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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

I asked three random people (well it’s about as scientific as those polls in the Courier-Mail) some simple questions.

Do you believe the world is getting warmer as a result of human action? Two said yes, one no.

To the two who said yes: ‘What are we doing that is causing the world to get warmer?’

They both answered that we are making too much carbon dioxide, and this is trapping sunlight.

Next question: ‘If you had a box containg 10,000 air particles, how many of them would be carbon dioxide?’

One answer: Half?

The other answer: About 3,000?

My response. ‘Three.’

‘What, three thousand?’

‘Nope, three.’

‘You mean 300?’

Nope, three.’

‘That can’t be right.’

“Go and check it out.’

‘No that can’t be right.’

Ahh, the joyful bliss of ignorance.

Except that, in this case, and often, ignorance does not promote bliss, but uneccessary panic.

There is vastly more water vapour in the air than CO2, and water vapour is a more effective retainer of heat.

The minimal effect of that tiny amount of CO2 is simply swamped by other factors including water vapor.

The even more minimal additional amount of CO2 resulting from human activity causes so little change that it cannot even be measured.

Despite this, everywhere is getting hotter faster than everywhere else, and Mars is getting hotter fastest of all. And it’s all our fault. Except Mars.

Gol darn those irresponsible truck driving martians!

Of course, scientists keep saying we should stop panicking about climate because we can’t do anything about it anyway, and get on with solving real problems, but I still think those martians need to be taught a lesson.

Wow, that George Christensen is anti everything. Well of course he would be, he’s a liberal party candidate.

At least, that’s the impression you might get from this article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Some of the comments quoted really are obnoxious. Only one of them is actually attributed to Christensen. The rest were in a magazine he edited.

All date from 1998, when he was a university student.

Sorry, when? 1998. Twelve years ago. Christensen was a teenager at the time.

There are a few things to note here. Firstly this was twelve years ago. Christensen was a teenager.

Secondly, some of the opinons expressed by Christensen as a teenager are simply sensible.

Is it really extreme, anti-gay, or anti-women to suggest there is something wrong with using tax-payer funds to pay for a sex change operation for a bloke who thinks he’d like to be a lesbian?

Thirdly, this was twelve years ago, and Christensen was a teenager at the time.

Fourthly, even the most extreme views expressed in the magazine edited by Christensen are no match for the personal attacks, obscenity and sheer nastiness exhibited on an ongoing basis by such left-wing luminaries as Marieke Hardy and Catherine Deveny, without so much as a disapproving murmur from the mainstream media.

Finally, if what you thought at university can safely be held to be what you think now, we are really in trouble with Ms Gillard, who is therefore still a ‘revolutionary leftist’ (her own words), committed to undermining capitalist society.

I feel much more confident that Christensen does not now hold the juvenile views he did twelve years ago than that Ms Gillard does not hold the radical views she did.

Christensen has acknowledged that some of what he said was inappropriate. He says those remarks were made in jest, or to generate discussion. They are not representative of his views now. And he has apologised unreservedly. 

Julia is still to tell the truth about the extent of her involvement in communist groups.

I know who I’d trust first.

How do caring, intelligent people stop the race problem?

Race commissioners, equality commissars, etc, only have jobs as long as they keep finding racists under the bed, so they have a vested interest in keeping on finding them, and making the problem sound as bad as it can be made to sound.

There may be another way.

This Morgan Freeman talking about ‘Black History Month:’

via Brutally Honest

The moral of the story is, if you don’t think race should make a difference, stop acting like race makes a difference.

I just bought a copy of the Australian Women’s Monthly.

I didn’t want to, but the current edition hasn’t yet made it to the doctors’ surgery, or to the library.

Julia Gillard is made to look very attractive.

There has been a bit of photo-shopping. In the photos, this makes her look younger and softer. In the text, it makes her look more caring and trustworthy.

I asked a random sample of female friends what they thought of the article, and of Julia.

One answered that she was lovely, and it would be great for Australia to have a female Prime Minister, just like it is wonderful that America has a black President.

This respondent is obviously a complete dimwit.

