17 December 2009

Whether to report on weather reports?

With supposedly the largest ever gathering of national leaders in Copenhagen at COP 15 imminent, just as the whole global anti-carbon push seems to be unravelling, it's worth contemplating the role of reporters in this.

Apparently there could be up to 30,000 journalists in Copenhagen right now. Though many of them appear not to be getting access to any of the weighty deliberations in the Bella Centre. There is however some news that is falling on the very noses of these journalists.

It is snowing in Copenhagen (and London, and Paris, and Warsaw, and ... Nice ? ).

Ah. A white Christmas for the World's leaders ... sleigh bells in the snow. So where are all the usual soppy colour pieces from our news gathers during the slow Christmas silly season? After all Copenhagen is all about climate isn't it. What could be more climate-ish than snow in winter in friendly Copenhagen?

Nah. Not here in Australia. Instead cricket. Is it possible that it might finally dawning on at least some of these tens of thousands of journalists, that the Free World's main media outlets may have missed the really big story here? We have been duped.

But how can the mainstream media report this now? It would first take a major mea culpa, for the mainstream media have been complicit in this, by their almost complete failure to adequately scrutinise the offerings of our political classes. One possible line could be that they should be forgiven because it has been a noble attempt by the world's current ruling elites to save the planet against all odds, and the World's political Leaders needed the support of the media if they were ever to acheive such an ambitious collective act of will. They were only seeking to forge a new moral high ground from which to prevent humans from excessively pursuing their own personal prosperity at the cost of the greater collective good. But it now looks like this noble experiment is collapsing. So as journalists now find themselves needing to change tack, and start to paw over the entrails of this monumental failure, they'll find themselves compelled to tell us why it occured and why it failed. Sure some of them will just continue to blame the sceptics, but that does look a bit like blaming Christians for getting eaten by lions.

But for those who want to do their job, here's a bit of help for mainstream media folk whose focus has been elsewhere until now. This is just from some of today's random droppings, gleaned from the intertubes:

- Something's rotten in Denmark;

- Climategate - reversing the onus of proof;

- Eastangliaemails.com;

- The day the thermometer music died;

- Icing the hype;

- Is the U.S. temperature Record Reliable;

- Climategate's Harry_Read_Me.txt: We All Really Should;

- Central Park Temperature - Three radically different US Government versions;

And I haven't even read today's offerings at wattsupwiththat.com, climateaudit.com, Bishop Hill or climatedebatedaily.com, where someone could probably find much more even juicier material, if truly interested in unearthing controversial cover ups in high places on this.

There should be more than enough stuff there for intrepid searchers for climate truth to get stuck into. Recycle it or ridicule it in your organs for social justice and making a difference. So, even if reporters can't get access to the Bella Centre today, they could still strike a blow. There could even be a Pulitzer in it for someone . It would require some relentless investigative hound to pull some of the disparate threads together, but they might really be onto something here, Woodward and Bernstein style.

And this would also be truly transgressive, which should appeal to that disaffected radicalised cafe intellectual self image of the journalistic persona. After all the IPCC received a Nobel Peace Prize for promoting this stuff and Albert Gore Junior got an Academy Award for his doco on it. How much more mainstream could it be?

And such an expose would truly be taking on the establishment as there is enough hypocrisy, emptiness and raw power lust in this climate racket to sate any bloodhound's appetite. And it would not even be necessary to put aside personal commitments to climate justice (just get the tone right: ... more in sorrow then in anger...). It would help though if all those apocalyptic climate nightmare scenarios that have been useful as storyline hooks up to now, could be ditched, at least temporarily.

Come on. Show us your mettle you journalistic wimps.

14 December 2009

News: "The Economist " behind climate data fudging

Tell me what's wrong with my header? Yeah, yeah, I know its unimaginative, badly parsed and amateurish, but it fits, and I can write it without making up a story to fit it. That's the point.

Is any one other than me absolutely gobsmacked that The Economist has taken upon itself the duty of publishing an article purporting to rebut the science in Willis Eschenbach's recent piece on instrumental temperature data adjustment at a Darwin weather station? The anonymous person who wrote the Economist article even admits they are unqualified to form any definitive view, but don't think that stops them from espousing a definitive view.

And for goodness sake, what kind of flagrant hypocrisy is it for a journalist to write a first person attack, in a supposedly august journal like The Economist, questioning the integrity and competence of another commentator in a live debate, without the author even giving the readers the benefit of the author's own name? Sheeze one of the issues being addressed is the integrity of the peer review process! The Economist needs to take a good hard look at itself. How can they not see that they will continue to lose credibility and readers very quickly, if they persist in publicly flaunting such hypocritical cant, when purporting to report on a vital issue the world is thirsty for reliable coverage of.

It's of a kind with the Associated Press writing a piece today on the findings of an investigation into the Climategate emails, which was published around the world, effectively saying that although the Climategate emails might make the scientists look petty, we can, rest assured, know that there was no fraud here. Move along. Nothing to see.

Thanks for that AP. So who did the investigation? Oh, it was by the AP itself. Well that's reassuring, not. It's not like they have an interest in one side or the other in this debate do they? Well, setting aside the AP's own partisan reporting history in this debate (no small issue), it even transpires that one of the guys who did AP's Climategate "investigation" and who co-authored its piece, is also the author of one of the Climategate emails himself. An email that, it turns out, started a thread of online dialogue within the CRU about trying to minimize the effects of an article to be published in a peer reviewed journal by another scientist the CRU didn't like. How's this for a case of conducting an investigation into yourself and giving yourself an all clear? So even if AP has decided there was no fraud at the CRU, what about at AP?

Aren't these news journals supposed to report the news, not make it? Where have the adults gone at these international news selling entities? Why hasn't an editor or a publisher told these reporters that it's not good for the paper's brand to be seen by its readers openly declaring partiality to a cause in reporting on an unfolding debate.

Don't they get that the we can see the stark hypocrisy and lack of integrity in such behaviour, and will think the less of the them for it? And yet they seem to flaunt it.

Do they really believe that openly supporting the political agenda of reducing world carbon emissions, is more important than supporting their vocation's responsibility to inform readers what's going on in a debate over carbon's effects on climate? And even if they do, are these journals so lacking in respect for their readers that they think they will be cut slack, when they are so publicly unprofessional?

The press has become the story itself. They have misused the trust we naturally give them to inform us, from habit and affection. I'm told the 100 year old plus Editor and Publisher magazine in the US has just been closed. No prizes for guessing where its editorial skew went in its dying years: supporting causes in the news. It even ran an article in August 2007 entitled: Climate Change: Get Over Objectivity, Newspapers .

AP and The Economist certainly took that advice to heart. But when their own industry journal goes under after deciding to become part of the news, instead of reporting on it, you'd reckon the people in the industry would get the hint. It ain't rocket surgery, but then journalists aren't paleo-aerospaciologists either.

10 December 2009

Religious dispute over Darwin's data

Willis Eschenbach at the website " watts up with that" has opened up more serious doubts about the integrity of adjustments made to the raw surface temperature data record relied on by the IPCC.

The raw data on historical surface temperatures from weather stations around the globe is held on a database called the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN). This is basically the raw data used by the other two main global temperature research institutions, the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) for their definitive publications of adjusted historical surface temperatures. The IPCC has relied very heavily on the CRU and GISS publications in making its proclamations about the alarming warming in world temperatures in recent decades.

The contents of the Climategate emails from the CRU, that have recently come to light through unofficial sources, suggest that CRU's database could be seriously corrupted by errors, fudges and lost data on adjustments made to the underlying raw data. For some this may be disturbing but it is felt it does not undermine the fundamental global temperature shift picture painted by the IPCC, because even if the CRU has "lost" their records on why and where adjustments to the raw data were made, we still have the "homogenized" (adjusted) records and the underlying raw data, so there is still no real reason not to rely on what they are telling us.

OK, thought Mr Eschenbach, if that's so, let's compare the raw data with the "homogenized" numbers that the IPCC have published. He started with the first of the many thousands of weather stations used, Darwin Airport. He wanted to see if he could figure out from the raw data how GHCN and the IPCC made its adjustments (homogenised) to these raw numbers.

