I don’t mean ‘made a slight error’. I mean she makes a catastrophic blunder.

    Perhaps it was ever thus, and the FCO was always stacked with fools and idiots, who for decades knew next to nothing about their enemies in the Cold War. But perhaps something else kept them in check.

    I don’t find it a stretch to say that what is true of the Envoy’s understanding of her subject is likely true of any of the countless other utterly over-elevated tools’ grasp on climate. If climate change didn’t exist, they would have to imagine it. After all, if your position requires a grasp of history, and you lack sufficient understanding, you have to wing it, don’t you. And climate ‘science’ is so much easier to grasp than history.

    Liked by 2 people

  41. Shub,
    irt to your observation regarding autism, I have informally guessed BS is likely in some sort of AS spectrum for some time.

    Liked by 1 person

    I haven’t read much of Brandon’s on-line work except that which referred to Cook and Lewandowsky. Criticism is welcome, but speculation about someone’s psychological profile is really, really out of order.

    Liked by 3 people

  43. ..and while I’m on the subject of censorship, when I said I didn’t want to see comments drifting off into discussion of Russia and Syria, I hadn’t anticipated some of the excellent comments here. Nothing off-topic will be censored, unless it’s unethical.

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Geoff Chambers, thank you for your response. For what it’s worth, the example in that post is not a one-off sort of thing. I have pointed out other errors, many just as severe, on numerous occasions. They were met with silence to dissembling. In one case, McIntyre responded to what I wrote by editing a post to change something I criticized without disclosing he made any changes.

    I am not worried if McIntyre is proved wrong on one point that will discredit him. However, if he behaves in a way contrary to the standard he long-promoted, and his fans do nothing to speak out about it, many people will come to think those standards were never something he really believed in. Given how important I think his work has been, I think that would be terrible.

    In truth, I don’t care about McIntyre’s politics. The first time I called McIntyre out like this was on an entirely different issue. It was in response to things he said about the Andrew Weaver case, where I noticed several problems, including him having directly misquoted what had been said. I couldn’t get those errors corrected any more than I could the ones about the DNC hacking or Russia invading Crimea.

    McIntyre can say and do whatever he wants. For the most part, I’ll read it with enjoyment. But if he says or does things I think are wrong, I’ll say so. And no matter how harsh I may feel my criticisms need to be, when I say so, it’ll never change that I have a great deal of respect for him. That was the reason I wrote the post I sent to you. Nothing more.


  45. Brandon, I can only see a handful of people who have expended any effort criticizing your output. Your response to them: ‘I don’t care.’ But the people you go after should heed your detailed critiques that cut to the bone and question their very intellectual integrity, on G-Suite vs Outlook, etc?

    There is a dis-proportionality between the depth of the emotional attack and the purported missteps that caused it. Most people see the latter and don’t resort to the former – which is why you see the response to your criticism as being silence, or dissembling. I was not attempt to psychologically profile you but it is this element I was referring to. Almost all of us, myself included, have the some psychological quirk when it comes to dealing with criticism or attack.

    In any discussion, especially online, people will not see eye to eye on every point as the argument progresses. You think you made a great point but they simply ignore it, you believe you finally elucidated the underlying error in logic in a moment of brilliant clarity but others have launched on a tangent, and so forth – there isn’t a discussion thread where this doesn’t happen. Does it mean you question the very moral character of the targets of your rhetoric? Wavelengths don’t match fully, people like their own theories too much no matter how *obviously wrong* it may appear to you. Why should that become the cause for labeling someone senile? What’s wrong here?

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Shub Niggurath, I’m afraid the impression you describe having of me is simply not correct. I have been no more harsh to people like Steve McIntyre than I would someone like Michael Mann. In fact, I have treated him much more “gently.” I’d wager you have simply not seen much of the numerous criticisms I’ve made of him before this. If you had, you would see I began being completely, bending over backwards out of respect.

    Similarly, I can’t imagine what makes you think my response to people who criticize my output is, “I don’t care.”

    The truth is Steve McIntyre has on occasion behaved in ways which would get him pilloried by the people at this site if his name was Michael Mann, John Cook or Stephan Lewandowsky. There would have been multiple posts filled with as much mockery and snideness as people could muster. I’ve seen plenty of you ridiculous Michael Mann for things he has done which aren’t as bad as things Richard Tol has done. But for Tol, you turn a blind eye.


  47. That last post got submitted early by accident so I didn’t finish the second paragraph, so to add to it, I have said I don’t care what people think about me plenty of times. However, I have never once said I don’t care what critics of my output say. In fact, I try to give detailed responses when I see criticisms of what I write.

    As a way to check your opinion of me, I suggest a simple experiment. Can you describe, with any accuracy, what my criticism of people like Steve McIntyre, Richard and Anthony Watts have been? I bet not. I bet as much as people here might disagree with what I’ve said about those people, none of them could actually say what I’ve said about those people. Aside from cherry-picking a few juicy quotes, of course.

    As an example, how many of you knew one of the early things I criticized Richard Tol for was threatening one of his critics with a libel lawsuit if he didn’t retract what he said? How many of you know the first time I ever responded to Richard Tol was at Judith Curry’s site, when I demonstrated his critique of a “skeptic” paper using detrended fluctuation analysis was not just wrong, but based upon him having absolutely no idea what that analysis entailed? Fun fact, the primary reason I got involved in that discussion was I was annoyed at Tol accusing Curry of lying over her having made a post about that paper.


  48. It’s not just high profile people that Brandon takes to task. Alas, my first impression of Brandon was that he was obsessed by detail and enjoyed arguing just for the sake of arguing. I was quite frankly amazed that he had taken the time to write a blog post (exactly 4 years ago to the day, by strange coincidence) about my online shenanigans at ATTP. Since that first encounter, I haven’t really followed his work, but, on Twitter, over the years, he has made some very valid points which I have agreed with and I bear no lasting grudge. However, my initial impressions of his character have not significantly altered. I agree with what Shub says here and, looking back at that post from 2014, I must thank him also for defending a somewhat naive sceptic (me) in the comments.


  49. This topic brings up something very intriguing. It is arguable that the societies that have embarked on a Communist project had not reached the level of development assumed by Marx. It is arguable that the US and various Northern European states have reached that level. So Trump versus Sanders would have been interesting. As it was, Trump prevailed over the least prepossessing candidate for a long while mainly because he focused on where he needed votes and she was either too stupid or lazy or ill-advised to do that. Politics in Europe is becoming more and more divisive and the centralist consensus is weakening. Maybe Marx is sitting up in his grave instead of spinning.

    Liked by 1 person

  50. Brandon, Some friendly advice. People don’t know in detail what your criticisms have been because you write long rambling repetitive posts that most people don’t read. Having an executive summary of a few sentences at the beginning would help you get more people to read your stuff.


  51. MIAB — Maybe Marx is sitting up in his grave instead of spinning.

    He was right about Russia. He was wrong about the rest. If he could sit up, he would have looked at the state of the left, said, ‘oh well, never mind’, and laid right back down again.


  52. Ben, agreed that maybe the US and UK are not quite ready – but let’s be aware of the demographics. I just get the feeling that it could happen in a nation near us, and the EU might turn out to be a big factor


  53. And meanwhile, Trump is able to leave another ultimatum threatening Armageddon. How long before global negotiators recognise the tactic? He threatens and backs down.


  54. See, this is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Jaime Jessop refers back to a post I wrote four years ago (as she says, it’s funny it was written on this very day) and thanks Shub Niggurath for defending her in the comments of that post. Yet if you look at what Shub said, he directly contradicted her comments.

    It all started when Jessop was in a discussion where she got asked to provide the names of three genuine skeptics. She refused. She was asked again. and said since the person was insistent, “two sites which I use a lot are X and Y.” Later, she turned around said she never claimed X and Y were skeptic sites. I thought that was weird and said so on Twitter, pointing out if her examples weren’t meant as examples of skeptics, responding to a question asking for skeptics with them was… well, very confusing.

    Things went on from there, with Jessop doing stuff like accusing me of misquoting her at a point where I hadn’t quoted her at all. I wound up writing a post about all this titled, “A Failure to Communicate” to highlight the sort of fruitless discussions I felt could be avoided if people tried to work together more. Shub showed and said a variety of untrue things, most notably:

    She’s however not averse to telling aloud who she thinks are sceptics

    When Jessop refused to say who she thought were skeptics, to the point she said her answer to the question of who real skeptics were… should not be taken as listing genuine skeptics… for some reason. Shub then doubled down on this by saying Jessop listed Y and Z as skeptics, when in reality she listed X and Y (Shub, for some reason, claimed Jessop had listed Goddard when she had clearly not. (Since I”m accused of being obsessed with detaile anyway, I should point out Shub also misspelled the name of Y, not that that matters).

    I don’t know how says a person misquoted them when no quotes have been posted. I don’t know how a person responds to (paraphrased), “Give me a couple examples of A” by saying (paraphrased), “Since you insist, here are two examples” then claim those were not examples of A. I certainly don’t know how one faults me for highlighting these peculiarities while defending a person who directly contradicts what you said.

    But that’s where we’re at. I don’t quote a person at all, and I get painted as a bad guy who severely distorts the truth by misquoting them. A person jumps in and directly contradicts what that person said, but they are a good guy because they were defending her.

    I don’t know how one could come up with a better example.


  55. DPY6629, I have tried putting short introductions explaining what will come later in posts. I don’t know if it has helped or not, but it is something I like for at least some posts. It’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind for future posts.

    But I’ve consistently found other things to be larger factors. And the primary factor is, “What is the post about?” I’ve written some pretty bad posts which were quite popular just because of what they said, not how well they said it.


  56. Outbreaks of mass hysteria are common, and official experts (academics, journalists, politicians…) are normally on hand to counter them. In the case of global warming, the hysteria has been adopted and promoted by the experts, and the job of restoring sanity has fallen to unofficial experts, and with his patient forensic attention to detail, Steve McIntyre has been one of the best, no – the best. The job involves complex detailed argument, which Steve and his helpers have conducted over fifteen years under a hail of hate mail and derision. Detailed argument involves sometimes being wrong. It’s easy to get sidetracked from the main task.

    [Not quite off-topic]
    President Macron announced yesterday that he had proof that Assad gassed civilians in Douma, and this made headlines in newspapers in Britain, the USA and Italy, where it’s not understood that French Presidents are allowed to lie through their teeth. (They rarely give TV interviews, and when they do, French journalists are far too polite to ask follow up questions.)
    Soon after, French TV showed images I hadn’t seen before in the dozens of hours of TV I’ve watched on the subject, of a yellow gas canister lying on a bed, apparently having fallen there through a hole in the ceiling. I looked for the picture on Google, using “bomb on bed”, “gas canister” + Syria, Douma etc and the first link I found was to a twitter feed involving ClimateAudit. There were very few other sources, all from obscure blogs or twitter feeds. It seems Steve is one of a tiny handful of unofficial non-experts asking the relevant questions. Again.

    It seems from Google that this image of the actual bomb used to kill 50 women and children hasn’t been reproduced in the mainstream media, despite presumably coming from the same source as the images of dead and suffering children which have been reproduced millions of times. Presumably the picture editors looked at it and concluded, like me, that it didn’t look very convincing. A very small number of people seem to be involved in detailed discussion of the pictures on Twitter, and Steve McIntyre is one of them.

    Has anyone seen this image anywhere?


    Marx was wrong about the rest of the world as well. He didn’t know about research being conducted by his contemporary anthropologist LePlay into family structure, resuscitated in the 21st century by demographer Emmanuel Todd. Only in societies with a dense family structure involving equality of inheritance between siblings and three generations living under one roof is the communist ideal a possibility. That means Russia, China, Vietnam, and isolated pockets elsewhere, like Tuscany, Southern Portugal, and some villages round here where the inhabitants still attend festivals of foreign films put on by the local council, and on holidays hold feasts in the main square where they eat barbecued snails and drink large quantities of wine with total strangers, the brainwashed perverts. And the buses cost one euro to go 50 kilometres or more and there’s a High School named after Rosa Luxembourg.

    The English and their colonial descendants don’t care about equality and kick their kids out of the nest as soon as possible. That’s why we end up chatting to strangers on blogs, isolated but independent, and capable of asking questions.

    Liked by 1 person

  58. “Soon after, French TV showed images I hadn’t seen before in the dozens of hours of TV I’ve watched on the subject, of a yellow gas canister lying on a bed, apparently having fallen there through a hole in the ceiling… It seems from Google that this image of the actual bomb used to kill 50 women and children hasn’t been reproduced in the mainstream media, despite presumably coming from the same source as the images of dead and suffering children which have been reproduced millions of times.”

    But who says the gas cylinder on the bed is the one that killed all those people? There are more buildings in Douma. There have been literally hundreds of chlorine attacks during the war (not only by the government), and a lot of them seem to use these yellow cylinders. Even the same building could have been hit by more than one cylinder. In the days before Jaish al Islam surrendered the government was throwing everything it had at Douma.

    Let’s say the photo of the cylinder on the bed is indeed staged: so what? We’re still dealing with the same questions. How did these 30+ people die a bloodless death? Did the rebels strangle these people to death (and somehow make some of them foam out of their mouths) in order to stage a false flag attack when they’re hours from surrendering? Would they be so reckless when their evacuation needs several days of regime collaboration?

    Another commenter has also been retweeting the claim of thousands of captives having been executed. First, executing captives without demanding anything in return is absurd; rather, what Jaish al Islam would have done is asking for concessions (loosening the siege on Ghouta or whatever) and threatening to execute them if these concessions were not met. Or using them in a prisoner exchange, for example. Second: it’s been five days since the regime took Douma. How long does it take to find 3,800 bodies? Are the corpses also being evacuated to north Syria?

