Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Call this “balance”, Fairfax?

In its desperate search for “balance” on a climate change story, Fairfax has decided to give oxygen to the deluded world view that says that climate science is a conspiracy to rule the world by a cabal of banks.

Not only that, but this unbelievable assertion closes a story unchallenged. Here is the story: Climate change sceptics unwarmed by scientist’s reassessment of cold facts.

And here’s the relevant quote:

“Mr Roberts [of the Galileo Foundation] said climate change science had been captured by "some of the major banking families in the world" who form a "tight-knit cabal".

“Mr Roberts said he understood that the group's views might sound strange, but claimed they were increasingly popular. "It does sound outlandish," he said. "I, like you, was reluctant to believe it [but] there are significant things going on in Australia that people are waking up to".”

Ignoring the notion that the “popularity” of a view has anything whatever to do with reality, this kind of conspiracy theorizing simply isn’t news. Unlike a climate scientist who has the misfortune to have a journalist call, Mr Roberts is not challenged, asked to provide evidence, or answered by any reasonable voice.

The sole fact in the Galileo Foundation quote is the fact that Mr Roberts said something – and that is not sufficient foundation for the inclusion in the story.

I can’t blame the author, Ben Cubby, for this. There’s some policy set by some editor who has an eye to current and future employment … you know the story.

My only hope is that by quoting kooks, Cubby is trying to punk the system: to hold up the Galileo Foundation to the public ridicule it so richly deserves. That’s a pretty faint hope, but it’s the best I have.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Asylum seekers: what you know makes you guilty

(Sorry for the cryptic headline. Unless I want to agonise about them, I suck at headlines.)

Having lived through Australia’s refugee debates of the 1970s, I have wondered many times why today’s debate is so much different. Part of it is, I believe, that we know so much more today than we did then. 

In short: in the 1970s, we knew about the boats that made it here – and didn’t suffer headlines and agonies about the boats that didn’t.

I spent quite some time looking over Trove (if you’re not familiar – the National Library’s online archive) for references to the “boat people” from the 1970s. There are plenty (it documents Ita Buttrose's pro-refugee campaigning in Women's Weekly, for example), but something’s missing: that era lacked today’s debate over preventing tragedies at sea.

While the political decisions made in that era by Malcolm Fraser eventually did “stop the boats”, it didn’t happen instantly. Several years elapsed between the government deciding how many refugees would be accepted, the implementation of the policy – and the cessation of boat arrivals (in the early 1980s).

Today, for reasons both humanitarian and political, an urgent imperative is given to “stopping the boats”.

I went searching for some other data to explain this – and when I couldn’t find it, I tried to confirm it with a good source.

If you go looking for the numbers of Vietnamese and Cambodian refugee boats that went down in the 1970s, good luck: I could not find any such data, and the Australian Border Crossing Observatory at Monash University confirmed that it held no such data (it hopes to launch research to document this; again, good luck).

Nor could I find any headlines talking about sinkings.

This is the cold equation: in the 1970s, we didn’t worry about the boats that didn’t make it, because we didn’t know about them.

In those days, a boat might carry a map and, if it were lucky, a ship-to-shore radio it was probably reluctant to use. Today’s vessels are no more seaworthy, but communications technologies are available and affordable: neither GPS nor portable satellite phones existed in the 1970s, nor emergency beacons or mobile phones – all of which are both available and affordable today.

Also: Australia has vastly expanded its patrols. Also: there are vastly many more satellites watching over the ocean. And so on.

Which leads me to a question: to what extent does knowledge make us responsible for what happens to the boats? Are we, in trying to find a “quick fix” to “stop the boats”, assuming a responsibility that properly belongs to the people on the boats?

Yes: if we take our time implementing a policy, as the Fraser Government did, boats will set out and never arrive. In trying to make ourselves responsible for preventing those deaths, we have created a political impasse that’s frozen our policy that’s lasted so long that…well, so long that if we’d had the leisure that the Fraser government had, we would now have a policy in place that would probably be reducing the number of arrivals.

The sad irony is that our consciences – whether prompted or unprompted, unforced or exploited by politicians – are contributing to the very thing that makes us uncomfortable: the boats are still setting out. We could demand better policy from our leaders; but not if we keep demanding a fast fix to stop the boats setting out.

These are our defenders

I had no real intention to return to blog posting because it can become time-consuming. However, even though writing for The Register is enjoyable, there are things that don't fit the brief. So I'm back to occasionally post my overflow, so to speak.

I wish that self-appointed defenders of my freedom - like Anonymous - would stop interfering with it.

I don’t like data retention, but I do like political debate. And political debate has to include the existence of ideas I might not like - even if only so they can be debated and defeated in public.