What Mr Eschenbach's article reveals is, that on a close examination of the GHCN's data of that one weather station in Northern Australia, and comparing that with what the IPCC has published about it, it seems the "adjusted" (homogenized) surface temperature data put out as the definitive temperature record from this weather station, appears to have been fudged to meet someone's pre-conceptions about global temperature increases.

The effect of the unexplained adjustments made to the historical raw temperature data from the Darwin Airport weather station looks pretty clear here. To my non-expert eye the main reason the red (homogenized) trend line slopes upwards, whilst the green (raw) trendline is flatter, corresponds pretty closely to the effects of the black line (the adjustments). That is the homogenised temperatures increase because they have been "adjusted" upwards. How can this be called science? I guess if we had some pretty convincing explanations for these adjustments you might allow it as a speculative kite, but even then you'd have to have very real doubts Read the piece.

If these kinds of adjustments are even partially repeated at a small percentage of the thousands of weather stations around the world that the GHCN rely on in publishing their "homogenised" historical temperature data, then their databases are corrupted and are unreliable. It certainly looks like, in defiance of good science and ethics, someone appears to have distorted the record to achieve the outcome they desired.

Is this just a species of 'confirmation bias' rather than deliberate dishonesty? Who knows? It's beside the point anyway. The point is that data can't be relied on.

And it is based on this "adjusted" data that our politicians are proposing to radically reallocate the whole world's economic resources at Copenhagen. Can that be a good idea?

I reckon Charles Darwin would have understood what is going on here. The IPCC is not publishing science. It is promoting propaganda that supports its religious conviction that man is wrongfully causing the Earth to heat up.

In Charles Darwin's case it was a long haul to persuade religious zealots that "The Theory of Natural Selection" was a better explanation for changes in the world we inhabit, than blind faith in the literal truth of the Bible. Some still haven't been persuaded. It is frightening to think that these modern day true believers, who adhere to the literal truth of their unnatural selection of temperature records, might take as long to be convinced that their pre-conceptions might be wrong, as the those that reject Darwin's theory of evolution.

The justifications we are beginning to hear for these apparent infelicitudes from climate scientists sound something like "look it might look like someone fudged it a bit, but since we know the climate is warming anyway, what's the fuss?"

You know, "it might be fake, but true nonetheless".

Now where have we heard that before ?

04 December 2009

Strange bedfellows

There seem to be some unexpected eddies and whirls emerging in this changing climate tide.
James "not the Muppett guy" Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute fame and Albert "Muppet model" Gore Jnr, Acadamy Award and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who are the two Arch High Priests of AGW Alarmism, both seem to be backing off promotion of the imminent Copenhagen conference, as our last chance to save the planet. Taken together with Bob Brown and the Australian Greens voting against Rudd's CPRS in the Australian Senate, it seems that the ETS or Cap n'Trade route to solving the World's climate woes, is facing concerted resistance from the the two principle opposing camps in the debate: climate sceptics and AGW true believers.
What that suggests, to me anyway, is that it is only those who take this global climate issue as seriously as it deserves, who are resisting the economically destructive but environmentally useless prescriptions that the world's current crop of politicians are trying to achieve at Copenhagen.

If Hansen and Gore et al are right and most of us are going to fry or drown by the end of the century, then drastic environmental action is indeed called for. But if the expected changes in the foreseeable future are within reasonable limits that we might be able to anticipate from past changes in climate, then we humans can adapt, as we have done in the past. Then the kind of drastic economic reallocations being argued over in Copenhagen would be pointlessly damaging to human prosperity.

It seems to me, as a mild sceptic of the AGW science (but happy to be disabused of my scepticism by convincing replicatable and fully scrutinised data) and a denier of the environmental efficacy of the current prescribed ETS (or Cap and Trade) solutions, that, if indeed the AGW believers are right, then a carbon tax is a much simpler and more effective way to reduce global carbon emissions than a politically compromised synthetic market created by concocting an artificial scarcity in a super abundant resource, carbon.

It seems that those who take this issue seriously believe either that we are all going to get cooked with our bacon because we eat too much of it, or that in trying to stop the bacon cooking we will lose our nourishment. Those who believe that neither bacon nor cooking, are truly serious things, think this conundrum can be solved by having us all eat half cooked bacon. It's a very Danish approach, but we'll all get sick and the stove will still be burning.

Climate's a-changin

The climate tide does seem to be beginning to turn.

The East Anglia CRU emails have revealed the lack of integrity in the IPCC temperature database and those who control it. Phil Jones, one of those responsible, has now stood down pending the outcome of an investigation and even Michael "Hockey Stick" Mann is now again under formal scrutiny from Penn State U. Australia is today temporarily no longer under the threat of a pointlessly damaging CPRS. And Copenhagen is now looking like it will just be yet another mutual hot air recycling venue for blowhard warming warners.

It's worth having a look at this peice by Richard Lindzen published in the Wall Street Journal on 30 November 2009. Professor Lindzen's article suggests yet again, that the substantive causation argument at the heart of anthropogenic global warming alarmism; that "positive forcing" from increases in CO2 correlates to global temperature increases; is mere speculative posturing and lacks real evidentiary support. The historical and recent global temperature and CO2 concentration evidence clearly suggest that even massive increases in atmospheric CO2 do not have any significant effect on global temperature.

In such circumstances how can responsible people support insanely ambitious regulatory schemes to restrict and limit economic development that creates prosperity for everyone, by deliberately restricting access to the most economically viable sources of energy that fuel prosperity: coal, oil and natural gas? Our politicians would have us all take out insurance against losing wealth, with a policy of hindering us all from getting wealthy. This just smacks of the latest ideological crutch that bossy elitists have seized on, to use government power to legitimise and camouflage their personal need to control what other humans might do to gain wealth in spite of them.

We seem to be at one of those now rare moments when some sanity seems to be returning to the public discourse. For many thinking people It has been quite lonely for a long while legitimately independently hypothesizing about these issues, and having seemingly responsible and intelligent people not treat such thinking as serious or responsible. I still fear that this is only a temporary state and that there is still a long long way to go in walking our politics and our culture back from the brink of hysterical over reaction.

And that stuff you're breathing out right now, carbon dioxide, it has been officially labelled a dangerous pollutant. So you'll just have to find an alternative way to breath if you want to consider yourself a caring and concerned citizen of Earth.

27 November 2009

Malcolm the Manchurian

The Liberal Party of Australia is currently undergoing a purge. It is quite spectacular. A technicolour yawn of conflicting principles, ideology and power lust is being spewed out across the pages of the press, on the current affairs programmes and in the 'sphere.

Just over a year ago the Party Room removed Brendan Nelson from the leadership in favour of Malcolm Turnbull, ostensibly because Brendan was more circumspect than Malcolm about the pace at which or whether Australia should introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme. Brendan wanted to wait until after Australia had seen what the other nations of the world, mainly the big emitters like China, India and the US, were prepared to commit to before Australia made its commitment. Malcolm wanted to push ahead with an ETS before Copenhagen in the belief that this position would neutralise the electorate characterising the Party as unconcerned about Climate Change. Mal won. Brendan has now been given a gig as ambassador to NATO in faraway Brussells by his opponent Kevin Rudd. Boy does the Liberal Party now wish he was still around.

Most thought Mal's approach to climate politics was just tactics, to prevent Rudd positioning the Coalition in a perceived electorally unpopular posture. Whether they agreed with him or not on an ETS, they saw some political merit in Mal's argument and were prepared to give him a go at putting a dent in Rudd's popularity, since Brendan was languishing in the polls.

But as the year has unfolded we've now discovered something about Mal that few of us knew. He's not only forceful and ambitious, he's also a true believer. He was partially forgiven for his intemperance and unlucky judgement in prematurely going for Rudd's jugular on Utegate before the evidence was in. He was largely though reluctantly ceded the benefit of the doubt that this folly was just a temporary lapse and that he would regain his poise and luck and find new and better ways to take the fight to his Labor opponents.

