Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

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.


  • "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, …
    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 »

Financial advisors lie – why is the sector any different?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2012-04-29

My SkepticLawyer less-lefty-than-I-am friends (in facebook) linked to "Is the Pope a Catholic" results from an experiment about financial advisors providing self-serving advice, and there is no reason I can see why the same dynamics, behaviour and outcome wouldn’t apply to the financial sector as a whole, pressuring societies into baring their collective throats to the predators.

"Valuable advice on investment advisors" (Tim Harford, 2012-04-28) points to a neat double-blind experiment, sending portfolios with common biases and some stupidities to financial advisors to see what would be advised.

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Posted in Economics and Business, Ethics, Governance, Society, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a 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 …"

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

That’ll do

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-25

Feel for others and think for yourself.

What’s bad for the hive can’t be good for the bee (Marcus Aurelius).

Find out what you are good at, and do Good with it.

(That’ll do Pig, that’ll do)

Posted in Ethics, Politics, Society | Leave a Comment »

Was the Norwegian atrocity strategic?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-24

I am suspecting that Breivik’s targetting of the best and brightest youth of the left in Norway was not to strike terror – but to remove talent, to weaken the left.

It’s wiped a massive proportion of the talent the left has, talent about to enter real-world politics over the next decade.

It has gutted the left’s talent pool, effective for the next few generations: – the young talent so tragically removed would doubtless have had children and grandchildren of similar talents, of similar leftist leanings.

There are indications about the net that Breivik thought strategically.

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Posted in Ethics, International, Politics, Society | 6 Comments »

Herald-Sun Ethics Checklist

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-23

Surprise, surprise, the Murdoch Hun main web page now has a link to the ethics and code of conduct required of editors and journalists.

….So, have fun ticking these dot points off for Muroch’s Melbourne rag for the first few points, using the Hun’s most notoriouspopular propagandistcolumnist as a touchstone: Andrew Bolt, or indeed, even the Murdoch broadsheet, The Oz:

  • 1. Accuracy
    • 1.1 Facts must be reported impartially, accurately and with integrity.
    • 1.2 Clear distinction must be made between fact, conjecture and comment.
    • 1.3 Try always to tell all sides of the story in any kind of dispute.
    • 1.4 Do not knowingly withhold or suppress essential facts.
    • 1.5 Journalists should not rely on only one source. Be careful not to recycle an error from one reference source to another. Check and check again.
  • 8. Discrimination
    • 8.1 Do not make pejorative reference to a person’s race, nationality, colour, religion, marital status, sex, sexual preferences, age, or physical or mental capacity. No details of a person’s race, nationality, colour, religion, marital status, sex, sexual preferences, age, or physical or mental incapacity should be included in a report unless they are relevant.

Given the extent to which Abbott dances to the Murdoch tune, I wonder if the same standards should apply to him?

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Posted in Australia, Ethics, Media, Politics | 3 Comments »

Even in bold print, retractions do not fix the damage

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-19

The adage "act first, apologise later" has extra truth in it given new research on the persistent effect of lies/misinformation, even when strongly counteracted.

The research indicates just how damaging the lies and innuendos of dodgy politicians and press can be – retractions and corrections have relatively little effect on later decisions by victims.

It means truth in advertising, and even more, truth in reporting, needs heavy-handed policing, heavy penalties for intentional misrepresentation, and strong statutes.

Research reported in Scientific American "Lingering Lies: The persistent influence of misinformation" gives a stunning example of just how strong the effect misinformation, even when immediately corrected, can have.

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Posted in Australia, Biology and Health, Ethics, Media, Politics, Society | Leave a Comment »

Latte-sippers on-side with our military – bogans and pollies off-side

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-05

It turns out that the latte-sippers, worried about legal niceties, have been thinking along the same lines as our military – while the jingoistic politicians and bogans who claim to back our soldiers are instead forcing our military to do the wrong thing.

Those legal and ethical niceties about those our soldiers capture that have worried our brass include the practice that means if a single US private (4th class) is alone in an entire brigade of Australian soldiers, and any opponents are captured, it is the US, not Australia, that does the capturing.

As detailed in "Australian POW policies risk: top secret papers" (The Age, 2011-07-04) and "Revealed: Defence confusion over POWs" (ABC, 2011-07-04), show that the military brass were worried about not merely the legality of their operations, but indeed, whether it was principled:

Confidential Defence documents reveal that Australia’s policies on handling prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2003 were so contrived that they ran the risk of being neither ethical nor in line with international law.
The risk was starkly outlined in a top-secret memo from former chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Chris Barrie, to defence minister Robert Hill in February 2002, which warned that Australia’s prisoner arrangement "may not fully satisfy Australia’s legal obligations and in any event will not be viewed as promising a respect for the rule of law".

– The Age

And what does Mike Kelly, now a politician but previously Australia’s top military lawyer in Iraq, have to say about responsibility for prisoners we capture?

He says the country that captures prisoners of war retains a responsibility over their welfare.


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Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Ethics, International, Law, Politics, Society | Leave a Comment »

When protecting the guilty might be the best option

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-01-17

Another handover of evidence to Wikileaks about misbehaviour in the banking system, another set of questions arising about the desirability of redaction before publication, another chance to see if Wikileaks is playing for short-term fame, or long-term reform.

The release of the evidence of gross tax evasion should be geared to forcing governments to tax action to close the holes, not make headlines dissimilar from celebrity gossip columns.

How might good long-term results for the public be best achieved?

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Posted in Economics and Business, Ethics, Governance, International | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

No Arbibeque – Q and A

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-12-10

Q: With chats with US spiesembassy officials, what is the difference between the probably-innocent chats of most politicians, and the probably-dodgy ones of Senator Mark Arbib, as revealed by wikileaks?

A: Arbib repeatedly demanded to be a protected source, the chats kept secret from all non-US eyes.

Q: So what?

A: Why would he make such demands unless he…

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

Arbibeque time

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-12-09

Arbib, presumably unlike McMullen and Danby, wanted his anonymity guarded by the US because he was divulging stuff in an improper way, underhanded enough for punishment.

But the Libs might not want to burn him.

The beauty of these improper chats is that what was said cannot be denied, and the Libs looking for a scalp will be wanting a suitably small level of disclosure to a "friendly" to not only force him from cabinet, but to force him to resign as MP [and bring on a byelection in a hung parliament – my bad].

If the Libs don’t try and wipe Arbib from cabinet or even parliament with a big ALP scalp and tainting of ALP members as traitors [possible change of government – my bad] as the prize, then what might be stopping them from the attempt?

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Posted in Australia, Ethics, International, Politics, USA | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

Metaleaks and metanews

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-12-08

We need leaks about the leaks.

We are used to the story-about-the-story phenomenon about general news items, but there is now a twist to this waiting to happen.

There will necessarily be a difference between what governments say to public and each other about their attitudes and actions regarding Assange.  Leaks about these will be telling and newsworthy – and give a very accurate understanding of how dissembling works, and why such secrecy is actually necessary.

Are the publically stated reasons justifying secrecy and the seriousness of Assange’s actions the same as the real reasons?

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Posted in Australia, Ethics, Governance, Information Management, International, Media | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Rabbit holes in suspicious places

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-09-02

Looking at where the multi-billion dollar holes Treasury discovered, I smell an agenda… as the biggest holes are specifically in areas the LNP would slash anyway given any excuse.

Health, education, and parental leave are something Mr Rabbit and his warren friends love slashing.

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Posted in Australia, Economics and Business, Ethics, Governance, Politics | 1 Comment »

Rabbit in Wonderland

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-08-25

Abbott’s leopard-change-its-spots-to-stripes remark about leading a "kindler, gentler polity" are unbelievable, but combining two of his comments imply he both demand and reject the government benches.

On the one hand, he talks of his mandate based on (as yet uncertain) seat counts and two-party preferred vote.

On the other, he talks of Greens "controlling" the ALP.  But does he count that Green seat as being a "lefty" seat, increasing justification for a "lefty" government?

Gripping hand is, the nation as a whole rejects his dogmatic, regressive core beliefs on just about everything – and he knows it – and he revels in it.

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Modern Chinese Government – Confucian or Legalist?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-02-05

The cloak of Confucian authority has been used previously by Lee’s Singapore, and increasingly China, as justification for authoritarianism, promoting misconceptions in Western cultures, and possibly a subtext in the forthcoming movie about Confucius.

Many parts of "The Analects of Confucius" are quietly subversive, as I’ll show by quotes that confound the common charges against Confucius of being an authoritarian superstitious pedant.  Legalism is the true fist in the thin Confucian glove worn by Chinese leaders.  Both schools stress strong government for order in society, but have opposite approaches.

Legalism demands consistent application of harsh criminal sanctions to promote a cohesive society through fear, while Confucius demanded firm yet gentle leadership of a cultivated population, bringing harmony through education in virtue, as shown by the following:

If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame. 
If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of shame, and moreover will become good.

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Posted in China, Civil rights, Ethics, Language Use, Philosophy, Politics, Society | Tagged: | 11 Comments »

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