November 24, 2012 | Graham

Paedophilia, climate science and the ABC

In today’s Science Show Robyn Williams smears climate change sceptics by comparing scepticism of the IPCC view that the world faces catastrophic climate change because of CO2 emissions with support for paedophilia, use of asbestos to treat asthma, and use of crack cocaine by teenagers.

Don’t believe me? Then listen to the broadcast.

It is hard to believe, just at a moment of heightened sensitivity about offensive speech, and only a week or so after the commonwealth government announces a royal commission into the sexual abuse of children. Even harder to believe is that he specifically links former ABC Chair Maurice Newman into his comments and refers to his ideas on climate change as “drivel”.

But this is what you get when federal ministers like Greg Combet, licence abusive attacks on sceptics by referring to the Leader of the Opposition’s scepticism as “complete bull shit”.

Indeed it is worse than that. The government, via the Australian Research Council is involved in suppressing dissent.

Williams’ comments are part of an interview he conducted with Stephan Lewandowsky, a professor of psychology who has received over $2 million worth of ARC funding to support his  efforts to equate climate change scepticism with mental disorder.

“Punitive psychology” as it is called, was widely used in the Soviet Union to incarcerate dissidents in mental institutions. In modern Australia the walls of the prison are not brick or stone, but walls of censorship, confining the dissident to a limbo where no-one will report what they say for fear of being judged mentally deficient themselves.

Williams wants to put some more bricks in the walls by making climate scepticism as respectable as paedophilia.

Williams is a serial offender on the abuse of his opponents, as you can see from these posts:

Lewandowsky is making a career of it, although on the basis of very shoddy science. His latest effort is a paper where he attempts to equate belief that the moon landing was faked with scepticism of catastrophic climate change using a survey instrument.

I have the survey data and was shocked to find that this conclusion is based on the responses of 10 respondents – it has no significance at all.

Heads must roll over this, including Williams’. But the problem is obviously more widespread and involves the University of Western Australia, where Lewandowsky holds his chair, the ARC, the ABC, and possibly even the government.

Posted by Graham at 5:12 pm | Comments (44) |
Filed under: Environment,Media

November 15, 2012 | Ronda Jambe

Will the Internet become a Piggy Bank?

Not for you, of course. And not for your enterprise. What is intended, should the proposal for the expansion of control of the Internet by the International Telecommunications Union proceed, is a set of binding obligations on content providers that will make the Internet more costly for everyone. Hardest hit would be smaller content and application providers, particularly in less developed countries.

It would be naive, however, to think they won’t come for you, via your favourite content providers (hey! that could be OLO!)

A group called European Telecommunications Network Operators (ETNO, hardly a household acronym) is proposing:

  • fees for peering arrangements
  • discouragement of high-end content, such as video, and
  • prioritisation of certain traffic, the so-called end to end quality of service.

See: Radical Proposal Now on the Table at the ITU, at the Centre for Democracy and Technology. They argue that this would, among other things:

  • Disproportionately impact not-for-profit entities, individual speakers, and new forms of non-commercial and collaborative endeavors
  • Fundamentally undermine principles of Internet neutrality

A flurry of civil society groups is trying to halt these proposals from passing at the December  World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT)

Often I have signed an online petition before I’ve had my second cup of coffee. Today it was this mob:

ITU proposals threaten Internet freedom and access

Those who follow Internet governance issue will know that it has long annoyed the powerful interests that the Internet has escaped their control and become the wild, anarchic, freedom-promoting beast that we know and love.

As a scholar of technology and democracy, I also know that the telecom regulatory framework in the US, the Federal Communications Commission, was largely set up to reign in radio earlier last century. That was how the commercial model for radio emerged.

But it’s not over yet, and it would be interesting to know if our fine federal government intends to roll over on this one.



Posted by Ronda Jambe at 8:03 am | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Uncategorized

November 15, 2012 | Graham

Another sorry day

The proposed royal commission into child abuse is likely to disappoint many of the victims pushing for its establishment and achieve very little, particularly if it is like the Irish Ryan Commission.

The scope of the proposed commission is huge. By proposing to investigate child abuse across the country it will involve 7 states, two territories, myriads of government departments as well as institutions  run by religious and charitable organisations. It won’t be able to hear more than a fraction of complaints and there are unlikely to be many, if any, successful prosecutions as a result.

If it is like the Ryan Commission it is also likely to find that the caravan has moved on and that most of the bodies involved have changed their practices and that the epidemic of child abuse is in the past. At the same time, what recommendations it makes will do little to prevent child abuse in the future.

Again, if it is like the Ryan Commission it will not be complete for over a decade (the Ryan Commission was established in 1999 and reported in 2009).