I didn’t point out that Australia already has a female Prime Minister, or that voting for someone on the basis of race is, well, racism. And besides, that’s worked out just peachy for all concerned, hasn’t it?

My two other friends said the fact that Julia is a backstabbing schemer who may have broken up a marriage, isn’t able to solve any of the problems currently facing the government, and seems willing to promise anything with taxpayers’ money to stay in power, is more important to them than that she is a woman.

They weren’t impressed with her domestic arrangements either. How is her consort going to be introduced? Please welcome Mr Tim Mathieson, the guy who’s currently shagging the Prime Minister?

It may sound snobby, but most Australians won’t sit comfortably with the idea of the Prime Minister shacking up at the Lodge with her hairdresser boyfriend.

Is this fair? Should politicians’ personal lives be up for discussion?

Well, yes.

It is important that our leaders be intelligent, energetic, capable. Julia is all of those things. So was Kevin Rudd. So was Mussolini.

Those things alone don’t make good leaders.

People also want to know that the Prime Minister is stable, truthful, compassionate, willing to honour commitments.

If a politician is willing to deceive friends, betray colleagues, lie to partners, make promises he can’t keep, why should voters have confidence he will keep his promises to them?

If the Women’s Weekly really thinks that faithfulness, integrity, stability, and kindness are less important to its readers than having nice hair and a vagina, it has seriously underestimated the intelligence of Australian women.

If you are interested in US politics, the Town Hall website is worth visiting regularly.

Today there is an article by Michael Medved which asks why big lotto winnings are more acceptable than big executive bonuses. A couple of excerpts:

Why do huge Wall Street bonuses provoke so much more public indignation than similarly gigantic lottery jackpots?

At least financial tycoons can try to argue that their payoffs stem from their own wise decisions or productive hard work. But Powerball winners get rewarded for patently stupid behavior: wasting a few dollars (usually on a regular basis) on addictive games of chance with only the remotest possibility of success.

All studies of government-sponsored games of chance show that they draw their dollars disproportionately from the most disadvantaged members of society. … Lottery losses of just five dollars a week (a common pattern in the nations poorest neighborhoods) could otherwise yield life-changing results (like a compound-interest portfolio that will likely exceed five figures within 20 years) if that money were saved and invested.

Americans can accept a winner of Megamillions who collects $340 million simply because he’s luckier than we are, but we wince at the idea of bankers drawing a similar amount because they’re better connected, smarter, more sophisticated or even more productive.

And Debra Saunders notes that there is pretty good evidence that using a mobile phone while driving, even a hand-held phone, is no more risky than turning on the windcreen wipers:

Last week, an insurance industry report found that bans on using hand-held cell-phones while driving in California, New York, Washington, D.C. and Connecticut did not reduce the number of car crashes. To the contrary, crashes went up in Connecticut and New York, and slightly in California, after the bans took effect.

Insurers are the most risk-averse, nag-happy, fun-killing folks in the private sector. If ever there was an industry that loved nanny-state laws and had nothing to gain in raising information that does not support them, that would be the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

But its report found that the crash statistics simply aren’t there.

I doubt that will stop the legislators.

I noted a few days ago that KICE – Kangaroo Island Education, had scored below average results in national numeracy and literacy testing. Results for the year three group were substantially below average. This was when compared with all schools, and with ‘statistically similar schools.’

Kangaroo Island is regarded as remote, and incomes on the island are below national averages.

So statistically similar means poor and remote. Other schools listed when I checked the site were schools with high proportions of indigenous students.

Aboriginal schools are generally recognised as having significant issues in terms of absenteeism and literacy.

For KICE to score below aboriginal schools at any level is an appalling result.

How could this have come about? There three possibilities.

1. Children on KI are unusually stupid.

I don’t think this is so. But there does seem to be an unusually high proportion of students with learning difficulties – particularly boys.

2. Parents do not see the value of education, are not supportive of the school, do not read with their children at home, etc, etc.

This is possibly true. There does seem to be a general lack of recognition of the value of learning.

There is also a high incidence of domestic violence.

I have not seen any studies of  correlation between domestic violence and literacy, but I would expect a strong inverse relationship.

