Boats to the node!

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He he he…

Nice one, Jon Kudelka.

boats to the node

Climate Commission – An act of vandalism

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There’s only one word for it – vandalism.

As if to reinforce his anti-intellectual approach to anything vaguely resembling science, technology or social progress, our new PM (did we really do that?) has just killed off the Climate Commission, whose mission was to sift the science and provide the government and public with up to date information.

So, not only is the new government intent on dismantling any real action on climate, they have now done the equivalent of putting their fingers in their ears and chanting ‘la la la’. No only don’t they have a clue, but they don’t want to have a clue, almost as if it might be taken as a sign of weakness to actually respond to the real world rather than defend their ideology to the death.

Morons; what else can you say about people who, on behalf of a whole nation, willfully shun facts in favour of beliefs?

Speaking of morons, the those pesky climate skeptics (sorry, I meant liars) are at it again. This time, trying the further their ends by spreading more doubt, and creating an alternative to the IPCC, called the NIPCC. The NIPCC is funded by  the Heartland Institute, about which I’ve written before, for example here, here and here. Here’s an excellent article by Michael Brown of Monash University providing more background on these charlatans, as well as providing a dinner-table guide to the current status of global warming.

Happily, following the demise of the Climate Commission, there has been sufficient groundswell on this matter for Tim Flannery (formerly Chief Commissioner) to resurrect the organisation as the Climate Council, to be funded privately. Seemingly overnight, a new site was created for the purpose, and is already taking donations.

If you are at all interested in supporting this organisation, at least go there and register, watch the video, and perhaps even donate.

Politics – just this once, I promise

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I have made it a rule to not comment on politics, except of course as it affects the topics I’m discussing at the time. Regular readers will recall well-crafted adjectives such as ‘right-wing nut jobs’ etc, when talking about climate change for example.

One of the reasons for keeping politics out of things is that it is antithetical to rational thinking. It is simply not a rational process. For all the plaudits lavished on democracy good grief does it have some flaws. But as they say, it’s probably the best we’ve got, and sure beats the hell out of a feudal system for example.

But I’ve weakened. It’s not just that Australia has just elected it’s very own George W . Bush (let the gaffe-counting commence). It’s mainly that the process was so tortuous this time around. Right-wingers will say that it’s because the outgoing government was so dysfunctional for so long. There is some measure of truth to this – their leadership hijinks were just tedious. But this alone is not the reason. Indeed the Labour government got plenty of nation-building going (see, I’m even using political terms!). But for me it was the incessant prattle by both the opposition and the media that really did my head in, to use the psychologist-approved term.

That ‘prattle’ largely consisted of dumbed-down slogans, repeated ad nauseam by the opposition (Stop the boats! Axe the tax!), and then re-tweeted, so to speak, by the media. To me it’s the same phenomenon as happens with, for example, climate denialists – because the situation is actually quite complex, short, pithy slogans can penetrate and are hard to easily refute. This is why atheists tend to avoid debating theologians – the latter are armed with loads of quotes which cannot easily be refuted by another simple quote. It’s the FUD approach – sow seeds of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, and the masses will come with you. Historically the tobacco industry did this effectively for many years – using doubt as the main weapon.

So we now have our very own climate-denialist as PM, famously quoted as saying ‘climate change is crap’. Oh boy. First order of business – dismantle carbon pricing mechanisms, and replace it with so-called ‘Direct Action’, which as I understand it will consist primarily of paying off polluters to, well, not pollute as much. This position is clearly a political expedient, since of all policy positions, carbon pricing is the most consistent with right-wing, free-market approaches, while their adopted approach is socialism writ large. And to top it all off, just today we read that an MP who is an avowed climate change skeptic, Dennis Jensen, has put his hand up to be Minister for Science. He is quoted as saying “It was wrong to accept the view of the 97 per cent of climate scientists who agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely caused by human activities, because “the argument of consensus . . . is a flawed argument”. And if that doesn’t tell you enough, then he also said: “The colourful Englishman, Lord Christopher Monckton, who toured Australia to debunk the “bogus science” of global warming, was closer to the mark“, and, “Most of the stuff [Lord Monckton] says is entirely reasonable”. Again, Oh boy.

The other peculiarity about this election is the rise of the so-called micro-parties in the Senate, as a result of our archaic preference voting system. How ironic is that the people complaining about it are the politicians. Guys, you set it up! What’s even more laughable is the now new government poking fun at some of the potential new senators, basically describing them as the lunatic fringe. All I can say is Bill Heffernan and Barnaby Joyce.  Pot calling kettle black.

Climate change is crap. No conscience vote on gay marriage. Catholic views on women’s reproductive rights and ‘traditional family values’. Fanning the embers of xenophobia. Copper for broadband, not fibre. Australia, all ahead full, warp factor 9 – destination, the 1950’s.

And if I hear one more word on what the people of fucking Western Sydney or fucking Queensland want or think, I’m going to scream.


Chaplaincy Program – the good news and the bad

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Way back in February 2011 I wrote about the efforts of Ron Williams to derail the national schools’ chaplaincy program. At issue is the nearly 1/2 billion dollars of public money handed out to the Scripture Union and Access Ministries, to embed their disciples in public schools. These disciples are known to be carriers of the now-famous reliobacter rationalbrianius germ, hence Ron’s concern for his children.

Ron took the the case to the High Court (the peak federal court in Australia), challenging both the right of the federal government to fund such things and also the church-state separation issue.

Well the decision has finally been handed down, and while the press has all been about how Ron Williams took on the system and won, I’m afraid he and his supporters will, on reflection, consider it a hollow victory.

The good news is that the High Court ruled (6-1) that the Commonwealth government did not have the constitutional right to make such payments, without the backing of legislation, which is the case for the chaplaincy program.

The bad news is three-fold: Firstly, the other proposition being tested, that public schools should not be a vehicle for the promotion of religion, was defeated. This is most unfortunate since in my mind it is the main game. Many, if not most, people want to send their children to school safe in the knowledge that they are not being infected with anything, other than a deep curiosity about the universe, and perhaps the ability to spell and add up a little bit.

Secondly, the federal government has been moved to re-affirm its spending on the chaplaincy program, regardless of the decision. In other words, they will find another way to make it happen, possible through new legislation, or, channel it through the states.

Thirdly, and most unexpectedly, the decision that this type of spending is unconstitutional has broader application than just the chaplaincy program. It may be that a lot of other very worthwhile programs may be cut or derailed as a result of this decision.

Brave attempt Ron, but if ever there was a time for a face-palm, or a Simpsonesque ‘Doh’, it’s now.

And I can just hear those jackals at the Scripture Union and Access Ministries cackling away.

There’s money in climate change denial

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One always suspects these things are going on, and so it’s no surprise when evidence surfaces to confirm them.

This article blows the lid on a US ‘think tank’, the Heartland Institute, which has a clearly documented strategy for influencing public opinion by handing out money to key individuals in return for supportive commentary.

Whenever I hear the term ‘think tank’, my bullshit antennae go up. In my experience, think tanks are anything but – they should instead be called ‘belief tanks’, because they seem to exist on the basis of some belief or ideology, and operate in such a manner as convince others of their ideology. For example, they’ve spent money on developing a school curriculum to teach children that climate science is a hoax. Clearly, there is no thinking involved, just a Borg-like drive to assimilate, although I don’t thing the Borg were in it for the money.

And I don’t think I’m being naive here; I know that there are zillions of lobby groups out there, including unions I guess, which make donations to political parties and various causes. But I think this case is qualitatively different. Words which come to mind are sneaky, underhanded, dishonest, manipulative, deceptive. You get the idea.

Back to Heartland. The guys at Desmogblog, have published some Heartland documents here, which make interesting reading. It’s worth noting that Heartland claim that a number of the documents have been faked to sully their reputation, and I have no reason to disbelieve them. However, the documents which identify key people on the payroll, are not included in the list of fakes. Other commentators also cast doubt on the claim that the strategy is a fake. On my reading, a key part of the strategy is to pay people to ‘spread the gospel’ on a whole range of issues, and that’s exactly what they are doing.

But who is on the payroll? One Bob Carter of James Cook University, who happens to be one of Australia’s most vocal climate denialists. According the Age report:

The documents show Professor Carter receives a “monthly payment” of $US1667 ($1550) as part of a program to pay “high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist [anthropogenic global warming] message”.

Professor Carter did not deny he was being paid by The Heartland Institute, but would not confirm the amount, or if the think tank expected anything in return for its money.

“That suggestion is silly and offensive – a kindergarten level argument,” Professor Carter told The Age.

“Institutions or organisations simply pay for services rendered – in the same way that an architect is paid for their work, so are scientists,” he said. “What they may make any payment to me for, I’m not discussing with anybody outside of my family.”

So Bob, you don’t like kindergarten arguments. And yet your response is: I’m being paid for services rendered but I’m not going to tell you what they are. You may as well cover your ears and sing ‘la la la’. Very mature, and not the least bit disingenuous. No, even a kindergarten child can see the obvious.

What is most galling about this case is the sheer hypocrisy of climate denialists, who continue to point the finger at scientists for perpetuating a hoax in order to get ongoing science funding – in effect prostituting themselves for cash, when in fact it is money- and ideology-driven denialists who have been caught standing on a darkened street corner, wearing  fishnet stockings, and smiling at every sleazy think tank which drives by.

The Salt Shakers & home-grown extremism

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At first I was going to focus on yet another man-of-the-cloth being persecuted by his own for having the courage of his convictions.

