Balneus

Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

Achilles, the Eagle, and burning Australia

Posted by Dave Bath on 2020-01-14

We need to own our votes, past and future.  We need to ponder Achilles owning his actions and consequences.

Libyan Eagle

A famous Libyan fable says to those who’d learn,
that, when an eagle saw an arrow strike it through,
equipped with plumes to speed the missile to its mark,
said “not by others, but by feathers we have made
are we now slain”

Achilles in “The Myrmidons” by Aeshylus
on learning Patroclus died warning armour borrowed from Achilles

Posted in Australia, Politics, Society | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Taking Responsibility

Posted by Dave Bath on 2020-01-12

Voters

Posted in Australia, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Who will cough up for this?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2020-01-12

Aussie Beach Safety Tips

How many billions will it cost the health system in the years to come, just from damage of this year’s “smokers” with a bushfire, rather than nicotine, habit. And from next year’s? And the year’s after that?

More Reading

 

Posted in Australia, Economics and Business, Environment, Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Indian angle on the Australian bushfires

Posted by Dave Bath on 2020-01-11

Right wing Christians and their allies in Australia blame Greens.   Right wing Hindus and their allies in India blame Islam.
 
Aaaah, so it’s environmentalist jihadis. It all makes sense now. (eyeroll)

How long before Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones and the Gestapotato pick this up and run with it?

 

Posted in Australia, International, Media, Politics, Society | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Arsonists v Murdoch’s Papers – Who kills the most trees?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2020-01-11

Using official data from police and firefighters, and attribution of suspected arson to individual fires, arsonists might be responsible for destroying fewer trees than used for the newspapers Murdoch spreads his lies with.
“Only about 1 per cent of the land burnt in NSW this bushfire season can be officially attributed to arson, and it is even less in Victoria, the ABC can reveal.”

“In Victoria, where about 1.2 million hectares has burned, only 385 hectares — or 0.03 per cent — have been attributed to suspicious circumstances.”

Posted in Australia, Media, Politics | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Victorian fires? No known arsonists

Posted by Dave Bath on 2020-01-08

QUOTE: “There is currently no intelligence to indicate that the fires in East Gippsland and the North East have been caused by arson or any other suspicious behaviour,” a Victoria police spokeswoman said.

In other words, Murdoch, right wing politicians, climate change denialists, rapture fans, and the usual anti-science brigade, are lying. As usual. Whether the lies are out of malice or habit is a moot point.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/08/police-contradict-claims-spread-online-exaggerating-arsons-role-in-australian-bushfires

Posted in Australia, Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Punching Up Accidentally

Posted by Dave Bath on 2020-01-08

Punching Up Accidentally.png

Craig Kelly perfectly demonstrates that the LNP has a problem with women and science in just four words.

But he is punching up accidentally.

#NotAWeatherGirl #AusPol

Posted in Australia, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Hindsight isn’t always 20/20 in 2020

Posted by Dave Bath on 2020-01-07

Garnaut and Bushfires - some refuse 2020 hindsight in 2020

Some people can look at the 2008 Garnaut Climate Change Review, in 2020, in hindsight, and still not have 20/20 hindsight.

From the report – “Recent projections of fire weather (Lucase et al. 2007) suggest that fire seasons will start earlier, and slightly later, and generally be more intense. This effect increases over time, but should be direct observable by 2020.

More information:

 

Posted in Australia, Politics, Science and Tech, Society | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Beach Necessities

Posted by Dave Bath on 2019-12-26

THE ONLY THING YOU NEED FOR THE AUSTRALIAN BEACH
[IMAGE OF INHALER USED BY ASHTMATICS]
Because with all the smoke, nobody needs insect repellent or sunscreen
(Copyleft Dave Bath 2019)
Keywords: Australian Bushfires; Climate Change

Photos of Sydney – (other Australian cities also affected by smoke from bushfires)

The Sydney Harbour Bridge actually takes up most of this picture – but you need to look carefully to see through the haze

Posted in Australia, Environment | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Has Gina done us all a favor?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2012-06-20

Has Gina Rinehart done us all a favor by her ham-fisted attempt to stifle the only moderately-balanced privately owned newspapers in the country, by making it obvious Big Money thinks the press can be bought as a proxy means of buying politicians?
 

The world’s richest woman, mining magnate Rinehart, has made it plain she wants to make Fairfax (The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, as well as numerous popular radio stations) more mining-friendly, more anti-scientific-consensus, and I suspect, more against the opinion of independent economists when it comes to policy in general.