A close friend says her observations while working in aboriginal schools confirms this. Children were often scared of what they would find when they went home, if Dad was drunk, or Mum had threatened to kill Dad in his sleep, or sister had been beaten with iron bars the night before because she was friends with someone the family were enemies of.

Because they were scared the children were not interested in school work, or left during the day to check what was happening, or found other, often unhealthy, ways to cope.

Even in less extreme circumstances, children might be distressed and distracted by unhappiness at home.

But this is not the whole answer. The relationship between KICE and parents seems to be marred by suspicion if not outright hostility.

To give an example, last year a parent wrote a letter to the local paper, questioning the teaching of Indonesian as a second language. The questions were reasonable, and could have been answered in a  reasonable way.

Instead, the principal wrote back to the paper saying he was taking legal advice, and suggesting the parent, and anyone else who thought like him, was a narrow-minded redneck.

This kind of response does not encourage parents and community members to believe they can talk openly with the school about issues.

It also makes the school as whole seem defensive if not irrational, so that parents are less likely to take the word of teachers or other staff over that of their children, and less likely to believe disciplinary measures are being adminstered fairly.

3. The school is disfunctional, or at least, teaching in the early years is or has been very poor.

I met two retired teachers last week. Both had taught for many years on Kangaroo Island. I asked one of them what he used to teach, meaning subjects. He replied ‘little bastards.’ I laughed, and asked whether this was what had lead to his early retirement.

He said it was not. He was used to poor behaviour from students, and lack of support from parents. What had got him in the end was ongoing bullying in the staff room. The other teacher who was with him confirmed that this had also been his experience.

Now let’s just talk in general about disfunctional schools.

There was a fuss in the papers in South Australia a few years ago about a power group of teachers in a public school. They organised timetables so that they got better students and more free time. Difficult classes would be split for them, but left intact for new teachers, who were then belittled if they had classroom management problems.

Teachers were appointed, and office space and privileges allocated, not on the basis of need or experience, but on the basis of who knew who, and who talked loudest about the great things they had done.

This resulted in high levels of tension, large numbers of staff on stress leave, and declining academic results. Senior staff sent to try to resolve the problem were either drawn into the power group, or if they resisted and tried to bring about change, decried as bullies or incompetent, and moved on.

No one benefits from this, except the few who are able to make life comfortable for themselves at the expense of other teachers, students, and the community.

For results to improve, existing problems need to be acknowledged. Power groups need to be recognised for what they are, and deprived of their power. Appointments need to be made on the basis of who is best suited for the position, not who is someone’s drinking buddy.

And last but certainly not least, there needs to genuine and respectful interaction with the community.

More money will not solve the poor NAPLAN results. Better management will.

I have followed the debate about the publication of national numeracy and literacy testing with interest.

My view, of course, is that parents, the wider community and the government should have as much information as is practicably possible about educational standards, including information about which schools are doing well and why.

The AEU (Australian Education Union), of course, thinks any such plan is reprehensabul, riprahinsable, reprehansbil, bad, because parents might choose to send their children to schools which produce better results. Which means that mediocre teachers might find themselves out of work. Which would be another really inaproprite, unexcaptable, bad thing.

Much badder than children not getting the best possible education, for example.

Over the objections of the AEU, the Federal Government today launched the My School website, which enables anyone to check any school’s NAPLAN test results against the national average, or an average of statistically similar schools.

My nearest school is KICE  – Kangaroo Island Community Education.

The site shows KICE’s results are below average compared with all schools and statistically similar schools at all year levels, and spectacularly below average in year three.

On Friday I will make some suggestions about why this is.

I am not sure that this photo portrait of Barack Obama proves he is an incurable narcissist, as some other bloggers have suggested.

Obamic World View

The man is entitled to use a mirror in his own house. Having the moment captured forever and posted on the White House Flickr stream was probably not his idea.

But it was not wise. It could easily be taken as an allegory of the Obama administration, even by people who are not familiar with Magritte’s Portrait of Edward James:

The Forgotten Man

Perhaps even more disturbing is the parallel between the portrait of Obama, and Komar and Melamid’s portrait of Stalin:

Stalinist World View

Again, not Obama’s fault.

