Saturday, April 19, 2008

Global Midden

So, you reckon those supermarket plastic bags are harmless to the environment. That banning them, or imposing a levy on their use, is just another fine example of politicians knuckling under to greenie-Gaian stand-over tactics. It's just another scare campaign from self-loathing, self-flagellating tree-hugging planet savers who find happiness in inflicting misery and inconvenience on the rest of us. The sort of people who write letters to the editor with inflated claims like this:

There is a knotted stew of plastic bags in the Pacific Ocean the size of a continent, yet we cannot put a miniscule tax on plastic bags in supermarkets to discourage their use.

Maybe you should think again - assuming that is, that your thinking on plastic bags isn't conditioned by reflexive hatred of all things Gaian. Because that little claim I've just quoted (from the letters page of today's Age) isn't that far off the mark. On Googling "Pacific Ocean Plastic Bags", I found quite a few web pages on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (2GP) aka the Pacific Trash Vortex. For those who consider Wikipedia infradig and unreliable, the Independent has a good article describing the discovery of the patch - not so much a tangled stew of plastic bags as a soup of plastic waste:

The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world's largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting "soup" stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan... The "soup" is actually two linked areas, either side of the islands of Hawaii, known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches. About one-fifth of the junk – which includes everything from footballs and kayaks to Lego blocks and carrier bags – is thrown off ships or oil platforms. The rest comes from land.

The 2GP is in the Northern hemisphere so it's most likely, given the way ocean currents behave, that most of its contents came from industrialised countries around the North Pacific rim - Canada, the USA, Japan and possibly China.

The currents that hold the 2GP in place have their counterpart in the South Pacific - the South Pacific Gyre. That's where plastic bags and other trash from the East Coast of Australia and New Zealand would end up if they actually made it into the open ocean without snagging on a coral reef, the west coast of New Zealand or some other obstacle. Perhaps there's a Lesser Pacific Garbage Patch out there, waiting to be discovered.

And when it is discovered, we'll show those Canucks, Yanks, Japs and Chinks a thing or two, when the unrestrained growth of our Pacific Garbage Patch outstrips the growth of theirs and they have to cede the title of Great Pacific Garbage Patch to our oceanic soup of plastic. Because that's what being Australian is all about - boring it up anyone who isn't Australian, any bloody way we can.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Anti-PC Beat-Up of the Week - Withdrawn and Re-Awarded

It's with the greatest regret and embarrassment that I write this post. The source of both is that I find myself owing an apology to Andrew Bolt. On Tuesday, I awarded the accolade of Anti-PC Beat Up of the Week to this anti-Gaian fulmination at Bolt's blog, but today his colleagues and rivals at The Daily Terror have topped him handsomely. Post in haste, repent at leisure.

"Gay concern bans mum and dad in classroom" shrieks the Terror. Underneath that headline, its "Education Reporter", Bruce McDougall writes:
TEACHERS are being urged to stop using terms such as husband and wife when addressing students or families under a major anti-homophobia push in schools.

The terms boyfriend, girlfriend and spouse are also on the banned list - to be replaced by the generic "partner" - in changes sought by the gay lobby aimed at reducing discrimination in classrooms.

Schools are coming under pressure to provide lessons for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and stack their libraries with books and videos covering their issues.

Yes Sydney's lavender mafia are out in force and they have the backing of the gummint:

Education Director-General Michael Coutts-Trotter emerged as a leader of the school anti-homophobia campaign, opening a Government-backed conference on sexual diversity - That's So Gay.

Coutts-Trotter is something of a favoured target for the Terror and the NSW State Opposition: last year, after Coutts-Trotter was appointed Education Director-General, McDougall reported that in 1986 - then a mere 21 years ago - Coutts-Trotter had been convicted of drug offences at the age of 19, and imprisoned. This happened despite the fact that Coutts-Trotter had received the benefits of a private education at St Ignatius College aka Riverview. Perhaps that's why Coutts-Trotter prefers to send his own daughter to a public school.

But when a former teenage drug addict and drug offender, even a rehabilitated one, opens a conference on sexual diversity there really can't be any reason for it but to push a homosexualist social agenda, can there. That's no doubt why the follow on from the Terror's report is headlined "Teachers told to avoid using homophobic terms" although the first paragraph reads:

SCHOOLS will not move to stop using words like mum and dad, or girlfriend and boyfriend, the New South Wales Education Department says, despite reports that public schools are under pressure to provide gay-friendly environments.

The report later mentions Coutts-Trotter:

...Department of Education and Training director-general Michael Coutts-Trotter says there is no move to stop using terms such as boyfriend, girlfriend, mum or dad in public school classrooms.

But who'd take his word for it, when we have the more reliable testimony of Bruce McDougall of the Daily Terror:

The [Daily Terror] can reveal that the department is already spearheading a major push to win acceptance for gay and lesbian students in public schools.

"Teaching about sexual diversity, tolerance and anti-bullying occurs through the Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) curriculum in all NSW schools - public and independent," the spokesman said.