    Stop reading twitter and start reading actual reports on the evidence. The theory of a false flag attack isn’t just flimsy, it’s inconceivable. You’d have to involve lies from the residents of the area, lies from the rebels who are interested in not infuriating the government (which ensures their safe passage to northern Syria), lies from the medical workers who confirm that those people died from chemical exposure and not from strangling or anything else, and who say hundreds of people had breathing problems the day of the attack. In the case of Khan Sheykoun you’d also have to involve lies from the US, which confirms that Syrian Su-22 was overflying the town precisely when the attack happened (at least the “theories” that the attack itself was fake and/or the dead were fake are no longer floated around). Furthermore, in Khan Sheykoun the staging would have required the rebels to know in advance precisely which town would attacked which day and at which hour. Oh, there is an HRW report has lots more evidence, including a major chemical attack on an ISIL-held area that could only have been carried out by Russian or Syrian aircraft. Presumably HRW is lying too?


  59. “As an example, how many of you knew one of the early things I criticized Richard Tol for was threatening one of his critics with a libel lawsuit if he didn’t retract what he said?”

    I merely reminded Ackerman that libel is illegal. A credible threat of a lawsuit starts with a letter from a lawyer.

    Ackerman, by the way, did threaten to sue Elsevier if they would retract his libelous paper.

    “How many of you know the first time I ever responded to Richard Tol was at Judith Curry’s site, when I demonstrated his critique of a “skeptic” paper using detrended fluctuation analysis was not just wrong, but based upon him having absolutely no idea what that analysis entailed?”

    Detrended fluctuation analysis does as it says on the tin. It removes trends to analyze fluctuations. It is therefore not suited for the study of trends.

    Of course, the key question here is whether the trend in the global mean surface air temperature is related to the trend in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. DFA is a great method, but it will not answer that question.


  60. I never even consulted with a lawyer. My co-author did, because he is married to one. The informal advice of spouse and friends was don’t even think about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  61. Speculating about BS’s psychological issues is bad and I apologize to the community at large and to BS in particular.
    Is it ok to compare him to an unsympathetic Polonius in Hamlet?
    Long winded, boorish and self abdorbed.
    Or to Vladimir from “Waiting on Godot”. Restless, talking deep thoughts and long winded.

    Liked by 2 people

  62. “Interested” asks us to consider the facts… From the centre of a conflict, in a country all but destroyed by civil war.

    There are no facts. That is the fact. There are not even facts in Salisbury, which is about as far from war (but not from warfare) as it is possible to be.

    It is also a fact that a dearth of facts is an opportunity for those with a dearth of scruples and surplus of self-regard.

    Liked by 1 person

  63. In fact the false flag hypothesis is extremely credible. Here is one analyst’s warming that it was extremely likely, given the then recent bombing, exactly a year before this latest gas attack.

    Liked by 1 person

  64. Did you actually read my comments? If so, what in that video’s content changed your mind?


  65. “Interested” – Did you actually read my comments?

    Yes, they were ridiculous.

    I had seen the video long before I read your comment.


  66. Just to be clear: apart from reading my comments, read the HRW report.
    Do you believe HRW is also making up all the stuff about talking to witnesses, lists of names, etc? Notice that prior to Khan Sheykoun there was no reason to think a sarin attack would trigger a US reaction. The many times larger attack on Ghouta in 2013 went unresponded, and the East Hama attack in December 2016 didn’t even make it to the Anglosphere’s newsrooms.

    But, *after* Khan Sheykoun, there was indeed reason to think an attack with sarin would prompt a US response… and yet, no sarin attacks since then! If organizing a false flag is so easy why don’t the rebels just do it?

    (There have been plenty of chemical attacks since April 2017, but all the verified ones involved chlorine, which usually leaves only wounded people. The US is of course not going to attack Assad over chlorine so the regime must have felt it was a “safe” weapon. The Douma attack certainly wasn’t sarin, as in such a crowded area it would’ve killed hundreds and the yellow cylinders contain gas while sarin is a liquid. It’s perfectly possible the Douma attack was simply a chlorine attack gone wrong – maybe chlorine mixed with other agent).


  67. The HRW report is dated 2017/05/01, referring to an attack a month earlier. As we now know, the US abandoned the pretence that there ever were any clear facts linking the use of CWs there to Assad, earlier this year.

    As for Human Rights Watch. No, I do not trust them, nor believe that they are impartial or disinterested. Never have. Never will. In fact, I am deeply suspicious of almost all NGOs.


  68. First, the facts do not change because says in an interview that “there is no evidence”. (And James Mattis is not “the US”).

    Second, Mattis was specifically talking about sarin, not chemical weapons which as mentioned is a broader category, including e.g. chlorine. The Douma incident for sure was not sarin – there would be hundreds of dead. Chlorine usually does not kill, but it can do so in small / crowded areas (like most Douma buildings).

    Third, that Newsweek article is dead wrong. Mattis meant that there is no evidence of further sarin attacks since Khan Sheykoun. (Even the title is wrong: sarin is not a gas).

    “Q: Can I ask a quick follow up, just a clarification on what you’d said earlier about Syria and sarin gas?

    SEC. MATTIS: Yeah.

    Q: Just make sure I heard you correctly, you’re saying you think it’s likely they have used it and you’re looking for the evidence? Is that what you said?

    SEC. MATTIS: That’s — we think that they did not carry out what they said they would do back when — in the previous administration, when they were caught using it. Obviously they didn’t, cause they used it again during our administration.”

    Mattis means that, in the Obama administration, Syria was caught using sarin. “they did not carry out what they said they would do back” means that they didn’t not destroy this sarin; this is “obvious” according to Mattis “cause they used it again during our administration”.

    Mattis continues:
    “And that gives us a lot of reason to suspect them. And now we have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it’s been used.

    We do not have evidence of it. But we’re not refuting them; we’re looking for evidence of it. Since clearly we are using — we are dealing with the Assad regime that has used denial and deceit to hide their outlaw actions, okay?”

    Mattis is wrong about the “reports” of sarin use since Khan Sheykoun; at least I have not seen any such report. But it’s clear that the lack of evidence on sarin refers to the post-Khan Sheykoun period.


  69. >BRANDON SHOLLENBERGER 12 Apr 18 at 7:51 pm

    For me, it is not who you are criticizing (whatever their past record or whichever side they are on in any conflicted domain), or regarding specific behaviors, why, or upon what topic, but that your open letter is just an emotive pitch that will only contribute to clouding issues and further polarizing existing value-based stances, rather than increasing clarity or reducing polarization.

    >‘The truth is Steve McIntyre has on occasion behaved in ways which would get him pilloried by the people at this site if his name was Michael Mann, John Cook or Stephan Lewandowsky. ‘

    I have not read the non-climate posts in question. But if you believe this to be the case, then use only those methods you purport to admire, i.e. persistent and objective evidence-based analysis decoupled from emotion and ideological stance, to better isolate and make obvious such behavior. Emotive letters will do nothing for you or your goals, unless your goal is merely more controversy; same would be true had the letter been addressed to Mann or Cook or Lewandowsky.

    The best method available may not work. Such is the world. But it is still the best method available, and will contribute at least something to increased clarity and reduced emotive investment overall.

    Liked by 1 person

  70. …and will contribute at least something to increased clarity and reduced emotive investment overall.

    which will be the case whether you are right, or only partially right, or wrong in your assumptions.


  71. As a coda to Ben’s remark about the mediocrity of our ruling class here’s a quote from the UK’s national security adviser, with an explanatory note from the Guardian’s Intelligence correspondent:

    Sedwill wrote: “I would like to share with you and allies further information regarding our assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian state was responsible for the Salisbury attack. Only Russia has the technical means, operational experience and the motive.”

    The term “highly likely” is one commonly used by the intelligence agencies when they believe something is 100% certain – since they are unwilling to express that opinion without a caveat in case of error.

    The last sentence should be pasted at the top of every page of the IPCC reports. Maybe it originated there.

    Sir Mark Sedwill is telling our NATO allies that only Russia is able to poison people with nerve gas, only Russia has experience in poisoning people with nerve gas, and only Russia has a motive for associating itself with nerve gas poisoning in the minds of the entire population of the planet.

    The Guardian’s Intelligence correspondent is telling us that Sir Mark is 100% sure, but can’t say so, in case he’s wrong.

    Ever get the feeling that the entire world is a False Flag operation designed to spite George Orwell’s spinning cadaver?

    Liked by 2 people

  72. ANDYWEST2012 says:

    I have not read the non-climate posts in question. But if you believe this to be the case, then use only those methods you purport to admire, i.e. persistent and objective evidence-based analysis decoupled from emotion and ideological stance, to better isolate and make obvious such behavior. Emotive letters will do nothing for you or your goals, unless your goal is,,,

    My goal was to express a complex set of emotions I have felt for a period of time. Nothing more. People here have latched onto ideas about my motivations and such, in a fascinating display of… something. The sad reality is a number of people here have aptly demonstrated how great their refusal to try to understand or address the things I say is.

    Ironically, I have done exactly what you say I ought to do in many posts and comments where my goal was to demonstrate things McIntyre had said were wrong. In these cases, I went about things one way. I then wrote this letter intentionally not trying to make any such case. Because that was not the point of the letter, I did not go about writing the letter as I would a post attempting to make such a case.

    Criticizing a letter for failing to do something it was never intended to do is odd. Telling a person they ought to do something while being unaware of them having done it numerous times is odd. hunter calling me autistic here then claiming to be sorry about it despite having done both of those things before is odd. (How many times can a person repeat that pattern before their apologies start to ring hollow?)

    If people want to say I did a terrible job writing this letter, that’s fine. I’d probably agree. But it might be helpful if people would at least try to figure out what the point of the letter was.

    Liked by 1 person

  73. My take is that they’re both wrong 😉 Or both right. Nobody knows.

    In terms of the gas attacks, they could be real and they could be faked or it could be a mix. Putin and Assad are evil enough to do it and the rebels are sneaky or desperate enough to set it up/or even poison their ownto get the West to intevene. In some ways the Iraq war was forgivable because western governments assumed that freed of the control of Saddam, the Iraqis could prosper. Their big flaw was not realising that many countries are sh!ts all the way down. Sure, there may be a few civilised ones but most of them have lived in the West for most of their lives and only talk about being those rogue states, they aren’t immersed in the reality of religious or political hatred. All that aside, the ‘liberation’ of Iraq was badly handled and we could have waited another year for the UN to come on board, the UK to get ready and for Saddam to come clean about WMD.

    Since then, intervention has been less justifiable. We still find sh1ts behind every freedom flag. But what’s the alternative? Personally I’ve stopped caring what dictators do to their own people but the likes of Putin and Kim Jong Un won’t stop at their own borders or those of their allies. They want to interfere in the West. The silly comments from Russia about the Skripals is evidence they did do it. If they were honest about their innocence they should be trying to find out who did but instead they are playing games. Putin is actively inteferring in Western public opinion and we need to do something about it quick. It’s true that Trump is a war mongering berk but appeasement doesn’t make it stop either.

    From Salisbury to Syria, the proof for whatever happens is and usually will be extremely slim. Do we resolutely turn a blind eye until something happens that we can prove? Or is there a scale of attrocity that would be an unavoidable call to fight? It’s something that the West has to debate and ultimately take up with the UN, an organisation that has to demonstrate what it’s for or we should withdraw fom it. Other than France, the UK and the US, most other countries are happy to mutter ‘I don’t know’; on the side lines. They can cheer for western commitment to freedom if things go well or say ‘we warned you this would end badly’ if it fails. The usual rogues states including China will veto everything on the grounds they will chummy up to the resident dictator for trade.

    If Putin was prepared to stop at maintaining what he and his allies have now then I’d say let them do what they will to their own people but bullies always want more. Putin will keep testing Western solidarity and incidents will keep happening on an excalating trend. So what do we do?


  74. I was just going to type comments about Syria and Putin (even though I know that is not what this thread is supposed to be about). Then I read what Tiny CO2 wrote. As so often, he’s beaten me to it, and has written more or less what I would have written.

    In answer to his “So what do we do?” in this case I would say do nothing (at least so far as the UK is concerned). Why do we continue to think we should be the policeman of the world and the world’s conscience? We’re a small country with a lot of debt and a lot of problems of our own. This is a job for NATO and/or the UN, though both may be incapable of dealing with it. IMO it’s not something we should concern ourselves in, however awful it is, not least because we lack certainty about what happened, and because whatever we do may well make matters worse.

    I do now suspect Assad and Putin, and have moved from having a totally open mind on the subject. The latest nonsense from the Russians does suggest they’re behind both the attack in Syria and the attack in Salisbury. Their representatives are talking nonsense, and they know it, all of which suggests to me a considerable degree of involvement in both places.

    Despite that, we should still keep out.


  75. Tiny, if you’re “she” not “he”, then please accept my apologies.


  76. No apologies, identity is secondary to opinion. 🙂 This site has a good ratio of the sexes and a great ratio of ideas.


  77. Tiny we have over the years both clashed and agreed, amused, I know you have stimulated, repeatedly. I am pleased to know more of you – but probably not the most important facet.

    Richard ” Or so a Russian bot once told me.” These days this is hardly a good reference”


  78. AK 🙂 I agree with you more often than is obvious, even on the BBC but don’t tell you because in the sceptiverse we’re both using debating muscles that we don’t get to use so much elsewhere.


  79. On the Skripal poisoning, Steve tweeted this over a month ago in response to blogger Moon of Alabama:

    Happily it hasn’t turned out to be a death for Sergei or Yulia. (Someone I know and very much trust working in Salisbury intensive care direct messaged me on Twitter this week to put me right on something I’d retweeted. Thank God for such amazing care, as I’m sure it has been, in passing.)