But either his advisors are simply ignorant of some of the key icons of 20th Century Western culture, or someone on his staff is making some very uncomplimentary suggestions about his personality and abilities.

The reasons private schools generally do better than public schools is not that they are better resourced.

A few of the top schools are, of course. But private schools receive on average a third less overall government funding per student.

Although they make up some of the difference through fees and fundraising, most private schools have larger classes and fewer resources than their government equivalents.

The difference is attitude.

This is true of private vs public hospitals too.

If you walk into a private hospital the chances are that you will be able to see the reception area immediately, and that when you get there reception staff will look pleased to see you, and will try to help.

If you walk into a public hospital and manage to find the reception desk, you will be snarled at by some surly slattern, who after saying ‘Yorrite?’ will say she doesn’t do patient enquiries, and direct you down the hall to the right, second stairs on the left, along the passage and up the lift, where if you are lucky, someone might have some idea where your loved one is.

I have nurse friends who have worked in public hospitals and gone to the private sector expecting higher staff to patient ratios, and found the reverse is the case. And yet, patients feel better cared for.

The difference is attitude.

Private schools and hospitals only succeed if clients are happy with the service they receive.

This means outcomes matter, and patients, students, visitors and parents are treated as people.

I am glad New South Wales farmer Peter Spencer has ended his hunger strike, is well, and will be able to speak directly to legislators.

Jo Nova and Michael Duffy have both written about the impact of tree-clearing legislation on Peter’s property, and on farmers and graziers in general.

The NSW Native Vegetation Act 2003 is draconian. It not only stops clearance of previously unused land, but also the removal of regrowth, so that land which may have lain idle for a couple of years cannot be re-used.

The loss of income and loss of property value this causes is entirely met by the property owner. This is unjust.

The community, through State or Federal government, is perfectly entitled to decide that a particular piece of land, or building, or watercourse, is of special value and should be preserved.

When it does so, the costs of retaining that land or watercourse in its original condition should be met by the entire community, not by whoever owns it. This should take the form of realistic, market value compensation for loss of income or loss of capital value.

This does not apply, of course, if the land or other asset was purchased after the legislation was in place. In that case the purchaser could reasonably be expected to know that it applied to the property he intended to purchase. Purchasers have a responsibility to check whether a property is suitable for their purposes.

If the legislation was in place, and the purchaser did not check whether it applied to the property, or what its impact might be, then it is hardly reasonable to blame the government when the earning capacity of the property is not what he hoped.

The situation in that case would be similar to that of the tourists in Dubai who went to the police to complain after the woman was raped. The alleged rapist was arrested, but so were they.

The couple were on holiday from England. They celebrating were their engagement. They were sharing a hotel room, and had been drinking.

Well, so what?

The ‘so what’ is that the woman is a Muslim. In Dubai, a Muslim woman drinking and sleeping with a man to whom she is not married is a criminal.

To arrest a woman who has been raped because she has been having sex with her fiancé is monstrous. It would not occur in any civilised country. But Dubai is not a civilised country, and in Dubai, that is the law.

Those who travel abroad have a responsibility to ensure that they comply with the laws of the countries they visit – even if those laws are manifestly unjust and inappropriate. If you cannot comply with a country’s laws, don’t go there.

If we expect tourists to consider whether they are willing to comply with the laws of the countries they visit, then even more can we expect business people to check Australian legislation that might affect their use of any asset they purchase. The greater the value of the asset, the greater the diligence required.

But Peter Spencer bought his property beginning in 1980.

He had no way of knowing that the NSW government would enact legislation which would make what he purchased to be a business, a working farm, into an extensive nature reserve.

In his case, and the many others like it, the government has a clear moral obligation to compensate for losses suffered.

Justice Stephen Rothman said in the Supreme Court in 2008:
when .. restrictions prevent or prohibit a business activity that was hitherto legitimate, … and  (the government) does not fully compensate for the restrictions imposed, society is asking Mr Spencer, and people in his position, to pay for its benefit … it is a most unfortunate aspect of the operation of the scheme that a person in Mr Spencer’s position is effectively denied proper compensation for the restrictions imposed upon him by a scheme implemented for the public good.

