Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Media Watch v. Hate speech

Just caught the repeat of Media Watch on ABC. Interesting little section on hate speech in the comments sections in big-media news sites and blogs. Of particular interest is the Murdoch-owned Daily Telegraph site and the blog of the Telegraph’s opinion editor, one Tim Blair.
It's not just newspaper and online editors who're prepared to tolerate cyber-racism in the name of free speech.

There are the bloggers.

Tim Blair, who edits The Daily Telegraph's opinion pages, also runs a blog.

He allowed this vicious discussion about Muslim taxi drivers supposedly knocking back passengers with guide dogs.
A number of examples are given from a single thread, but pick any of Blair’s threads about Muslims and you’ll get the same thing.

Pretty much the same as what you would get from a Neo-Nazi site like Stormfront (and there’s no way I’m going to link to that filth).

Blair’s response, and particularly those of the commenters named in the show, are rather pathetic to say the least.

And to think this guy was the shining light of Right-wing humour. Though, to be fair, the competition wasn't great. Sadly, I think I'll might move on for my RWDB funnies now.

Check 'dis out:

Oh, the laughs!!!!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Today's thoughts

From Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD121-180):
"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority," the emperor said appositely, "but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane."
Prescient fellow, that Marcus or, Heaven forbid, have wing-nuts really been around that long?
"Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone to accomplish."
There's a few emeritus climatologists who should take note of that one.
"As the same fire assumes different shapes When it consumes objects differing in shape, So does the one Self take the shape Of every creature in whom he is present."

?!?!?!?? Now that's just going to far! Friggin' hippy!

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What? It really, really is 2007?

Discalculia is a rather unfortunate disorder in which the sufferer is unable to deal with the abstract concepts of time and direction. They can’t recall sequences of past or future events. They’re unable to keep track of time.

Has Andrew Bolt, the mad munchkin of the lunar Right, acquired the disorder? That is the question that must be asked after yet another post that confuses the events of the past with those of the present.

Bolt recently remarked how the record warm temperatures we were sweltering through in autumn were, in fact, too cold. He was relying on temperature data from last year.

He wanted to believe, and he wanted it badly. So badly that he didn’t bother to check whether he had the correct data or, even more simply, leave his air-conditioned office and walk outside.

That confusion over the order events returned today. You’ve got to wonder.

The munchkin moaned:
Gary Taubes, in Science magazine, says scientists now challenge that always shonky idea that global warming would bring terrible diseases
You would think now would mean, well, ‘now’. This year, perhaps. Or even last year.

The opinion article was published in Science in 1997. Ten years ago.

It may surprise Bolt and like-minded denialists that more research has actually been conducted since then. Perhaps Bolt also didn’t realise that the article itself wasn’t a peer-reviewed paper either. It was merely one person’s opinion.
The research came a bit too late to stop unprincipled politicians and journalists from repeating the old we’-re-all-going-to-die schtick, though. It suits their agendas too well.
Came too late? Perhaps it was delivered by a wingless, arthritic pigeon to the offices Kevin Rudd, Leader of the Opposition. Ten years too late. If only that bird could fly like, then Rudd wouldn’t have had to foolishly rely on actual recent research from Australia’s premier scientific agency that is specific to this country. What a terrible disaster!!

Bolta then goes on to quote himself quoting Stephen Schneider. It is immediately obvious why he didn’t link to Schneider’s real quotes.

According to Bolt:
Professor Stephen Schneider, global warming guru at Stanford University. ... pump(ed) away: “We cannot dismiss the possibility of potentially catastrophic outliers and that includes Greenland and West Antarctica (ice sheets breaking up), massive species extinctions, intensified hurricanes and all those things. There’s at least a 10 per cent chance of that . . . My God, that’s Russian roulette with a Luger.”

Bang! Just what the Doctor Doom ordered. And no wonder, for Schneider is, like Flannery, just the man for this kind of job, having said in 1996 that scientists were ethically bound to “in effect” tell the truth, but . . .

But? Er, yes. But “on the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings” who wanted to “capture the public’s imagination” on this awful climate change.

“So,” admitted Schneider, ”we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.”
Not only does Bolt get the date wrong yet again (Schneider made the remarks prior to 1989, not in 1996) but cherry-picks the quotes, making Schneider appear to say something quite different from what the full quotes imply.

Schneider’s first quote was actually this:
[Schneider] was concerned that the increase was more likely to be three degrees or above, with a 10 per cent chance of an extreme six-degree rise by the end of the century. "Hell, we buy fire insurance based on a 1 per cent chance," he said.
"If we're going to be risk averse … we cannot dismiss the possibility of potentially catastrophic outlyers and that includes Greenland and West Antarctica (ice sheets breaking up), massive species extinctions, intensified hurricanes and all those things. There's at least a 10 per cent chance of that. And that to me for a society is too high a risk … My value judgement when you're talking about planetary life-support systems is that 10 per cent, my God, that's Russian roulette with a Luger."
It is the second quote that is really aimed at damaging Schneider’s integrity.