    But some things to note here. Steve certainly admits to the category and possibility of Putin death. This speaks at least a little to the serious (admirably gender fluid?) opinions of Tiny and Mark. For the more shocking idea of Clinton death see for example ‘Clinton death list’: 33 spine-tingling cases from August 2016. I’m not saying myself that any of those deaths were preceded by a smidgeon of bad thoughts, even, from Bill or Hillary. But that kind of thing is surely what Steve was referring to. And this is someone who I feel sure I remember being described as a ‘Clintonian liberal’ living in Toronto, and accepted that designation, in the wake of Climategate in late 2009. That’s some journey to have been on. And is that observation of mine climate related? I’d say definitely yes. Without the corruption revealed by his forensic questioning on climate Steve would never have made that journey.

    Related in my own mind at least was this in the Daily Express yesterday:

    Vladimir Putin would not have been involved in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia because it caused great embarrassment for the Russian premier ahead of his World Cup, a former adviser to Moscow has claimed.

    Igor Yurgens, former chief adviser to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, instead blamed the attack against the former double agent on hyper-communist “deep state groups’ within the government who despise any form of detente with the West.

    Mr Skripal’s daughter Yulia, 33, was released from hospital this week after she was poisoned with a deadly chemical more than a month ago.

    The Russian embassy in London quickly congratulated her on her recovery but accused UK authorities of her “abduction”.

    Mr Yurgens said: “The last person interested in this before his election and a soccer championship that he has invested so much PR and financial and political capital in is Putin.

    “My guess, educated or uneducated, is probably it was the deep state. From which side, I don’t know.”

    This is the first time I’ve seen the phrase “deep state” used of Russia.

    But “From which side, I don’t know.”

    Quite. I second Ben’s motion on the facts.

    Liked by 1 person

  80. It was potentially possible that another country had tried to kill the Skripals and if the Russians had stuck to that argument they’d have had some credibility but they are accusing the UK of the attempted assasination, abduction and the Syrian attack. Yeah, because a country that can’t send convicted murderers and rapists home is likely to bump off a pair of law abiding Russians. It’s like the kid saying that burglars had eaten the easter eggs. If Putin wasn’t directly responsible it doesn’t mean that the Russians haven’t been developing the technique and that they might have lost control of some of their supply. If Russia had any intelligence, they’d be hinting at it but their claims lurch about. What they were doing was spying on Yulia’s emails and Putin has a track record of getting revenge. He was running up to an election and could impress his people about his reach and/or inspiring the feeling that Russia is being victimised. A false flag false flag. It had the pleasing side effect (for Putin) of warning any other would be traitor or oligarch – Putin can get you, no matter where you go.

    The football is likely to go ahead no matter what and Putin isn’t interested in impressing anybody with anything other than he could get it no matter what. All that mattered was the size of the bribe. British fans would be mad to go. They run the risk of being imprisoned for genuine but trivial reasons or worse, unrestricted attacks by Russian Ultras. Putin will express fake regret but what can a soft touch leader like him do about offended Russian manhood?

    In many ways I agree with Mark’s ‘do nothing’ about international affairs with the exception…. what? What would be too bad, too close or too big to ignore? When a state brings its full secret services to bear on committing atrocities, there might be no evidence to take Russia to court, even if there was a court to take them to.


  81. Brandon:

    >My goal was to express a complex set of emotions I have felt for a period of time. Nothing more.

    It is naive to assume a strongly emotive open letter dropped into a conflicted domain, or into intersecting conflicted domains, will not have an impact. And where dispassionate understanding is needed to navigate complexity, that impact is not typically going to be helpful.

    >Criticizing a letter for failing to do something it was never intended to do is odd.

    In conflicted domains, perceptions weigh. And even in the best case, it could never have had no impact. Ringing a friend might be a better way to express your emotions. You’d probably get more sympathy too 😉

    >Telling a person they ought to do something while being unaware of them having done it numerous times is odd

    My working assumption was that you would indeed have done such, on occasion at least. As I said, doing *only* that is the way to go. Whatever the separate goal of your letter, such expressions cannot be divorced from conflicted domains when they are about players therein, and will have an impact. If there’s some really major benefit that you have weighed against any such impact and deemed greater, then I can’t see one. But you could enlighten me. None of us are able to keep emotion out of the picture, but that’s different to letting rip.


  82. Mark I don’t know what we should do about Syria (or Salisbury) but I cannot believe doing nothing is the right answer. If the international community has banned chemical weapons, and they have been used by someone, or if inhabitants of your country have been deliberately poisoned by military grade nerve agents, you cannot do nothing. To do nothing is to acquiesce, to accept what is done to you or to innocents who cannot resist. It used to be called appeasement.
    I lived through the Cuban missile crisis as an undergraduate – we gave up, missed classes, played cards waiting for our world to end in flame – never again.


  83. If anyone doubts that Russia is heavily using social media, you just have to read the comment sections of the papers on the Skripals and Syria. There are loads of them (and their multiple personalities) at the Daily Mail some of my favourites are Feddup, Ouchagain, Personal views, Miffytang, Fifi4-glasgow, nigglyfridge. The down votes for the most reasonable of comments is another clue. Their arguments cycle through the following ‘It was food poisoning, drug taking, the flu, it can’t be a nerve agent because it’s supposed to be deadly, it was a false flag activity, self inflicted, the boyfriend or his mother, it was Porton Down, there are no photos of them in a coma, they aren’t being allowed to speak to the press, or the Russian embassy staff, Yulia wants to go home, she wants to see her cousins, what kind of country lets two guinea pigs die or put down a sick cat, where has the policeman vanished to, who is going to pay for their NHS treatment and new identity, Boris and May are stupid but the UK government planned all this, it’s to cover up the Brexit negotiations or Telford sex abuse or London stabbings, Tony Blair lied, the Skripals deserved it because he was a traitor, the British are stupid sheep and can’t see that their own government are pulling the wool over their eyes, Tony Blair lied – well you can’t mention him enough, the stories coming out in the DM are confused so therefore the authorities are lying/hiding something/incompetent/corrupt, somebody somewhere with knowledge/authority has said something at odds with the official line so because of all that Russia didn’t do it.’ And all accompanied with the encouragement to listen to the Russian officials and TV channels.

    Because they’ve got such a good track record. Not. How many times has Russia done something and then sworn it wasn’t them? Drug cheating, shooting down a domestic plane, the FIFA bribes and so on. Putin would never have created a dodgy dossier because he wouldn’t stoop to explain his justifications.

    Our government lets us down at every opportunity but through sappyness not agression. Even AGW stems from an innate desire to be at fault and make everything better. When this and previous governments have interefered with international affairs, it has often been from (as Mark wrote) a desire to be the World’s police. So, much though we have to accept that our country makes mistakes and even makes things worse, are you sure you want to side with Russia? Is that a genuine alignment or just a way to punish a government you don’t think listens to you?


  84. hen this and previous governments have interefered with international affairs, it has often been from (as Mark wrote) a desire to be the World’s police. So, much though we have to accept that our country makes mistakes and even makes things worse, are you sure you want to side with Russia?–

    So, our evil is just sloppiness.

    Stop. Taking. Sides. At. All.

    I’m sure I don’t have to take sides. And I’m sure that I can do more to hold my government to account than I can the Russians. And when I look at their alleged evil, funnily enough, it looks much less black and white than my government claimed.

    Or is it that fabricating the case for war — chemical weapons, ready to be dispatched and delivered to the UK in just 45 minutes — comes from a ‘good place’. It’s a nice sentiment, is it, marshaling people behind such a lie, to a kill a million people. It’s a good lie, that makes our own government so different to Russia’s and Syria’s.

    I don’t think so.

    Liked by 1 person

  85. “you cannot do nothing”

    You can. You absolutely can do nothing. And you can absolutely do nothing in absolutely good concience.


  86. “you cannot do nothing”

    You can. You absolutely can do nothing. And you can absolutely do nothing in absolutely good conscience.

    Liked by 3 people

  87. Is Peter Hitchens taking Putin’s side? He claimed not five days ago:

    No, not a Putin Patsy either Now, despite my equally long record of criticism of Vladimir Putin, going back to 2004 , see I have no doubt that some semi-literate will accuse me of being a ‘useful idiot’.This hackneyed and ill-understood Cold War term was never actually used by Lenin, as claimed. In any case it applies specifically to the dim fellow-travellers of Communism, who defended the USSR’s misdeeds because of ideological sympathy. This is an accusation that simply cannot be made against me. Russia has no ideology. And I am not a defender of, or a friend of, the Russian state.

    The rest of the article explains, nevertheless, why he thinks it’s likely the Douma ‘poison gas attack’ is a fake.

    It’s possible to think, you see, both that Russia is coming out with wild fabrications about the UK’s role in recent events and that Douma was a fake perpetrated by ruthless jihadis, who we and the US have given succour to far too much, who have not a care for defenceless women and children held captive by them.

    The video of Stefan Molyneux that beththeserf posted earlier meanwhile makes an important observation about how much of the Left, in America at least, hates Putin with a ferocity that they never had for the far more murderous Soviet regime. Russia has made some progress since 1989. Putin is a flawed leader. We should seek common ground wherever possible with him. Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn are right about that. Oh dear.

    Liked by 4 people

  88. It’s all rather past the point, now. The strikes against Syria have begun, no matter what the consequences, nor what the whole world might be dragged into.


  89. One stray missile in Damascus tonight, and who knows what we will wake up to tomorrow?


  90. You missed the point where I agreed that we should stop being the World’s police. I don’t care about the Syrians. I asked what would be the trigger to make us act. Us, not May or Trump. Just an attack on a NATO country? Not even then? How big an attack on the UK would make you decide that circumstantial evidence was enough to blame the obvious perpetrator? These are genuine questions. I respect the non confrontational view and largely agree but that doesn’t always work. Bullies take the fight to you and test the boundaries to see how far they can go. If you always back off, they will keep coming. Where is your line in the sand, or do you not have one?


  91. Another question, if there was absolute proof that Assad or Russia had used poison gas, would you still not act? I wouldn’t. The UN wouldn’t. There would be lots of hand wringing and interviews of ‘horrified’ leaders but little else. They always take the line ‘least said, soonest mended’. As far as I can see the only chance of peace in Syria is if the rebels are wiped out. If the rebels won, they’d be as brutal and muderous as Assad. The end of Saddam showed that these cultures are like hydras. Cut the head off and 5 more spring up.


  92. Tiny, Alan, and Ben. The whole question is complex and difficult, so inevitably I find myself in agreement with some part of each of your observations. I particularly agree with Ben’s position that our invasion of Iraq and the consequences that stem from it absolutely deny us the right to take any moral high ground against Russia. We should also draw from that sorry episode the lesson that however much we might think we are right, we might be wrong, and our well-intentioned (if well-intentioned they were) actions might make things worse.

    So far as concerns Syria,I am greatly concerned now that the west has launched strikes. Who knows what will happen now? What I suspect won’t happen is the doing of any good or the achieving of the stated aim, which seems to be the desire only to allow us to kill people in conventional ways and not in a particular, specified, unpleasant, way (i.e. with chemical weapons).

    As to the bully point (Tiny), and the criticism of appeasement (Alan) both are absolutely valid. But I remain firmly of the view that it isn’t up to the UK to do anything. Do the Algerians feel the need to get involved? Or the Swiss? Or the Brazilians? Does anyone criticise them for minding their own business? What the hell has it got do with us?

    Once Russia starts pushing our boundaries, and affecting our direct interests, provably and obviously, then we have to start pushing back (though how, I do not know). Until then, it is a matter, if at all, for the international community, not for the UK (IMO).

    Liked by 1 person

  93. Pretty much what I meant by:

    Russia has made some progress since 1989. Putin is a flawed leader. We should seek common ground wherever possible with him. Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn are right about that.

    Trump has discussed with Putin. It’s bad for all the reasons Steve says (see tweets beneath)

    but it looks as if it’s deliberately limited. Jihadi forces have advanced but not, we can hope, too far. Those in the West wishing them to prosper need to be exposed. But there is more truth around than normal in these disgusting cases.


  94. Tiny, Mark, Ben.

    Paraphrasing Martin Niemöller

    First they came for the Georgians, and I did not respond—
    Because I was not a Georgian

    Then they came for the East Ukrainians, and I did not respond—
    Because I was not an East Ukrainian.

    Then they came for the Syrians…..

    [I find this a very strange experience to be on the more hawkish side of an argument].


  95. Alan, I fully understand where you’re coming from. I’m not entirely comfortable with my own position. But the reality is that there is nothing of any use we can do,and anything we do might make things worse. Also, we might be wrong. Have YOU seen categorical evidence regarding what is happening? Have I? No.

    And I repeat, why should the UK regard itself as the world’s policeman?

    What I think this should stimulate is a real debate about the UN (and I’m not talking climate change on this occasion). This is where the UN should step up to the plate, but it can’t, because of the permanent members of the security council and their ability to exercise a veto. It’s time for reform. I think much of the western world is asking the wrong questions at the moment.


  96. … and then they came for the defenceless lady in Douma, and sprayed foam around her mouth, and even around her eye, after she had died.

    And we bombed the other side. And it made me feel as heroic as Martin Niemöller.

    Liked by 3 people

  97. Mark. I suspect that the reason the UK, together with France and the USA, does it it does is because it can, and there are few others to stand up to bullies/aggressors. If we don’t want the role then we should demilitarize massively and be like (using your examples) Algeria, Switzerland or Brazil. You would need to convince the British public about accepting its new vulnerability (good luck with that). Wielding a big stick means assuming responsibilities.


  98. Richard. Do you have evidence that the defenceless lady was so treated? If the regime did not gas its inhabitants, what was the intelligence that led the West to bomb the sh!t out of cow sheds outside of Homs. Do you have such a low opinion of our abilities that the intel from three major powers could be fooled (we did learn from Iraq). Or are your nightmares so much darker?

    Has any user of chemical weapons ever admitted it when accused?

