Ghostbusters Review Round-up

I haven’t done a blog trawl for awhile and I thought I’d just concentrate on Ghostbuster reviews because why not?

Alex Acks pulls a lot of the contradictions together with an excellent overview of what’s right and wrong with the remake and the original

I have a lot of love in my heart for 1984’s original Ghostbusters, which came out in theaters when I was way too young to see it. I remember my parents showing me the movie when I was a bit older, and recall that I thought the first ghost in the library was absolutely fucking terrifying, and that Egon was my favorite ghostbuster. I have a moderate little wad of affection for the at-times cringe-worthy sequel, Ghostbusters 2. I got up extra early on Saturday mornings for years so I could watch The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series. I owned action figures. My Ghostbusters love is not a matter for debate.

Brian Niemeier at Superversive takes a different tack – a defence of the original movie

I really shouldn’t have to do this. At this point, the best course of action for everyone is to dismiss the artistic and moral failure that is Ghostbusters 2016, let the remake die a quick, unmourned, and forgotten death, and rest secure in the excellence of the one true Ghostbusters film.

But now inveterate contrarians and shills are vainly trying to make the reboot look better than the Cannon Films fire sale material it is by taking passive-aggressive shots at the original classic.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: your claims that the original Ghostbusters is dumb, sexist, or overrated don’t make you sound cool. They make you sound like a smug, revisionist poser. It’s just as irritating as a hipster saying he liked a band before they were popular. And in this case, calling the first Ghostbusters a bad movie is empirically wrong.

As we are sailing over in puppy waters, Daniel at the Castalia House blog attempts to not only assert that Ghostbusters 1984 is better than Ghostbusters 2016 but to prove it mathematically

It might come down to its Movie Quotient. Since movies are neither as in-depth, mentally challenging, or as complex as the average novel, I think it is fairly easy to develop a formula for what makes a successful mass market movie.

By taking a look at five factors: a movie’s economics, internal rules, character distinctions, plot arc, and production values, you can begin to anticipate how well a science fiction movie will appeal to its target audience.

I suspect most readers have already read John Scalzi’s review

There isn’t a review at Lady Business but this GIF they use of Holtzmann is a resounding counter argument:

Timothy says: Hugos! Vote! Vote now! Before it is TOO LATE!

[From the desk of Timothy the Talking Cat]


I address you all at a dark time for America. Our proud nation* stands on a precipice of two choices. Now whiny fools like Camestros might say “That metaphor makes no sense” but that is because he is a stupid head.

Voting in the Hugo Awards closes this SUNDAY. Yes, you heard that right. THIS SUNDAY.

Now, if you are like me, you are probably thinking “Whaaat? The Democratic Convention only just finished how can it be voting already?”. Well, that’s just how crazy and rigged by the elites and SMOFS and CHORFS and Greens and Wall Street the system is! Now Camestros keeps saying to me “Timothy, you are getting different things all mixed up because you stayed up late to throw pretzels at Hillary on the television.” Really Camestros? Really? Is that what THIS is? Typical left wing know-it-alls trying to portray their opponents as mentally-addled, cat-nip addicted pretzel fiends.

No, listen to ME people and listen HARD. Listen as hard as America needs you to listen. Just look for a moment at the list of title up for Best Hugo of America 2015:

  • Aunt Hillary’s Mercy: Aunt Hillary has split herself into multiple beings. Some are war mongering monsters, others are forward thinking social democrats. Only Breq Sanders can work out which is which before the whole nation collapses.
  • The Fifth Electoral Season. An older woman wanders around a post-apocalyptic world after some guy decides to make the Republican Party catastrophically erupt.
  • Upvoted. A woman falls in love with a powerful wizard only to discover she can be just as powerful as he is after she uses her magic to exploded some glass ceilings.
  • Seveneves. The woman president of the United States tries to save the world from an epic disaster after it becomes surrounded by a burning cloud of racist nonsense.
  • The Cosmonaut’s Windbag. The title says it all really.**

I know my many, many fans have become quite confused by the various rumours spread by the lamestream media about me. Let’s clear up some facts:

  • No, Hillary’s VP pick is some other guy called Tim. Obviously when things were announced the media saw “Tim” and leapt to conclusions. Yes, yes, he does look a lot like me but I assure I would never play the harmonica because it is the second most satanic instrument in the world.***
  • Yes, like many top conservative pundits I have decided to side with NeverTrump. Unless he wins of course, in which case I may temporarily be IActualyMeantForeverTrumpItMustHaveBeenaTypo until his reign descends into chaos about which time I’ll remind people how I warned you all of the unspeakable horrors that I had foretold.
  • The so-called ‘admins’ at MidAmericanCon won’t let me write in “Honor At Stake” as my Hugo nominee and for some reason have removed “Best Launderette” from consideration this year.
  • The Dragon Awards will be so much better. I’m hoping Gary Johnson wins them.