In a practical sense much more is likely to be achieved by limited inquiries, such as that set up by the O’Farrell government to inquire into allegations of abuse by Catholic clergy in the Hunter region.

The commission needed to be extensive as the alternative was an inquiry into a specific area, such institutions run by the Catholic Church, which would have turned into a witch hunt, ignoring the institutional failings of other denominations and organisations.

Over the years I have been horrified to read of instances of abuse in state supervised foster homes where in some cases very young children have contracted sexually transmitted diseases and been returned to the foster families where they have contracted them.

There is something that inheres in the Catholic Church that has made it institutionally incapable of dealing with the victims of abuse, demonstrated by the international reach of such issues from Australia, to the USA, to Ireland, but they are not the only institution.

And while public attention is focused on them, often through a lens of schadenfreude, the scope of the problem is distorted.

So, if it gives perspective to the extent of the problem, that will be one benefit. But apart from that it is hard to see many.

The Bringing Them Home inquiry, reporting in 1997, was a wide ranging inquiry with more limited terms of reference. While it has provided another, much disputed, strand of guilt to the national story, it achieved very little. None of the stolen generation has received compensation, and the situation for many aborigines living in settlements is still dire poverty and deprivation.

These reports have a habit of being fertile for writers and publishers, but in the end, judged by the practical benefits they bring, being little more than acts of public prurience.


Posted by Graham at 6:57 am | Comments (4) |
Filed under: Uncategorized

November 09, 2012 | Ronda Jambe

After him, the deluge

All hail the Chief! Better luck this time, baby, and maybe take climate change seriously. Someone can perhaps tell me whether it was Louis the XIV or XV who correctly saw what was coming. Obama II is hopefully as prescient.

While there is lots of hoopla about Hurricane Sandy influencing votes at the end of the campaign, see

Superstorm Sandy appeared to give Obama a late boost

Julian Cribb also believes it has helped put climate change back
on the agenda, as he optimistically suggested on ABC radio yesterday.

I’m waiting for the live streaming next week from the Climate Reality Project (the group in the Australian Conservation Foundation that trained me to do climate change presentations) to give me an update on events.

The news is not good, and if you think I’m a scare monger, or that the IPCC is a bunch of ideologically twisted idiots, then perhaps you will take the latest report from consultancy Price Waterhouse Coopers with an equal grain of salt. Or maybe you just don’t get it.

PWC says in their ‘unnerving’ assessment of current pledged emissions reductions that we are heading for 6°C of warming.

More dots to connect, as fuel is being rationed in NY, following another storm.

From the gov’s just released white paper on energy:

chapter 4.1.2

Liquid fuels
Liquid fuel energy security is assessed as high, trending to moderate
in the long term, as Australia has continued access to adequate and 
reliable supplies of liquid fuels at prices that are manageable within
the broader economy. The long-term moderate assessment recognises that
our rising imports of petroleum products will lead to greater reliance
on international supply chains and a consequent need for investment 
in import and storage infrastructure...

The decline in Australia's domestic refining capacity (following 
announcements of the Clyde and Kurnell refinery closures) is not 
considered to impair Australia's liquid fuel security... Substituting
imports of crude oil for imports of refined fuel at this scale does 
not pose any additional risk to market security.

Our lack of oil self-sufficiency and the prospect of further refinery
rationalisation does not in itself compromise or reduce our energy 
security (see Box 4.1). Our liquid fuel security is expected to 
remain high because of our access to reliable, mature and highly
diversified international liquid fuel supply chains.

Because of the commercial potential of unconventional sources of 
petroleum, the International Energy Agency (IEA) believes that 
there is a very low probability of reaching global supply limits
(so-called 'peak oil') in the period to 2035 (IEA 2011a).

My question: why is our gov (and the IEA) still sticking its head 
in the sand on both climate change and peak oil?


Posted by Ronda Jambe at 9:16 am | Comments (3) |
Filed under: Uncategorized

November 03, 2012 | Ronda Jambe

Who’s punishing who? A sad and sandy story

Long Beach Island New Jersey was where I came of age. It was where I had one of my first waitressing jobs, my first hangover, even my first car prang. It was a great place to be a teenager heading off for college.

Of course, being part of NJ, and just north of Atlantic City, it has always been a bit more populous and popular culture than the equivalent Australian beach scene. Aussies find it hard to believe you actually have to show that you have paid with a badge to go on the beach.

Now if you google Long Beach Island, videos come up of the recent devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Inevitably, pundits and preachers of all persuasions, including filmmaker Oliver Stone are saying the hurricane is God’s punishment for everything from ignoring climate change to sinful behaviour. ie:

Some Muslim clerics say Sandy is God’s punishment

Stupidity might be a more realistic interpretation.