    BTW. Niemöller never felt heroic. It is said that he could never meet a Jew as an equal, always having to apologize to them and all jews.


  99. Both the US and the UK are to blame: puny democracies both, drunk with power, with non-stop pretensions to moral superiority, and elected leaders who’re mainly seat warmers. It’s hard to tell the difference between rogue states and these.

    It has come to this; Jeffrey Sachs is making sense.

    Liked by 2 people

  100. Alan: What Jeffrey Sachs said. And this guy

    But, agreed, that was the greatness of Niemöller.

    Liked by 1 person

  101. So Shub and Richard, where would your boundary be? What would you decide was bad enough to act or what level of evidence would you need? What level of ally would you extend your protection to? I get that this event isn’t it,but what would be?


  102. Tiny: Here are two points the other side of the boundary for me: Thatcher and the Falklands, Blair and Sierra Leone. The benefit of hindsight need not be impuned because I backed both ahead of time.

    Here’s another example in which the right thing was done, but without my knowledge, in 1999:

    Singer James Blunt has told the BBC how he refused an order to attack Russian troops when he was a British soldier in Kosovo. Blunt said he was willing to risk a court martial by rejecting the order from a US General.

    But he was backed by British Gen Sir Mike Jackson, who said: “I’m not going to have my soldiers be responsible for starting World War III.”

    Blunt was ordered to seize an airfield, but the Russians had got there first.

    Only reported in November 2010. It’s not always right to follow the Americans. And you don’t have to like “You’re Beautiful” to sing along with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  103. But they are examples, they’re not a tool for making future judgements. Much of what happens in major atrocities doesn’t come out until afterwards sometimes years afterwards as mass graves are unearthed. You can only say that your judgement was sound after the event. A big part of what goes wrong is that there are no clear rules about what we will accept and what we won’t. Each government wings it.

    I agree that we shouldn’t always follow the Americans, not least because it never buys us future credit with them. Each president I remember being elected has sworn early in their administration that they intend to stop being involved in international affairs and that the ‘special relationship’ is a myth. Halfway through the first term that plan goes in the bin, the US is bombing someone and the UK is back as their besty. It really annoys me.

    Liked by 2 people

  104. Alan.

    First they came for the Georgians, and I did not respond—
    Because I was not a Georgian

    Then they came for the East Ukrainians, and I did not respond—
    Because I was not an East Ukrainian.

    Then they came for the Syrians…..

    That’s more than a little crass.

    Russia intervened in each of those places at the request of either the majority of the regional population, or in the case of Syria, the sovereign government. In each case, a civil conflict pre-existed. And in each case, the view from the east, looking west is that the EU/West/US/CIA/whatever had backed some *very* questionable *forces*, both to expand (the EU or Nato). It took a long time, for example, for the facts to emerge from Georgia, about Georgia’s own military heavy handedness in South Ossetia, prior to the Russian intervention, which Western media portrayed at the time entirely as a case of spontaneous Russian aggression, rather than long-standing disputes about independence, in newly independent post-soviet counties.

    Your unfortunate paraphrase obliterates complex histories, and murky facts and agendas, to demand sides be taken in a way that simply does not compare with the original. Indeed, it would be *more legitimate* (and make about as much sense) to paraphrase it thus,

    First they came for the Kuwaitis…
    Then they came for the Bosnians…
    Then they came for the Iraqis…
    Then they came for the Kossovons…
    Then they came for the Sierra Leoneans…
    Then they came for the Afghans…
    Then they came for the Iraqis again…
    Then they came for the Libyans…
    Then they came for the Syrians (And the Iraqis again).

    Note that none of these countries share a border with the UK.

    The only claim to success Britain can make — i.e. not to have allowed the situation to explode — in that list was Sierra Leone. These ‘humanitarian interventions’ were utter disasters unless the intention was to leave complete chaos.

    And that’s just Britain’s story since the ’90s. Never mind a complete history of US/Western/NATO misadventures — among which we might reasonably include post-soviet Russia itself, which was left a gangsterist basket case after the collapse of the SU, thanks in substantial part to Geoff Sachs (alluded to above) and the desire of the institutions of NATO to sustain the ghost of Cold War enemies on almost zero foundation: there is no communism left, yet Russia was treated as an enemy all the same.

    Let’s try another paraphrase…

    First they financed the Mujaheddin,
    Then they financed the Baathists,
    Then they financed the Taliban,
    Then they came for the Talbian,
    Then they came for Al Quaeda,
    Then they came for the Baathists,
    Then they financed the Daesh,
    Then they came for the Daesh.

    Poetry is simpler than history. But it isn’t instructive.

    Liked by 2 people

  105. Tiny — You missed the point where I agreed that we should stop being the World’s police.

    I did. Apologies.

    Bullies take the fight to you and test the boundaries to see how far they can go. If you always back off, they will keep coming. Where is your line in the sand, or do you not have one?

    Well, we don’t choose where we start from. In our case, that’s a very long history.

    I think we just have to hold our government to account. But for some reason, the IQ of all journalists I had respected a week earlier seems to halve the moment it seems that conflict is likely, and they see their job as forcing the public to take sides. They turn complex and long running regional disputes and conflicts — many of which were caused by earlier interventions — into simple, black and white matters of good and bad, and by making bizarrely crass historical allusions to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, seemingly casting themselves as Churchill (who wasn’t averse to using gas here and there).

    How is it possible to make sense of foreign conflicts, through the cock-eyed reporting of bloodthirsty hacks, sub-moron pundits salivating on 24 hour rolling news, and bumbling idiot foreign secretaries? They *want* the decision to act to be made impulsively, not with the benefit of understanding what has actually taken place, or the historical situation, or by cautiously developing a strategy.

    The current desire, it seems to me, is owed, not to any concern for anyone at all on the ground in Syria, but because the civil conflict there seemed, until yesterday, to be drawing to a close. This was *hugely* embarrassing for Western governments and Nato, whose interventions have been bloody, messy, interminable, and inconclusive. By contrast, Russia’s involvement in defeating ISIS has been extremely efficient and far less costly. The possibility that this leaves Russia in higher standing than the West in the eyes of regional and global players is unacceptable to them. This much would be answered by your own point that the West should stop seeing itself as policeman.

    Liked by 3 people

  106. Looking at Ben’s poem I sometimes think we fancy ourselves as the world’s secret policeman. The old KGB man must see the irony in that.


  107. Tiny: Why should I pretend to give you an advantage I myself do not have? My only tool for making future judgements is to learn from the past. As best we can.


  108. SHUB NIGGURATH says:
    14 Apr 18 at 1:40 am
    Brandon has won the argument.

    You are mistaken, Brandon has an argument.
    BTW I still don’t understand the message Brandon is trying to bring across, could be his lousy formulating skills combined with the fact that I am not a native english speaker.


  109. With apologies to Tiny i want to return to today’s specifics. If you look at the 60 people who’ve retweeted the following they include one Steve McIntyre:

    One tweet reply is I think worth highlighting:

    They still have plenty of chances since their western patrons ready to come at any false flag. All the jihadis have to do is to stage a heartbreaking video

    Fair point but I’m more optimistic than this. And that’s partly because I agree about the first part of Moon of Alabama’s commentary around 6am UK time:

    Secretary of Defense Mattis saved the situation when he publicly doubted the evidence and held Trump back from a spontaneous ‘revenge’ response. Netanyahoo will be furious and the neocons will now try to kick Mattis out.

    Worth reading the whole piece, with links.

    I’ve been more positive about Mattis, I think it’s fair to say, than Steve, since January 2017.

    The assumptions about Israel’s leader and the ‘neocons’ brings up the most difficult area of the whole situation for me. Oh, history.


  110. Ben your history lessons are rather one sided – like ignoring a quarter of a million georgians being expelled from Abkhazia before you claim the dispute (with Russia) was Georgia’s fault, and when is it legitimate to intervene in part of a neighbouring country just because that region is having a dispute with the main part of a country? Watch out Baltic States.


  111. Richard and Ben, you’ve body swerved what I asked you. Richard, your argument seems to be based on your gut and ‘history’. Ok, which history do you want to learn from, because no two events are the same. There are times when we acted as the policeman with good intentions and got it wrong, there were times when we acted as the greedy thug and got it right… for us anyway. Putin is doing what he wants, when he wants it. He doesn’t apologise or explain. He’s loved by dictators the world over. Gee, can we be like him? (Only partially sarcastic) When our government does what it wants to, you bitch like a Corbyn supporter. In many ways all these clashes with Russia are like two stags vying for territory. Well I’d far rather they clashed in someone else’s country.

    From a purely selfish point of view, I want Putin and Assad to win in Syria. I want that country to back to oppressing its people quietly. I’d quite like Russia to take back East Germany and Merkel with it. Can we choose which new EU countries we want to keep and then build a wall to keep the rest out the newly expanded Russia? Would Putin stop if we throw him a few dregs from the EUs eastern front? I think not.

    And that’s where Alan is right. The concept applies. If there is a point where you’d say no, where is it?

    Ben, you talk about shared borders. So Ireland can rely on your support and maybe France if you count the Channel Tunnel? Or do you mean the EU? By the same measure the US should only help Canada and Mexico but not us. So I’m guessing that you wouldn’t be that restrictive.

    If Russia invaded one of the EU countries, had an election and the people voted 52 to 48% to become Russian and because observers were excluded there was no evidence of vote rigging, would you let Putin have that country? Hmmm? Does it get tricky then? Would the lack of evidence be a major deciding factor? Would knowing that it might kill more people if we did something about it matter? Is expansionism ok so long as very little blood is shed? In which case you should be an EU fan because that’s been its modus operandi from the start.

    Ah, the EU. A group of countries that aren’t keen (bar France) to get involved and often take Ben, Richard, etc’s position. But then they can. They rely on the big three to keep Putin at bay. The EU army wouldn’t be for fighting, it’s for show. World powers have big armies. Much of Europe make better collaborators than fighters. No need to criticise them, they just stay out of it. Very sensible. A lot of countries sailed through the World Wars that way. It’s what makes them such suitable EU countries. Just keep your head down and do as you’re told. I can’t argue that it’s not a viable policy.


  112. Sorry, Alan, you don’t get to write, “Ben your history lessons are rather one sided” immediately after you posted that disgraceful abortion of a poem.

    It was *my* point to *you* that your poetry lacks depth. As to the conflict you invoke… Guess what: when empires collapse, the longstanding tensions that preceded them are again revealed. An analogy can be drawn in this case with the partition of India. Except that, in that case, Britain didn’t collapse. If you think that you can say ‘Russia did it’ in the wake of refugees and displaced people from Abkhazia, to sustain your point, you’re merely doing more of the same. We can see this same consequence of both the re-emergence of historic tensions following the collapse of an overbearing regime, and the moralisation and internationalisation of civil conflict in Yugoslavia — the Balkans descended into conflict, but it was influences outside it that arguably amplified that conflict, including Clinton’s use of the chaos there to distract from his own peccadilloes and other crises. Taking sides, as seems to be your wont, is more toxic than ‘doing nothing’.


  113. Ben. It was not meant as a poem; I identified it as a paraphrase (admittedly not a good one, but you got it’s point despite it’s ‘lack of depth”).


  114. Tiny — So Ireland can rely on your support and maybe France if you count the Channel Tunnel?

    The point about borders is that the conflicts alluded to were conflicts that Russia were naturally part of, and had a legitimate stake in, for a number of reasons (in no particular order, and barely scratching the surface):

    1. The tendency of the EU/Nato to continue with its framing of the post-Soviet world in Cold War terms, and to pursue aggressively expansionist policies (including inside Russia, as it happens). In Georgia, for e.g. the West-facing Saakashvili believed he could secure his objectives by drawing Nato into the conflict — another lesson in not taking sides. In Ukraine, the EU backed bare-naked Nazis — see BS’s earlier stupid attack on SM — and declared it ‘democracy’.
    2. Those conflicts were in regions that had been part of Russia, and were home to large numbers of ‘ethnic Russians’.
    3. Even were the above not the case, the fact of conflict on your doorstep does create a different moral and political context to intervention, compared with conflicts thousands of miles away.

    None of these conditions apply to the conflicts that the UK has been involved with in the period in question. Yet, it is claimed — by Alan, for instance — that Russia’s actions have been unprovoked, spontaneous, and acquisitive. Without condoning Russia’s actions at all, that claim does not stack up. And in contrast to the West’s interventions, seemed to have at least a contestable basis, came to a resolution (notwithstanding continued tensions in Donbass, etc), and order was reestablished. Yet it is the West’s moral superiority which is routinely asserted, and the above examples cited as examples of Russian aggression. All that in the context of dodgy, sexed-up dossiers, and so on and so on — the thinnest pretexts for military adventurism, applied in the least possible even-handed way.

    If Russia invaded one of the EU countries, had an election and the people voted 52 to 48% to become Russian and because observers were excluded there was no evidence of vote rigging, would you let Putin have that country?

    Which country? On what basis? Your hypothetical has no history, either. I don’t claim either to have identified the transcendent categories and morals of international relations, or that identifying them is so simple or at all possible. If your allusion is to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, it should be remembered that 83% of the population voted 97% in favour of joining the Russian Federation. If only there had been anything like such referendums in any of the countries that Western forces have bombed into democracy, no matter the criticisms of that intervention, and of the irregularities of that referendum.

    “They rely on the big three to keep Putin at bay.”

    For much of the era under discussion, the size of the Russian economy was the same as Tescos’. The notion that a country even now with an economy only the size of Italy’s, but with more than twice the population, but which is again, less than a quarter that of the EU28s’, but encompassing four times the land area… is or was ‘expansionist’, or aggressive is completely laughable. The opportunity for the west to assist and to prevent Russia’s descent into gangsterism, oligarchy and chaos was in the early 1990s. The decision instead was to allow the chaos to rule — ‘shock treatment’, to give the policy its official title — and to continue to treat the basket case as a pariah. Meanwhile, the same powers squandered what remained of their moral authority in the regions that had once been the sites of proxy wars.