So I say to you all: Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government! You have nothing to fear but the lurking horror in your basement! We shall fight them on the bleachers! Countrymen lend me your ears! But above all in the immortal words of Theodore Cruz: Vote yourself conscious!

Good night America.****


*[CF: Timothy actually lives in England]

**[CF: actual titles can be read here ]

***[CF: the accordion is obviously the most satanic]

****[Obviously do actually vote in the Hugo Awards*****]

*****[…and vote in the US election if you can.]

@voxday attacks milo?

I read this at his blog:

Seriously, what is it with Gammas? They can’t follow the rules, they get snarky and disrespectful when they’re warned, then they bitch and cry and hurl angry accusations and threats when you follow through and ban them.

And they do this every single time, even though they’ve seen it happen to dozens of other Gammas. Are they totally incapable of learning from either their own experience or others? It’s like they have no ability to recognize that what happened to others is going to happen to them if they do the same thing.

It sure sounds like he is trying to describe Milo Yiannopoulis relationship with Twitter.

  • couldn’t follow the rules? check
  • got snarky and disrespectful when warned? check
  • hurl angry accusations etc when banned? check

Vox then continues his tirade about ‘gammas’ on his PUA site

But if you see someone react poorly to having their commenting privileges limited or removed, you can be certain that you’re dealing with a Gamma.

But apparently, he isn’t talking about his pal and Twitter troll Milo but some random commentator on his own blog.

Don’t forget climate change: The Science section

So that’s one whole section complete of a very odd book.

Intro, Ch 1, Ch2, Ch3, An Aside, Ch4, Ch5, Ch6,…

The first 6 chapters of the IPA’s book “Climate Change: The Facts 2014” was ostensibly about the science of climate change. It is fair to say that it was short on facts. We had numerous mini-lectures on science history and methodology, we had some interesting challenges from Richard Lindzen and we had outright credulity from Abbott and Marohasy.

The two main messages were:

  1. science is a thing
  2. don’t trust climate models

I feel like I need a little science history tale to add to what we’ve had so far: Tycho Brahe. I’ve discussed Brahe before. In the wake of Copernicus and Galileo and the rising enthusiasm for the heliocentric theory Brahe had his doubts. He developed his own model and his reasoning was not without merit. He had some of the best observational data available and he had cause to be doubtful due to his observations of distant stars not showing the amount of parallax that he expected.

He was, of course, wrong.

The shift of understanding that underlies the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis has not been sudden. The physics that underlies the greenhouse gas properties of CO2 have been known for many decades and are absolutely solid science. Yet climatologist earlier in the twentieth century were less inclined to suggest that anthropogenic global warming was a possibility because other climatic influences were more substantial. We can sum up this notion as what I’ll call ‘Business as Usual’ or BAU: CO2 is a greenhouse gas and increasing its concentration in the atmosphere should lead to some nominal warming but this will be small and not noticeable compared to other factors.

More than one author referred to Khun’s notion of paradigm change in science – where rather than a gradual change in understanding one old consensus among experts is replace by another primarily through social factors in the experts themselves, such as older experts retiring in a given discipline.

In this case, the ‘old’ paradigm would be BAU (above) and the new would be AGW if we are going to go down the simplistic model of shifting paradigms. What we see in these chapters is a kind of rear-guard action in favour of the older way of looking at climate. Although there were various calls for a ‘new paradigm’ of climate science, the thrust was continually for a twiddled version of the old consensus. The quality of the twiddling was very variable.

The most Brahe-like was Lindzen but even he didn’t have a workable model. Lindzen’s iris effect hypothesis is not well supported empirically and lacks a strong theoretical basis. Ironically the only recent support for it has been from the kind of climate model disparaged by other contributors.

