Wednesday, April 02, 2014

In which the pond looks to the Governator ...

(Above: Francis Barlow's 1687 illustration for Aesop's fable about the boy who cried wolf. Greg Hunt it here).

It struck the pond with some force -  as the pond mistakenly filled in time watching the ABC to get to the double bill of Air Crash Investigations on Seven's multichannel - just how much the IPCC has lost the media war.

Yesterday was the official report of its launch, yet through leaks and a general lack of interest and talk of children shouting wolf, even the cardigan wearers showed a distinct lack of interest.

No doubt all the stories on 7.30 were worthy in their own way - collapsing decks, paranoia about Japan and whaling without anyone having meaningful to say about Japan might actually do, and footballers and spinal injury - but if you took the IPCC and what it was saying - that the entire whale habitat around the world was in peril, for example - you might wonder about the editorial priorities on view.

It was the same later in the evening on Lateline - yes the tricky buggers at Seven run the new episodes of Air Crash Investigations second, this one about human error in Venezuela on Flight 518, thereby keeping the pond up way beyond what's a sensible time for an early riser.

The pond has no idea why it doesn't defeat Seven by recording the shows on the PVR, skipping nauseating ads often featuring Shane Warne - by golly it's low rent slim pickings for FTA when it comes to multichannel advertising - but when you're in so deep, hanging around for Lateline is no worse than eating another stick of reality fairy floss or aircraft crash porn.

There was a story about Palmer trying to buy votes - fancy that, a billionaire trying to influence an election by spending big on advertising - and Troy Buswell being charged, and no further news about flight 370 for the nth day, which led the pond to think that it was about time for a co-ordinator to be appointed to co-ordinate the work of the co-ordinator - and another piece about gang tackles, and a story on Ukraine and NATO, and apparently, after the pond had tottered off to bed, talk of a trade deal with China and a South African politician copying Mugabe.

Again, all very useful and important stories no doubt, but nary a sighting, not even a ritual tugging of the forelock to the IPCC.

And then over at that other alleged haven of greenies and environmental nutters, the Fairfaxians, the tone was set by Peter Hartcher in No need for extra fear in climate change report (forced video at end of link).

Hartcher followed the standard Oz Murdochian reptile line, by opening in the best scientific fashion with a treatise about the great white shark:

In the lobby of the Sydney aquarium where the Australian launch of the UN’s latest climate change report was released on Monday is a terrifying great white shark. 
The beast measures 7.5 metres long with a razor-toothed mouth so big it could easily swallow a human whole. It looks at least as big as the fibreglass monster used in the movie Jaws. 
Thankfully, the aquarium shark is only a model. In real life, the biggest great white ever reliably measured was 6.4 metres. That’s still a whopper; the average mature specimen is four to five metres. Why make a ridiculously outsized model for an aquarium? For effect, of course, to get the paying public in. Give ‘em a good scare. 

So there you go, there's the IPCC, just dancing about and doing a Chicken Little and crying wolf and getting agitated about a whopper great white - why it's as big as the fibreglass monster in Jaws - and resolute brave little Hartcher isn't going to get agitated. No, he's going to stick his finger in the dike:

Some of the authors of part of the latest climate report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have done something similar: 
“In short, human-driven climate change poses a great threat, unprecedented in type and scale, to well-being, health and perhaps even to human survival.” 
They might be able to argue the threat to well-being and health, but human survival? A temperature rise, even at the extreme end of projections, of four to five degrees Celsius, does not plausibly threaten homo sapiens with extinction.

Now Hartcher offers no plausible reason for suggesting things might get tricky in the future. Who knows what might happen if food runs short.

He just baldly offers his opinion and seeks comfort from a couple of scientists who helpfully label the speculation as extreme, and as a form of hysteria. No doubt there were humans going around in the time of Noah saying just the same thing ...

But who knows what might happen in the future? The scientists throw in a "perhaps" to indicate it's a speculation on their part, but this cuts no mustard with Hartcher. He's determined that the wretches have exaggerated the danger, ruined the report, undercut the work of the 309 lead authors and the other 433 contributors, given politicians an easy out, and just generally behaved like a a bloody big fake shark in an aquarium.

Which gives Hartcher himself a splendid closer, worthy of an episode of Happy Days:

The world’s people need to know the science, so they can demand action from the world’s politicians. For scientists to scaremonger just gives recalcitrant politicians an easy way to laugh them off. 
There’s no good reason to jump the shark.

Or even nuke the fridge.

Now Hartcher says he's right on side with the IPCC and the dangers, but in reality, his entire piece is dedicated to the notion that we'll muddle through and things will be alright ...

He doesn't seem to realise that recalcitrant politicians have already laughed off the IPCC, and that his own piece provides them with every comfort to keep doing so ... because the takeaway message is that it's a bit like a fibreglass shark in the aquarium.