How wrong this assessment has proved to be. Last night at a 7 pm media conference Mal showed us that he was not a clever tactician on this at all; he is in fact a passionate believer in Anthropogenic Climate Change and was supporting Labor's ETS because of the imperative for moral leadership in the world by Australia, in making economic sacrifices for the good of the planet and our children and our childrens' children.

Who'da thunk it eh?

Mal's media conference was an impassioned defence of the Labor Government's latest proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill. It is currently being considered by the Senate, after some massive changes and concessions that Mal had secured for all Australians in negotiations with the Government.

His stated position is that "We must be a party committed to action on climate change. Anything else is irresponsible ..."

The Liberal/National Coalition still has the power to vote down Labor's CPRS legislation by joining with with the Greens and Independents who oppose it in the Senate, where together they have the numbers. But no, Mal, the Party Leader reckons that this newly negotiated CPRS Bill, with much larger rebates being given to fossil fuel energy suppliers and with all agricultural industry being removed from the scheme, will not just mean less Australian jobs being destroyed because of the scheme, it will also be better for the planet!

He is clearly conceding, in saying this, that the CPRS does serious damage to jobs here. And at the same time he says that because the newly negotiated CPRS is kinder on carbon emitters, it will be better for the environment. Damage to jobs and prosperity is the main reason why responsible citizens in his own party are justly very wary of this scheme. And his claim that his new softer scheme is better for the environment, just looks plain silly. He seems to have inadvertantly made the case against supporting the CPRS for those who oppose him on this.

Yet, typically, the media commentators are not highlighting the manifest inadequacies of the content of his self defence. They are only interested in the outcome of the sporting contest. So the press ignores the ridiculousness of Malcolm's claims, only concentrating on his amazing open attack on the credibility and wisdom of other parliamentary members of the very Party he purports to lead.

It now appears that Malcolm is no different from Rudd on this. He just wants to be able to parade his moral vanity to the world by stating that he is standing for a higher cause than mere Australian prosperity. This ETS legislation is required in the name of the planet. All Australians and the other nations of the world, must follow his noble and magnificent self sacrificial lead on this.

I'm not sure if, when Malcolm gets rolled by his Party on Monday, Kevin will give him one of those cushy government jobs, like he did to Mal's earlier rivals for the Liberal Party leadership, Peter Costello and Brendan Nelson. But he should, because Malcolm deserves a big reward from the ALP. He has done more to contribute to Kevin Rudd's prospects of remaining Prime Minister than anyone in the Australian Labor Party itself. The Ruddbot can now go to Copenhagen and the next election with bragging rights, and the fawning media in Australia will see to it that he gets only credit and praise for this appalling piece of legislation, that can only seriously injure Australia's future prosperity.

05 November 2009

Saint Albert's revelation on the road to Copenhagen

Seemingly un-remarked on so far, is an admission in the recent new publication from Albert Gore Junior. The Guardian says of his new book:

"...Those conversations led Gore to politically inconvenient conclusions in this new book. In his conversations with Schmidt and other colleagues at the beginning of the year, Gore explored new studies - published only last week - that show methane and black carbon or soot had a far greater impact on global warming than previously thought. Carbon dioxide - while the focus of the politics of climate change - produces around 40% of the actual warming.
Gore acknowledged to Newsweek that the findings could complicate efforts to build a political consensus around the need to limit carbon emissions. "Over the years I have been among those who focused most of all on CO2, and I think that's still justified," he told the magazine.
" [Bolding added]

The consequences of this admission by Al Gore are not insignificant, especially in the context of the hysterical levels of this debate to date. Whatever your views are on the state of the climate science, the Arch High Priest of Anthropogenic Global Warming Alarmism is now telling us that CO2 only contributes 40% towards the projected global warming. 60% of this "problem" lies elsewhere. This admission only comes on the eve of the grand multi nation climate conference in Copenhagen, to agree to put severe restrictions on the economic productivity of the world's industrial economies, by asking them to cut back on CO2 emissions to save the world from CO2's projected bad effects in warming the planet.

But those effects are now 60% less than we were previously led to believe. We've been misled.

Al Gore's revelation means the IPCC's global temperature projections, which assume a much higher contribition from CO2 to this problem in their models, are a crock.

Can all CO2 emission reduction targets now be reduced by 60%, or is it only half?

Cancel Copenhagen!

Forget CO2. Methane and soot are now the number one enemies of planet Earth.

So, a global change of strategy is now called for folks:

1. Eat charcoal (even feed it to livestock; to absorb flatulence); and

2. Reduce your soot footprint (no more blacking your face for variety shows).

03 November 2009

Horse race politics is now a losing bet

It's Melbourne Cup day in Australia: a day full of strained horse racing metaphors, lots of forced jollity, and much illusion about chance; hence the superficial inspiration for my segue to:

The interesting, refreshing and credible view now developing that "horse race" style politics is currently (if temporarily) on the outer in the big democratic conversation in the US. The argument runs along these lines:

The triumph for grass roots democracy seen in the presidential election of Obama last year, cuts both ways: to big central planning idealists like Obama, but also to small government idealists like Ron Paul.

This means that the previously dominant gamers and tacticians in politics (Karl Rove, Josh Lyman, Bill Clinton), who downplay substance and the ideas of candidates and who look primarily to the sport of political contests (the horse race metaphor), are now less important than they have been for ages.

Triangulating, seeking the middle ground between poles, which was the hall mark of Clintonian politics, is a process beloved of journalists and the media who seek to commentate on political contests without openly engaging with the merits of the ideas being fought over.

Obama's win was a win for a politician of ideas, however goofy (hope'n change anyone?). Grass roots conservative citizens have seen now that idea politicians can win. This has defused the logic and power of the once powerful political tacticians in the GOP, who would advocate non-confrontational moderates in contestable seats, because winning the idea debate wasn't the point, winning was the point.

But in the current atmosphere in the US citizens want a debate about the ideas. The question seems to be: is more Government the answer? Enough electors are seeking authenticity from their representatives on this issue, that candidates who vacillate and triangulate and whose positions on such issues are suspected of being merely convenient, are losing. Hilary might even be characterised as having lost the Democratic presidential primary race for being identified as the smarter politician, but lacking authenticity.

The message of the current race for the New York House race for congressional district New York 23 seems to be the same. The old back room political wisdom that you need to find a compromise candidate who won't scare the horses if you are to win tight contests, is losing ground. Dede Scozzafava was a moderate Republican with a public profile as a former mayor of a town in the district. She was the "safe" moderate candidate for a New York district. Doug Hoffman was a boring accountant who nominated for the same vacant GOP seat, but was overlooked by the party grandees (there was no primary for procedural reasons) who nominated Scozzafava.

Apparently Glenn Beck on Fox TV and Rush Limbaugh on syndicated radio didn't think much of Scozzafava due to her "liberal" voting record, so they and other right of centre commentators publicly got behind the fiscally conservative climate sceptic, Hoffman. And what's happened so far?

Hoffman jumped out to a big lead in the polls early, with the Democrat, a Pelosi loyalist named Bill Owens, in second place with Scozzafava third. Next the GOP tacticians went to work on Scozzafava to prevent the conservative vote being spilt to let Owens through the middle. Over the weekend she did the seemingly honourable thing, and stood aside (that was big news), but then dropped an even bigger bombshell, she endorsed Owens, the Democrat. The GOP is not impressed. Boehner and Gingrich had put considerable weight behind her candidacy for the GOP and political donations of over $1 million had been put into her GOP campaign for the seat. She has thrown egg in their faces.

Now the question is, can a non-GOP "small government" candidate beat a Democrat on Tuesday in a New York State congressional district? The late polling suggests Hoffman has the "mo" to win.

This would be a serious blow to the O's political cred. If the current governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey also go to against the Democrat's (and even if they split), then the O's honeymoon is not just over, he could visibly be in the doghouse. This could permanently cripple his government run healthcare agenda and the carbon cap and trade legislation (Waxman Markey) would be doomed.