More generally we’ve had:

  1. it might not be happening because the temperature record has errors
  2. climatologists are ignoring water vapour
  3. climatologist are placing too much emphasis on positive feedback from water vapour
  4. its natural cycles of some kind
  5. its the sun or it is natural solar cycles
  6. climatologists are ignoring other factors
  7. climatologists are cheating by considering other factors

Collectively it is a mess of contradictions but presented as if each author was contributing to a single edifice of argument. Beneath the FUD you can make out the shape of something. That something is people struggling with trying to deny the science while limiting the extent to which they may end up rejecting science. At one end of that spectrum, is Lindzen’s chapter and at the other is Abbot & Marohasy’s.

What can we infer from the way each author structures their argument around something: it is getting warmer – there was only limited attempts to claim this isn’t the case and more revealingly was multiple attempts to suggest alternate mechanisms that might cause warming.

  1. it is getting warmer – there was only limited attempts to claim this isn’t the case and more revealingly was multiple attempts to suggest alternate mechanisms that might cause warming.
  2. CO2 really is the most likely culprit – even Lindzen arguing relatively cogently for a possible lower level of climate sensitivity to CO2 needed a mechanism by which likely warming would be less.

Only one chapter in this science section when completely off the rails (chapter 6) but overall the section was still short on science and high in vague uncertainty.

Chapter 6: Abbot & Marohasy & Cat Astrology

In which this book completely loses its shit and a short digression into cat astrology.

Intro, Ch 1, Ch2, Ch3, An Aside, Ch4, Ch5, …

Michaels, Lindzen, Soon are close to being the ‘skeptic’ A-Team. The main character missing from this first ‘science’ section of the book is Roy Spencer – he of the UAH satellite temperatures. Plimer and Carter joined in to give this Australian book an Australian perspective but they too managed to project an air of the free-thinking scientist resolutely questioning the facts. Yes, these first five chapters meandered between disingenuous and misleading but watching the dance was fun.

But we have one chapter left in ‘The science of climate change’ section and it’s about time we got something a tad more entertaining.

Enter John Abbot & Jennifer Marohasy. I can’t say I know a lot about of either of them. The bio at the start of the book indicates that they were/are a senior research fellow and an adjunct research fellow at Central Queensland University. Which is nice.

The chapter starts in much the same way as the other chapters in this section: with a section on science as a discipline. This time a potted history of Copernicus and the heliocentric theory with a few stars at climate science and then a segue to Thomas Khun’s paradigm shift model again. So far the chapter is still on the rails.

“Prior to the establishment of the current Australian Bureau of Meteorology in 1909, Australian meteorologists had a keen knowledge of astronomy and considered solar, lunar and planetary cycles in their weather forecasting.”

Ah the good old days of weather forecasting in 1909! “There remained some interest in this approach, which was termed

“There remained some interest in this approach, which was termed solar terrestrial physics, at the bureau until the early 1950s.”I wonder what began to change in the 1950s that might have affected our capacity to predict

I wonder what began to change in the 1950s that might have affected our capacity to predict weather? Hands up anybody who knows the answer. Ok, ok, you can all put your hands down now.

“Since the 1950s the bureau, and other major climate research institutions around the world, have worked towards a global effort to simulate climate largely independently of extraterrestrial influences.”

It’s computers isn’t it? Computers have tricked us into ignoring the moon!
OK everybody – did you all spot the climate-change-debate-tactic elementary level dodge there? Did you all say ‘confusing climate and weather’? You did? Ten points.

Don’t worry, even though the whole chapter is going to be about weather forecasters that still isn’t the weakest argument in the chapter. It all gets wackier.

“Indeed, the idea that the moon influences the weather through its gravitational effect is generally scoffed at.”

There will be some scoffing but not quite yet. They don’t really clarify what they mean here and because the whole chapter is predicated on confusing weather forecasting with climate modelling, it isn’t clear what influences they mean. Tides? Well sure, tides are important and tidal forces on the Earth are important. Rather like the fact that the sun is important but also clearly not the cause of climate change. The moon is merrily doing its stuff – it’s a business as usual sort of thing.

But what are they trying to get at with this stuff about the moon and weather?

We diverge into a salutary tale of the hapless Professor Chris Turney. Turney was part of an expedition to the Antarctic in the southern hemisphere summer whose ship got stuck in sea ice. Which just goes to prove something and a big deal was made about this on climate change denials blogs in much the same way they make a big deal whenever it snows in the general vicinity of Al Gore.