Never mind, the pond will be long dead by whatever time any truly serious shit hits the fan. Sorry future, nothing do with the pond ... waiter, bring a rather large bowl of water.

So what else?

Well today we have the splendid sight of the Caterists whipping up paranoia about deviant New Zealanders and their tricky trade ways with Asia, leaving the ANZAC alliance in tatters and bronzed Aussies flat-footed and fuming.

It's shocking stuff, but you'll have to evade the paywall to get the good oil and butter in Milk the dairy market like the Kiwis do (behind the paywall because someone has to pay for the high labour costs of the reptiles).

It turns out that it's just another Caterist chance to bash labour costs - what about the labour costs of reptiles writing silly pieces for the lizard Oz? - and regulation.

Yet when the pond talked to an offensively rich dairy farmer with a lovely two story beach shack the size of ten elephants at Xmas, he laughed at the notion of excessive labour costs, except when it came to the servicing and maintenance of his largely robotic farm. Yep, the cows amble in, hook themselves up to the machines, get milked, and amble out.

Labor costs? Go talk to the robots about that ...

Talk of generalised labour costs in this context is so much blather, but you can always rely on the Caterists for ill-informed blather. The New Zealanders sensibly targeted Asians - with a sudden desire for dairy (in the past it was said to make you smell like a gaijin) - with their image of a green and pure land with snow-capped mountains and a clean environment.

Your average reptile would laugh at that as so much greenie nonsense, but when you look at the mayhem that coal has produced in once pristine diary areas like the Hunter and Gippsland, you have to wonder what the Caterists take for their highs ...

Finally, speaking of the lizards, today they've wheeled in yet another international name to maintain the pressure on the Abbott government, this time Alan Dershowitz, with Bans on bigotry backfire (behind the paywall, because while speech should be free, it should also be expensive).

It's unexceptional stuff - the usual routines about how Jews and feminists and blacks were their own worst enemies by attempting to shut down rabid bigotry, sexism and racism, aka free speech, before ending on a standard triumphal note:

Freedom of speech isn’t free. It’s expensive, but it’s well worth the cost. Without freedom of expression, democracy is weakened. Democracy can endure the coarsening and painful effects of bigoted speech. 
It cannot survive a regime of governmental censorship.

Uh huh, but should the world, or the law stand idly by when a journalist wilfully and maliciously gets his facts wrong, and could have been done for defamation?

Yep, Dershowitz doesn't have the first clue about the matter of the Bolter, and so wisely sticks to the usual first amendment blather you can always expect from the United States, which incidentally in polite company is one of the most self-censoring countries in the world - try having a glass of wine for lunch in California, and you and your career will be written off because of your rampant alcoholism ...

But we digress, because the pond began to wonder just how generous and forgiving Dershowitz - a notorious self-seeking self-publicist, bully and blowhard - might be when matters of free speech came a little closer to home, or closer to the bone.

Cue Dershowitz v. Finkelstein, one of the wonders of the new millennium.

Now you can find plenty of general discussions of the feud - you can do a Greg Hunt and discover a wiki devoted to the Dershowitz-Finkelstein affair (which in turn links to their individual wikis)

Now the pond has no dog in that fight, but on any objective reading, Dershowitz behaved disgracefully, and in the end, Finkelstein was denied tenure at his university and eventually resigned his academic position. And Dershowitz was front and centre:

In September 2006, Alan Dershowitz sent members of DePaul University's law and political science faculties what he described as "a dossier of Norman Finkelstein's most egregious academic sins, and especially his outright lies, misquotations, and distortions that... are not incidental to Finkelstein's purported scholarship; they are Finkelstein's purported scholarship," and he lobbied professors, alumni and administrators to deny Finkelstein tenure.

Yep, they play freedom of speech hard in the United States.

Say what I don't like and I'll campaign to get you sacked. Then you can suck on your freedom of speech rights ...

It becomes particularly poignant if some of the things that Finkelstein allege about the fuss over his book are true, as outlined here in The Dershowtiz Treatment, (you can find his footnotes there):

When this writer first began to expose Dershowitz’s gross scholarly misconduct, Dershowitz piously declared that he wouldn’t respond with a libel action because he believed "so strongly in the First Amendment and full freedom of speech."
Nonetheless, in seeking to block publication of Beyond Chutzpah, he first fired off a barrage of minatory letters at the publisher, subsequently boasting that he told it "I will own your company," and recruited reputedly the most powerful law firm in the country, Cravath, Swaine and Moore, to escalate the pressure. Dershowitz then implored California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to intercede with the publisher, but Schwarzenegger refused "because of the clear, academic freedom issue it presents." Dershowitz initially denied writing Schwarzenegger, declaring that "My letter to the Governor doesn’t exist," but when pressed on the issue he explained that "It was not a letter. It was a polite note." He now maintains that he didn’t attempt suppression of the book and has "released the letters" to prove it. Those seeking to retrieve these "released" letters have had to bear Dershowitz’s crude evasions and tantrums instead. 
Ironically, just as he was threatening University of California Press with expensive and time-consuming lawsuits to prevent publication of Beyond Chutzpah, Dershowitz denounced Holocaust denier David Irving, who had sued author Deborah Lipstadt for libel, in these words: "Before Irving lost his case [against Lipstadt], several publishers had refused to issue books critical of Irving, out of fear of his bringing expensive and time-consuming lawsuits. That was a chilling of free speech."