Sorry Andrew, but compared to the efforts of Bruce McDougall, your Gaia bash was pretty tame stuff.

An Internet Wingnut Is Something to Be

Scientist-emeritus Jennifer Marohasy and fearless, independent journalist Andy Bolt (who, unlike those poor sods at The Age, doesn't have to toe an editorial line on global warming and is at little risk of finding his opinions on other issues in conflict with those of his proprietor) are singing the praises of Lawrence Solomon, whom you've only just heard of. Solomon is a journalist at Canada's National Post and he's won acclaim for reporting, last Saturday, on how his attempts to correct an "inaccurate" Wikipedia page were thwarted by a "global-warming zealot".

As I'm writing this column for the Financial Post, I am simultaneously editing a page on Wikipedia. I am confident that just about everything I write for my column will be available for you to read. I am equally confident that you will be able to read just about nothing that I write for the page on Wikipedia.

The Wikipedia page is entitled Naomi Oreskes, after a professor of history and science studies at the University of California San Diego, but the page offers only sketchy details about Oreskes. The page is mostly devoted to a notorious 2004 paper that she wrote, and that Science journal published, called "Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change." This paper analyzed articles in peer-reviewed journals to see if any disagreed with the alarming positions on global warming taken by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position," Oreskes concluded...

...When Oreskes's paper came out, it was immediately challenged by science writers and scientists alike, one of them being Benny Peiser, a prominent U.K. scientist and publisher of CCNet, an electronic newsletter to which I and thousands of others subscribe. CCNet daily circulates articles disputing the conventional wisdom on climate change. No publication better informs readers about climate-change controversies, and no person is better placed to judge informed dissent on climate change than Benny Peiser.

If you're like me, you've never heard of Benny Peiser either - turns out he's a social anthropologist "with particular research interest in human and cultural evolution [whose] research focuses on the effects of environmental change and catastrophic events on contemporary thought and societal evolution." With those qualifications and research interests, it's no wonder he's so well placed to judge informed dissent on the subject of climate change.

Solomon contacted Peiser, was told that the Wikipedia page had got its facts wrong - particularly on Peiser - and decided to set the record straight:

For this reason, when visiting Oreskes's page on Wikipedia several weeks ago, I was surprised to read not only that Oreskes had been vindicated but that Peiser had been discredited. More than that, the page portrayed Peiser himself as having grudgingly conceded Oreskes's correctness.

Upon checking with Peiser, I found he had done no such thing. The Wikipedia page had misunderstood or distorted his comments. I then exercised the right to edit Wikipedia that we all have, corrected the Wikipedia entry, and advised Peiser that I had done so.

Peiser wrote back saying he couldn't see my corrections on the Wikipedia page. Had I neglected to save them after editing them, I wondered. I made the changes again, and this time confirmed that the changes had been saved. But then, in a twinkle, they were gone again! I made other changes. And others. They all disappeared shortly after they were made.

That's right, Solomon started a Wikipedia edit war. On one side, Lawrence Solomon, determined defender of truth on the other:

...Someone called Tabletop was undoing my edits, and, following what I suppose is Wikietiquette, also explained why. "Note that Peiser has retracted this critique and admits that he was wrong!" Tabletop said.

I undid Tabletop's undoing of my edits, thinking I had an unassailable response: "Tabletop's changes claim to represent Peiser's views. I have checked with Peiser and he disputes Tabletop's version."

Tabletop undid my undid, claiming I could not speak for Peiser.

Why can Tabletop speak for Peiser but not I, who have his permission?, I thought. I redid Tabletop's undid and protested: "Tabletop is distorting Peiser. She does not speak for him. Peiser has approved my description of events concerning him."

Tabletop parried: "We have a reliable source to this. What Peiser has said to *you* is irrelevant."

Tabletop, it turns out, has another name: Kim Dabelstein Petersen. She (or he?) is an editor at Wikipedia...
Thanks to Solomon's article in the National Post, the (Solomon instigated) edit war came to the attention of higher authorities at Wikipedia:

I should NOT be reading about content disputes on Wikipedia in my Saturday National Post!

  • There is a existing process for resolving content. See Wikipedia:Dispute resolution for full details.
  • I've already seen and dealt with a case regarding content disputes that have made it to national media (see the Pat Binns dispute). Enough is enough especially when the edit war over this page gets on my daily newspaper! If I continue to see a edit war, I will recommend this page be protected, until we sort out what's going on. I've already contacted an admin, and I suggest the two of you cool it off.

ThePointblank (talk) 10:38, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

The editor in question doesn't seem to want to discuss his edits. But keeps putting in information that is prohibited by amongst others WP:BLP, WP:NPOVWP:SPS. The onus of convincing others that their contributions uphold these guidelines lies on the contributer. If you have anything specific that you find questionable about the reverts - then i suggest that you comment on the specifics. And please don't tag the regulars. --Kim D. Petersen (talk) 10:55, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

Solomon didn't win himself any credibility with the Wikipedia contributors by continually referring to Kim D. Petersen as "she" after naming "her" in his article when a check of Kim D. Petersen's profile would have shown that the proper pronouns to use were "he" and "his".