But this is not just a generic anecdote of ironic weather. Nope. There is a more specific lesson:

“If, before setting out, he had consulted the long-range weather forecasters who operate independently of the established institutions, and without the aid of GCMs but with reference to patterns and phase changes associated with solar and lunar phenomena, he could have been forewarned of the unusually slow melt rate of Antarctic ice last austral summer.”

Oh yes! Forget climate change denial, we are setting sail straight into weather-forecast crankery! Joy!

So what’s the actual thrust of this chapter? Basically the claim is that the Australian Bureau of Metrology isn’t as good at weather forecasting as some heroic rugged individualist forecasters (who we will meet shortly), generally get the difference between weather and climate all confused, then basically assert that it all has to do with changes in government funding in the 1980s and maybe it’s all the moons fault or computers. Maybe its computers on the moon.

So who are these genius forecasters? The chapter cites three:

  • Kevin Long “a long-range weather forecaster based in Bendigo, Victoria”
  • Joseph D’Aleo based in the US
  • Ken Ring based in New ZealandOf these three Joe D’Aleo is the most notable and of sufficient stature that I’m surprised he didn’t get his own chapter in this book.

Of these three Joe D’Aleo is the most notable and of sufficient stature that I’m surprised he didn’t get his own chapter in this book. D’also has been predicting global cooling for some time now but unfortunately the world hasn’t cooperated.

Global cooling is a necessary implication of the its-all-just-some-sort-of-cycle category of climate change lets-pretend-it-isn’t happening. If temperatures rose just as part of some natural cycle then sooner or later they should fall again. With decades of warming the various cycles credited with global warming really should have produced some counter cooling by now. However, even the so called ‘pause’ has not led to significantly cooler temperatures.

Kevin Long is a mechanical engineer who also sells climate predictions to farmers from his website: He also expects global cooling sooner or later and both he and thinks sunspots are a big deal.

Ken Ring outdoes both D’Aleo and Long. While the other two merely try to predict weather based on ‘cycles’, Ring predicts earthquakes. In the tectonically frisky country of New Zealand this is a notable skill.

“Some claim Ken Ring is running a weather prediction scam because he uses the moon to inform his rainfall forecasts.”

Mmm, yes, I think some might well say that.

They go on to say:

“We have seen no independent assessment of the skill of Ring’s predictions, but he sells many hundreds of his weather almanacs to Australian farmers each year.”

Well there you go then! It couldn’t possibly be a scam if he makes money out of it!
There is a fun takedown of Ring’s methods here (from 2007).
And a different one here
Simply put it is crank nonsense and the earthquake stuff is particularly bad.

Ring also writes odd books about cats. Include a cat astrology/paw-reading book and also this one: Ken Ring is co-author of Pawmistry, the runaway best-seller that allowed the cat-owner for the first time to learn about their cats’ inner character by examining its paws. Here you will learn: * How you behave in relationships! * What you appear to be to others! * The extent of authority you really command! * Unconscious body language you are using!

But let’s move on. Does solar activity sort of cycle? Sure. Does that explain global warming?

  1. No
  2. If it somehow did then where did the warming from CO2 go?

Demonstrating 1 is not trivial because the theories of these ‘maverick’ forecasters are not well documented. In essence, it is an extended game of vague predictions plus variations on near future weather likely to be similar to present/recent past weather. Claiming ‘cycles’ can then become a game of epicycles – mashing patterns together until you get a short term match. The irony that this chapter starts with Copernican system v the Ptolemaic one as a scientific morality tale is huge, as the chapter essentially invites us to accept a Ptolemaic view of climate.

However, it isn’t that had to show that point 1 isn’t plausible. A neat tool, used online by people on multiple sides of these arguments is the Wood for Tree website. Essentially it is an online set of of major climate data sets with a neat graphing tool.

There are two solar activity data sets included:

  1. The SIDC monthly sunspot number (more sunspots = sun being more feisty)
  2. The PMOD composite total solar irradiance monthly average

By using the normalise function on the website you can plot either of these on the same graph with a temperature data set. I’m going to use HADCRUT4 because it has been the one discussed in the IPA’s book so far.

Here is HADCRUT4 with PMOD TSI normalised from 1980 (the PMOD data starts around then).