  • No more can informed debate dismiss as ridiculous what was previously almost held as "conspiracy theory" the notion that Big Money will seek to control the press to control debate, and policy.
     
  • She has certainly increased the feelings progressives have to a decent media sector that, at least as a whole sector, is theoretically important to a liberal democracy.
     
  • She cannot trash the brand, and profitability, while avoiding the wrath of corporate regulators, without a complete takeover.  This will at least raise the price of fairfax shares during a takeover, putting money in the pockets of people who have been supporting better journalism, and more likely to contribute to society with it than Gina ever would!
     
  • Her claims that moving to the right editorially is the fix to Fairfax’s woes is rendered ridiculous when the centrist Fairfax, just in Melbourne, sells more newspapers, at least 25% more, than the pro-plutocrat Murdoch "The Australian" does across the entire nation.  She is either stupid, or a liar, or both – and proof not everyone, especially with inherited wealth, should be listened to.
     
  • If she does destroy what existing investors see as their most valuable asset and product differentiator – relatively independent journalism – then most readers will move their habits online to the likes of ABC Drum for their daily dose of analysis, opinion, and "letters to the editor".
     
  • The timing, with Murdoch on the nose with criminal investigations in England for privacy violations and improper political interference, could not have been more likely to inflame progressives.
     
  • By bringing forward the rationalization in size of the print edition, moving many classifieds to the net, less trees will be killed, and the latte sippers will have more room on their tables in cafes!

While progressives may be angry at Gina in the short term, it may be the pigs, the "one percent", the "five percent", those against evidence-based policy, that will be angrier with her in the long term.  That’s not guaranteed, but it is a possibility, a possibility the arrogance of Big Money is naturally too stupid to consider.


Notes/See-Also:

  • "Go ahead Gina, build another content company", Alan Kohler, takes a wider view of things, and in places, against the "common wisdom". (Business Spectator, 2012-06-19)

    Gina Rinehart has absolutely nothing to contribute to the transformation of the company into a profitable digital publisher and is not interested in it anyway, …
    &nbsp:
    the combination of print and digital publishing simply does not work. They are completely different products with different uses, and the construction and operation of them require totally different ways of thinking.

     

  • "In defence of independent media", Malcolm Fraser, former PM, once-bogeyman of the left, now the only publically-active elder statesman in the country, (Business Spectator, 2012-06-19)

    Media should not be under the direct control of special interest groups whether they belong to this country or to other countries. That is why we need diversity of media ownership. That is why I stood on the back of a truck with Gough Whitlam overlooking Fitzroy Gardens long years ago, to try and prevent the Fairfax empire falling into foreign hands. A foreign owner has interests that are not ours. A mining magnate has specific industry interests that are not necessary those of Australia.


Posted in Australia, Ethics, Governance, Media, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review of ‘Left Turn – Political Essays for the New Left’

Posted by Dave Bath on 2012-06-04

 
Left Turn: Political Essays for the New Left, edited by Antony Loewenstein and Jeff Sparrow.

Publication date: June 2012
Price: $27.99
Status: Available
Format: 288 pp, PB, 210 x 135 mm
Subject: Politics
ISBN : 978-0-522-86143-3
Imprint: MUP
Media Release
  • This review was first published, with minor edits, as a guest post over at skepticlawyer.com.au.  On republishing "at home" I’ll being adding a few other links about the book, and to other places, as time permits.  I would like to thank my far-from-lefty friends over at skepticlawyer for their invitation.  There will be more comments over there, as it’s a blog with far greater readership.

"Left Turn", with the secondary title "Political essays for the New Left", edited (I’d say "assembled") by Antony Lowenstein and Jeff Sparrow, is a series of essays from a range of lefties with different perspectives and concerns, each essentially a single issue, with some "doubling up".  The introduction and back-cover blurb acknowledge the despair of many of the left, and offer the promise of suggestions for a way for the left to make a difference again.

It’s a book of bits, disparate opinions, varying styles, and varying quality.  That makes it tricky to review – like a food critic trying to give a concise impression of a "bring-a-plate" dinner, nothing consistent, apart from in this case, needing to say "Hang on … there was no dessert … where is my dessert?" 

If there is something striking about the book for me, it was what is missing.

Reading the book feels like being in a slightly too-small room full of ardent lefties, all wired on lattes, tongues loosened with chardonnay, everybody talking at once.  Aaaah … memories of times before I met my grandson’s grandmother, when Big Mal Fraser was the Big Bad … the nods or wry smiles at good points, the rolled eyes at stating-the-bleeding-obvious and the lowered slowly-shaking head at clangers.