There’s even a Web link at which I can detail my responses to the paper that the Attorney-General’s department has published seeking public opinion.

Which brings us to Anonymous, which instead of entering the debate, is trying to coerce the government with the threat of hacking attacks - which include publishing private details of individuals who have nothing to do with data retention.

Some people are happy with the idea of "collateral damage". I'm not.

What about government policies I like, but Anonymous doesn’t? Are they to be stalled or aborted at the behest of the nameless?

This isn’t just fantasy. An exchange with yet-another Twitter account claiming to speak with the name of Anonymous considers carbon trading to be a banking conspiracy, and therefore should not happen - will this be sufficient to justify a "no carbon trading" hack campaign?

The twitter account is called EngageDaMedia, which describes itself as “Anonymous Media”, the operator of which took exception to something I Tweeted regarding climate change. I’ll give you the exchange in full from there (I have taken out the handle of a bystander who happened to get copied on some Tweets).

@EngageDaMedia: @R_Chirgwin Well I'm a sceptic. Whatever the banks sell. I don't buy it! #Rothchilds. Man Made #ClimateChange My (nice) Ass! :)

@R_Chirgwin:@EngageDaMedia Banks aren't selling climate change. They're selling carbon credits. Science isn't banking.

Yes they R & so is BigOil. How else would they get CC trading established?  Ive had this argument way 2 may times Research it :)

@R_Chirgwin: I read my first explanation of fossil fuels and climate change in a Pournelle article ... in the mid 1970s. Research? Yep.

@EngageDaMedia: @R_Chirgwin #NWO Plan 50 yrs in advance. Its Amazing! Was it Rockefeller/Rothchilds funded? Did ya read a/thing on the suns effects in 70's?

@R_Chirgwin: @EngageDaMedia So Rockerfeller and Rothchild owned Jerry Pournelle and Isaac Asmiov? Ask Jerry, since Asmov's dead...

@R_Chirgwin: @EngageDaMedia Don't let me ruin a good Evil Jews Are Running Climate Change scenario. Just keep it for the left-hand side of the bell curve

@EngageDaMedia: @R_Chirgwin It's NOT a Jewish Conspiracy. It's a Banking Cabal Zionist One. The 'illuminated' Ones! Read this: http://t.co/n3xRjXt0

[I’ll discuss that link later. In the meantime, don’t bother: it’s insane – RC]

@EngageDaMedia: Only polluter will pass on to the people. CarbonTax! @R_Chirgwin

@R_Chirgwin: @EngageDaMedia Which still doesn't say that simple chemistry >100 years old is somehow Zionist. Are you able to disaggregate the concepts?

@EngageDaMedia: @R_Chirgwin 100 years? Its goes far beyond that. Read the article I sent ya. Know What/Who we are up against. Let me know your thoughts

@R_Chirgwin: @EngageDaMedia What's that? The conspiracy to turn climate change into a banking instrument is >100 years old? Excuse incredulity...

@EngageDaMedia: @R_Chirgwin Committee of 300. 13 Illuminati Bloodlines  CFR Club of Rome etc Go!

@EngageDaMedia: @R_Chirgwin Nooo. Talking about the rulers of the planet! NOT a Jewish Conspiracy. Read the BIG article dude. It's Accurate. Scientific too

@R_Chirgwin: @EngageDaMedia Forgive me, I'm still trying work out when the properties of carbon dioxide (19th century) enter the conspiracy.

@EngageDaMedia: @R_Chirgwin You need to understand the mentality of these ppl to understand the grand plan/s. READ THE FUKN ARTICLE. :))

Apparently in response to someone else …

@EngageDaMedia: That's Right … But you cant blame the masses. #Fluoride, #GMO's #MSM #BPA #Drugs FM! Total onslaught from evey direction  @R_Chirgwin

Perhaps I should have stopped sooner, or perhaps I should have trolled for longer. When the discussion reached the use of fluoride, I decided I’d had enough.

The link, by the way, leads to full-on-kook conspiracy theorizing of the first water,  ticking all the boxes from fluoride in water to Freemasons in the 18th century, complete with extra-terrestrial interventions in Earthly politics – it really isn’t worth your time.

I’d like to return now to where I began this article: Anonymous’ intervention in the data retention debate.

Australia also proposes a carbon price which will, ultimately, morph into an emissions trading scheme. Anonymous, at least in the voice above, not only opposes this: it considers our “carbon tax” to be the creation of the Rothschilds and Rockerfellers. The voice that claims to speak for me and be acting as my defender is beholden to the most infantile fantasies imaginable.

Speak for me? Give me a break…