What it means for the GOP is even more interesting. The conventional wisdom in the press has been conspicuously wrong or confused on this to date. The press is a natural supporter of the horse race school of political commentary, which is a losing horse at the moment. They will interpret (spin) this development as a set back for the GOP, because it looks like the GOP is fragmenting. But the bigger picture is that there appears to be a real coalescing of conservative voter support for small government idealists. If the GOP can appropriately adapt to this by recognising the clear signals being given from voters, it could march back in spades in the mid-terms in 2010, and give Obama a real contest in 2012.

There are some minor echoes and repercussions for this in Australian politics (can Malcolm, the tactician, survive?), but the real casualty in the short term could be the Copenhagen Climate Conference in early December. If Nobel laureate Obama is now losing his political clout, then there is less likelihood that he would be prepared to risk what's left with a strong endorsement for really painful carbon reduction commitments in any accord coming out of Copenhagen. There are plenty of hints that the only real chance for meaningful commitments at Copenhagen would be if Obama appeared there in force, actively arm twisting other nations to accept steep carbon emmission reductions.

Is that likely?


GOP has easily won the Virginia and New Jersey governor's races.

DEMs narrowly win the notionally conservative NY 23 rd congressional district, with the "moderate" GOP candidate (Deidre Scozzafava) finishing third after quitting the campaign and endorsing the DEM candidate over an independent conservative candidate, who finished a close second.

The lessons here seem to be:

For the DEMs: Obama's support can't save marginal Democrat candidates.

For the GOP: Conservative voters won't vote for non-conservative GOP candidates.

For Copenhagen Climate Conference: Obama unlikley to be able to deliver on US committments to deep carbon cuts.


13 October 2009

"Fredy Neptune - a novel in verse" by Les Murray

Below is my review of Les Murray's novel in verse, Fredy Neptune. I finally finished it last night and have been captured by its spell of poetic mastery. I reckon its a candidate for "the" Australian novel. There might be some resistance to that because it is not written in prose. But who said a novel could not be a poem?

Fredy Neptune: A novel in verse

By Les Murray.

This novel was first released in 1999. It is arguably a candidate for “the” Australian novel. It is in verse. That is, it is written in eight line stanzas with a semi-rigorous metrical beat. Do not be daunted. You quickly forget that you are reading verse, and it is more than worth any little initial effort. The compression and lyricism that the poetic form allows, provides a loadstone in which Murray lavishly embeds polished gemstones of insight and he creates a word music that mere prose would labour too hard to emulate. It makes for a spectacularly rich and multi-faceted yarn, filled with action and drama a plenty, a driving narrative and humanistic and spiritual reckoning.

Fredy Neptune is the circus name given to Friedrich Boettcher, a German/Australian child of the rural back blocks, who travels the twentieth century world as a farm labourer, sailor, circus performer, film extra, Zeppelin crewman, fisherman and confidant of the famous and the forgotten. Fredy is infused with much of the flavour of Les Murray’s own life. But here he is nothing less than an Odysseus, an Aussie Homer Simpson like everyman, with superhuman strength and a Forest Gump like bent for bumping into history. His is a rough journey. He gets marooned in foreign lands unable to return home to wife and family, battling a hostile and implacable universe of forces beyond comprehension, indifferent to all caught in its sweep. We traverse the Great War, the Depression and the Second War; via Constantinople, Jerusalem, Paris, Switzerland, Hollywood, Hitler’s Germany, Soviet Russia, Shanghai, Egypt, Japanese occupied New Guinea, Queensland, Sydney, Newcastle and Dungog; befriending and alienating a large cast including Marlene Dietrich, Lawrence of Arabia, Chaim Wiezman, Basil Thoroblood and a mentally handicapped German boy Fred smuggles out of Germany and brings back to the Hunter to protect him from Aryan cleansing.

In metaphor, and in the telling, Freddy is confronted by some of the twentieth century’s worst moral atrocities, loses all feeling as a consequence and then struggles to find a way back to emotional and physical wholeness. He heals himself only when he realizes he needs to forgive the victims: Jews, the disabled, women, Aborigines. Only once he finds that he has forgiven them for the responsibility that he, as a non-victim, feels for their plight, can he “pray again with a whole heart”.

But this book is not turgid, stuck up or intellectualised. It is a tale that is, above all, Australian. Its idioms, its pre-occupations, its world view could only have been conjured by an Australian with a love for story telling and a poetic genius of Les Murray’s gifts. Read this Australian Ulysses without being intimidated. The great Dublin novel by the incomparable Joyce remains without peer, but this Australian homage to Homer’s epic poem, is also delight to read, especially to an Australian ear.


08 October 2009

Cambridge: Political correctness is insane

I was going to post on the delightful news, via Garth Godsman, after a lengthy and curious embargo by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, that another dead specimen of the "extinct" Australian Night Parrot, has been found in Queensland . This is great news for ornithologists and Monty Python fans. It is also a refreshing change to have some developing news from the natural history world that is not yet another tale of environmental woe or human devastation (excepting that this night parrot was found decapitated by fencing wire).

There's been another piece of apparently good news that recently almost broke. It seems that based on satellite data this summer's Antarctic summer ice melt was at an all time recorded low. Presumably this means that waterfront property will continue to hold its value and Governments will now not have to spend taxpayer funds on the engineering works necessary to hold back the tides. This good news for mankind seems further enhanced by a developing understanding in scientific communities that the scary data the IPCC relied on for its frightening "hockey stick" projections for global temperatures in its 4th Assessment report, looks to have been flawed. This suggests that, if we do in fact have a global climate change problem, we could at least now have some time to solve it without going broke.

But amongst this good news is some more truly awful news from the UK today, via Drudge: the Cambridge University Union has just cancelled its scheduled debate on political correctness at which the radio jock Michael Savage was going to participate in via video link from the US.

I posted in May this year about my disgust with Her Majesty's Government that they saw fit to ban a radio jock in the US from entering the UK because they don't like what he can freely say on the airwaves in the US. I've never heard the guy speak so I can't comment on whether I agree with him or like him. That is beside the point. It does seem pretty clear that the Home Office is not accusing him of recruiting terrorists or inciting the violent overthrow of their government or any government. It looks like they simply think he is a right wing redneck loud mouth who doesn't like gays or liberals and says so to a large radio audience in the US. And they somehow think that justifies banning him from the UK. Where is this coming from and going to, I ask you?

I was subsequently heartened by the good news that the Cambridge University Union had invited him to participate in one of its prestigious public debates. He was to speak against the motion that "This House believes Political Correctness is sane and necessary" . Here is what the CUU said in its invitation to Mr Savage dated July 2.:

“ ... The Cambridge Union has been following you with great interest in recent weeks ... The decision to ban you has caused quite a stir and we are keen to know how your situation progresses ... "

Well not anymore. Here's what the CUU said in withdrawing its invitation by email on 7 October:

" ... It is with great regret to inform you of the difficult decision we have taken to cancel the event... We have reconsulted with our counsel, and been informed that there are numerous legal issues with Dr Savage speaking here, ... and so because of all of the technical, financial and legal problems involved, we have come to the reluctant conclusion that the event cannot proceed. ... "

Did you notice those chilling words "... reconsulted with our counsel". So it seems that CUU had initially consulted with counsel, presumably before it sent the invitation, but decided to consult with counsel again after its invitation was accepted (why would they do that?), and counsel then changed their counsel.

Just to spell it out for those who persist in believing that the good intentions of legislators and bureaucrats are enough to protect people from the pernicious evil of widely drafted, selectively enforced, politically correct laws; this is yet another travesty of justice.

The thing speaks for itself, but I will take the liberty to speak for it here nonetheless, lest this event not speak clearly enough to some.

A citizen of the US who had been banned from entering the UK, by its Home Secretary, for speech in the US that was legal in the US, is asked to participate by video link from the US in a public debate at Cambridge University in the UK on Political Correctness. The University subsequently withdraws the invitation because it receives legal advice that having that person participate in the debate in the UK will cause legal problems for the University.

The good news for Cambridge University is that it now doesn't have to go to the expense and bother of having a debate on whether Political Correctness is sane and necessary. The very fact that the University has chosen the timourous course, by acceding to the latest version of the vacillating advice of its counsel that it now not allow this previously invited person to speak at the University via video link on this issue, wins the case all by itself for the side arguing that:

"This House believes Political Correctness is insane and unnecessary".