If we don’t stand up against this sort of injustice, and demand that something be to remedy it, what right do we have to expect justice for ourselves?

According to worried family members, a boat carrying 105 illegal immigrants left Indonesia on October 2nd, and has not been heard of since.

Up till then 19 deaths could be attributed to the Federal Government’s new, humane immigration policies (five after a boat carrying 50 people was sabotaged and exploded, twelve drowned after a boat carrying 39 sank near Cocos Island, and two shot in an altercation with the Indonesian coastguard).

Adrienne Millbank of Monash University says the government’s policies are contradictory and reek of hypocrisy.

But still Mr Rudd and his mates seem to think the appearance of compassion is more important than the lives of a few people in leaky boats.

Bastards.

US evangelist Pat Robertson says the reason Haiti is so poor, and suffered the recent devastating earthquake, is that 200 years ago its people made a deal with the devil.

This is the kind of nonsense that makes me embarrassed to be a Christian. But Robertson’s comments lead Francis Clooney SJ, to ask some interesting questions about God and justice and good and evil:

Does the world make sense from a Christian perspective, or not? God allows: the question — that of theodicy — is the age-old one: if God is all-good and all-powerful, why the hurricane? the earthquake? …

Mr. Robertson is clearly trying to come up with reasons for why such things take place — to preserve his conviction that the world is in God’s hands, that nothing happens except by divine decree …

Better to ask, I suggest, “Where is God when such events take place?

If there was any kind of deal with the devil, it was made by the Duvaliers.

The people of Haiti have suffered enough without being told it is all their fault.

Pat Robertson makes one good point – the difference in wealth between the half of the island that is the Dominican Republic, and the half that is Haiti.

This is not because Haiti made a deal with the devil. Nor is there any significant difference in the natural resources available to each.

The difference has been in government accountability and free elections. There is a huge correlation between free elections and GDP.

The US is taking the lead in relief and rescue efforts in Haiti. Well of course. The UN is about as useful as a tinker at a Tupperware party.

Incidentally, Australia’s promised support of $10 million is second only to that of the US.

Like Rupert Wyndham at Climaterealists, I have had some clashes with senior clergy over social issues including climate change.

However, I don’t think I have ever written to an archbishop in tones quite like this:

And, dare it be said,  for those such as yourself, in the vanguard of so called “faith communities”, who arrogate to themselves the role of moral leadership, this gives rise to serious questions,  does  it  not? Indeed,  in many ways,  “Climategate”  is  less about   the “science” – which anyway  is garbage – than it is about the integrity of the scientific process, an issue of immensely greater ethical significance for all who value truth as well as democratic accountability.  AGW science has been exposed as a fraud, by far the gravest in the entire history of science. The AGW hypothesis itself is no better than a glib and distorted misrepresentation of a 100 year old speculation relating to the so-called Greenhouse Effect allied to invented evidence concocted within the guts of a computer by  individuals with a predetermined agenda coupled with huge personal  vested  interests – financial  and otherwise …

That, of course,  leaves you in a quandary,  does it not? Either you repudiate this ethical obscenity and, in a spirit of Christian repentance,  exercise moral authority or you continue to promote it and abrogate moral auhority.  Although religious leaders often seem to find the concept seductive, what you cannot do is both to wolf your bun and hang on to your penny.  Your predecessor thought he could. He was wrong.

Ouch! But quite right.

It is one thing to have gangs of scientists saying ‘We’re scientists. The world is ending. Give us billions of dollars and we’ll fix it.’

It is another thing entirely to have religious leaders telling people they are stupid or immoral if they disagree.

Any pretense at decency or moral values by the Sea Shepherd mob is a sham.

Paul Syret at the Courier Mail writes:

THAR she blows. And no, it’s not a humpback whale surfacing and venting, but Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson once again blowing off great clouds of sanctimonious steam as only true zealots of any persuasion can do.