Have just about finished a book about the history of the financial crisis in the US, ‘All the Devils are Here’, it is now more understandable why the Yanks just haven’t managed to grasp the issue of climate change.

In the case of the sub-prime and complex financial products that funded them, everyone was playing the same game of musical chairs. Problem was, when the music stopped, all the chairs vanished. The regulators, the public, the companies on both Main St and Wall St all thought they had a safe position.

Now Mayor Bloomberg of NYC has endorsed Obama as the only one even talking about climate change. Having the subway flooded focussed his mind. This storm affected The Beltway, which includes Washington, and also extended to the financial people and the corporate media in NY, and the rich who live further north in Connecticut. New Orleans mostly had poor black people. But this storm affected people with money, property, and influence.

Unfortunately, it also includes lots of decent folk who are also going to suffer, even if they never refinanced with a sub-prime mortgage. Their sins are those of omission: neglecting to see that their whole system of governance is so corrupt that residual good (like having sufficient funds to clean up after Sandy) is now threatened by these enormous events.

But all is not lost, remediation in the face of climate change is still possible, and adaptation is now essential. A report on barrier islands and climate change a few years back used Long Beach Island as an example. Like the anguished Mayor of Ship Bottom, they concluded that despite the expensive homes and marinas, over time the island will have to be abandoned.

Greenhouse Effect, Sea Level Rise, and Barrier Islands, case study of Long Beach Island, New Jersey. by James G. Titus, Environmental Protection Agency1

For years the Army Corps of Engineers has been building up the sand dunes on this island, laying mesh and creating walkways to keep feet off the fragile plantings. People with houses right on the beach, (their private walkways might not have withstood Sandy) found their bottom story looking at piles of sand rather than water.

But all that was vanity, as the 10-15 metre storm surge pushed lots of sand inland.

The punished will include generations of teenagers, who will have to find another place for an illegal tipple.

But here we are still having lots of fun on beautiful beaches, while planning to triple our coal exports. What’s to worry about?


Why Seas Are Rising Ahead of Predictions: Estimates of Rate of Future Sea-Level Rise May be Too Low



Posted by Ronda Jambe at 8:33 am | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Uncategorized

November 02, 2012 | Graham

When you’re honest, or have nothing to hide

Prime Minister Gillard take note. This is what you do when you are honest or have nothing to hide and become aware of illegal activity affecting your organisation:

POLITICAL donations from a private investment company with links to former Queensland senator Santo Santoro and top bureaucrat Michael Caltabiano have been referred to police for investigation by the Liberal National Party.

Brescia Investments, one of the state’s largest political donors over the past decade, is now at the centre of allegations it financed a long-running slush fund for select candidates and MPs within the Liberal Party and later LNP.

The history of the Liberal and National Parties in Queensland hasn’t always been ethically pure, but in this case they have done the right thing, even if it turns out there is no case to answer.

Contrast this to the ALP’s behaviour with respect to Craig Thomson, or the prime minister’s former boyfriend Bruce Wilson.

Caltabiano was hand-picked by Newman to be Director General of Transport and Main Roads, so this couldn’t have been easy for the new Queensland Premier, but he appears to have been prepared to stand aside and let justice take its course:

On Friday, the premier said he learned of his party’s concerns some time ago, before Mr Caltabiano was forced to step aside over a separate matter.

“I have been made aware of their (the LNP’s) sort of concerns a couple of weeks ago and they’ve taken it to police,” he told reporters….

Mr Newman said he didn’t know if Mr Caltabiano had offered to resign.

“I simply don’t know,” he said.

“I in no way want to be accused of contaminating any investigation so I have not, at any time, had a conversation with him.”

Gillard could learn from this. It is only recently that Thomson was cut loose by the government. Before that he had the PM’s “full confidence” despite the damning information on the public record against him.

Her performance over Wilson is worse. She claims to have broken off her relationship with him when she became aware that the AWU Workplace Reform Association was being misused, but took none of these matters to the police, even though some small investigation of her legal firms trust fund would have shown that it had been used to channel money from the Association into the purchase of personal real estate for one of the conspirators.

Worse according to the SMH she and another lawyer issued a stopper writ on behalf of Wilson’s collaborator Ralph Blewitt to stop others in the union movement from raising allegations against him.

None of this means that she is guilty of any crime, but neither is it a standard of behaviour that ought to be acceptable from any honest person of integrity. It taints the whole government.

Posted by Graham at 3:05 pm | Comments (5) |
Filed under: Uncategorized