If you are much younger than I am, you might instead feel you are reading a "Best of Larvatus Prodeo" – for better and worse.

The "bring-a-plate" dinner has some tasty bits.  Some morsels come with a nice dipping-sauce of self-criticism.  There are few, not quite enough, meaty bits of common-sense suggestions.

Then there are the bits where something wasn’t trimmed properly before cooking, the bits you bite on, then wonder whether you risk gagging on it, or whether it is possible, in a polite way, to reach into the back of your mouth with your fingers, grab the horrible gristly bit, and put it on the side of the plate – where, sadly, everybody can see what was served up.

"Capitalism is, after all, inextricably linked to the contemporary concept of ‘being a slut’."
– Jacinta Woodhead – Sexiness and Sexism

Oh dear. Where’d that come from? Now … nobody brought any napkins to wipe my fingers after disentangling that from my uvula.  If by capitalism you mean Adam Smith capitalism, then I am confused – but then, Marx and Engels missed predicting the inevitability of that inextricable linkage too, so I guess I can forgive myself.

This is one problem that comes from the left talking to itself, expecting not to be pulled up by other lefties when making statements that are "out there" as if they are self-evident, needing no justification.  I guess there is a karaoke machine at the bring-a-plate dinner, with everybody getting up, expecting that really bum notes won’t be commented on among friends – yet … it’s not a private party … there are righties wandering past the doors, scrunching their faces in pain while laughing at the bits horribly off key.  This is not the way to help yourself to be taken seriously when you are complaining about not being taken seriously.

One thing the book does correctly, I imagine due to the editors, is minimize use of the term capitalism, with "neoliberalism" named again and again as the "Big Bad".

This thing done correctly, however, points to what I see as the flaw in the book, the "where was dessert?" moment: there is a place between the left and neoliberals, not a small place, not terra nullius, but with many good thinkers, wanting, like many lefties, decent humane outcomes, evidenced-based policy development, better discourse in the parliament and the press, and just as depressed about how things are going.

The "missing dessert" problem is made worse when the book discusses the way the media and politics now operate, what I see (but not much discussed in the book) as the way anti-intellectualism is pandered to because it avoids the need to deal with evidence when developing policy.  The flawed processes, the social conservatism, the absence of Jefferson’s informed and active citizenry is just as troubling to "decent righties", who would make such good and necessary allies, are not mentioned, and certainly, there is no reaching out to the progressive right, no suggestion of this being a way forward.

SNIPPETS

Perhaps given the bittiness of the book, a few bits, albeit possibly out of context, are useful.  Given this review is hosted by women, it’s probably appropriate to select bits written by women, and mainly on women’s issues.

Sexism

"Indeed, abortion still falls under the Crimes Act in every Australian state and territory, save Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.  …  This illicitness fits nicely with the conservative worldview – and the importance of the nuclear family.  That’s perhaps why, despite the gains from sexual liberation being subsumed by neoliberalism, women’s reproductive rights are the one area the marketplace hasn’t claimed.  The market may very well hold all other aspects of women’s bodies in its grasp, but social conservatism still reigns over abortion, self-abortion, and reproductive products.  "
– Jacinta Woodhead – Sexiness and Sexism

Reasonable observations, some facts, and a justifiable interpretation.  The book contains enough such bits to be worth reading, if you are into political essays.

"Feminism needs a program that … stops focussing on debates about semantics and pornography, and, instead, returns to collective action with broader tangible goals.  …  [long dot dot dot to next page]  …  Maybe a contemporary feminist movement should concentrate on the right to free abortion-on-demand, without the doctor’s or the court’s permission."
– Jacinta Woodhead – Sexiness and Sexism

Good – some self-criticism, and a sensible enough suggestion about what to do, perhaps a bit bleeding obvious, but worth saying nonetheless, especially for those on the left hung up about semantics,  … but … no mention of the natural allies in the progressive right who want those same tangible outcomes.

Media

There are two essays on the media, one by Antony Lowenstein, the other by Wendy Bacon.  These, along with the introduction, are perhaps the strongest parts of the book, perhaps because they focus on the systemic problems that block progress on every other part of the "lefty" agenda, and have fewer "gristly bits" that will make decent righties gag.  There are criticism of journalists as mere stenographers passing on information, of the media not always conspiring against good policy and debate, merely being a bit gutless in order to get the favor of politicians, the privilege of an exclusive or a leak.