From Bolt’s little rant you would think Schneider is demanding scientists lie for ‘the greater good’. That is scientific misconduct, and a fairly serious accusation.

When you read the full quote, however, you’ll understand that wasn’t what Schneider was hoping for at all. In fact, quite the opposite:
On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but – which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This "double ethical bind" we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.
It is worth directly noting what Bolt wrote:
“So,” admitted Schneider, ”we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.”
And what he omitted:
This "double ethical bind" we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.
So Schneider isn’t calling for scientific misconduct at all. He is calling for effective communication AND honesty.

One could hypothesize that it is Bolt himself that who is being dishonest and unethical, but I wouldn’t do that. I’m leaning toward symptoms of a dangerous new variant of dyscalculia.

There is hope however. After enough prodding Bolt reluctantly changed the ‘now’ in his first sentence. Little steps. That’s what you begin with on the road to health.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

An aspirational goal

To say there is nothing surprising about the Howard government’ polluter’ independent Task Group’s report on a carbon trading scheme for Australia is, well, not surprising.

Tim Dunlop has some excellent posts on the report and associated issues here and here.

What we got was no target and a delay until past the next term of government before any action is deemed worthy.

When the taskforce was comprised of government bureaucrats and the following people (no scientists, of course), the outcome was very Sir Humphrey (that is, never hold an enquiry into anything unless you know the answer in advance).

But surely, you may ask, the following aren’t beholden to their shareholders, that they hold the welfare of the nation and, indeed, the very planet, above mere quibbles like profit?

So, who are these white knights?

They are:

Mr Peter Coates: Mr Coates is Chief Executive of Xstrata plc’s global coal business, Xstrata Coal, and a member of the Xstrata Group Executive.

Mr Tony Concannon: Mr Concannon is the Managing Director of International Power

Ms Margaret Jackson: Ms Jackson has been the Chairman of the Qantas Board since 2000.

Mr Chris Lynch: Mr Lynch is a Director of BHP Billiton Limited.

Mr John Marlay: Mr Marlay is the Chief Executive Officer and an
Executive Director of Alumina Limited.

You can almost hear Mother Nature: “Well, they're furiously considering about thinking about doing something. All those meetings and consultation, that forthcoming tax payer-funded advertising campaign; collectively that’s gotta be worth something.

I know! I’ll knock 2 degrees Celsius off the average 2100 temperatures and send a couple of inches rain over the major Oz catchments!”

The first section of the report I decided to skim was the scientific basis.

Only one expert is quoted verbatim, and who do you think that was? Australia’s Chief Scientist? The head of climatology at the CSIRO? A work-experience kid from the Australian Greenhouse Office?


Prime Minister John Howard:
[T]here can be no argument that greenhouse gases are having an adverse impact on the earth’s environment.
A bit different to Howard in Parliament earlier this year:
The jury is still out on the connection between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
He did later correct that statement, with some harsh words muttered under the breath about some fellow named Freud, I do believe.

Let us move on and look at the language of the report:
The latest report from the IPCC confirms that greenhouse gases are damaging the earth’s environment and that human activity is at least partly responsible.
At least partly responsible?

The actuall IPCC report states:
Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.12 This is an advance since the TAR’s conclusion that “most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”. Discernible human influences now extend to other aspects of climate, including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns.
You know what? That doesn’t sound like ‘at least partly” to me.

And what does the business lobby task group have to say about targets?

Well, as has been reported in the media, nothing specific.

But when, eventually, a target is set, what kind of target will it be? Again, the language is illuminating.
Government would establish a long-term aspirational goal for emissions reductions.
An aspirational goal. A goal to aspire to, with its actual achievement of little importance. The term ‘aspirational’ gets bandied about by conservatives a lot in Australia, and it’s worth checking out what means in the current context.

According to the Cambridge dictionary the adjective ‘aspirational’ means:
Showing that you want to have more money and a higher social position than you now have
Could there be a better enunciation of our Right-wing government’s motives for a do-nothing carbon-trading scheme than that very definition?

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Monday, June 04, 2007

You know what the say about men who drive big cars…..

..and they don’t come much bigger than the 6.1 litre hemi V8-powered Chrysler 300C SRT-8.

But why place an ad for one next to an article on Tim Flannery’s response to the poll-driven Howard government carbon trading scheme?

Sites run by big media such as New Ltd. are pretty savvy with their ad placement, so who’s the target audience for this one?

Not your hybrid-driving environmentally-concerned greenie, that’s for sure. With fuel economy of around 20 litres per 100 km, it’s gotta be somebody who’s insecure enough to want to spend all that money just to drive a gangsta car. Someone who would read articles about Australian of the Year, Tim Flannery, solely because they detest him. Perhaps, someone who, through ignorance, questions the reality of anthropogenic global warming.

Oh, I know!!!

Kind of a small demographic though. Not sure how successful that campaign will be.

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