And here is HADCRUT venus sunspots count


There are stretches of both graphs where some sort of relation between the two is plausible but in either case the longer we go on the more warming independent of any ups and downs of the sun becomes clearer. Does this prove the cyclists wrong? No but here is one more graph.


This time the green data set is atmospheric CO2. Yeah.

Meanwhile Abbott and Marohasy move on to artificial intelligence or rather they move on from crank epicyclists to neural-network epicyclists. They explain:

“ANNs are massive, parallel-distributed, information-processing systems with characteristics resembling the biological neural networks of the human brain. They are a form of artificial intelligence and represent state of the art statistical modelling.”

There are indeed many amazing tools now available that can mine data and identify patterns and then make predictions based on those patterns. In the case of weather forecasting, I can well imagine that in the short term such tools can make improved forecasts in particular regions (although not being a meteorologist, I don’t know but it seems plausible). However, Abbot and Marohasy are back to the same problem: global warming is changing our climate globally. Any model based on finding patterns in the status quo will increasingly drift away from reality.

The point about building up climate models from empirical theories of how global climate works is to enable us to see what happens in situations that are not ‘business as usual’. This includes counterfactual questions such as scenarios based on different levels of CO2 emissions or different levels of industrial pollution. Remember if, as is rapidly becoming apparent, human activity is now becoming a major factor in shaping the climate, ‘predicting’ the climate becomes impossible without somehow predicting global trends in fossil use, industrialisation, atmospheric pollution etc. It is for this reason, among many, that it is better to talk in terms of projections and scenarios rather than prediction or forecast.

Don’t Forget Climate Change: Chapter 5 Bob Carter – Precambrian Conservative?

Previously…chapter by chapter I’m reading a dodgy book in which people try to pretend climate change isn’t really anything to worry about…

Intro, Ch 1, Ch2, Ch3, An Aside, Ch4, …

Robert M Carter was an Australian geologist and academic. He died earlier this year As is conventional in a review, I’ll talk about him in the present tense when describing the text.

Funded in part by the Heartland Institute, Bob Carter was an early adopter of the ‘global warming has stopped’ argument based on the relatively low level of warming since the 1998 El Nino.

Carter aims for a clearer structure in this chapter by using what he describes as:
“In this chapter, four basic scientific facts are described that provide an essential context for intelligent discussion of the global warming”

“Context 1— error bounds on reconstructing the global average temperature from thermometer data”

Carter starts with a criticism of the HadCRUT temperature data. We encountered HadCRUT in Chapter 2 where it was the preferred choice of Patrick Michaels when discussing climate models. You’ll remember from that chapter Michaels treated the temperature data as a given and indicated no kind of error bars/confidence intervals for the temperature data but only for the models. Ah, but that was a different chapter and a different sceptic. For Carter, the issue is that HadCRUT has error ranges in its data. This is true, there is necessarily error in the data set and the size of that error for any given point can be quite larger – larger (as Carter points out) than the additional warming caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

But this is a statistical shell game he is playing. The error of an individual measurement is not the same as the error in the size of the warming trend. Simply put, aggregating measurement data that has error can reduce the amount of measurement error. It’s why statistics works.

“Context 2— natural temperature variations over geological time”

We haven’t heard much yet in this book about the paleoclimate record but it will loom large later. However, Carter is just knocking down the same straw man we’ve seen before – essentially that past changes in temperature show that temperature can change for reasons other than carbon dioxide levels. This undoubtedly true – other things can cause climate change. However, we know (see Lindzen in Chapter 3 because he agrees) that carbon dioxide CAN cause changes in global temperature and we know that levels of CO2 have increased significantly.

This rather like a defence lawyer saying that their client didn’t commit a murder on the grounds that other murders have happened in the past which their client couldn’t have committed.

Still, Carter perseveres with a graphic Greenland air temperatures for the last 10,000 years. Interestingly for this data set, Carter does not seem to be concerned about any error ranges – I guess measurement error became unfashionable somewhere between the end of the last section he wrote and the start of this one. The data for the graph is from a paper whose abstract and data can be read here

One thing to note is the time axis of the graph is in Years Before Present. This is a standard use in collecting data using things such as radiocarbon dating or the techniques used with estimating temperatures using ice-core samples. However, “present” here does not mean 2016 nor does it mean 2000 when the study was published. It means specifically 1950 CE as it is a technical term for a fixed point. The data does not address late-twentieth-century warming. However, the more recent instrument record (which Carter doesn’t trust) is shown as a thin grey line.