    Liked by 1 person

  115. Ben:

    The opportunity for the west to assist and to prevent Russia’s descent into gangsterism, oligarchy and chaos was in the early 1990s. The decision instead was to allow the chaos to rule — ‘shock treatment’, to give the policy its official title — and to continue to treat the basket case as a pariah. Meanwhile, the same powers squandered what remained of their moral authority in the regions that had once been the sites of proxy wars.

    Very well said. As for motive, I’ve given my minority opinion above. Perpetual conflict had, completely unexpectedly, come to an end. Just look at the reduction in arms spending worldwide post 1990. Some people in the West were far from happy. And presumably in the Russian ‘deep state groups’ mentioned by Igor Yurgens too. Russia and whoever came to rule her must be made a pariah. I refuse to buy it.

    Liked by 1 person

  116. Tiny: On the transcendent categories and morals of international relations, see Ben. Or perhaps don’t see either of us. Coming back down to ground, the current situation is full of deception and Russia is just emerging from being the size of Tesco. Our job, as I see it, is to puncture the pretension and pomposity that goes with that in our own back yard. Bit like climate in fact.

    Liked by 2 people

  117. Ben you wrote:
    “. Yet, it is claimed — by Alan, for instance — that Russia’s actions have been unprovoked, spontaneous, and acquisitive.”
    I claim that I have not characterized Russia thus, nor have I used those words anywhere. The excuses you use to explain Russia’s activities in other countries (near or far) are not recognized internationally.


  118. Alan, this is your claim:

    First they came for the Georgians, and I did not respond—
    Because I was not a Georgian

    Then they came for the East Ukrainians, and I did not respond—
    Because I was not an East Ukrainian.

    Then they came for the Syrians…..

    I.e. the Russians are Nazis. Single-minded and ruthless in pursuit of their nefarious aims.

    You then claimed, accordingly:

    Watch out Baltic States.

    If this is not as suggested, “unprovoked, spontaneous, and acquisitive”, I do not apologise — you express yourself extremely poorly.

    “The excuses you use to explain Russia’s activities in other countries (near or far) are not recognized internationally.

    I care little for the ‘international recognition’ of anything. And I am surprised than anyone so at odds with the international scientific consensus on climate change would make an appeal to it. I care less for your own regurgitation of the pre-chewed ‘international recognition’ of events Russia has been involved with.

    What I find most grotesque, however, is your continued and deliberate misapprehension of actively not taking sides, and thus criticising the government as as ‘excuses … to explain Russia’s activities’.

    “You’re either with us or with the terrorists”, said George Bush. Your thinking appears to be no different.

    Liked by 1 person

  119. Still on-topic, since I’m still considering the question raised by Brandon’s post: to what extent are we influenced by our affective links to sources of information we trust?

    Many thanks to Richard for the links to the twitter threads and the videos that provide the evidence. The current hysteria will no doubt fizzle out, whether or not McIntyre and Alabama Moon are right (and their evidence looks convincing) about the origin of the event. Who in politics or the media cares about Jaish el-Islam?

    Things will get interesting when Assad has defeated the isolated pockets of resistance and turns his attention to the Kurds who, under US command, control a quarter of the country. If Trump pulls out, Assad and Putin would be perfectly within their legal rights to massacre them (as long as they didn’t make their noses run.) Defending them could be a popular move for a Western politician facing an election. The kindest thing would be to announce Ben’s policy of no intervention, ever, and make it clear to the Kurds. Generosity to Assad and a civilised relationship with Russia could save millions of lives. I bet it won’t though.


  120. For clarity, I did not argue ‘no intervention, ever’. I did argue that intervention is *extremely* difficult to navigate, and that most intervention has been entirely poorly-conceived, and is argued for with the flimsiest logic and evidence.

    Liked by 1 person

  121. since we seem to have to moved to the Syrian affair on this thread –

    why in the UK have we not seen more evidence/pictures of the chemical attack?

    or have I Missed them!!

    Liked by 2 people

  122. Worth repeating. Listen up, cits…

    ‘How is it possible to make sense of foreign conflicts, through the cock-eyed reporting of
    bloodthirsty hacks, sub-moron pundits salivating on 24 hour rolling news, and bumbling
    idiot foreign secretaries? They *want* the decision to act to be made impulsively, not with
    the benefit of understanding what has actually taken place, or the historical situation, or
    by cautiously developing a strategy. .’

    Liked by 1 person

  123. DOUGIEH (14 Apr 18 at 11:48 pm)
    You can see videos at
    Click on “here” and “are” and “videos.” Each video has been viewed just 16 thousand times, though short extracts have been seen by billions. I also found some photos of a yellow bomb or gas canister lying on a rather nice double bed, its tip towards the carved headboard, its tailfin dented, looking slightly dazed from its trip through the ceiling.

    16 thousand people know there’s a fine line between a crime against humanity worth fighting a war over and five minutes of film of people milling about with hosepipes and inhalers. The other seven billion know nothing at all.


  124. Geoff. I don’t know the truth of almost anything these days. Arguments and disputes abound, fake news is everywhere and there are those whose entire efforts are devoted to spreading miss truths. Then there are others whose sole mission is in discussing these miss truths, manufacturing opinion and spreading it. Geoff the 9 billion don’t stand a chance. As to video evidence – remember the waving flag on the Moon proving NASA and America as liars? Dead actors in films surely prove there’s an afterlife?
    As a society we assign the task of making decisions about what is true to others and get others to do things about it. In the past (in my grandfather’s youth) this worked part of the time; there wasn’t an information overload, things moved at a slower pace, everything was more local. Yet still they fucked up and killed tens of millions. Today we ask perhaps too much of our rulers and deciders (I only have to look upon my local street which has been dug up at least 11times in the past two years and with multiple superimposed road patches – can no one these days organize a piss-up in a brewery?).
    In my retirement years, I reduce my concerns about the outside world (only for my grandchildren do I make exception). I read less and less politics, but enjoy a reasoned discussion and gentle banter here. Deep intense and ultimately insulting discussions of the type I repeatedly get drawn into, I care less for. This discussion I shall henceforth read only.

    Liked by 1 person

  125. DOUGIEH (14 Apr 18 at 11:48 pm)
    There are videos of the dead alleged victims of the gas attacks at
    The victims are numerous, and the foam from their mouths and noses doesn’t look like shaving soap to me, as suggested by Steve McIntyre. The fact that their bodies were later moved to other positions, which Steve also finds suspicious, could surely have many explanations.

    To view these videos I have to click on a “shocking content” button that presumably alerts someone at Youtube that I’m a ghoul, one of only 32,000 or 16,000 to have viewed the videos. Most comments on the thread I looked at were in Russian or Arabic. Of the ones in English, most were simply emotional. The two sceptical comments in English made telling criticisms. One author’s name was in Cyrillic and the other had a Russian sounding name – odd behaviour for professional trolls.

    What should happen is that these five videos (total running time hardly more than ten minutes) should be shown on a public TV station and examined live by experts – medical and forensic experts, but also people from cinema with expertise in special effects and film cutting and continuity.

    What will probably happen is that they will be ignored, and continue their underground existence on blog threads like this one. Many of the blogs discussing these subjects are pretty weird. Some of them have compound words ending in “-Zionist” in every other sentence. No doubt they’re all being monitored.

    Should this subject ever surface in a big way, the likes of McIntyre will be hounded and the term “shaving soap” will be attached to his name for ever more. We’ll be no nearer knowing the truth.


  126. Geoff – Click on “here” and “are” and “videos.”

    There is also this TV interview with a man identified from the video.

    Little wonder that we haven’t seen much of the evidence. And little wonder Boris and chums are so vexed about RT they have considered banning it, and brought our pal Lew in to the CM&S inquiry on ‘fake news’.


    You mention the Moon Landing Hoax. By coincidence, the Counterpunch article I link to above (by a Marxist who accepts the official version of the gas attack) also mentions the Moon Landing Hoax. And of course, Lewandowsky tied it to our tails in his 2012 paper, which he’d prepared in 2010. At about the same time he mentioned it in a newspaper article, giving as his source an article by George Monbiot from I think 2004. (I’ll check details and do an article about it sometime.) It seems odd to mull over an idea like that for six years before announcing it to a waiting world, and then get it splashed over the New York Times and Obama’s Twitter account.

    I agree entirely about your general point. I hope you don’t retire from the discussion, since the points you make are often valuable, in the way only points by us oldies can be. A forensic study of the scarce evidence that’s not tainted can rarely come to a definite conclusion. But we garrulous old Poloniuses and Nestors can sometimes provide a useful meta-commentary (at least until Hamlet gets pissed off with us.)

    Liked by 1 person

  128. This comment is no 150 I think. to find following comments you have to find an obscure little button somewhere bottom right and click several times until it works. O Tempus, o WordPress.

    Liked by 1 person

  129. Hey, Singer under bridges!

    Through a glass darkly,
    trust but verify,
    but oh, how fraughtly.
    Take heed of Socrates,
    (wisest of men, the Oracle
    sayeth.) … I only know
    that I ‘knoweth’ not. :

    A serf in the turnip field.

    Liked by 3 people

  130. Hey, Beth, flower of the turnip field!

    Alas my glass was dark yesteryear
    Taught not to trust
    but verily to verify with proof,
    but oh, how difficult it is to find.
    Take heed of Cassandra
    But, like all humans
    Consider her purveyor
    of fake news.
    Turn aside.

    Singer beneath Bridges

    Liked by 3 people

  131. Back on Skripal, the Russians are claiming that Spiez Lab in Switzerland analysed the sample provided by the UK, in its capacity as an official approved laboratory of the OPCW. Russia is claiming that Spiez found traces of BZ, a UK/US manufactured chemical warfare agent not manufactured or held in stock in Russia, They also claim that the lab found traces of strong concentration of A-234 (a Novichok) in its initial state and in its decomposition products. A-234 is a Novichok. So, if the Russians are not lying about Spiez’s findings (and we cannot know whether they are or not because OPCW have classified the lab’s findings) then this raises three very important questions:

    1. Why is BZ in the sample?
    2. Given the strong concentration of extremely toxic A-234, why are the Skripals not dead; indeed how is it they are now recovered enough to be discharged from hospital?
    3. Given the volatility of A-234, how did traces of it in its initial state get into a sample which was several weeks old when analysed?

    Once again, assuming the Russians are not simply lying, answers to these three questions could well bring down May and her government.

    Liked by 1 person

  132. I was having a day off, including a walk in the park with a friend. They quote me Socrates getting to the end point that he only knew that he didn’t know nowt. I take a quick look at this second page, ostensibly about Brandon and Steve. Is somebody trying to tell me something?


  133. Jaime, I don’t know the origins of the BZ story. However, I think the histrionics around both CW attacks give us a clue about what is going on.

    In the Times, academics critical of the government’s claims about Skripo & Syria are denounced as ‘apologists for Assad’.

    And in the Graun, seemingly on the opposite side of the political centre, Andrew Rawnsley bemoans that ‘Syria has paid a terrible price for the west’s disastrous policy of doing nothing’.

    Whether or not Assad and Putin ordered the use of chemical weapons in either Douma or Salisbury, or that the agent was a novichok, and so on, seems unecessary to me. The claims that the academics in question are ‘apologists for Assad’ and that the west has done nothing in Syria are simply lies.

    The UK’s forces have been active in Syria for 3 years. Western involvement there, however, has been aimed at regime change, not destroying ISIS and other terrorists, thus amplifying the mess that, had it been executed with more ferocity, would have made a bigger mess of Syria than the same policy made of Iraq (and then Libya).

    The truth of the claims about who or what was behind the CWs used in either the UK or ME are well beyond us. However, we can make much more progress by establishing the truth of statements made in public, for and against interventions, and for and against academics who dare to challenge the government’s line. Shame on the Times and the Guardian!


  134. I agree with what you say Ben, that concentrating on the scurrilous tactics of the press in their pursuance of their own particular agendas in these ‘crisis’ situations may bear more fruit than trying to disentangle the murky pond weed which clogs the swamp that is modern warfare and international espionage. Nevertheless, we should try, if only to construct a list of plausible alternative scenarios to the narrative we are spoon fed and expected to believe by our governments. If the chemical analysis of the sample carried out by Spiez Lab is revealed to be what the Russians say it is, or more likely the OPCW and UK refuse to convincingly refute what the Russians are saying, then an alternative plausible scenario is that the Skripals were poisoned by non-lethal BZ and the samples which were sent to Switzerland for analysis were spiked with A-234 – hence the presence of traces of non-degraded A-234 in a sample which was several weeks old. That is the plausible method. I wouldn’t even begin to speculate on a motive. The alternative plausible scenario in the case of Syria is that the rebels staged the attack, using either actual chlorine gas or not. It is not only plausible but also quite likely, given that previous gas attacks blamed on Assad have turned out to be very likely false flags, or at the very least, of highly dubious provenance.

    Liked by 2 people

  135. JAIME JESSOP (15 Apr 18 at 2:56 pm)
    I saw those claims about the Swiss analysis on behalf of the OPCW at a non-Russian site. Also a claim at an American site that the publicly available part of the OPCW report speaks of A-234 “in an extremely pure form,” which can only be produced in limited quantities in a laboratory, and therefore can’t come from a factory-produced stock of weapons grade product.

    assuming the Russians are not simply lying

    I’ve seen enormous amounts of disparate material which support the Russian position on both Skipral and Syria, but no single article which pulls it all together. Could it be that they’re leaving it to us, a retired American General here, a British ex-Ambassador there, and a band of sceptical malcontents like us to do the job? You and I and Ben and Richard could put together a dossier by tomorrow solid enough to persuade the Ruskies to nuke Porton Down. Why can’t the Russians simply publish a single article which pulls it all together?