The bad news for British citizens is that there is now no debate on whether Political Correctness in the UK is at insane levels.

Britain is now pretty much a totalitarian state. After 12 years of Labour government its citizens may no longer hear words spoken by people the Labour government doesn't like or agree with.

Fortunately this totalitarian Labour government can now be removed at the ballot box. Democracy is an escape valve against perpetual tyranny. It not however a safeguard against the tryanny of the elected, if the elected do not see themselves as having a responsibilty to protect freedom, between elections. Freedom is a higher order ideal than democracy. Democracy is just the least worst process we have found for keeping in check the necessary evil of government authority.

01 October 2009

Earthquake tsunami floods explosion

Amidst the current surge of disasters in our region with tsunami in Samoa, quakes in Sumatra and floods in the Philippines, which provide more incontrovertible signs of the impending and inevitable Anthropogenic Continental Drift catastrophe, there is some good news for the Federal Labor Government.

This disaster deluge has provided the cover necessary to release the long awaited results of the NT Police investigation into the deaths of five asylum seekers in April 2009. You remember this don't you? The media was playing out its carefully crafted narrative that these desperate boat people were all tragic victims of turmoil in far away places who required our sympathy and support not hostility and rejection. The increase in their numbers arriving here was not due to a perceived softening in the Government's stance, but to heightened troubles in the world.

And then there was an explosion on a Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel. It burnt to the waterline killing five refugees and injuring twelve, whilst under tow by the Royal Australian Navy. The early indications then were that it was self destructive act of sabotage by the asylum seekers. But before this narrative busting fact could take hold whilst fresh and new, the Federal government went into overdrive to declare that the full circumstances were too complex to determine. A full enquiry by the NT Police was to occur and they, the Labor Government, would have nothing to say until the NT police reported.

Well here we are five months later on 1 October and the Police report is in:

"A BOAT that exploded killing five suspected asylum seekers and seriously injuring dozens more off the Territory coast was deliberately doused in petrol and set alight. Northern Territory Police - who headed the investigation into the blast - have revealed on completion of their investigation into the fatal blast that the explosion was a result of sabotage."

So the early indications were right all along. The press didn't need to be muzzled after all. Is the Government going to comment now? Or will they be "cautious" about rushing to judgement again and await the outcome of coronial inquiry. The SMH report:

"The Northern Territory coroner, Greg Cavanagh, will hold an inquiry into the explosion early next year. "

So if the inquiry starts next year it could be even be able to publish its findings as soon as 2011. We can all wait 'til then I guess. Meanwhile.

17 September 2009

Peter, Paul and Mary, no more.

Mary Travers has died.

Peter, Paul and Mary's songs were the songs of my childhood. It is melodies from pre-adolescence that live deepest in your heart; not the songs others would define you by from confused adolescence, yearning for cool. These songs transcend such callow transience.

Here she is singing "5oo Miles" and "If I had a Hammer".

A voice of beauty about justice and freedom.


16 September 2009

ABC TV votes Conservative. Who knew?

Jonathan Holmes, of the ABC's Media Watch programme, was, as usual, fulfilling his institutionally self-assigned duty of holding the Opposition to account the other evening. He was gratuitously, but unsurprisingly, openly sticking the boot into a carefully chosen target, the former Coalition Government's Treasurer, because he had had the temerity to be critical of a public broadcaster for using its taxpayer funded media resources to favour a political party. In the process Holmes drew our attention to a piece of research recently published by some Australian National University academics.

Holmes crowed jubilantly, at the Coalition's expense, from his taxpayer funded ABC TV soapbox, and without a hint of irony, that, contrary to Mr Costello's suggestion, research showed that ABC TV did show a political bias in the research period: towards the Coalition. So stick that in your pipe and smoke it you Coalition whingers.

Just why would ABC TV choose to broadcast this? As Holmes himself seems to concede, perhaps it's because it is news. "News" that is, in the sense that such a claim is indeed completely "new". No-one has ever seriously suggested this before. And who is there out there, without an axe to grind like Holmes, that actually believes this claim?

Sure many of us continue to watch ABC TV's current affairs programmes notwithstanding its seemingly open pro-Labor slant, but we don't pretend for a moment that it is not left-wing biased. We make allowances for this bias because we quite are fond of Aunty from habit. It occasionally can be quite exasperating, but we can turn it off or switch channels. To a limited extent some of this bias is forgivable, if only because it is an almost inevitable function of the fact that those with the job security of a taxpayer funded job at the ABC, will naturally tilt their political allegiances (even if unconsciously) towards entities that they perceive are more likely to protect their own state funded economic security. As a consequence there is only one known employee of the ABC who is voluntarily out of the closet as a Liberal supporter, and everyone in the ABC seems to know who he is (some radio jock in Perth), because he is so unusual there.

But for ABC TV to openly disseminate that it has a pro Coalition bias, even whilst it is simultaneously bashing the Coalition, does seem a bit much, even for such brazen leftist provocateurs as Media Watch hosts. What new levels of political distortion does this suggest ABC TV might now be prepared to go to ? For such a manifestly ludicrous assertion to be given currency at the taxpayers' expense, both by a university and on a public broadcaster, undermines one's faith in such institutions. Could this be an elaborate hoax? It is doubly bizarre that it was revealed whilst the broadcaster was in the very act of doing what we all see it doing every day, sticking it to the Coalition in Opposition with its customary glee. It's also very amusing (if a bit disturbing) that the ABC can be quite so self unaware.

Are we now, as a consequence, going to see even more ABC TV political hacks exploit the well trodden ABC path to political power in the ALP, following the likes of ABC TV's former stars, Maxine McHugh and Allan Carpenter? This is only to be done of course in order to offset the blatant ABC TV pro Coalition bias. Are we going to see Tony Jones pitch even more gentle softball questions to Government Ministers like Penny Wong about the economic effects of her carbon trading scheme? Is he now going to treat Tony Abbott with even greater disrespect and with even more hostility than at present? Will Kerry O'Brien actually feel he has to get even nastier on air towards Malcolm Turnbull than he is already? Are they all now going to give Commissar Julia, the Minister for Everything, even more servile deference than they have displayed to date? Will Kerry perhaps now feel even more emboldened to admit electoral swings towards the ABC on election night? All this of course to provide the holy statutory "balance" necessary to offset the brazen pro-Coalition bias that ABC TV apparently carries.

Let's have a quick look at the methodology in play here. Not of ABC TV, we do that nearly every night. I mean of the academic "research". Here's the website of Andrew Leigh, the guy who, with Joshua Gans, recently published the paper: "How Partisan is the Press? Multiple Measures of Media Slant".

How did Messrs Leigh and Gans arrive at their conclusion? Here's their criteria:

"A good measure of media slant ought to reflect the ideological affinity between a particular outlet and one side of politics. In effect, such a measure plots media outlets onto a political spectrum, allowing us to answer questions like: "if this newspaper were a politician, how would it vote ? " (page 2)

That seems pretty clear. But how do they do this?

"To estimate the political position of each media outlet, we simply estimate a weighted OLS regression, in which the dependent variable P is the share of Coalition mentions * by a given public intellectual i in media outlet j in time period t, and the independent variable is a vector of indicator variables of each media outlet:

Pijt = ZIjt
... " (page 9)

Mmm. I'm sure glad their estimate of the weighted OLS regression is simple.

And what conclusion did they arrive at using this sophisticated academic model:

"Only one of the 27 outlets we study (the ABC Channel 2 television station**) is significantly distinguishable from the centre position. These results are robust to various specifications. We also find that there has been no systemic evolution in slant over time. ... " (page 4)

I think this means that their finding of a pro-Coalition slant at ABC TV is not a just temporary state, but has been pretty much a permanent condition.

This sure brings to mind that all too frequently recalled saying about statistics and damned statistics.