Well you could spend hours frolicking through the fields of the dispute, which are long and arcane, and yet the bottom line is that Dershowitz campaigned for the destruction of his enemy, and succeeded in the campaign to deny Finkelstein tenure, though naturally the university denied any influence ...

It's a shabby story, but it's worthwhile keeping in mind when reading Dershowitz's work on freedom of speech for the reptiles.

As usual in all this, nobody much pauses to contemplate the power imbalance in all this.

Everybody these days is aware of the impropriety of adults misusing their power and abusing minors - it takes on a particular cogency in the case of teachers and priests, placed in positions of trust - but nobody cares much to consider the position of an individual up against a large organisation which provides shelter to bigots, who then have access to lawyers and money to protect their bigotry and dress their work up as "free speech".

Lives might be harmed, lives might be ruined, but you need deep pockets to mount a defamation action ... and the victims are often people without deep pockets.

Now the pond doesn't mind those in the public eye being taken down - the tragedy of the Obeid saga (or the Thomson matter) is that it took so long to play out, because the law grinds slowly, though in the end it does grind, and the irony is that in both cases, the threat of a defamation action was used to delay inquiries ...

Contrast that with the fate of an individual trying to get an apology and a prominent correction from a Murdoch newspaper ... when there was an acknowledged failure to garner and correctly present the facts of the matter ...

Why just getting the behemoth to acknowledge they censored a letter from Monarto might involve a trek to Media Watch.

And now the reptiles have the cheek to wheel out Alan Dershowitz to tell the citizenry down under how to behave in matters of free speech, so that their minions can roam wild and free ...

Sheesh, where's that note to the Governator ...

(Below: Mark Knight in 2009, here. Everything changes so it can stay the same, and the man who invented the intertubes down under is just as irrelevant as ever).


  1. This worth reading -

    Contrarians bully journal into retracting a climate psychology paper
    After threats of frivolous libel and defamation lawsuits, a journal will retract an academically sound paper

    Note the tactics of the denialists...

    * Funding a campaign to deny the expert climate consensus.
    * Harassing climate scientists and universities with frivolous Freedom of Information Act requests.
    * Engaging in personal, defamatory public attacks on climate scientists.
    * Flooding climate scientists with abusive emails.
    * Illegally hacking university servers and stealing their emails.
    * Illegally hacking climate science websites
    * Harassing journals to retract inconvenient research.

    1. Amazing scenes, top notch science of the Bolter kind ...

  2. "United States, which incidentally in polite company is one of the most self-censoring countries in the world..."

    An armed society is a polite society. Who you calling bigot?

  3. Your Classic Liberals, so called, rather IPA Radical Reactionary Corporatists, won't take too kindly to the IPCC designating global warming a human rights issue now will they?

    What a dork Peter Hartcher must be. The necessarily cautious and conservative IPCC has been seen on review to have consistently underestimated the rate and extent of climate change.

  4. So Downer was charging $60,000 to help Australians in overseas gaols.

    "Mr Lee, who has told Foreign Correspondent he nearly died while being kept in squalid conditions in a Dubai jail, says he was upset he was not included because he could not pay the fee.

    "We understand that was because [Mr Joyce's family] were able to make a payment to his private company and we weren't able to. We just didn't have the money to," he said.

    The "success fee" discussed with Mr Downer in return for him helping Mr Joyce has been estimated by one person close to the case to be $60,000."

    His response?

    "The premise of your question is whether you think earning money is embarrassing, which would demonstrate you don’t know anything about business, but secondly, to be a bit fairer, since I didn’t take any money that dismisses the whole issue.’’

    What a shit.

  5. Speaking in tongues as per Morrison, here are some nice recipes...

    Pickled tongue was a favourite Christmas treat for my pommy aunties. Bolt would be disturbed to realise it is so multicultural.

    1. Shockingly ethnic. There's simply too much multiculturalism everywhere. The pond was more into lamb's fry and kidneys but wouldn't you know it, in both Adelaide and Sydney the pond found that good old lamb's fry had been turned into ponce food:

  6. Hi Dorothy,

    Whilst this isn't relevant to your latest blog it might make interesting fodder for further output.

    All the best


    1. Very interesting graphic DW, thanks ...


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