    Surely for instance, the question of the interception or not of allied missiles by the Syrian defence systems can be resolved? The allies say all 103/110 missiles hit their targets, the Syrians and Russians say that 71 were intercepted. How many targets were there? The Russians gave a list of ten (I think) targets, including airfields where all the missiles were intercepted. Therefore there must be random craters where fragments of destroyed missiles fell. French TV was showing such a crater in the desert yesterday, but not today. The allies speak of three targets, with the majority of the 100+ missiles targeting just one site. Fifty missiles to destroy just three school buildings? With no risk that the chemical weapons developed there would be spread through the rest of Damascus? Where are the journalists asking questions? It’s not as if we’re at war, after all, as May and Macron keep assuring us.


  136. BEN

    ..we can make much more progress by establishing the truth of statements made in public, for and against interventions, and for and against academics who dare to challenge the government’s line. Shame on the Times and the Guardian!


    I agree with what you say Ben, that concentrating on the scurrilous tactics of the press in their pursuance of their own particular agendas in these ‘crisis’ situations may bear more fruit than trying to disentangle the murky pond weed which clogs the swamp that is modern warfare and international espionage.

    But this is where we came in, on climate change, ten years ago!

    As an obedient lefty, I was never entirely dupe of the Guardian’s line. I knew how, on delicate subjects like South Africa or Vietnam, they would tread a fine line between reality and the amount of truth that the centre left could bear. But there were journalists who told the truth, and who, by common accord, couldn’t be silenced. Then, on the subject of Climate, suddenly, no opposition could be tolerated. On Cuba, the miners, aid to Africa, you were allowed to deviate leftwards from the Guardian’s ever so centrist position. But on climate, no opposition could be tolerated.

    I thought, like Jaime, that “concentrating on the scurrilous tactics of the press in their pursuance of their own particular agendas in these ‘crisis’ situations” could change things. It was when a Guardian writer (Graham Wayne) in a below the line comment offered to spread me over a table as he used to do in his public schooldays and bugger me that I realised that appeasement wasn’t going to work.

    The lies of climate scientists are largely lies of omission carefully crafted over years of peer-reviewed publications. The lies about Syria that fill the media at the moment are of omission and commission, but largely made up on the spot. Swatting them one by one is perhaps all we can do. Does anyone have a better idea?


  137. Geoff, Jaime.
    Concerning the diplomatic repercussions of Salisbury
    Who benefits?
    Worth the risk?
    Could ask same about bombing Syria
    This is not one big game


  138. Agreed but, was ISIS in a position to infiltrate Dhoma together with canisters of chlorine, or be in a position to mislead ALL the Sunni and the West’s intelligence services and all journalists.
    You need both motive and opportunity.
    Note I am not denying the possibility that the attack was not from the Syrian government, but I require proof that it was instigated by others.

    I presume you are not suggesting the Salisbury incident was ISIS inspired, or are you?


  139. Alan, you asked, — Concerning the diplomatic repercussions of Salisbury[,] Who benefits?

    My answer was to that question.

    But you’ve broadened your question, apparently to conflate the answer with culpability for the action in Salisbury and in Douma, leading to your questions:

    — was ISIS in a position to infiltrate Dhoma together with canisters of chlorine, or be in a position to mislead ALL the Sunni and the West’s intelligence services and all journalists.


    I presume you are not suggesting the Salisbury incident was ISIS inspired, or are you?

    To the first Q, as should be obvious. No, ISIS as such were not in control of Douma at the time of the alleged use of chlorine/CWs. Jaysh al-Islam were. I think you would struggle to identify a meaningful difference between them and ISIS/ISIL, in spite of the fact of hostilities between them, including revenge executions — beheadings. JaI also intend to create an ‘Islamic State’, and are alleged to have used chemical weapons and hostages as human shields. To your test of ‘motivation and means’, and my addition: form, yes, Jaysh al-Islam ticks those boxes (with respect to the use of chlorine/CW in Douma, and this was foreseen by Ford in the video I posted a while back, who argued that the bombing last year would massively increase the risk of false flag operations of this nature.

    To the direct Q about ISIS involvement in Douma — it is not a stretch to imagine that some element loyal to ISIS was on the ground in Douma, able to carry out the attack.

    To the second question… No, I was not suggesting that, but according to your test — means & motive — they certainly have the means to the same extent that any terrorist has been able to. What would make that unlikely is the degree of sophistication, not as much in obtaining the chemical (which could have come from anywhere, since a Novichok compound was synthesised in Iran), but in selecting the target. This, I think makes it extremely unlikely that ISIS were in Salisbury, because the actions of the terrorists in the west claiming sympathy with them are categorically unsophisticated: brutal, bloody, and crude, and inflicted on the public in extremely public places.

    To return to the point…

    ISIS benefits from degraded relationships between the West and Russia. It benefits strategically, as it has done from very much Western intervention in Syria, as even Trump noted in a series of tweets going back to 2015, when Obama’s policy direction was ‘Assad must go’. Nobody else has anything to gain by the chaos that would be unleashed by the West’s preferred policy of regime change (except, perhaps Western hawks’ egos). Indeed, ISIS was born out of the vacuum created by incautious military intervention, followed by ‘de-baathification’, and then the same in Libya, where, if you remember, leaders of western-backed rebels were filmed eating the hearts of their victims, causing much panic here about what had been unleashed.


  140. The same logic the interventionists use to support their actions (‘CW are abominable’) can be used by players to elicit such actions. As terrible as this must be, no weapon category ought to be held to be special or evil compared to another.

    Liked by 3 people

  141. May ludicrously claims that it was ‘in the national interest’ to bomb Syria and thus deter the use of chemical weapons, ‘in other countries and on our streets’ (an absurd reference to Salisbury). She’s barking quite frankly, but that does not excuse her gross hypocrisy or her rank dishonesty. As she sends British war planes to signal her ‘humanitarian’ virtue with bullets and bombs in Syria, her government is selling billions of arms to Saudi Arabia so they can conventionally bomb the hell out of men, women and kids in Yemen. But this is OK because the Saudis are allies and the children blown to pieces in the Yemen are not being killed by nasty chemical weapons which only despots use.

    Liked by 2 people

  142. The so-called conservative politicians are weakened as they enter government. The so-called liberal ones are encouraged by flattery and deceit. Regardless, the end result is the same. George Bush was widely regarded as a first-term lame duck until he stumbled on to his ‘war on terror.’ Trump is out ‘battling’ ‘fake news’ everyday. The prospect of building their ‘legacy’ grips these individuals. They are a convenient choke-point for those forces who know what buttons to press and what levers to pull.

    Real power lies in the ability to say ‘no.’ In the ability to hear and take in all the courtiers and bootlickers, and then sweep them aside. In true chaos, not the fake humanitarian drama variety.

    Liked by 1 person

  143. Just listened, fitfully, to Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in the Commons. Won’t comment though. Must bow out of this very interesting conversation. Agree with what Jaime said on the probabilities in Douma and Salisbury. Geoff is asking useful broader questions and how they relate to the climate quagmire. There are fruitful parallels I believe. Meanwhile vicious Sunni-Shia conflict is not all about us – any more than CO2 is the climate control knob. The policy that makes the most sense for the UK in both areas is rapid development of our shale resources. Energy security with less dependence of Putin needn’t wait for his becoming a pariah. Glad World War III was avoided as this thread was running.

    Liked by 2 people

  144. Jaime, regarding your comment at 1.25pm, I would add a “like” if I knew how to, but sadly I’m technologically illiterate, so can’t manage to do that. Instead, may I say that your comment completely reflects my views on the subject. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  145. Over the years I have been fascinated by the clashes Brandon has had with various people, especially Steve McIntyre. Early on I came to the conclusion that BS’ self-image, the thing about himself that he is most proud of, is that he was an “above the fray” kind of guy not frightened to challenge, or criticise, people on his own “side”.

    I have no idea why Steve McIntyre has become such an obsession, perhaps it’s because when making an argument he shows and explains why he’s come to his conclusions.

    Which brings me to the second conclusion I’ve drawn about BS and that he’s heavily into detail and the smallest mistake jumps out at him. And is “important”.

    For most of us if we think Steve McIntyre is wrong about the Syrian bombings we shrug and move on, because as Ben says above there are no facts, none.

    My own view is that the Russians probably did the Salisbury job, and the rebels probably faked the Syrian gas attack. My conclusions are based on applying the “cui bono” principal, not facts because there are none and in the absence of facts there can be no emotional attachment to anything. Yet it appears that BS thinks it’s important to tell Steve McIntyre he’s wrong. Why?

    Only BS knows.

    Liked by 1 person

  146. Ben has said here that there are no facts, and others have agreed. This is false. It’s a fact that at least two Western journalists have been to Douma and have reported that they could find no witnesses to a chemical attack. It’s a fact that the images shown are of children being washed and of children immobile with froth at their mouths and that no evidence of death by chemical weapons has been produced. It’s also a fact (though a second order fact, if you like) that the acquiescence of the media to the official version resembles their acquiescence in the case of other official stories, such as climate change. It’s also a fact that some of the media revealing these facts are pretty weird. Should we therefore not speak up? This is the question Orwell posed in Homage to Catalonia. He spoke up and lost credibility at the New Statesman. We don’t have that to lose.

    Liked by 3 people

  147. Geoff. But the “facts” you mention are not useful. Absence of witnesses to a chemical attack means what? – no chemical attack or any witnesses were moved out by Syrians or Russians? How do you know the reporters went to the right location – one pile of rubble looks very much like another? Scenes of people being doused/decontaminated means what? These “facts” are meaningless unless interpreted by reference to other “facts”.
    What confuses me is that there are at least two wildly different alternatives to the version apparently accepted by Western and Sunni intelligence and governments – the whole thing was a hoax (by rebels) or there was exposure to chlorine gas also introduced by elements of the rebels. What is even stranger is that some people, at different times, argue for both alternatives. All I know is that I don’t know. But if it wasn’t the Syrian government, why did the USA, France and the UK bomb?
    Also what perplexes me is the unwillingness of some to believe that the Syrian military would not use chemical weapons whereas no one doubts that they indiscriminately (and therefore illegally) use barrel bombs upon civilian areas.


  148. ALAN
    I agree the facts I cite (there are thousands similar) may not be very useful. But that’s different from saying there are none. I’ve just been following up links on a Guardian article debunking the debunkers, and watching my own cognitive biasses rise to the surface – not a pretty sight. I can even spot myself shifting to another position when a hypothesis I’ve been holding to is disproved, one of the tell tale signs of conspiracy theorising, according to Lewandowsky. In fact it’s simply what you do when you don’t know, and you suspect the story you’re being told.

    For example, I was convinced by a story that debunked the one about White Helmets faking rescue photos, using the same child in different scenes. But that doesn’t alter the fact that the White Helmets were founded by a British army officer and are financed by our governments. And that they disappeared when Douma as taken. Presumably they’re there to liaise with “our” allies, who have this unfortunate habit of morphing from democratic rebels to jihadists and back again. A century ago T.E. Lawrence would have taken charge of them and led them to victory. That’s the story we should be looking at, not faffing about whether this little girl in this photo is the same as the one in that photo.


  149. Geoff, I think the facts you cite are still facts of the non-facticity of the discussion. I.e., no ‘facts’ can reasonably pertain to a non-event. But that is splitting hairs. It is these second order facts I say we can and should interrogate — in reply to Jaime, at some point. That is to say that we shouldn’t let the inaccessibility of the evidence prevent us interrogating the FCO’s/Bojo’s claims about Salisbury or Douma. I think we’re in agreement.

    Alan asks, ‘if it wasn’t the Syrian government, why did the USA, France and the UK bomb?’

    This is a question about motive. The UK, USA, and France have not, historically, required much persuasion to drop bombs. They see it as their role. But this much only explains my cynicism of British/Western foreign policy in general.

    In this case, I think it should be remembered what a colossal mess was made of the region by Western intervention. To detail it would make this comment too long. In short it seems fair to say that Western governments lost their moral authority on the world stage, and lost their domestic political authority, too (at least as far as making war is concerned). Libya was the final straw for very many. However, the hawks have not been cleared out. They lost the argument for continued *overt* intervention, and the interventions since then have been relatively low key (unless you were underneath them) and less risky, both for the forces involved, and in terms of ‘collateral damage’. Meanwhile, Assad appealed to Putin for help. This has been a *massive* embarrassment for the West, no matter how evil the Assad regime is (or is not), because whereas Western intervention has been preoccupied with ‘regime change’ and has only produced more bloody and undemocratic regimes, Moscow’s intervention has come at the request of a sovereign government, and has been effective in clearing out jihadists. Dominance of global security is its own reward. France, the USA and the UK sent bombs to Syria as first steps to avoid the balance of power shifting, now that the Syrian crisis seems to be drawing nearer to a close.

    Alan continues: ‘what perplexes me is the unwillingness of some to believe that the Syrian military would not use chemical weapons whereas no one doubts that they indiscriminately (and therefore illegally) use barrel bombs upon civilian areas.’

    Chemical weapons are of extremely limited value tactically. Strategically they are entirely counter-productive, since they bring down the wrath of the ‘international community’ on the alleged culprit. Everyone knew this. Meanwhile, there is every motive for Assad’s enemies, very much on the back foot, to either stage faked attacks, or even to use CWs against people behind their own lines. Everyone knew this, too. So people are reluctant to believe that the Syrian army used CWs because the argument — not merely the ‘facts’ — does not stack up.