"Progressive media needs to reclaim the democratic philosophical underpinnings of journalism … a scientific approach to the testing of evidence, which does not preclude an interpretive point of view … the ‘claim of humanity’ to the principles of journalism.  The claim states that journalists’ primary claim is to truthful, independent informing of a global public humanity."
– Wendy Bacon – A Voice for the Voiceless

Again, this is something decent righties want too – journalists doing what they are supposed to do in order to justify the privileged position of journalists in a democracy.  But … no mention of the natural allies.

I was surprised, given the obvious problem of public disengagement, and indeed general antipathy to thinking, that I couldn’t find (maybe I reading too quickly) discussion of the success of The Jon Stewart Show as part of the way forward, throwing bricks at screwups regardless of which "side" is responsible for the screwup.

WHO CAN GET SOMETHING FROM THE BOOK

"Left Turn" is useful to lefties, and the most useful is the self-criticism, perhaps best done in "The Toxicity of Smugness" by Christos Tsiolkas.  We need more of this.

The book has many good "factoids" useful for dropping into other conversations, pointing to failures in how our society operates, although the flaws are already obvious to lefties (and quite a few decent righties) and not uncommonly provided, if not put together to form a "message", in the mainstream media.

There will be the righties who read it, and go "I told you so" at the self-criticisms, look at the bits of sloganeering and roll their eyes and perhaps have greater reason to dismiss lefties in general.  Still, the wry giggles are giggles, and laughter is good medicine.

Maybe some of the decent righty readers will see a snippet, and say to themselves, "well, yes, that’s a good point, and I am worried about that too."  Every little bit of that helps, but I doubt it is "friendly" enough to decent righties in general tone to encourage acceptance of all the points that could be accepted.

The indecent righties, however, will enjoy the book no end, find every single "gristly bit", put on a great show of gagging, and make the left look sillier than it deserves to be.  Of course, the indecent righties won’t point out the biggest flaw of the book, the "missing dessert" problem – oh, no – can’t have the decent folk of the right and left joining forces and spoiling the fun the hypocrites are having!

THE BOOK THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

If the problem facing the left is being considered irrelevant by the mainstream, if we need to make an impact again, make progress, then we need to have as much in our arsenal as possible.

So we should be aware of our natural allies among decent righties.  We need to be able to criticize neoliberalism, and the failures of the financial market, with arguments that are valid, and more likely to get the attention of the unthinking mob, including the aspirationalists who assume anything labelling itself as capitalist is good, anything smacking of intellectualism bad.

We need to use the weapons the decent right provides for us.  The Economist magazine, well-informed and a devout believer in free markets, warned for years about an impending financial meltdown and a housing bubble – their prognostications and criticisms of bailouts are surely useful, cannot be dismissed by the lumpenproletariat as the rantings of the smug lefty intellectual elite.  Similar weapons are available from The Adam Smith institute, pointing out that the advantages of the flexibility of free markets and competition are lost when there is a political system that allows existing commercial players to get politicians to institutionalize moral hazard, make it difficult for new players or constructively disruptive products to compete – something as harmful, if not more so, than the state intruding in markets openly and for openly-discussed reasons.

It would surprise many that The Economist is very much for climate change action, because effective climate change actions, not the symbolic ones proposed by many governments are necessary anyway, good for business in a world of finite resources.

The cream on the missing dessert is the mutual respect, the strength through dialectic that comes from engaging with the decent righties, who are part of the intellectual elite, share a large part of the progressive agenda particularly where the underlying democratic processes are concerned.  Jefferson’s informed and active citizenry essential for a functioning democracy is highly desired by the left, but Jefferson wasn’t a lefty.  Edmund Burke’s arguments against British militarism and lack of due process for prisoners during the American Revolution, with so many parallels to the militarism of the USA today and the excesses of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay, would fit right in with the lefty agenda – but Edmund Burke called himself a Conservative, and even John Howard (hypocritically, and he knew it), claimed there is Burkean Conservatism running in the blood of the Liberal Party.

Being more specific, and practical, Keynes and Hayek were on very good terms, admired the work of each other, while admitting disagreements.

The book that could have been would have used progressive righty arguments as well, and ideally, got some progressive righties as contributors – right and left not selling out or softening, but keeping each other honest, both fighting on their own high grounds against the common foes.

Are there big systemic problems that lefties would acknowledge as big systemic problems?  Do we have, as Barry Jones puts it, the most highly qualified yet least educated cohort in history?  Do we have politicians on all sides who no longer represent the people but are the puppets of faceless men in the back rooms of the party machines?  Do we have regulatory and legislative capture, news-cycle political agenda for soundbites, rather than evidence-based policy development and the demand for it?