This article in the Age talks of the plight of Matt Glover, in Lilydale, an outer suburb of Melbourne. It seems that Matt as raised the ire of the powers that be by voicing support for his same-sex marriage, and revealing that he had been ministering to gays and lesbians for 15 years (oh, the horror!). To his credit, he has spoken out at some of the more hysterical opposition to same-sex marriage, and is quoted as saying:

Salt Shakers and the Australian Christian Lobby were saying gay marriage would open the door to paedophilia. I couldn’t sit back and let Christian leaders say things like that, that are untrue.

Happily, the pressure from his congregation has forestalled any action by these pressure groups to remove him. Clearly, they see the value in his long-standing pastoral work for the community, as well as the community-based enterprises such as financial services, counselling, food bank, cafe and welfare assistance.

I’ve written about this syndrome before – no matter that an individual does good work for his flock – if they don’t toe the official party line, then get rid of them.

Anyway, well done Matt on your stance, and carry on the good work.

As I said, that was the original focus. But I decided I should find out who or what the ‘Salt Shakers’ are. And that’s the more interesting story.

A visit to their website reveals not a religious organisation, but a political action group of the type I would expect to see in the US (sorry guys, but you’re the epicenter of the whole right-wing religion thing, aren’t you?). It turns out that the SS (no Nazi slur intended here, but now that I mention it…) is a husband and wife team (executive director and research officer) who are supported by donations from the suckers  faithful.

Their mission is to impose their form of biblical values on the world, and it seems they are trying to do this by supporting every right-wing nut-job out there. For example, their primary sources are Piers Akerman, Andrew Bolt, the HeraldSun, the Courier Mail etc. For those in other parts of the world, these are a selection of the shrill self-righteous right-wing denialists who all believe that their values are the final word. Unfortunately those values don’t include compassion for other people or anything that vaguely resembles socialsism. I’m sure you know the type.

Just look at their Home page. It’s just a summary of anti-government sentiment. This includes the factually incorrect statement that “….and is now pursuing the ‘Mining Tax’ under which the small miners will suffer“. This is just incorrect – small miners are exempt, but of course this inconvenient fact doesn’t suit their political agenda. This simply shows that SS is parroting the falsehoods being pedalled by those opposed to the government’s agenda – they have not done any analysis of their own.

They have a clearly anti-tax stance – not something jesus would have been too fussed about I’m sure. And exactly where in the bible does it say that tax is a bad thing? What about tithing? Oh, that’s not a tax, right? And why do religions accept tax-deductible status if the whole tax thing is so abhorrent – they should just refuse to be involved in anything so nasty.

In their About Us page, they remind us of their Resistance Thinking website which is supposedly intended to “help young people understand their Biblical worldview and engage effectively in discussion about the issues of our day‘. Based on that description, it should be called “Resistance To Thinking”.

But it’s in the Issues page where the rubber hits the road. Here you can see a list of their main marks – and of course their position on each is predictable – right-wing politics, fundamentalist religion and moral arbiter.

In fact what is striking about this Issues page is the number of issues on which they are advocating activism. Does is not occur to these people that since they have to prosecute their beliefs on so many fronts, that maybe their world view is a little, well, let’s say, flaky?

In the ‘Latest News’ section, they even pontificate on Climate Change – and you know what a potent mix religion and climate change is to rationalbrain. Here, they actually quote Piers Akerman as their source, and tell us that “on this issue the science really isn’t settled.” Really SS? On what do you base this? Have you any idea at all on this, or are you once again just parroting those famous non-climatologists Akerman and Bolt, and the two or three non-climate scientists swimming against the tide?  And yet on this page, when Andrew Bolt interviews three well-known climate science deniers, all of a sudden “the scientists tell us the real story“. Clearly these people have no idea.

It’s strange really, because on this page, is a story about how it’s now a fact that homosexuals can change (presumably into heterosexuals), and that there is a peer-reviewed study supporting this. I haven’t looked for the study yet – suffice to say, that  these people are monumentally inconsistent. In this case, when it suits their agenda, peer-reviewed studies are to be believed, while with climate change the thousands of peer-reviewed papers by leaders in the relevant field are to be dismissed based on a News Corporation article. Actually, I’m sure these people are not stupid. They’re just desperate to support their ridiculous world-view at any cost.

To be honest, I haven’t scratched the surface of this insidious little site, full of the language of intolerance and extremism, and party political rhetoric.  I’ll close with the final line of a paper on climate change by one of the authors of the site, and leave you judge their motivations:

We cannot ‘save’ the planet. Only God can. This world will not be wiped out until Christ returns.

Well, that will be a happy day, won’t it!

Actually I feel a little nauseous so I’d better move onto something else.

Carbon tax – couldn’t have said it better myself…

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Couldn’t resist passing along this entertaining discussion of the woeful level of discourse on this subject.