    I think it is also somewhat misleading to say that the Syrian army is ‘indiscriminately’ using barrel bombs — i.e. essentially carpet-bombing civilians. The conflict is extremely bloody, and the enemies of the Syrian government have been embedded in civilian areas — that is the nature of civil conflicts. And it is the nature of bombing people. For instance, the use of drones in Obama’s otherwise seemingly stand-back-ish foreign policy, became known for killing entire wedding parties, rather than jihadists — a radicalising force in its own right. I agree with you, if your point is equivalent to the question ‘what is the actual moral difference between dropping explosives and dropping chemical weapons?’, but not if it is an attempt to differentiate between the strategies of Western forces and the Syrian government.

    Liked by 1 person

  150. Ben I see no moral difference whatsoever between using chemical weapons or barrel bombs. I also see no justification for using barrel bombs on civilian areas even if “legitimate” targets embed themselves within them. Governments have a duty to protect their citizens, not murder them or dismiss losses as “collateral damage”.


  151. Alan — Governments have a duty to protect their citizens, not murder them or dismiss losses as “collateral damage”.

    All rules change in conflict. The duties of governments become even more clouded by civil conflict. The term ‘collateral damage’, however, is a western euphemism, that became increasingly popular under the logic of ‘humanitarian intervention’. Nobody would defend the arbitrary use of force against citizens, but that’s not the situation in Syria.


  152. Benpile.
    “Nobody would defend the arbitrary use of force against citizens, but that’s not the situation in Syria.”
    Say what?
    How many civilians killed, how many starved? How many displaced?
    Yes a large percentage due to rebel activities but also due to their own government arbitrary use of force.


  153. Alan – How many civilians killed, how many starved? How many displaced?

    Assad’s actions were categorically not an ‘arbitrary use of force’. Assad does not have the resources to execute a war against civilians. He is fighting ISIS – Blair’s and Bush’s legacy in the ME.

    It’s a war, Alan. How many civilians were killed, displaced in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere, during the war on terror? And, for that matter, how many were killed prior to the WoT, given years of sanctions? Hundreds of thousands, likely millions, of civilians, many of which were children in need of medicine. Some targeted directly by the forces unleashed by incautious adventurism, some held hostage in conflict zones, and some just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time — like the people at weddings targeted by drone operators in Texas.

    Go and look at the images and stories from Mosul in the aftermath of the recent pushback against ISIS by the Iraqi forces, backed by the west — rightly or wrongly. If you think the reality of the operations there were any different than in any of Assad’s assaults against the same enemy in Syrian cities, you would be mistaken: tens of thousands of civilians were killed. Many were starved and many were used as human shields by an extremely violent and bloody religious sect that would think nothing of shooting elderly women in the street for wearing the incorrect clothing.

    You wanted to know… “what perplexes me is the unwillingness of some to believe that the Syrian military would not use chemical weapons whereas no one doubts that they indiscriminately (and therefore illegally) use barrel bombs upon civilian areas.’”

    I have tried to explain that misconception to you. It seems to me that your confusion is a familiar one, owed to tendency to discriminate between the actions of our own forces vs those of a putative enemy, where in fact no such discrimination is possible either by examining the principles of those actions or their consequences. Moreover, in fact, that discrimination falls apart when we consider that, right or wrong, the Assad regime is the sovereign government of the country defending itself against religious fundamentalism, and that enemy has been the beneficiary of direct and indirect support from the West, going back further even than gulf war 1 and the WoT. That tendency also seems to cause you to see arguments which do not discriminate between the two (and now three, perhaps even more) forces, and thus do not not take sides, as somehow apologising or excusing the excesses of that regime, rather than placing them in the context of an extremely bloody and long civil war. I was opposed to the West’s interventions from the very beginning, and find the impulse to sanitise them as repugnant as any of Assad’s alleged infractions. The difference, however, is that I can criticise UK foreign policy.

    Liked by 1 person

  154. Ben. I repeat, governments should take care of their citizens – even the Russian authorities received opprobrium when they unsuccessfully tried to release hostages in a school by using heavy handed tactics, whereas Israel, France and other states get plaudits when they successfully rescues their citizens. Using barrels bombs and shelling civilian areas should be beyond the Pale, but sadly are not criticised by other countries who have got used to the practice.


  155. Alan – governments should take care of their citizens


    Liked by 1 person

  156. Hit a nerve Ben? I’ll remind you of this when the Syrian Government begins attacking the Kurds.
    Also the Syrian state started attacking its population well before Syria became infested by those you call islamofascists.
    I don’t think I can agree with you when you seemingly advocate bombing the sh!t out of civilians to get at some Islamofascists NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU SCREAM.


  157. Hit a nerve Ben

    Only if being an interminable, ignorant idiot is equivalent to ‘hitting a nerve’.

    If, and when, the ‘Syrian Government begins attacking the Kurds’, I will remind you that I did not take sides. I did not take sides with the Syrian government, with Russia, nor with the Kurds, to sanitise their actions. The point, which you still don’t understand is that your attempt to discriminate is not one that ANY side in ANY equivalent conflict has ever been able to do. Not the UK, not the USA, not NATO. and they, no more or less than the Syrian government or Russia.

    You persist, nonetheless, in the claim that my explaining that this is a bullshit discrimination into goodies and baddies is equivalent to ‘advocate bombing’, rather than, the exact opposite: opposing bombing. The only reasonable conclusion is that you are thick in the head. You must be, since you seem to think that actors in civil and inter-state conflict can make the distinction, in spite of millions of dead civilians, stretching all the way from the Balkans, to China and Sub-Saharan Africa.


  158. Even Caroline Lucas can understand the point.


  159. There appears to be some misconception that force used in war has to be somehow equivalent, ie we kill xxx thousand of theirs, they kill xxx thousand of ours, ad infinitum presumably.

    That does not work, and merely prolongs the unpleasantness indefinitely.

    During WWII, the Luftwaffe succeeded in killing around 65,000 British citizens, mainly during the Blitz (in fact more were killed by the fallback from the AAA barrage, more by TB caused by sleeping in damp shelters, and more still in road accidents caused by the blackout).

    Two years later, “Bomber” Harris’ lads in their Lancasters and Halifaxes could rack up that many in a good night’s carpet bombing, and then Carl Spaatz’ Eighth Air Force boys with their fortresses and Liberators went over in daylight with their precision Norden bomb sights and levelled anything that was still standing, especially if it was an important industrial target.

    Night after night, day after day.

    The Nazis sowed the storm, they reaped the whirlwind.

    We won’t quantify the horrific retribution that the Red Army visited on the German cities, towns, villages and their populations for the atrocities that the Wehrmacht had visited on 20,000,000+ million citizens of the Soviet Union.

    On December 7, 1941 the Japanese treacherously attacked Pearl Harbour, sank a fair proportion of the US Pacific fleet, but significantly missed the carrier force.

    Three years later, the US retaliation by Curtis Le May’s Superfortresses had reduced over 95% of Japanese cities to smoking rubble and two of their cities to radioactive slag, millions died, the true total cannot be known.

    So basically, we don’t win wars with hostile regimes by not being as bad as them, or even being equally as bad as them.

    We win by being worse.

    Liked by 2 people

  160. Ben it would seem that you are deliberately misunderstanding my posts. I haven’t taken up a position for or against anybody. If you read my posts you will find that they are a series of questions. I’m not for or against any side (if anything I’m against all sides in the current situation, except the poor civilians who seem to be getting it from all sides). A plague on all of them. However it seems you are so opposed to those you call islamofascists that you are seemingly willing to give support to those who also commit atrocities (if only by failing to recognize those atrocities or calling anyone that does recognize them a FUCKING IDIOT). I do not support the Western missile attacks. My position, such as it is, is to withdraw completely. This is the best we can do in the current lose-lose situation.


  161. Alan – I haven’t taken up a position for or against anybody

    You have. You do it here:

    it seems you are so opposed to those you call islamofascists that you are seemingly willing to give support to those who also commit atrocities

    The fact of the war precedes my putative ‘support’ for Assad, given the choice between his regime and ISIS.

    The reality of the conflict is that the Assad regime — the sovereign government — is under attack from forces largely created by incautious interventions in the wider region. You have imagined that it would be possible for Syrian government forces to respond to those assaults with some level of caution to avoid civilian casualties, and my response has been to try to explain that this is not possible in a war situation, and CW has explained more skillfully that this has never been possible. It has never happened anywhere.

    It is an entirely bullshit distinction, that excites only Western media who desire to impose simple moral categories over extremely complex conflicts. It doesn’t happen in Syria, and it didn’t happen in Mosul. It didn’t happen in Libya and it didn’t happen anywhere in Afghanistan.

    ‘Atrocities’ are fact of war.

    And you did it here:

    ‘what perplexes me is the unwillingness of some to believe that the Syrian military would not use chemical weapons

    (You also did it above, where you state lists of Putin’s excesses, absent any understanding of the complexities of those situations).

    The reasons for which were explained to you. You then went on to expand from CWs to barrel bombs.


    I also see no justification for using barrel bombs on civilian areas even if “legitimate” targets embed themselves within them.

    However, the point had been that moralising about the choice of weapon used to kill civilians is entirely specious. It made no difference to the people caught in the fire in Mosul that no barrel bombs — or for that matter, CWs — were used.

    So why should such a nonsense distinction hold when Russia, at the request of the Syrian government, is involved in the conflict?

    In post after post, Alan, you have drawn those same simple moral categories over the affair, to your continued failure to understand the counter-position to that moralising. I don’t need to ‘support’ Putin’s agenda to know why Russia was drawn into Georgia, or the Ukraine, or Syria. I don’t need to support Assad’s undemocratic rule to understand that it was his right, and even his duty to resist the invasion of Syrian cities by ISIS. And I don’t need to be a fan of theirs, nor Saddam Hussains, nor the Taliban nor Al Qaeda to observe that the moral categories invented by spectators from the West are complete specious bullshit, and that the interventionists and hawks have left the West without any moral authority, and likely less than Assad or Putin.

    I raise again the comparison between Mosul, and cities in Syria. The former was ‘liberated’ according to reports, from ISIS — rightly. But and towns and cities occupied by ISIS in Syria, Aleppo, for e.g., were reported as facing ‘attack’ from Syrian forces, though the civilians in which faced no more or less danger than their counterparts in Mosul. US bombs are no more capable of discriminating than Assad’s barrel bombs. Yet it is barrel bombs that you choose to draw some moral dis-equivalence over. To what end?

    As you put it here:

    To do nothing is to acquiesce, to accept what is done to you or to innocents who cannot resist. It used to be called appeasement.

    The moralising does not begin and end with moralising.

    In response to the folly of taking sides being pointed out to you, you say,

    First they came for the Georgians, and I did not respond— Because I was not a Georgian

    The vacuity of comparing Russia with Nazi Germany being pointed out to you, you went on to demand that it be proved another party committed the still unproven atrocity.

    A cascade of specious moral distinctions and blunt historical ignorance occurs where the positive case for intervention, and for guilt, and for moral dis-equivalence should lie with the warmongers.

    So when you now say, ‘I haven’t taken up a position for or against anybody’, and that ‘I’m not for or against any side’, I’m left wondering if you even know what you’ve written, never mind whether or not there is any logic in your argument. A poor grasp of a subject is no crime – I wouldn’t criticise anyone for merely being ignorant. But your ignorance seems coupled with a strong opinion in spite of it. You now say your posts have been merely ‘a series of questions’, but they have in fact fingered the culprits of alleged acts of war, war crimes, and advocated intervention in sovereign states, seemingly to effect regime change, on a similar basis to the retrospective Allies’ casus belli of WWII. That’s not what merely ‘asking a series of questions’ looks like. Your paraphrase of Niemöller in fact directly followed the US/UK/France missile attack, at which you yourself noted, ‘I find this a very strange experience to be on the more hawkish side of an argument’. Yet now you say ‘I do not support the Western missile attacks’.

    Your claims are inconsistent. They don’t seem to be underpinned by much understanding. They don’t seem to be improved by any attempt to offer any explanation. I hope you understand why that causes exasperation, and a loss of patience. They are shortcomings you do not tolerate in your own field of expertise.


  162. Alan Kendall is one of the 1% of humanity with the courage to take the simple view. (We shouldn’t be there, and we should get out. It went wrong the day after Lawrence rode into Damascus on his camel a hundred years ago. Then at least we had the excuse that there was a war to win. Since then there have only been wars to lose and lose and lose again.)

    And Ben is one of the 1% of the population to have thought deeply about the subject, or more precisely about the discussion of the subject which bounds our understanding. This may seem fernickety, but the limitations of our understanding are of vital importance in a democracy.

    If those two one percents can’t find some grounds for agreement, we really are in trouble.


  163. We shouldn’t be there, and we should get out.

    If Alan has been making an argument against intervention, and in favour of withdrawal, I missed it. He identified himself to be on the hawkish side, he argued for Russian/Syrian guilt and against ‘acquiescing’ in the face of it.

    I take the simplistic view, and the other 1% view. In that respect, both 1%s are reconciled.


  164. ALAN KENDALL (24 Apr 18 at 4:31 pm)

    I do not support the Western missile attacks. My position, such as it is, is to withdraw completely. This is the best we can do in the current lose-lose situation.

    BENPILE (24 Apr 18 at 7:44 pm)

    I take the simplistic view, and the other 1% view. In that respect, both 1%s are reconciled.

    Good. We’re agreed then. The other 99% (or 99.99% if there’s no correlation) seem to have deserted the discussion. That leaves us three and Steve McIntyre. Plus some pretty weird blogs run by ex CIA spooks and colonels in the US Army (or Russian bots disguised as such) which I consult.


  165. “He identified himself to be on the hawkish side, he argued for Russian/Syrian guilt and against ‘acquiescing’ in the face of it.”

    Yes I did, because no one else here was. They are as guilty as sin, but so are all the other sides. My opposition to Assad is stronger, but because it has been of longer duration – I remember how brutally opposition, along the lines of the Arab Spring, was suppressed by his regime (children writing graffiti being tortured). The fact that I draw attention to the misdeeds of one side does not necessarily mean I support their enemies. Ben seems unable to appreciate this. I believe all sides have done reprehensible things,and by now none deserve our support.