Solomon finishes his live blogging of the edit war with this warning:

While I've been writing this column, the Naomi Oreskes page has changed 10 times. Since I first tried to correct the distortions on the page, it has changed 28 times. If you have read a climate change article on Wikipedia -- or on any controversial subject that may have its own Kim Dabelstein Petersen -- beware. Wikipedia is in the hands of the zealots.

Judging from Solomon's own conduct, that warning should equally be applied to climate change articles in the Canada National Post, and articles on any controversial subject that might have its own Lawrence Sullivan. The same cautious approach is warranted when reading the posts of bloggers who publish links from readers' tip offs without doing a little background checking.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


It is always a danger to honest journalism when a newspaper takes up a cause. Suddenly reporters are under pressure to push a line, and not necessarily the full facts.

Andrew Bolt

Some people are just too damned careless with their petards.

A Quick Reminder

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

And What About the Illiterate Millions Then?

As you wait for our best and brightest to gather in Canberra, at the behest of the broad left faction of the Australian Technocratic Elite Party, to discuss how schools can add value to students and other topics, spare a thought for the poor Kenyans whose best and brightest are still mired in the thinking of centuries gone by:

On equity grounds and given that it generates substantial social returns, secondary education should be fully funded by the state. For example, a worker's schooling enhances his or her own productivity as well as those of co-workers, thereby giving rise to classical externalities or spillover effects. The general level of education in the workforce also expands production possibilities, by facilitating the discovery, adaptation and use of more economically rewarding, albeit technologically more demanding and knowledge-intensive, production processes. By making it free, all learners who were unable to access public secondary education on account of financial constraints will join school. [source (PDF)]

Another Day, Another Bleg

I've been futzing around with ABS Census data for the past week or so, trying to get together a belated submission to the Senate Inquiry into Housing Affordability. The data I've been using has come from published Census tables listed on this page at the ABS web-site.

The first question I've looked at, from data in this ABS table is the numbers of dwellings in three categories: rented, being purchased and owned outright. I've aggregated the data (ignoring whether the dwellings were separate houses, terraces and units etc) in the table below.

Total Numbers of Dwellings by Tenure Type, 1996, 2001 and 2006 censuses, Australia wide

Census Year

Tenure Type

Total Dwellings



Being purchased









Fully owned




Being purchased









Fully owned







Being purchased






Fully owned



(Note: the data in each year is sorted by the total number of dwellings in each category.)

There's an interesting change between the 2001 ands 2006 censuses: the statistical minority of households in fully owned dwellings fell from 42% to 35% of all households, so that there was a roughly equal split between renters, mortgagors (home buyers if you prefer) and home owners. The issue of housing affordability of renters isn't being addressed by the Senate inquiry - its terms of reference are limited to issues affecting mortgagors and would be mortgagors and looking for ways to bag the states.

The next step I wanted to take, before disaggregating the data into dwelling types was to look at the total numbers of individuals living in rented, mortgaged and fully owned dwellings, with a later disaggregation according to household type (single individuals, families and group households). The reason for that last is to look at ways in which individuals might be accomodating themselves to what, properly described, is a housing shortage: are we seeing the formation of more group households, for example?

As usual when I take on the ABS web-site, I've found myself a bit stumped, so if anyone can point me to data series that I should be looking at, please let me know.

Anti-PC Beat Up of the Week

This time it's Andrew Bolt, gunning for the Gaians. In response to this report that a group of Swiss ethicists have published a report on the rights of plants Andrew huffs: "Slowly, slowly, humans are being denied the right to exist."

The Swiss ethicists in question are the members of Switzerland's Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) "appointed by the Federal Council to advise the authorities from an ethical perspective, as an independent expert committee, in the field of non-human biotechnology and gene technology." According to the ECHN web-site:

The [Swiss] Federal Constitution requires "account to be taken of the dignity of creation when handling animals, plants and other organisms". The ECNH’s key tasks include putting this concept into concrete terms.

So, are the Swiss the first nation in the world to adopt Gaianism as their national religion? Not if the preamble to the Swiss constitution is any guide:

In the name of God Almighty!
We, the Swiss People and the Cantons,
being mindful of our responsibility towards creation,
in renewing our alliance to strengthen liberty and democracy, independence and peace in solidarity and openness towards the world,
determined, with mutual respect and recognition, to live our diversity in unity,
conscious of our common achievements and our responsibility towards future generations,
certain that free is only who uses his freedom, and that the strength of a people is measured by the welfare of the weak,
hereby adopt the following Constitution:

Far from being a Gaian push to legislate humans out of existence the ECHN report (PDF format) is a good example of what happens when you try to mix religion and political constitutions. Andy should look a little closer to home if he wants someone to get huffy with.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Get Roger on this. He's a sadistic shit, he'll sort it out.

Rupert Murdoch? Or not?

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Some sort of warming is consistent with, though not plainly the cause of, the evident melting of sea ice and the retreat of some glaciers.

Professor Don Aitken

*head desk*
*head desk*
*head desk*