You also have to ask yourself how academics can continue to expect to be ceded credibility by the public when they publicise such findings outside academia. The only thing it really seems to prove is that an academic with a grant can demonstrate almost anything. Either that, or that the finding itself demonstrates conclusively that they stuffed up their methodology. What next an ANU computer model showing conclusively that membership of a trade union correlates with a vote for the National Party***?

The ABC would be as well to be little more coy about promoting this finding. It could generate even more derision at the ABC's expense than it receives already and in a lot more places than just the Liberal Party HQ.

* Mentions ? Could this be the explanation for their counter-intuitive finding. They count ABC TV mentions of the Coalition as being pro Coalition.? ABC TV has no compuction about bagging the Coalition out all the time. So Mr Holmes' reference to Mr Costello on Media Watch would thereby count towards ABC TV's pro Coalition slant. Are these academics this stupid or just partisanly dishonest leftists themselves?
** You'd ordinarily reckon academics doing research into the media in Australia would at least know that this is not how the ABC describes this component of its operations, but then you look at what these blokes say they found, and you know they live in a different universe to the rest of us.
*** By counting membership of a commodities co-operative as if it were a trade union.

24 August 2009

The Oval's dust turns to ashes...

A glorious spell of seam bowling on a rain affected pitch by English all-rounder Stuart Broad that cleaned up the cream of the Australian batting on the second day of the fifth test at the Oval, has won the match and the Ashes series for England 2-1.

Over night the improbable rearguard second innings fightback by Ponting's team petered out when a couple of incomprehensible run outs in the middle order took the heart out of the Australian batting again.

Australian men expect of each other that we resolutely stand by our unspoken code that none of us should ever publicly concede to an opponent that they have succeeded in efforts to inflict pain on us.

So here's the best I can muster in the circumstances: Well done England. Well done Andrew Strauss. A great series. You only won narrowly you Pommy bastards. We'll be back.

18 August 2009

How does it feel?

Shouldn't Barack, Bob and that boy in blue now be sharing a bong in the White House?

You know, to give us all a "teachable moment" in peaceful coexistence ?

Lid dip: The Huffington Post

16 August 2009

Anthropogenic tectonic plate shift alert

Outcomes from computer modelling of continental drift by scientists working for internationally accredited organisations have recently revealed yet another imminent threat to the world we live in from industrialised society: Anthropogenic Continental Drift .

It is now plain that the millions of drill holes oil & gas and mining corporations have sunk into the Earth's crust to search for or exploit fossil fuels, minerals and metals over recent centuries, have now accumulated to such an extent that they seriously imperil the delicate balance of the Earth's tectonic plates by undermining their geological stabilty.

The consequences of this folly could be devastating: earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, sea level rises, civil disorder, community dislocation, habitat destruction, property damage and loss of confidence in government.

We must do something. Now. If we sit back and do nothing about this we, and our children and our children's children, are doomed . The rate of drift will inevitably accelerate bringing untold catastrophe ever closer with every new hole that's drilled into the Earth's crust. The reckless pursuit of wealth by capitalists in the West who continue to seek to mine our planet's natural resources for their own enrichment, is undermining our very existence.

We need a United Nations resolution calling for a moratorium on all drilling in Western nations now. To settle for anything less would be a moral travesty of the highest order.

Lid dip: The People's Cube.

Labor changes its mind on election... again

Its been harder than usual recently to keep up with what Kevin wants us all to think.

Kevin's usually reliable communication conduit to his people, political correspondents at Fairfax, have been sending out quite conflicting messages from one day (hour?) to the next the last few days.

After the Labor Government's "Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme" bill (a scheme formerly known as an "emissions trading scheme") was defeated in the Senate on Thursday 13 August, when all the Coalition, Green and independent senators combined to vote against it, there was a real whiff of politics in the air. A major piece of Government legislation had been defeated. The main issues appeared to be:

  • If the same bill is presented to the Senate again and rejected again after 3 months (ie after mid-November 09) then that would then give the Government grounds to call a double dissolution election.

  • The CPRS bill also had tacked onto it a piece of renewable energies targeting and incentives legislation that all sides of politics support, but which sank with the bill.

Here's what Fairfax have published on this so far this weekend:

FRIDAY, 14 August:

Kate Hannon: "Govt refuses to 'split' climate bills" ...

"Labor has rebuffed calls from opposition parties and industry to allow a separate vote on renewable energy targets (RET) in parliament next week. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Friday said he did not have the "slightest intention" of calling an early election but wanted the emissions trading scheme (ETS), with the RET included, dealt with later this year... ... despite speculation the government was considering re-introducing the RET section of the bills next week, Mr Rudd and the office of Climate Change Minister Penny Wong poured cold water on the idea, saying they intended to take all 11 bills back to the Senate in November." [emphasis added]

AAP: "Rudd denies he's considering early poll" ...

"... Kevin Rudd has emphatically denied he is considering an early election. "I have not the slightest intention of going to an early poll," he told Fairfax radio on Friday. Mr Rudd rejected as "absolutely" untrue suggestions the government was playing politics with its emissions trading scheme - rejected by the Senate on Thursday - by using it to force a double dissolution and an early election.." [emphasis added]

Phil Coorey: "Time bomb for Turnbull" ...

"The waiting game will force the Government to drop its tactic of linking the bill to legislation mandating that 20 per cent of electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2020. The Government had linked the two to try to get the emissions trading scheme through. The tactic created uncertainty and anxiety in the renewable energy sector, and pressure is now growing for the renewable energy bill to be separated and passed next week. A Government source said this was likely, as the threat of a double dissolution now existed. ''We need to get this scheme up, and we need the threat to get that.'' [emphasis added]

Things must have changed overnight, because here's what Fairfax were telling us the next day (possible after reading a contradictory story in a competing News Ltd paper?) :

SATURDAY 15 August:

AAP " Rudd to call Turnbull's bluff on ETS" ...

"Mr Rudd is expected to agree on Sunday to a demand that he split the legislation package into two separate bills, News Limited reports. The legislation will be split into one bill which forces energy intensive industries to meet renewable energy targets and the other that will set the ETS into action. "... [emphasis added]

How to make sense of all this? One day Fairfax report the PM saying that it was "absolutely untrue suggestions that the Government was playing politics" with its ETS, and yet here they were the very next day reporting in the above article that:

"Mr Rudd's move is reportedly an attempt to embarrass the coalition into passing in full the government's climate change legislation which is blocked in the Senate."

And then on

SUNDAY 16 August:

Josh Gordon in the Sun-Herald reports:

" Labor's election warning": ...

..."With an early election still a possibility, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's chief of staff, Alister Jordan, yesterday summoned 30 ministerial chiefs of staff to Parliament House for a secret election planning meeting... It is believed Labor is now moving into a new, more aggressive phase in preparing for the next election, with an early poll still a possibility. Labor also wants to exert maximum pressure on Mr Turnbull after his refusal to support the Government's emissions trading legislation"... [emphasis added]

But then at 10.40 am on Sunday the SMH website reports:

APP "No interest in early election: Gillard"

"The federal government is not interested in going to an early election, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard says..." [emphasis added]

Am I the only one getting mixed messages from Fairfax about my Government's intentions here?

  • The Government is/isn't looking for a double dissolution ?
  • The Government will/won't split the CPRS Bill ?

There could even be an opportunity for a decent journalist to write a story about how the Government is looking indecisive and divided on how to approach these two issues. There would of course be the risk to Fairfax that it could jeopardise its peerless ability to get the inside line on what the government is thinking. But then again, that hasn't been all that helpful this time. After all News Limited appear to have scooped Fairfax on at least one of the government's backflips on this over the weekend.

And could this also be starting to look a bit like Gordon Brown in the UK last year when he flew an election kite for a while before reeling it in when he lost his nerve. I'm not sure that worked out real well for him.

There does appear to be an opportunity to hold the Government to account here for spooking the horses. Isn't that's what serious journalists are supposed to do? (hold governments to account that is; not spook horses.)

Post Script:

Even if the government gets its double dissolution trigger in mid November, how can this give it enough time to realsitically call an election before Christmas? Even a very short 4 week campaign would see the election in the week before Christmas. The conventional wisdom is that if you call an election too close to Christmas the electorate punishes you. So electoral punishment would seem inevitable if they use this bill as the trigger for an election this year.