In addition, Greenland is far from typical as far as the Earth’s climate goes. In Carter’s first section he expresses scepticism about temperature sets taken from multiple sites world wide and in the next section points to a single indirect set of measurements from one part of the globe. Greenland is not the world.

“Context 3— carbon dioxide variations over geological time”

“It is widely misrepresented in the public domain that Earth’s current levels of atmospheric CO2 are dangerously and atypically high. Such claims are false, because modern CO2 levels lie near to an all-time low as assessed against the geological record.”

At this point, Carter slides from disingenuous to laughable. CO2 levels are atypical for human history. Yes, sure, a civilisation of trilobites might regard current CO2 levels as a tad low but this hardly seems relevant.

“500 million years ago, before land-plant photosynthesis was operating, atmospheric CO2 attained about fifteen times present day levels”

😩! In what way is that sentence reassuring? Never mind the imagined trilobite civilisation, let’s just consider a time when the first multicellular creatures were hanging out. Essentially Carter out-conservatives every other conservative on earth by waxing nostalgically for the good-old-days of the Precambrian, leading to the classic line:

“Utilising coal as an energy resource simply returns the CO2 to the atmosphere from whence it came in the first place,”

i.e. burning coal returns CO2 to the atmosphere bringing Earth close to the atmospheric conditions that prevailed when early plants first colonised the land? Quite what Carter is trying to prove at this point is unclear. Yes, it is a sound argument against a claim that burning coal will destroy all life on Earth (it won’t) but that really wasn’t the issue.

“Context 4— efficacy of warming caused by extra carbon dioxide”

This is the climate sensitivity argument again. However, Lindzen did it better and Carter gets in a muddle.

“Because of this logarithmic relationship, the amount of warming caused by increasing quanta of CO2 depends upon the level of CO2 already in the atmosphere, and diminishes steadily in a ‘less-temperature-bang-for-every-incremental-carbon-dioxide-buck’ pattern. Given the pre-industrial starting point of 280 ppm of atmospheric CO2, only minor additional warming will occur in response to the much-feared doubling of CO2 to 560 ppm.”

Yup, Carter gets logarithms wrong. The logarithmic relationship doesn’t diminish the impact of a DOUBLING of a quantity. A doubling is MULTIPLICATIVE. Seriously Lindzen already explained this back in Chapter 3:

“ Because of the logarithmic dependence of the radiative impact of CO2, it doesn’t matter what the starting value for the doubling is.” Lindzen Chapter 3

Carter closes the chapter with a more general note, essentially that governments should worry about all kinds of possible climate change and not just warming. Quite what governments should do in this regard he doesn’t say but let’s consider the issue of burning fossil fuels. If Carter is right and CO2 from burning fossil fuels has no net warming effect then burning them does not prevent global cooling. If Carter is wrong about CO2 and CO2 does have a warming effect but right about possible global cooling then it would make sense to conserve fossil fuel reserves so that they can be used later to counteract the possible future cooling.

In the meantime credible evidence exists that the anthropogenic global warming is occurring and while the trilobites might be OK with that, those of us from a more recent geological time have cause to be worried.

@wikileaks wikiwatergate in alternate-Pittsburgh


I’m sitting in a cafe in Pittsburgh – not the actual Pittsburgh (I’ve never been there) but Pittsburgh in an alternative reality. It’s pretty dull as far as parallel worlds go – it doesn’t even have many airships. However, it is very like the reality to which you, dear reader, are used to. Technically, it diverged from your world twenty three years ago when a man called Alvin was arrested in Brisbane, Australia for owning a contraband ferret – but that is a whole other story. No really discernible differences occurred until October 2015 when Jeb Bush took a surprise lead in the Republican nomination polls, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio dropped out and Donald Trump had his infamous ‘wardrobe malfunction’ on national television.

You can get from your world to this world via a portal in Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand that takes you straight to alt-reality Pittsburgh. The bad news is that unbeknownst to everyone, the chain of events sparked by that ferret-bust in Queensland has also led to a viral mutation that will wipe out every human in the alt-reality due to what will shortly become known as ‘The Weasel Flu Pandemic’. That isn’t entirely relevant to this story but I thought I should mention it before people started booking flights to Bangkok.