  166. Alan – I remember how brutally opposition, along the lines of the Arab Spring, was suppressed by his regime (children writing graffiti being tortured)

    You remember it? You were there? Did you see it, too, after you saw the Iraqi soldiers pulling babies out of incubators in Kuwait?

    Was it a clear memory? Vivid? As vivid, perhaps, as seeing Iraqi WMDs being readied to strike London in just 45 minutes?

    You say no side deserves our support, but you seem willing to absorb one side’s propaganda, all the same.


  167. I’m really happy to have instigated this thread. It was supposed to be about a logical dispute between Brandon and Steve, but it quickly became clear that there were psychological issues. It became tense, but not hateful.

    A large part of the climate sceptic argument is that we represent reason and it is the opposition which resembles a religious sect. Except that it seemed to be the contrarians who disagree, while the official position demonstrates an admirable consensus. So are we the protestants, ever splitting in the face of a united catholic church?

    I leave this discussion for another time, and recommend the new article at Climate Audit


  168. Ben. Quite right to chastise me. However in 2011 organized opposition in Syria (or so I read) hardly existed, almost all the islamic groups had still to arrive or become organized. The stories of oppression and atrocity were carried to the outside world by fleeing refugees. Those stories are similar to ways in which other repressive arab regimes tried to put down arab spring uprisings. It would be truly extraordinary that of all arab states, only Syria did not engage in atrocities and that fleeing civilians reports of such crimes are all false propaganda. However, you quite rightly point out I wasn’t there so it is only my judgement that those stories were true. But I doubt that you were there either, so it’s only your judgement that they were all untrue.
    I think my view is that, until I am presented with believable evidence to the contrary I will temporarily accept what my government tells me in support of its foreign policies. I fully recognize that this is perhaps naive and there are many instances where doing this will prove “disappointing”. But I read other opinions and change my views. During the past seven years I have been anti-Assad (mainly because of interaction with Syrian graduate students and their stories) but very recently I have, as a matter of practicality, come to examine the practicality of allowing Assad to win over most of his opponents as the best way to give most of the Syrian population some respite.
    BTW Being there commonly gives no particular insight. I “was there” when Russia invaded Georgia. I have a particular soft spot for the people but that merely gives me a bias. We were bundled out of the country and only just escaped before the coast was blockaded by Russia.


  169. Alan, some interesting reflections. I have no sympathy for any undemocratic regime. But that requires being circumspect about democracy in the case of nascent democracies like Russia, and even in ongoing dictatorships where Western countries have a long history of entanglement. It is puzzling to us, for instance, that so many Russians would vote for someone like Putin. But our democracy (and I would say ‘such as it is’ at the moment), was long fought for, and the process largely uninterrupted by external forces. I was arguing on Twitter yesterday with someone opposed to the abolition/democratisation of the House of Lords (ha – ‘democracy’!) who was citing legislation from the 1600s, his claim being that the settlement it offered upholds democracy. The last half millienium has not been quite so peaceful for Russians, who, meanwhile, might have different priorities, being a vast, sparsely populated region with a history of conflicts to the east. And utter chaos, gangsterism, and oligarchy shortly following Soviet tyranny — a course of events in which the west showed a criminal lack of grace and generosity, not to mention historical illiteracy (and now our leaders wring their hand about Russian bots!). Little wonder that Russians felt no inclination to synthesise the Western model.

    Ditto, in Syria, where it is hard to imagine that the possibility of reform as the regime was passed from the elder to younger Assad ran smack bang into the war on terror. It is easy to pass verdicts on tyrants, but on Assad’s perspective, the chaos that has emerged in Syria, and elsewhere are reminders that there is nothing is simple about reform towards democracy: there are internal and external forces that would take ‘regime change’ somewhere else. Britain’s own graceless exits from parts of the Empire show this inevitability, in not so distant history.

    Your account forces me to wonder, how British government employees would behave, faced with similar pressures. It was a Georgian (coincidentally) medical student I was once housemates with that first gave me a clue. Her stories about British immigration officers made me wonder if there is any difference at all. Humanity, not just Western niceties, seems to disintegrate at borders. Add pressure to that border, equal either to the context in South Ossetia, or Syria, and I can imagine that it wouldn’t take much for the attitude towards immigrants to be directed inward.

    Perhaps it is already. At the same time, I remember filming — or trying to film — some footage at a shopping centre. Unofficially, perhaps, which is rude of me, because it is better to ask permission to film, but I was in a hurry. The reasons given by security for our swift ejection from the extremely low rent provincial shopping centre was ‘terrorism’. They needed no reason to chuck us out, but thought nothing of inflating the significance of our infraction from merely lack of courtesy to global security incident. This was the experience of many photographers at the time. The situation for them was ultimately resolved, but the global security context was, all the same, the pretext for the Blair administration’s rolling back of many civil and political liberties — an agenda that in fact preceded the war on terror. Protecting Britain from terrorists, argued Blair, came before civil liberties. Not unreasonably, critics began questioning the possibility of Britain becoming a Police state. Anti-terror legislation became the go-to pretext for anything between the policing of public order, to child development. The government even considered ways, before ‘big data’ was fashionable, of using statistics to detect individuals prone to terrorism, as well as anti-social behaviour, before they were even born, to direct interventions.

    These are just some reasons why I find the following statement deeply troubling.

    I will temporarily accept what my government tells me in support of its foreign policies.

    I take the opposite view. That the government is outright lying, whether it is making a case for domestic or foreign policy, and that it is incumbent on politicians in a democracy to make a transparent case for policy. I do not accept policy at face value on climate change, nor on public order, public health, criminal justice, nor the economy. Indeed, where I have had the time (and it was my job for a few years), I found time and again, the government’s case to have next to zero foundation. To call it bullshit would do an injustice to the aesthetics of entire fields of shit. Worse, even asking officials or politicians to back up their claims is to face a direct high pressure jet of bullshit. Put simply: democracy is not just voting. It is transparent government, continually held to account by an incredulous public. It requires the same incredulity as science, in fact. Constant checks, examination of the putative facts, questioning the data… and so on. That, or democracy is dead. I would say its current status is: twitching.

    Go look at any mainstream broadsheet and see for yourself what the ‘free press’ is making of attempts to understand the Skripal and Douma affairs. See for yourself what the FCO and ministers are saying about academics, retired senior military officials, and former diplomats. Even Peter Hitchens — a man with decades of experience reporting from tyrannies — is being called a ‘Putin puppet’, a ‘tool of Assad’. Researchers are being called ‘propagandists’. There are calls for their research departments to be closed down for deviating from the official line. There are inquiries in Parliament addressing the problem of ‘fake news’ (featuring our pal, Lew), and regulators are moving to close down foreign news agencies. Meanwhile, a man has narrowly avoided prison for telling an off-colour joke on Youtube. I wonder how that all sounds, as a story about the democratic West, to people aspiring to democracy: do not tell jokes in public; do not criticise the regime; oh, and don’t eat too much sugar.

    Are we so different to Syria? By how much? What is our direction of travel? How does one detect it? Will we know only when alcohol and sugar are banned for the sake of ‘public health’, or when the moron Environment Secretary has made Britain zero-emissions, and plastic and the internal combustion engine are banned to stop ‘air pollution’ and ‘climate change’? Or will we know only when the idiot Foreign Secretary has finally bumbled us into a war? Surely the last three months, never mind, three decades of the government’s utterly crass policy-making are sufficient reason to take their claims with at least a pinch of salt.


  170. On the subject of governments lying:

    Miles Goslett helped to break the Jimmy Savile story.

    As I’ve said over at Climate Audit, the rapid takeover of Douma by Russian forces right after a claimed chemical attack presents “a major opportunity to use social media to put the MSM straight” – much sooner than usual. Bless Steve, once again.

    Liked by 2 people

  171. Richard
    According to the Peter Oborne’s article you link to, Miles Goslett’s book seems to provide lots of evidence that the official account of Kelly’s death is far from convincing. Oborne’s article is a detailed criticism of a hatchet job of a critical review by David Aaronovitch, whose method of arguing is all too familiar. Aaronovitch’s purpose is clearly to defend the official version of a suspect story by attacking a critic using straw man arguments (or “Aunt Sallys” as Oborne calls them) insinuating that questioning the official account is conspiracy theorising. Oborne sums up the method like this:

    We have all noticed a new and disturbing coarseness in modern political and media discourse, marked in particular by a failure to understand or even acknowledge other points of view. This collapse into insult and caricature rather than well-informed and civilised argument damages us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  172. BEN
    The photographic and video evidence is examined in detail by Steve McIntyre here
    The British response to evidence of the kind you provide can be found here
    [h/t AnthonyIndia commenting at ClimateAudit]
    Talk to the hand that doled out millions to the White Helmets, cos the Foreign Office ain’t listening to anything embarrassing.
    I’m going to post soon about media coverage. My reasoning is that the same terms (denialist, conspiracy theorist) are being used to criticise comments on Syria as are used about climate sceptics. We at cliscep are no better than the Met Office’s multi billion pound computers at forecasting short term manoeuvres in the climate wars. Maybe we can do better in predicting media strategy in a real war that may break out at any moment.

    Liked by 2 people

  173. Some more to-and-fro… Hitchins vs Monbiot.

    Interesting (in my view), because, as noted previously — but it’s not the emphasis I would ever have given it — Monbiot used to report from tyrannical regimes and so did Hitchens. The latter, on his erstwhile comrades from Moscow.

    Monbiot now frames as ‘denialism over war crimes in Syria’ the work of academics cited in an article which argues that ‘The duty of intellectuals should be to ensure accountability, not to engage in frivolous revisionism’. The article is a response to the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, and states, ‘They share the same modus operandi: they treat opinions as facts and resist empirical evidence. They assert their scepticism of the “dominant official narrative” while credulously parroting the Kremlin’s official line’. Which is quite an achievement for a group of researchers — fewer than a dozen — that has not yet completed its website, much less produced any research. The article is instead a response to an article (on the same site) announcing the project’s launch, which states its purpose as “not to act as ‘apologists’ for either the Syrian or Russian governments”, but to “analyse media coverage and critique the propaganda claims that surround the conflict”.

    ‘Denialism’ is surely by now a term that has lost any meaning in Monbiot’s mouth. It is routine, however, to take murky facts, and to amplify them to certainties, so to render the world in black and white moral terms.

    This is perhaps why Hitchens lasted as a foreign correspondent, whereas Monbiot had to resort to Gaia-bothering. By the time he had set foot on an Aeroflot jet, Hitchens had had cause to examine his more youthful left-wing radicalism. Only through such self-reflection can a broader understanding of ‘ideology’ be formed, so to understand others’ perspectives, and the influence and necessity of ‘ideology’ in forming a perspective — including in separating fact from pure propaganda (noting that even facts can be propaganda).

    This myopia, I’ve argued before results in Monbiot’s violent vacillations. For it was not that long ago (for a man of his age) that he wrote,

    All journalists make mistakes. When deadlines are short and subjects are complicated, we are bound to get some things wrong. But the falsehoods reproduced by the media before the invasion of Iraq were massive and consequential: it is hard to see how Britain could have gone to war if the press had done its job. If the newspapers have any interest in putting the record straight, they should surely each be commissioning an inquiry of their own.

    Now, he argues…


    (among other tweets of the same nature).

    Now the scrutiny Monbiot was demanding of war propaganda back in 2004 — of exactly the same kind — is equivalent to apology for Assad’s crimes and Putin’s politics.

    Liked by 2 people

  174. Just beat me to it mentioning Monbiot v Hitchens on Syria Ben. But you dug out more from it. Do you have a link on the quote about inadequate journalism pre-Iraq?

    Meanwhile Brandon has declared criticism of Steve’s latest post futile – but of course in the process he’s made some, of a broad-brush variety. There have though been some detailed points made by others that seem to me to advance understanding. Nobody’s doubting it’s an incomplete picture.


  175. I’ve interrupted my busy schedule today to announce, in the form of this comment, that I don’t care about the above post—and that it perturbs, perplexes and vexes me why so many people whose erudition and integrity I’ve long idolized would squander their time responding to it. As my close friends will be aware, this is something that’s troubled me ever since I first read the article a couple of hours ago. My (necessarily inchoate) attempts to grapple with the phenomenon will be laid out in a series of blog posts of my own, pending the last few negotiations over the music rights, starting with tomorrow’s I’m living proof that you COULD care less about Brandon’s letter if you really tried.

    I’m all for free speech, but free speech doesn’t mean carte blanche to post items that don’t interest me. I’m looking at you, Geoff, though of course the legislative reform I have in mind wouldn’t necessarily have to target Monsieur Chambres by name. Meanwhile, we should take the unprecedented step of cleansing the OP from the internet before it lures another unsuspecting reader into reading it despite not caring about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  176. Brad
    Commenting on an article more than three days old is what’s known in the blogosphere as changing the subject. I’ve been back, read my article, and the six or so first comments be Ben and me, and skim-read Brandon’s letter. It’s all brilliant, and the second page of comments is even better, with everything Jaime and I said about Skripal and Syria being confirmed by events in the six intervening months.

    Blogging and tweeting is not like thinking and writing. It’s more like some Greek colonist in Egypt wrapping his mummified pet crocodile in bits of old papyrus, to be dug out of a rubbish dump two thousand years later. From:

    Since 1898 academics have puzzled together and transcribed over 5000 documents from what were originally hundreds of boxes of papyrus fragments the size of large cornflakes. This is thought to represent only 1 to 2 percent of what is estimated to be at least half a million papyri still remaining to be conserved, transcribed, deciphered and catalogued.

    We at Cliscep should be proud of the cornflakes we are bequeathing to posterity.

    Liked by 1 person

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