Personally, I’ve never met a whale, but I’m sure they’re very nice.

The problem is the Japanese and other whaling nations also seem to think they’re very nice, particularly with a dash of soy sauce and some wasabi on the side.

And the whales need saving apparently, or before you know it, the only chance we’ll get to see Free Willy in the flesh is in an upmarket Tokyo sushi bar.

Enter stage right the swashbuckling Captain Paul, a big, bearded bear of a Canadian who likes to sail under the Jolly Roger – the skull and crossbones flag of the maritime pirate.

Indeed, the Sea Shepherd conservation society has admitted to sinking various whaling boats over the years in operations from Iceland to Antarctica.

When you have right on your side, you can do as you damn well please in terms of innovative direct action tactics it appears.
 …

How would we as a nation feel if Japanese protesters took to using innovative direct action tactics to disrupt the kangaroo meat industry?

We might have plague proportions of the things in some areas, and they can taste pretty good after a quick barbecue sear and then a stint in a slow oven with a red wine, garlic and rosemary jus and a side of julienne potatoes, but poor little Skippy.

So how would we react if the Tokyo Marsupial Shepherds decided to embark on a campaign of harassment, vandalism and intimidation on our shores (and remember here that Sea Shepherd claims these waters are Australia’s responsibility)?

… they are just sea-going terrorists and blowhards with politically correct bumper stickers.

And then there is this video showing the Ady Gil shooting arrows at the Japanese:

Gavin Atkins has more.

It is certainly hot in South Australia – over 40 degrees on Kangaroo Island. Adelaide is even hotter – about 43 degrees.

One or two very hot spells in a season are not unusual, however. The hottest day I have ever lived through was 46 degrees in the early 80s, also in Adelaide.

Has the last decade been the hottest on record in Australia, as Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology says? I noted a couple of days ago that even it were, this is no reason to assume that human activity is responsible.

In fact, there is no correlation between human production of CO2 and changes in climate, but very strong correlation between solar activity and global temperature change.

I also noted that there have been no new temperature records, hot or cold, in the last decade.

Warwick Hughes has shown that in the case of Darwin and Alice Springs, the temperature data do not supprt the BOM’s claim.

There is also considerable doubt that the BOM has adequately taken into account the Urban Heat Island Effect.

These graphs, also from Warwick Hughes, demonstrate the IPCC orthodox warming of about 0.6 degrees in large Australian cities over the 20th century, but no warming at all in rural centres:

Australian Capital City Temperatures 1882 -1982

Australian Regional Temperatures 1882 -1982

Then there is the fact that data has been carefully ‘corrected’, almost always so that older temperatures are lowered, and more recent temperatures increased.

This graph from Watts Up With That shows adjusted data versus raw data for Darwin over the period 1880 to 2000:

Darwin Raw vs Adjusted Temperatures 1880 to 2000

Then there is the fact the even the warming alarmists at East Anglia CRU found the Australian temperature records so poor they are almost incomprehensible. A couple of quotes from the Climategate emails:

I am very sorry to report that the rest of the databases seem to be in nearly as poor a state as Australia was. There are hundreds if not thousands of pairs of dummy stations, one with no WMO and one with, usually overlapping and with the same station name and very similar coordinates. I know it could be old and new stations, but why such large overlaps if that’s the case? Aarrggghhh! There truly is no end in sight… So, we can have a proper result, but only by including a load of garbage!

OH F%*# THIS. It’s Sunday evening, I’ve worked all weekend, and just when I thought it was done I’m hitting yet another problem that’s based on the hopeless state of our databases. There is no uniform data integrity, it’s just a catalogue of issues that continues to grow as they’re found.

Getting seriously fed up with the state of the Australian data. so many new stations have been introduced, so many false references.. so many changes that aren’t documented. Every time a cloud forms I’m presented with a bewildering selection of similar-sounding sites, some with references, some with WMO codes, and some with both. And if I look up the station metadata with one of the local references, chances are the WMO code will be wrong (another station will have it) and the lat/lon will be wrong too.

So how much confidence can we have in the BOM’s claim that this has been the hottest decade since records began?

Very little.