The big news here in alt-Pittsburgh is, of course, the national conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties. I shan’t mention the DNC because – well, you are better off not knowing who the candidate was and what the consequence of the so-called ‘Cruz eligibility amendment’ was. Let’s just say it is a great shame about the impending obliteration of all humanity here.

The GOP convention? It was OK I guess but it was overshadowed by events just before. Wikileaks released a trove of hacked emails from the Republican Party. Ouch! Really embarrassing stuff. Trump supporters are very angry, naturally. Internal emails show how much the GOP top brass have been collaborating with the media to stop Trump. Maybe, without those shenanigans, Trump might have won the nomination claim his supporters. That idea is laughed at of course. I try to join in so nobody suspects that I’m literally not-from-around-here.

It is all bad news for the GOP of course. The convention should have been Jeb’s triumph after a difficult campaign but it has become somewhat tainted by claims of media collusion, corruption and FEC violations. Jeb was always going to struggle against an image of being a Washington insider and part of a corrupt dynasty. In the wake of the Chilcott report from the UK a few weeks before, the leaks have all served to further muddy his reputation. The unresolved tensions from the Trump insurgency (as they call it here) may yet split the GOP in this alternate-reality.

I’m enjoying the schadenfreude, naturally. Confusion to the enemy! What’s not to like? The coffee is OK here too. I’d stay but, you know, everybody gets wiped out by a virus in a few months. Don’t think Station Eleven, think The Road. Shame really but that is parallel worlds for you – best not to get too attached to any one of them.

Still, while I’m enjoying seeing the GOP rushing around in full damage limitation mode as a consequence of this other world’s WikiLeaks email dump, another part of me is worried. This does not feel right (and I don’t mean the impending viral apocalypse). A political party is not the government and a political campaign necessarily has a degree of secrecy about it. Yes, we’ve all found out a lot about the shenanigans that go on but none of it is stuff that I really didn’t already know. The process is dysfunctional! Meanwhile, the Pope is catholic, dogs bite stuff and bears use the woods as toilets. I don’t want to sound complacent about the corruption that has been exposed but at the same time, it feels more like noise than signal.

Democrats are looking smug but I’m guessing their emails would look equally bad and I sort of don’t care. Compared with the inherent corruption of campaign funding, gerrymandered constituencies, a badly designed electoral process and active voter suppression; shonky emails look a tad tame even if they confirm my inherent prejudices about conservatives in general and the Bushes in particular.

And WikiLeaks? Sorry guys, I love a lot of what you have done and I admire the way you helped Chelsea Manning but this seems more than a bit off. Transparency is one thing but this looks a lot like you are directly helping the Democrats here in the alt-reality commonly known as that-tragic-one-where-everybody-dies-from-weasel-flu. Yes, yes, the Democrats are the good guys and Jeb Bush is some kind of dynastic threat to world peace – good grief we all know how appalling his brother was. Yet, this looks a lot like trying to influence a democratic process by unethical means.

I mean, how is this different from what Nixon attempted with the Watergate theft? Sure, it doesn’t involve a physical break-in but otherwise, it looks like pretty much the same dirty trick. Adding more dirty tricks to a corrupt process doesn’t make the process less corrupt.

Laughably Jeb is now playing the Russian card. I guess the Republicans have never fallen out of love with the Cold War. Still…yes, there is no direct evidence that Putin is behind this hack but it is a legitimate worry if he was. In which case is WikiLeaks complicit in helping a foreign power disrupt an election? Bush may be appalling but Putin is manifestly not a friend of freedom.

So my thoughts turn more to who and why? If the Democrats were behind this hack of emails then that would be a bigger scandal than the emails themselves. If the Russians or some other foreign power are behind it (and I can see why the Chinese might want [name] [redacted] to beat Jeb in November) then that is effectively an attack on US democracy. Worrying stuff. Yes, yes, I get that WikiLeaks never reveals its sources but it seems to me there is a greater issue in the who and why of this hack than there is in the content of the emails.

Anyway, that’s all moot here in alt-Pittsburgh. They never find out. I may pop back in a few years, once the mustelid population has died back enough for it to be safe again.
Anyway, time to head back before the flu-vector reaches North America. It’ll be interesting to see how this whole leak thing has played out back in base reality, although I can’t imagine anybody will care in that crazy version of Earth.