I reckon the earliest we can expect a Federal election is March 2010.

15 August 2009

The Poms blink.

This is a minor update and premature gloat on developments in the current Ashes series in England.

The Third Test was a pretty tame draw, due mostly to English wet weather (which doesn't seem to have changed all that much afterall). Michael Clarke did score a classy second innings century to make the game safe for Australia, but it will otherwise be a forgotten match.

The Fourth Test at Headingly in Yorkshire resulted in Australia inflicting a crushing innings defeat on England. There have been two main reactions from the English:

Firstly, the fickle and superficial British press have suddenly and savagely turned on their own. Their batsmen are now apparently too fragile for Test cricket and their bowlers inept under pressure. Yeah, I know, it's a return to situation normal for the English press, and we are reminded yet again that they know not the meaning of steadfastness, nor dignity under fire; but how quick was that?

Secondly, there is the betrayed hero: Freddy Flintoff. This story line has been trotted out to salve wounded pride and sell pommy papers. It seems England also lost because their limping and now retiring champion, Lancashire allrounder Flintoff, was not selected for the match, even though he had told his captain and manager that he could play. Oh please! How can anyone seriously buy this bill of goods after all the blather about him carrying his injury wracked body beyond human limits in the previous Tests? This truly is a sentimental pommy whinge on a grand scale.

Finally, there is now the delicious prospect next week of the Fifth Test at the Oval in London, with the teams at one match a piece. But there is a minor issue niggling away at me in the lead up to this match: the likelihood of the rough treatment that the Australian selectors are to mete out to Stuart Clark, the Trojan seam bowler who played such an instrumental role in breaking through the English batting in his return from injury in the Fourth Test. Amazingly it seems the selectors seem likely to leave him out of the Fifth Test, because they reckon Johnson, Siddle and Hilfenhaus are better credentialled as fast bowlers, and that they need their sole spinner, Hauritz to take the fourth bowler slot.

Selectors aren't doing their job if they can't make tough choices when picking Australian Test teams. But this isn't even all that tough. Neither Johnson nor Siddle are well suited to these seaming English pitches and both of them have struggled for extended periods in the first four Tests. Just drop one of them for Clark. His record against England speaks for itself and any decent judge of the game will tell you he is in the ideal Terry Alderman/Mike Hendrich "line and length" mould for English conditions. Dear God if Mitchell Johnson's sensitive ego is too fragile to deal with the disappointment of being dropped, then just dump Siddle, who seems to be a robust and resilient enough character to take such a minor setback in his stride.

Australia's bowling attack would then consist of two "hit the deck" speedsters: Johnson and Watson, two canny seamers: Clark and Hilfenhuas, and the finger spin of Hauritz with occasional back up from Michael Clarke and Kattich. Not that shabby.

Roll on Thursday night.

21 July 2009

Armchair umpires and perfidious Albion

Australia lost 20 wickets and the second Test at Lords in North London earlier this week. They had previously narrowly failed to get the 20 wickets they needed for victory in the first Test at Cardiff, when England ran out the clock on them.

The Ashes are a wonderful full bottle contest between two nations battling for sporting supremacy in a long fought over tradition of rivalry. For most Australian males this is the pinnacle of the game. And we care. Deeply. It hurts to lose.

It's a pity however that the people who run the game of cricket don't have a similar feeling for the importance of this contest. Australia had to be bowled out twice for England to win this game. And they were. 20 Australian wickets fell and England won by a little over 100 runs.

But....at least 4 of the Australian batsmen who the officials ruled out in this match, have been shown by television replays to have been wrongfully given out. That's the rub of the green and it happens in most matches, one way or another, but there is an edge to it this time.

During the first innings of this match an English batsmen was given the benefit of the doubt on a catch when referred to a TV replay, and the Australian captain was abused by the English press for questioning a referral system that doubted the word of a fielder that a catch had carried to him. That's what sporting captains have to expect I'm afraid. But the spectacular hypocrisy of the English press when, in the second innings, an Australian opener had a dubious catch to the English captain ruled out, with no referral to the TV umpire, cannot pass with the same sang froid. If it's OK for Australian Nathan Hauritz's word about whether a catch carried to be ignored and referred to the TV umpire in the first innings, then, it's OK for Englishman Strauss to have his word challenged on the same issue in the second. For Rudi Koetzen and Billy Doctrove, the two on field umpires, not to refer that second innings decision on Hughes and Strauss to the TV umpire is amazing, after what was said about the Hauritz incident in the first innings. Let's be clear about this. The patronising English media gave Ponting a right bollocking for daring to suggest that an Australian fielder's word should be honoured about whether a catch had carried. But this same ridicule doesn't apply to an English fielder (even if he is an imported South African).

We've now seen the TV replay It's clear that, whatever the English captain might have believed at the time, he did not catch Philip Hughes' snick. The ball clearly hit the grass first. Hughes was not out. And this is what makes the other wrong decisions of the umpires in this game so much more galling. Katich was given out off a Flintoff no-ball. Hussey missed the ball completely but was given out caught at slip to Swann. And Ponting's alleged catching dismissal in the first innings was a travesty. It was referred to the TV umpire, who clearly saw that Ponting had not hit the ball as it had only deflected off his pads. But, even though the laws of cricket expressly require a TV umpire to inform the on field umpires if a batsman has not hit the ball, the TV umpire failed to tell the on-field umpires of this salient fact.

The TV umpire's stated reason for this manifest failing was that he thought he was not entitled to tell the on-field umpires anything other than whether the ball had carried to the fielder. This error has occurred at the very highest levels of international cricket by a paid professional whose sole job it is to rule on such referrals. And he still managed to get this one rule 180 degrees wrong!

Darryl Hair was sacked as an umpire for enforcing the laws of cricket over chucking and ball tampering. The umpiring buffoon in this match who doesn't even know one of the tiny handful rules he is required to rule on, will continue to get paid.

And as any Australian male will tell you, the irony is that come October 2009, after the current Ashes series, international cricket will adopt the successful experiment of Tennis in allowing a team a couple of uncontested successful TV replay challenges to umpire's verdicts. That clearly would have been useful in 4 of Australia's 20 dismissals in this game.

There are still 3 matches to be played in this series. Watch out England. Australia feel justificably aggreived by England's boorish triumphalism over this minor victory. The umpires cannot continue to give appalling verdicts to only one team. England will be crushed now. Only the English climate can save them, and we keep being told by the BBC that that is changing.

13 July 2009

Rugby bureaucrats, Stalin's spawn?

In recent weeks two larger than life Rugby players have experienced the tyranny of justice in a universe even more capricious and hostile than their sport: the world of sports officialdom.

First Bakkies Botha, the great and brutal Springbok second-rower, got a raw deal from some small minded and ignorant Rugby officials. They banned him for a couple of matches over an incident that any disinterested rugby fan will tell you happens at nearly every ruck in every game of rugby: the clean out. The Springboks protested this dumb decision by each Springbok player wearing an armband saying "JUSTICE 4 Bakkies" at the following Test match against the British & Irish Lions in Jo'berg. And now the Springboks themselves have been cited by the International Rugby Board for "bringing the game into disrepute" and breaching the "IRB Code of Conduct" by questioning the disciplinary rulings of IRB sanctioned bodies. From little stupidities, big stupidities grow.

Then there's Lote Tuquiri, the ex-Rugby League Kangaroo and now ex-Rugby Union Wallaby winger. He didn't even get a game in a Wallabies guernsey this season, but the Australian Rugby Union still found cause to terminate his contract. And the ARU aren't even prepared to tell us what he did to warrant such drastic action. Lote has now sued the ARU for wrongful termination of contract. The lawyers will now slug it out. Rugby will be the poorer and lawyers the richer.

What's going on here?

Firstly the most recent controversy about that hoary old Bok warhorse, Bakkies Botha. Checkout what he did in the second half of the second Test between the Springboks and the B & I Lions in Pretoria.