Would those same problems be recognized as systemic, preventing movement on important specific issues, by progressive righties?

The book that could have been would not be titled "Left Turn", but engaged all those influenced by Enlightenment values, it would have been called "Fall In, Forward March".


Notes / See Also:

Posted in Australia, Politics, Review, Society | 1 Comment »

Hmmm – my Turnbull notion was not that silly

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-08-05

Hmmm…. maybe I’m not so silly after all, with my 2011-07-23 "Malcolm, PM with Party of One" suggesting Labor offer Malcolm Turnbull the Lodge as non-ALP PM leading a Labor/Green/Indy minority government – given the 2011-08-03 Essential Poll putting Malcolm Turnbull as number 3 preferred ALP leader, at 11%, just one point below Julia Gillard on 12%, (with Kevin Rudd at 37% and the useless Steven Smith on 7%).

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Australia, Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Tabloid Justice Consultation

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-08-02

The consultation about sentencing by Ballieu’s Vic Libs seems, from the structure, bent on whipping up another Laura Norder storm.

To be fair, it’s better structured than a typical yes/no "do crims get off too lightly" reader poll in a tabloid, but it is still dangerously simplistic.

At the end of the survey is a list of factors that might alter sentencing, things like whether the person was drunk, low IQ, impact on the victim…  This should have come first, before the section asking for judgements on case studies.  (Ask any teacher about well designed exams – you do the bits with individual elements first to get people warmed up, then give the questions that require all the elements to be integrated!)

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Australia, Governance, Law, Politics, Society, Victoria | 1 Comment »

Oldies but goldies kept out of our schools

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-28

Crap happens.  It has always happened.  It always will.  So why aren’t our education systems giving to people some of the best means of dealing with that crap? Tools that never age, are easily available, cheap, and nobody has ever really criticized in the last couple of millenia?

Even fixing up the biased Christianity in our schools, replacing it merely with comparative religion and ethics classes: good, but not good enough.  We need to provide kids with the tools for consolation and strength, the classical personal philosophies of the likes of Marcus Aurelius.

It’s deprivation, deprivation bordering on abuse.

Over the last couple of years, contact with a few of old uni friends has been re-established – and a couple of them have been having a hard time.  Intelligent folk, decent, crap from the fates, from spouses, from family courts … and there is one bit of advice that seems to have done the most good – and started doing good almost straight away:

Seriously, check out wikipedia on "Meditations" and Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor who wrote it, check out his wikiquotes, and remember this guy had the weight of the known world on his shoulders, and despite later (unprovable) diagnoses as suffering from depression, ruled pretty damn well, and his notes on how to view the world and the crap happening allowed him to rule well.  Have a browse, and if some of it rings true, get yourself the Penguin translation and open it at random – each paragraph stands on it’s own, so even if depression is hitting your cognition as you say, it’s in easy to digest bite-sized pieces.  Then come back to me if you want more of the Stoics and the Epicureans.

Well, usually within a day I’m getting emails that are "Wow!  Never knew this stuff – I mean, I’ve seen him as, you know, the good emperor in ‘Gladiator’, but …"

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Australia, Education, Ethics, Philosophy, Politics, Society, Theology and Religion | Leave a Comment »

Lefties should hurt the bastard, not legitimate righties

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-26

Skepticlawyer has a(nother) good post "Excusitis" (2011-07-25) talking of the "no true scotsman" fallacy – giving a wide range of examples across the political spectrum.  This error is something many in the less-decent right have been, and will be, doing in the wake of the Breivik atrocities in Norway.

We in the left should acknowledge those on the right who are thinking logically, with decent motives, and help them clean up the fifth column of bastards and inflammatory voices within the right.  It will give us on the left a chance to have a proper debate where we’ll have to keep on our toes – be protagonists not antagonists.

But those on the right who choose not to reflect, choose to dismiss Breivik as unrelated to the rhetoric of right-wing pundits, are fair game for derision and exposure by the left.

The decent righties can be troubled and reflective.  We on the left need them, and need to help them reflect rather than attack the good with the bad, causing knee jerk defences, the debate about extremism turned merely into "two dogs barking"

Consider the predicament and honesty and basic decency of "Anonymous John" from Sweden, commenting on the sweep-Breivik-under-the-carpet post over at OzConservative – it’s something every lefty should read and reflect on to know what we should do next:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Australia, International, Media, Politics, Society | 2 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: