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Three unrelated items

73420_159175 1. Someone has to do it…

I see from SameSame that William Yang has been photographing Matthew Mitcham. “William Yang’s ‘Photographing Matthew Mitcham’ exhibits at Barry Stern Galleries, 19 Glenmore Road, Paddington NSW 2021, from December 14.”

I think I’ll check that one. 🙂

William Yang has appeared on this blog before: Very rare and special: pics from M’s Chinese New Year Party 3.

2. Tony Blair and the WMD Fantasy.

So many have commented on Tony Blair’s latest admissions, but one of the best I have seen comes from the Legal Eagle blog cooperative: BLiar: Warmonger by his own admission. It’s one of DeusExMacintosh’s excellent visual entries.

…And no, I’m not just being funny. There are now grounds for thinking that the 45 minute claim – the sole direct threat posed by Saddam’s regime to British interests – featured in the dodgy dossier and heavily promoted by number 10 spin-doctors, now seems to be based on gossip from an Iraqi taxi driver that had been clearly flagged as unreliable.

3. OMG: I agree with Paul Sheehan

You don’t see that every day! Sirdan and I were discussing the current push for recall elections, which has been brought on by frustration with the NSW government’s performance in recent years. Sounds a good idea, but I had doubts and it seems Paul Sheehan shares them exactly.

As for constitutional change, switching from four-year to three-year terms makes sense for NSW. But creating the capacity for recall elections is problematic. In California, even a popular governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has been overmatched by the state’s structural crisis.

During a visit to California this year I saw the problem at first hand. The state constitution allows an unusually diverse array of grass-roots participation, with voter initiatives, referenda, voter ratification and recall elections. The result has created burdensome requirements on government, which should be allowed to govern.

California also has term limits. Members of the state assembly are restricted to three two-year terms and state senators are restricted to two four-year terms. But this, too, has had unintended consequences. It has served to gut the culture of compromise and the culture of experience.

The Herald, to its credit, has devoted a lot of space on its letters page to readers bucketing its petition for the introduction of recall elections. People think the media already has too much power.

Many also know that California is proof there is such a thing as too much democracy. They know not all that glisters in the golden state is gold.

 

Brer Abbott and The Undead

What a good name for some Gothic band to take!

I refer of course to Tony Abbott’s ghost cabinet — a cabinet of Dr Caligari.

An Abbott, two Bishops and Nick the Impaler
A Cadaver, a Barney and Kevin the Tailor

That refers to the famous couplet on Richard III:

A Cat, a Rat, and Lovell the Dog
All ruled England under the Hog

Yes, we have an alternative at last: the pit or the pendulum, the devil or the deep blue sea, Scylla or Charybdis, Hitler or Stalin… Of course the latter is particularly unsavoury, is it not? Unfair on both counts — but don’t blame me: I’m not the one who compared Copenhagen to Munich while fully aware of the spurious nature of the analogy but nonetheless knowing it would push the right buttons in punter-land. That was Tony yesterday to Alan Jones. And interviewed on Lateline last night the neuro-linguistic triggering got a typically Abbott overkill: he even underlines the cue words by raising the stress above the rest of the utterance, a kind of phonological CAPITAL LETTERS TRICK.

Peter Hartcher noted inThe Sydney Morning Herald:

…He has rejected the counsel of the Liberal Party’s founder, Robert Menzies, that ”the duty of an opposition is to oppose selectively”…

Abbott will not engage on Rudd’s terms. He will not mount an intellectual case. He will not present detailed policy alternatives.

He will circle Rudd, throwing jabs from all directions, never presenting a stationary target. He proposes deregulating the job market, for instance, but refuses to be specific: ”I am asking questions here,” he told Sky News yesterday, ”not making policy.”

”I want to make a fight of things,” he said. ”I think I have got the frontbench to do that.”

With the climate sceptic Nick Minchin in resources, the hardliner Eric Abetz in industrial relations, Barnaby Joyce free-ranging and veteran warriors like Bronwyn Bishop and Kevin Andrews on the front line, nobody would disagree with him.

Blogged with the Flock Browser
 

Not quite the promised climate change post

I need to pause before I attempt the summation I promised yesterday, so below I will list some additional resources.

But first some preliminary observations.

1. While “MAGIC PUDDING POLITICS” (Rudd on Brer Abbott) is not nearly as effective a mantra as “GREAT BIG TAX ON NEARLY EVERYTHING” (Brer Abbott on Rudd) the greater truth is in the Rudd mantra. The idea of a costless response to climate change is a sick joke. I do in fact believe that nuclear power should be in the mix, siding to that extent with Brer Abbott (and James Lovelock), but that has to be seen in a context too.

THE Opposition’s desire to embrace nuclear power in the absence of an emissions trading scheme or carbon tax would result in electricity price rises of between 10 per cent and 33 per cent, according to estimates by the Howard government’s nuclear energy expert, Ziggy Switkowski.

In a report for John Howard in 2006, Dr Switkowski found nuclear power would never be commercially viable unless fossil fuel-generated electricity was made more expensive using an ETS or carbon tax.

This resulted in Mr Howard embracing an emissions trading scheme as a way to reduce greenhouse gases while keeping open the nuclear option for the future.

In a dramatic departure from policy, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has abandoned support for any market-based mechanism, such as an ETS or a carbon tax, as part of the Coalition’s greenhouse strategy…

2. It is such a shame the whole issue has become politicised, but I suppose that is inevitable in a democracy. Fact is, however, that there are limits to what “debate” can actually achieve in the face of phenomena that really do not depend, in the long run, on our ideological positions or the wheelbarrows we choose to push.  Dithering is one of the less savoury outcomes of a democratic process, not that I prefer the alternative really – but a country like China is actually better placed to act decisively, for good or ill. Such a shame we are mere humans and not gods, isn’t it?

3. Given the abysmal level of much of our dithering both here and overseas, and given the importance of the issue, nothing is to be gained by censorship of the kind that apparently has happened at the CSIRO or by fudging data, as apparently happened at the East Anglia CRU. While we would all do well to forget unlikely scenarios like the movie The Day After Tomorrow and must all concede that Al Gore oversimplified in An Inconvenient Truth, we should also realise that what happened at the CSIRO or East Anglia does not invalidate the overall truth of the IPCC reports. The IPCC does not engage in research; all it does is weigh the research and gather together the implications of that research for our consideration. There was much more input to its reports than East Anglia.

Hence comments like this on the latest offering (for climate change action I hasten to add) of Sojourners, a “left evangelical” site, really are tragic.

I think it is useing a lie to push their ideas. there is no man made global warming. yes take care of the environment, being a christian this should be second nature, shouldnt need to push for eco-prophets. nature changes all the time. thats life. honesty is important and there isnt much of that in this environment "emergency" that is being pushed. The other point is that the UN has no concern for the poor. they people they have chosen to make us believe in global warming are liars. and the proposals they want to accomplish will Not help the poor but make it harder for them. If you cant see that then you have blinders on.

There are so many prejudices running through that comment one hardly knows where to start.

4. Check some recent stories in the Sydney Morning Herald.

5. Realise that there are left as well as right-wing critiques of “market strategies” like cap and trade or carbon tax.

The Same Boat

Imagine 10 rabbits lost at sea, in a boat carved out of a giant carrot.

The carrot is their only source of food, so they all keep nibbling at it. The boat is shrinking rapidly – but none of them wants to be the first to stop, because then they’ll be the first to starve. There’s no point in any of them stopping unless everyone stops – if even one rabbit carries on eating, the boat will sink.

This is the international climate crisis in a (Beatrix Potter-flavoured) nutshell: action by individual nations achieves little unless we all act together. Of course, reality is a little more complex. While it’s easy to imagine the rabbits reaching a simple agreement where they all learn to dredge for seaweed instead, our situation involves massive global inequalities, differing levels of responsibility, and a history of exploitation and broken international promises.

Perhaps, then, we shouldn’t be too surprised that the international climate negotiations – which began in earnest in 1990 with the talks that created the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – have not yet got us a workable global solution. The best we’ve managed so far has been the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, under which industrialized nations (known as ‘Annex 1’ countries) pledged to cut their CO emissions by a completely inadequate 5.2 per cent by 2012. The US famously pulled out of the deal, and most of those who remained in are unlikely to achieve even these small cuts…

Down with Kyoto

We shouldn’t get too hung up on Copenhagen – we’re far more likely to create lasting change by building powerful national and international movements than by pouring all our energy into specific summit meetings. But it’s hard to deny that we need some sort of international framework for tackling this global issue. Despite its flaws, the UNFCCC is the only one we’ve got, and the urgency of the climate issue requires us to work with it.

However, the Kyoto Protocol has been a dismal failure. Should we demand that governments scrap it completely and start again from scratch? It’s tempting, but would be unlikely to gain the crucial support of Southern negotiators, who fear that a brand new deal would see them lose their hard-won ‘differentiated responsibility’.

A better approach might be to create space within the existing talks for alternative, fairer systems and ideas – such as GDRs, Kyoto2, community-led solutions, indigenous rights, strings-free clean development assistance, patent-free technology transfer – to get a hearing. Currently emissions trading, private financing and market-based mechanisms are seen as the only route to greenhouse gas reductions, and are crowding everything else out of the debate.

This suggests a simple, effective starting point for developing a successful – and just – global agreement: we need to get rid of carbon trading…

Confused yet? One tip though: if anyone has all their ideas on the subject from Quadrant or Ms Devine or Mr Bolt they aren’t worth taking too seriously. The entries immediately above, on the other hand, are predicated on an anti “free market” perspective. They are putting their faith in sustainables as the answer. I don’t really see either as being much practical help, though more is to be said for the New Internationalist stance than Quadrant’s.

OK, I’ll try again later on…

See also: entries here tagged “environment".

 

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Love it!

r479205_2430568Tim Madden, ABC (linked)

 

And the winner is… an ongoing post

abbott_hockey_turnbull

ABC pic. Who’s the mad looking guy on the left? Left…???

One of them is the next leader of the Liberal Party

8.45 am

We all wait. Amusing bits in the Sydney Morning Herald.

  • Gerard Henderson: “It is not clear why either Hockey or Turnbull or any other influential Liberals would seek advice on leadership issues from Howard. In fact, Howard is primarily responsible for the Liberal Party’s present leadership problems.”
  • Minchin pleads for “compassion”: “IN ONE of the more ironic moments in the Liberal leadership saga, Nick Minchin, kingmaker and attack dog of the party’s right wing, addressed Coalition senators yesterday morning.There Minchin, with blood on the walls after a week’s intense infighting, urged them to keep things civil and to treat each with ‘tolerance, kindness and compassion’.”

8.55 am

Turn on TV… Guess what? All our UHF channels are down!

9.14 am

Go to ABC Internet Radio. Gerard Henderson and Antony Green.

9.32 am

UHF back on. And off…

9.37 am

Back to Internet Radio. The party room meeting is still going on…

9.44 am

No tweets or sms messages emerging from the party room. Must have had their Blackberries confiscated… Radio “filling in” with news of K Rudd and B Obama on Afghanistan.

9.50 am

Shit! Hockey was eliminated. TONY ABBOTT won by ONE vote on second round, 42-41! First vote Turnbull 26, Abbott 35 and Hockey 23. To the Right, quick march! Gerard Henderson notes the two sets of figures don’t add up…

Will the Senate Libs hold? Who knows: remember last night?

KERRY O’BRIEN: So, tell me now, how many Liberal senators do you believe feel strongly enough about this bill to vote for it?
IAN MACFARLANE: Well certainly more than nine or 10. It’s in that vicinity. There are 12 that have indicated to Malcolm that they will vote for the bill when it comes to a vote. So, I guess as I say, Malcolm is saying to them, "Well, the Liberal Party does not have a future without a climate change policy and we need to get this off the table and get back to the economy and to border protection."

abbott

ABC pic. Now we know…

I suspect Joe Hockey may well feel very relieved, mind you…

Here’s how Tony did it, by appearing thus on national TV. 😉

212259-tony-abbott-091130

Update

Just watched the video here of Joe Hockey after the events. I am impressed.

 

I suspect Malcolm Turnbull would lose at poker…

He does seem just lately to have shown the cards in his hand rather too much… Perhaps he secretly wants to make way for Joe Hockey rather than see Abbott succeed him? Who knows?

AFTER a weekend of extreme pressure to challenge for the leadership of the Liberal Party, Joe Hockey last night succumbed and is expected to challenge Malcolm Turnbull tomorrow as a poll shows he is more liked than the Opposition Leader.

Two-thirds of voters also want Australia to have an emissions trading scheme.

As an ailing Mr Turnbull accused lead climate change rebel Nick Minchin of wanting to destroy the Liberal Party, the latest Herald/Nielsen poll finds Mr Hockey is preferred by 36 per cent of voters as the Liberal leader. Mr Turnbull has the backing of 32 per cent and Tony Abbott has 20 per cent.

Support for Mr Turnbull has nosedived among Coalition voters but has leapt among Labor voters.

If Mr Hockey baulks, Mr Abbott will challenge. But the poll finds little enthusiasm for Mr Abbott. In a direct match-up, 51 per cent of voters prefer Mr Turnbull and 37 per cent prefer Mr Abbott.

The poll of 1200 voters was conducted on Friday and Saturday, as the Liberal Party meltdown over climate change peaked with mass defections from the frontbench and a defiant Mr Turnbull refusing to step aside…

Sydney Morning Herald

RUDD-table-420x0

Paul Sheehan is interesting today. See also Newspoll: 57-43; Nielsen: 56-44 on The Poll Bludger.

Update 7.45 pm

I dips me lid to Ian MacFarlane. Very impressive on the 7.30 Report tonight*. And should (as everyone expects) Turnbull get done over, may Joe Hockey get up and may the rumour he will allow a free vote on the ETS be true!

… KERRY O’BRIEN: How do you feel about the possibility, if there are three contenders after a spill motion gets up tomorrow – Malcolm Turnbull, Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott – the possibility, the humiliating possibility for Malcolm Turnbull that he comes third in that ballot?
IAN MACFARLANE: Oh, look, I’m not commenting on the numbers, Kerry. I mean, Malcolm will make a good fist of a ballot tomorrow. Whether or not he can win it in a three-way contest is what we’ll find out tomorrow.
KERRY O’BRIEN: Are you saying in blunt terms that Joe Hockey cannot afford to take the leadership if it means delaying the deal?
IAN MACFARLANE: Well, you can’t walk away from climate change, Kerry. The party room has acknowledged that. Everyone in the Liberal Party accepts that we would have done a better deal if we were in government. A Liberal Party without a climate change policy is not a party that’s in touch with the community at the moment. Joe knows that; Malcolm’s known that for some time. I guess at the moment what people are trying to do is come to terms with how they deal with that in the context of a potential leadership change.
KERRY O’BRIEN: Did you expect the strength of backlash from grassroots Liberals that appears to have emerged in the last week? Do you accept that the whole of that backlash is spontaneous and not orchestrated?
IAN MACFARLANE: Well, some of it is orchestrated, there’s no doubt about that. But, I mean, in the end, we’re put in Parliament to represent the people of Australia, and the people of Australia is broader than the Liberal Party base….

* On Twitter: Bernard Keane “Unbelievable to hear Ian Macfarlane say ‘you can’t walk away from climate change.’. Amazing change from five years ago.” And great to see, as he has obviously had a more open mind than most of the trogs.

 

Stats on Australians and climate change

Just out of interest, there are some stats gathered in a PDF accessible at Recent history of climate change polling. (May 2009)

cchange

cchange2

I suspect it’s time to keep an eye on The Poll Bludger again too.

 

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Random but mostly political

1. A feast for pollie-watchers and pundits

Just look at The Australian today.

Libs facing election rout

David Uren THE Coalition faces an electoral wipeout at next year’s federal election if the rebels led by Tony Abbott and Nick Minchin succeed in blocking the government’s climate change legislation.

The lead story’s interesting, and so is Paul Kelly. I suspect Joe Hockey is privately fuming.

2. Borrowed from Jim Belshaw

Like Jim, I won’t comment!

I simply report this gem from the Australian Citizens Electoral Council without comment.

Isherwood: Who would have thought? British genocidalists are liars too

The British oligarchy’s depopulation charity, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), established in 1961 by Prince Philip and “former” Nazi Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands to realise their wet dream of reducing the world’s population to two billion or so people, is a key paymaster of the lying scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU).

The CRU basically cooked up the whole global warming fraud: in another time, before hackers exposed their true nature last week, Britain’s former chief scientific adviser Sir David King happily gushed that the CRU “set the agenda for the major research effort” in climate change; its “scientists” are the leading authors of the IPCC reports cited as the bible on global warming.

Well, well.

3. Why Steve Fielding is a much nicer person than Nick Minchin

Senator Fielding (Family First) has copped much flack for his denial of anthropogenic climate change, but at least he is up front about it, even trotting out his charts to try to convince the green demonstrators outside Parliament the other day. Of course, as we all know, Fielding isn’t really a politician. Minchin is.

So now Minchin is a double denialist because 1) he denies that what he is doing goes way beyond the issue of the ETS and 2) he attempts to deny he is a denialist. On both counts he is being economical with the truth. On point 2 he has been on record for years and one wonders why – well, not really – he is figleafing himself today. Of Minchin climate scientist Graeme Pearman famously said in March 2007: "I am worried that a federal minister would believe this crap."

4. And Malcolm Turnbull is much nicer than Nick Minchin…

While not totally frank Malcolm Turnbull was considerably more accurate than Senator Minchin in his half of the back-to-back interviews on the 7.30 Report last night. On just one obvious point, as Paul Kelly says: “The conservative rebellion this week has been a stunning, ruthless and self-righteous exercise. It was about converting a minority into a majority position by sabotage. Don’t fall for the idea that Turnbull didn’t have majority support.”

5. Science marches on whatever the pollies do or say

For example:

The first-ever Australian benchmark of climate change impacts on marine ecosystems and options for adaptation is being released in Brisbane today.

27 November 2009

The Marine Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Report Card for Australia, and an accompanying website, will provide a biennial guide for scientists, government and the community on observed and projected impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems.

"The objective of compiling this information is to consider options available to environmental and resource managers in their response to changes in ecosystem balance," says project leader, CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship scientist Dr Elvira Poloczanska.

"On both sides of the continent there is clear evidence of ocean warming and this is already bringing sub-tropical species south into temperate waters, and in the case of the giant kelp forests in Tasmania, appears to be having a severe impact in just a few years.

"This research is relevant for anyone with a recreational interest or financial investment in our coasts and oceans," Dr Poloczanska says.

climate big 6. If you want to read a book

Try Robert Henson, The Rough Guide to Climate Change 2 ed.

I like it because I can understand it, but also because it is less polemical than many in the field. He admits problems and complexities.

 

Homework done

I said yesterday that I thought Malcolm Turnbull’s defiant press conference speech last night is one of his best. Here is what he said.

I appreciated his allusion to that well-known leftist plotter against capitalism Margaret Thatcher. Here (I quote from my entry of 2007 Miranda asks a question or two on climate change) is an example of her subversion in 1990:

…the threat to our world comes not only from tyrants and their tanks. It can be more insidious though less visible. The danger of global warming is as yet unseen, but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.

Our ability to come together to stop or limit damage to the world’s environment will be perhaps the greatest test of how far we can act as a world community. No-one should under-estimate the imagination that will be required, nor the scientific effort, nor the unprecedented co-operation we shall have to show. We shall need statesmanship of a rare order…

In recent years, we have been playing with the conditions of the life we know on the surface of our planet. We have cared too little for our seas, our forests and our land. We have treated the air and the oceans like a dustbin. We have come to realise that man’s activities and numbers threaten to upset the biological balance which we have taken for granted and on which human life depends.

We must remember our duty to Nature before it is too late. That duty is constant. It is never completed. It lives on as we breathe. It endures as we eat and sleep, work and rest, as we are born and as we pass away. The duty to Nature will remain long after our own endeavours have brought peace to the Middle East. It will weigh on our shoulders for as long as we wish to dwell on a living and thriving planet, and hand it on to our children and theirs.

I want to pay tribute to the important work which the United Nations has done to advance our understanding of climate change, and in particular the risks of global warming. Dr. Tolba and Professor Obasi deserve our particular thanks for their far-sighted initiative in establishing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The IPCC report is a remarkable achievement. It is almost as difficult to get a large number of distinguished scientists to agree, as it is to get agreement from a group of politicians. As a scientist who became a politician, I am perhaps particularly qualified to make that observation! I know both worlds.

Of course, much more research is needed. We don’t yet know all the answers…

But the need for more research should not be an excuse for delaying much needed action now. There is already a clear case for precautionary action at an international level. The IPCC tells us that we can’t repair the effects of past behaviour on our atmosphere as quickly and as easily as we might cleanse a stream or river. It will take, for example, until the second half of the next century, until the old age of my grandson, to repair the damage to the ozone layer above the Antarctic. And some of the gases we are adding to the global heat trap will endure in the Earth’s atmosphere for just as long.

The IPCC tells us that, on present trends, the earth will warm up faster than at any time since the last ice age. Weather patterns could change so that what is now wet would become dry, and what is now dry would become wet. Rising seas could threaten the livelihood of that substantial part of the world’s population which lives on or near coasts. The character and behaviour of plants would change, some for the better, some for worse. Some species of animals and plants would migrate to different zones or disappear for ever. Forests would die or move. And deserts would advance as green fields retreated.

Many of the precautionary actions that we need to take would be sensible in any event…

On recent claims of dishonesty in the IPCC I commend on one side Miranda Devine and on the other George Monbiot. The links are in yesterday’s entry. Monbiot answers the charge effectively. **

You should also note that I can sympathise at least with Greg Sheridan’s dilemma (see yesterday’s entry) when he says: “I do not know whether the science that says we’re all doomed if we don’t de-carbonise the economy is true. Neither does anyone else.” Sympathise but not entirely agree, as I do think the odds are that the IPCC is more than likely right. Yes, we are talking about something which by definition cannot certain until after it has happened, and I probably won’t be around to see it. But Margaret Thatcher’s last line makes as much sense now as it did in 1990 when a great deal less was known on the subject.

I don’t think the government has done a good enough job of explaining the issues at stake, or what their ETS is actually meant to achieve. That is a shame. (New Zealand passed its own ETS the day before yesterday. Did anyone notice?) On the other hand there is much clear material on the Department of Climate Change website.

My opinions aren’t worth a lot. Lord May of Oxford is much better informed.

And he is a Sydney High Old Boy… 🙂

** And a SBHS ex-teacher (Geography) and friend is even more persuasive! See Thoughts on Climate Change after the CRU Hacking.

…Troubled as I am by the academic jealousy I’m far more troubled by the timing of this breach of the CRU and by the character of the political beings who’ve been so vocal about it. So it was with some interest that I encountered this fascinating article The SwiftHack (ClimateGate) Scandal: What You Need to Know. The article makes the following points:

* The scientific consensus on climate change remains strong.
* The impacts of catastrophic climate change continue to rear their ugly head.
* Hacking into private computer files is illegal.
* All of the emails were taken out of context.
* The story is being pushed by far-right conspiracy theorists.
* Scientists are human beings and they talk frankly amongst themselves.

Clearly this hack of a research organisation is an interestingly timed diversion….

 

Homework ;)

In preparation for a post tomorrow – or maybe Saturday? – I am reading:

  • ABC News Climate Change special coverage
  • UNSW Climate Change Research Centre
  • The Copenhagen Diagnosis
  • Greg Sheridan in The Australian.

      Watching the debate, I am afraid I have become a climate change agnostic. I am not a denier, nor really a sceptic. I am agnostic. I do not know whether the science that says we’re all doomed if we don’t de-carbonise the economy is true. Neither does anyone else.

      But I am more than half convinced by the argument that we should give the planet the benefit of the doubt. It would be good if we polluted less. I’d like to end the dependence of Western societies on Middle Eastern oil. And one day, even if climate change is not a killer, the world will run out of fossil fuel. So by all means let’s diversify our energy sources and clean up our environments. But I don’t want us to go broke in the process.

  • Miranda Devine the predictable.
  • George Monbiot on the same issue as Miranda Devine.

And on another matter, don’t forget Making Samson and Delilah at 9.35 on ABC tonight. You may also watch it on that link.

Update 7.15 pm

Wow! And again, Wow!

I don’t think I have ever heard Malcolm Turnbull speak better than he just did at that press conference. Who knows what will happen? I just know those I like least in the Liberal Party are those who have chosen to walk. Yon Minchin has a lean and hungry look. Abbott is an honourable man; so are they all, honourable men! And Casca Bloody Tuckey – well, there’s someone who should have gone long ago…

Perhaps a better than one might hope long-term outcome will be the rise of young Master Hockey. Despite his association under Howard with the loathsome workplace “reforms” he does have some human and intellectual qualities to offer, I feel.

Kevin Andrews? Well, perhaps the funny farm?

 

On climate change sceptics and qualifications

Among those patently unqualified to evaluate the science of climate change I would include myself, Senators Fielding and Minchin and Miranda Devine – but that doesn’t prevent any of us from having a say. I am not sure what tea leaves Senator Fielding consults, but I am sure Senator Minchin and Miranda Devine enter the fray on ideological rather than scientific grounds. As for myself, I leave it to the much more qualified people referred to in the appropriate item in my side bar.

I am prepared to concede that climate change is not entirely anthropogenic, and I do fear that not all the suggested remedies will actually work. You will find some very interesting ideas on the subject if you buy or subscribe to November’s Monthly Magazine.

November2009 “On the morning of 19 December, we will likely wake to read the results of the United Nations Climate-Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. The meetings will be … the most important to have occurred since World War II, and whatever their outcome they will have a lasting effect on our planet.”

– Tim Flannery

In “Copenhagen and Beyond”, Tim Flannery, John Gray and Peter Doherty provide a range of insights into the issue of climate change and our political and social responses to it. Flannery discusses the conference itself – what it hopes to achieve and where potential conflicts lie; Gray argues it is vital we recognise the gravity of our predicament and embrace more drastic policy; and Doherty considers the role scepticism has to play in the ongoing debate, highlighting the need for rigorous critical dialogue, but warning of the dangers of unreflective denialism. Despite their differing concerns, each essay emphasises the urgency of a reassessment of our response to an impending crisis.

“No technological fix can fully resolve the world’s climate crisis, which is a result of the excessive demands humankind has made on the planet. Even so, technological fixes will be indispensable in navigating the rapids that lie ahead; the technologies that may prove most useful may well include those that are most commonly demonised.

– John Gray

Peter Doherty’s essay is particularly good because it remains good-tempered while being most incisive.

As for Miranda today, I take Marcellous’s recent advice.

Miranda is a professional stirrer. Unless directly attacked, I’ve decided it is best to leave her alone. She thrives on attention.

On Senator Minchin, see what emerged from his own mouth when interviewed on Four Corners.

Meanwhile last night Kerry O’Brien was “leading the witness” somewhat when he interviewed Sir David Attenborough:

SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH, WILDLIFE FILMMAKER: That one is about the polar regions of the planet, of how the North Pole and the South Pole and the lands around it, the sort of life that exists there now. And what is likely to happen to it. But primarily it’s about the animals that still live there. There are very few things more fascinating than penguins and polar bears up in the north and seals and sea lions, and sea elephants and so on. And albatross. There’s lot of things to see.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Will it have relevance to the global warming debate?

SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: Yes, it will do. And of course if you’re cynically inclined or not optimistically inclined you may think this is our last chance to make such a series.

KERRY O’BRIEN: What did you think?

SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: I think without any doubt at all that the Arctic is going to change quite profoundly. How much it loses and how much it gains, who knows.

It’s too early to predict and too complicated. Down in the south it’s different in as such as the Antarctic ice cap is so huge and so thick – miles of ice thick – it’s going to take a long time before that moves significantly or as great a significance as the north.

KERRY O’BRIEN: You’ve tended not to get caught up in political issues in the past, but over 50 years you’ve probably seen more of the world close up than practically any other human being and you’ve revisited many of those places. Have you witnessed dramatic change in that time?

SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: Environmental change – not.

Change certainly, change that has been brought about by the increasing human population on the earth, the number of people on this planet has tripled. There are three times as many people on the planet now as when I first made television programs…

Not entirely what Kerry may have hoped for, I suspect, and one sentence in particular will no doubt be quoted in certain circles. One should however consider this from 2006:

 

On being too clever

Let me draw your attention to Recommendation 1 of the recent HREOC report on Christmas Island.

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That and the rest of the report strikes just the right note as far as I am concerned. This piece of legalistic chicanery came via the Howard administration and is as shameful and Dickensian now as it was then. Repealing this and much more is what the Rudd government should have attempted from Day One. Instead Rudd was sucked in – no doubt for what he saw as clever political reasons – by the rhetoric of his predecessors – including, let it be said, that of the later Hawke and Keating administrations.

Life would have been a lot simpler all round, and the deepening mire of the Oceanic Viking avoided, if this had been done. The 78 Tamils could easily have been brought here for processing, and should be.

I am not an open borders romantic. We do have the right to determine who stays here, if not even the possibility of determining 100% who comes here. People forget in their obsession with boats that the majority actually fly in.

For more see immigration on this blog.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2009 in Australia, human rights, immigration, Kevin Rudd, politics

 

Two non-fiction books that have impressed me lately

star_icons25 star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25 1. Tariq Ali, The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power (2008)

Yes, I know: Tariq Ali, famous 1968 alumnus and “wild man” of the Left. But even London’s Spectator, hardly famous for Marxist leanings, concedes, while also drawing attention to the book’s very pleasing style:

… Tariq Ali’s universal cynicism might have been oppressive, but in fact his narrative is funny and gossipy, the high points being his own encounters with key players, including Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir and Indira Gandhi. He believes that the country’s satirists, writers and poets serve as Pakistan’s collective conscience and uses writers and poets such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sahir Ludhianvi, Habib Jalib and Ustad Daman to provide the moral compass for his wanderings.

Political turbulence has revived interest in stories from an earlier period of Muslim in the region, Ali says. He relates a 16th-century story that — with some modifications — sums up life in today’s Pakistan with painful accuracy. A man is seriously dissatisfied with a junior magistrate’s decision. The latter, irritated, taunts him to appeal to a senior judge.The man replies, ‘But he’s your brother, he won’t listen to me’. The magistrate says, ‘Go to the mufti’. The man replies, ‘But he’s your uncle’. The magistrate says, ‘Go to the minister’. The man replies, ‘He’s your grandfather’. The magistrate says, ‘Go to the King’. The man replies, ‘Your niece is engaged to him’. The magistrate, livid with anger, says, ‘Go to Hell then’. The man replies, ‘That’s where your esteemed father reigns. He’ll see to it that I get no satisfaction there.’

The government, the political parties, the civil service, the mullahs and the army all have reason to be angry with Tariq Ali and The Duel will outrage as many in Washington as in Islamabad. But Americans should read it for its explanation of why so many in Pakistan hate the US, blaming it for the dire situation in which they now find themselves.

In fact this sprightly romp should be read by anyone who wants real insights into Pakistan. It is as good a primer on Pakistani politics as you will find, with the caveats that it is not the whole story, it is not always accurate and Ali’s prejudices are his own.

Yes, but he makes more sense of this part of the world (including Afghanistan as these stories are inseparable) than most. I see a great love for his subject despite what the Spectator calls cynicism – and indeed cynicism seems to me quite rational in this case.

See also Democracy Now and The Independent. There is also a one hour YouTube and some shorter ones you may access from there.

star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25 2. Peter Ackroyd, Shakespeare: The Biography (2005)

THE biography – a touch presumptuous that! But this is nonetheless a feast of a book which until recently I had just nibbled at for reference purposes. Some say Ackroyd speculates too much, but I find many of the speculations fruitful. It is also very grounded in excellent social history. Here’s a quick taste.

… Of his earthly life there was much less certainty. In the sixteenth century, the mortality of the newly born was high. Nine per cent died within a week of birth, and a further 11 per cent before they were a month old; in the decade of Shakespeare’s own birth there were in Stratford 62.8 average annual baptisms and 42.8 average annual child burials. You had to be tough, or from a relatively prosperous family, to survive the odds. It is likely that Shakespeare had both of these advantages.

Once the dangers of childhood had been surmounted, there was a further difficulty. The average lifespan of an adult male was forty-seven years. Since Shakespeare’s parents were by this standard long-lived, he may have hoped to emulate their example. But he survived only six years beyond the average span. Something had wearied him. Since in London the average life expectancy was only thirty-five years in the more affluent parishes, and twenty-five years in the poorer areas, it may have been the city that killed him. But this roll-call of death had one necessary consequence. Half of the population were under the age of twenty. It was a youthful culture, with all the vigour and ambition of early life. London itself was perpetually young.

The first test of Shakespeare’s own vigour came only three months after his birth. In the parish register of 11 July 1564, beside the record of the burial of a weaver’s young apprentice from the High Street , was written: Hic incipit pestis. Here begins the plague. In a period of six months some 237 residents of Stratford died, more than a tenth of its population; a family of four expired on the same side of Henley Street as the Shakespeares. But the Shakespeares survived. Perhaps the mother and her newborn son escaped to her old family home in the neighbouring hamlet of Wilmcote, and stayed there until the peril had passed. Only those who remained in the town succumbed to the infection.

The parents, if not the child, suffered fear and trembling. They had already lost two daughters, both of whom had died in earliest infancy, and the care devoted to their first-born son must have been close and intense. Such children tend to be confident and resilient in later life. They feel themselves to be in some sense blessed and protected from the hardships of the world. It is perhaps worth remarking that Shakespeare never contracted the plague that often raged through London. But we can also see the lineaments of that fortunate son in the character of the land from which he came…

See also Looking at Shakespeare, in 3 Different Ways.

 

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… and on

Following on yesterday I commend Jim Belshaw’s post Refugees and a contempt for the ordinary person.

… I do not think that either Mr Rudd or Mr Howard before him know how deeply upset we are.

There are, as Neil noted, some 16 million refugees globally excluding internally displaced persons. There is no way Australia could manage this current number. Hard choices have to be made…

I also congratulate the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes.

The Labor Party has found a leader’s voice on boat people and immigration – but it’s not the Prime Minister’s.

The task has fallen to a most unlikely candidate, a 28-year-old right-wing union leader who grew up poor in the Blue Mountains. It’s the voice of the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, the very outfit that led the creation of White Australia a century ago.

While Kevin Rudd continued to duck and weave yesterday to avoid antagonising anti-immigrant sentiment in the outer suburbs, Paul Howes confronted it. Howes is saying plainly what Rudd has not dared. He was in Canberra yesterday speaking in favour of humanity and strongly setting out Labor’s policy in favour of immigration.

”The immaturity in political debate in Australia sometimes makes me sick,” Howes said. ”There are politicians in both the Liberal and Labor parties who are exploiting the issue of race to whip up fear in the community. Question time is dominated by 78 people on a boat. We have around 50,000 visa overstayers every year,” he said of people who arrive by plane rather than boat. ”Is anyone saying this is a national crisis? One reason there is no outrage is that these people are mainly white and speak English. Is anyone demanding we clean out the backpackers’ hostels of Bondi and Surry Hills?”…

On Sri Lanka at the moment see Sri Lanka: it’s only business as usual so why the fuss?