Bakkies can be seen here entering a ruck "through the gate" (i.e. legally) and cleaning out Welsh prop Adam Jones with his shoulder. The live commentator doesn't even remark on this unremarkable incident, nor on the next collision at the ruck by a Lions forward bashing into Bakkies from the side (illegally).

After the ruck gets pulled up for some now forgotten infringement, Jones has to leave the field, where it is found later that he has a broken shoulder. After the game finishes Bakkies gets cited for the incident by an off-field match official .

Now what Bakkies is seen to do here is what happens at nearly every ruck in every game of rugby. One has to assume that Bakkies was cited because Jones was injured by the force of Bakkies' shoulder hitting Jones' shoulder. I guess the citing might be justifiable on the basis that if someone is injured then it is worth checking later that it wasn't from foul play.

The disciplinary tribunal found Bakkies guilty of foul play and banned him for 2 weeks. And its decision was upheld on appeal.

Look at the incident again. Now I'm a Wallabies supporter. I don't have any love for the Boks, and even less for Bakkies, but any tribunal reviewing this incident who can decide that what Bakkies did here deserves special punishment or treatment, over and above what the referee and assistant referees at the match had decided at the time (ie that there was nothing in it), knows nothing about rugby. I'd even relucantly be prepared to concede that you might be able to find an infringement here by Bakkies of one of the nearly fifty mostly unenforced sub-rules that govern rucks and mauls, because you can do so at every breakdown, if that is what you are seeking. That being so, it is possible that the referee got it wrong on the day and the Springboks should have been penalised for an infringment of some sort there and then, because say Bakkies "wasn't binding properly", "touched the ground with his hand" or "had his head and shoulders lower than his hips" (seriously), or some other incomprehensible ruling. But how can a tribunal ban a player for 2 weeks for such an infringement? It's not foul play. If you ban players just for committing infringements of the laws of the game, when there is no malice or foul play involved, there would be no-one left playing rugby anywhere. There are approximately 50 or 60 infringments called up by a referee every game.

Get real. Rugby is a collision sport that has highly nuanced rules to differentiate fair from unfair contact. But it is vital that the game remain an uncompromising and wholehearted contest of human physicality. That's why we love it, for all its frustrations and the stupidities of the sportsmen who play it and the idiots who commentate on and officiate in it.

The officials who run rugby bring the game into disrepute if they rule that a hard ruck collision warrants imposing a ban on a player.

I get why the Springboks are incredulous. I am incredulous.

Spiro Zavos at the Sydney Morning Herald however feels the Boks got what they deserved. But Sprio does after all work for the Sydney Morning Herald's "Chief Rugby Correspondent", Greg Growden. Growden is the rugby illiterate tabloid controversionalist who is Rugby League's secret weapon at the heart of Rugby Union in Australia. Growden determines what's said about Rugby in the main paper in Australia's largest Rugby Union playing city. And that's mostly hostile attacks on his perception of the wrong upper middle class demographics of rugby supporters in Sydney and wilfully negative controversy beat ups about people who haven't given him the access or information he wants about confidential and private matters behind the scenes in the game. It's rarely about rugby as such. Spiro, who at least is a genuine, if patchy, student of the game (unlike Growden) therefore feels it necessary from time to time to pick up Growden's anti-rugby ball and run with it. So he loudly proclaims that the Springboks were arrogant for carrying out this protest against rugby officialdom's idiocy. That'll boost circulation. Spiro then seems shocked when he get's deluged with abuse from ardent Bok supporters for his wantom attack on their team's integrity. There go yet more subscriptions to the Herald from all the ex-patriot Jarpies on Growden's much derided Sydney North Shore.

And whilst some might feel justified in seeing the Bok protest as a little adolescent, the Boks were indeed the recipients of some pretty rough justice in Bakkies' case, and they didn't seem have too many other avenues of redress open to them, except being meek. By drawing attention to such idiocies by rugby officialdom they may in fact be serving the interests of rugby, and all those who love it. Otherwise the idiot officials at the IRB might think they can go on with this self defeating behaviour of selectively banning players they don't like by treating infringments as foul play. Such actions by officials bring the game into disrepute with its own constituency. Ross Hastie at Planet Rugby is on the same page as me on this, even if Julia Harris at the same website is more inclined to just trot out the convenient and irrelevant prejudicial anti-Bok narrative, that we've all heard ad nauseam from the likes of Growden and Zavos.

Clearly there are larger "narratives" at play here, ie there are other stories that people with conflicting agendas want told even more than this story. This story of Bakkies' little injustice is inconvenient to those other stories. The other main story at the moment is Schalk Burger's eye gouge at the first ruck of the same game, along with the astonishing stupidity of the Springbok coach, Peter DeVilliers, in jumping in to defend Burger's indefensible conduct at the end of the game. These other stories reinforce the existing and familiar story lines about 'Jarpie boorishness and barbarism.

The problem here is the cross-fertilization and conflating of these separate, though related, other "narratives". Rabid British supporters wanted Burger's head on a stick for his barbaric attack on the eyes of an opponent. The press also wanted DeVilliers head for foolishly defending Burger's indefensible conduct. And the IRB wanted to protect the game from accusations of barbarity. Amazingly Burger only got 8 weeks for his blatant fully televised eye gouge! Some other dumb rugby official apparently found that Burger had not deliberately gouged the other player's eye socket. So it was found to be inadvertent. Judge for yourself. Accordingly as they didn't find this behaviour deliberate, they logically didn't ban him for ever, or for a year a two, which consistency and deterence demanded. When Bakkies got cited for the ruck incident at which Jones was injured later in the same match, he became caught up in the rising wave of dissatisfaction and rage against Burger and subsequently DeVilliers.

It seems that Bakkies ban was not based solely on an fair assessment of the incident on the field for which he was cited. This therefore cannot be seen to be justice and it is not justice. It looks like prejudice and it probably was prejudice.

And as for Lote? Well, I don't think I actually care who is right in this legal bun fight over his player contract with the ARU. That's just a lawyers' picnic and, I can tell you from experience as a lawyer, it will therefore almost inevitably be barren, un-edifying and depressing for everyone but the lawyers.

Like everyone else however, I am curious about what Lote could have done to elicit this response from John O'Neil at the ARU. The gossip around the dealing desks of Sydney on the afternoon this story broke was that Lote had been caught in bed at the team hotel with a young woman who was not his wife. But surely having sex with a sports groupie isn't a sackable offence? Dear God, we wouldn't have any professional sport at all if this was the case.

The villain here seems to be the ARU players' "code of conduct". The ARU allege Lote breached this code in some unspecified way after being on a "final warning". As usual these days layers and layers of incomprehensible regulatory bilge are bolted into the legal relationship, most of these rules are never enforced because no-one ever really runs their life by the kind of high minded wishful thinking sanctimony contained in such codes. Except that is, if the political convenience of an official suits their enforcement.

It's increasingly what happens in all walks of contemporary society. Tyranny by over-regulation. Officials simply pile on vast reams of laws, rules, regulations, standards and codes. Just in case. Just in case that is, it becomes convenient to stomp on some individual whose behaviour or mere presence has become inconvenient to officialdom.

The Rugby Players Association is understandably concerned about this capriciousness, even if you can now see the political wheels moving as the Wallaby captain has the pressure applied by his employer, the ARU, for him to back off this dispute.

Is what we are seeing here a form of tyranny? I notice elsewhere in the press today that China has shown its true colours as a totalitarian state by stepping in to imprison an executive from Rio Tinto, and, like Lote, without telling us the specific charges, for acting in his company's commercial interests against China's. As John Garnaut put it in the Age today:

"...in China, with its enormous system of laws that are seldom enforced, the specifics of Rio's iron ore dealings are only the starting point in working out how things went so horribly wrong. There is always the question: why did they choose to go after these people at this time?..."

But it seems now that it is not just totalitarian China that has capricious officials who apply formerly unenforced and incomprehensible rules at their political whim. It is so even for rugby players in Australia and South Africa who incur the random displeasure of sports officials.

Rugby is becoming a rougher sport off the field than it is on it. At least there is some honour between combatants on the field. Off it, as it is now in all walks of life, it seems a player is at the mercy of hidden political agendas of capricious officials.