Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A silly young woman asks:  Why Australia hates thinkers

Amusing that someone pretending to sophistication should resurrect a cultural cringe of yesteryear.  Her complaint seems to be that she does not hear enough Leftist pontification around her. That the French philosophers she appears to idealize are essentially having fun in their writings has clearly escaped her.  Her humourless Leftism has betrayed her.

That Australia has an unusually high per-head output of learned papers into the world's academic journals and that several Australian universities regularly rate towards the top of world university rankings also seems to have escaped her.  Very strange doings for an "intellectual gulag"

That she dislikes popular culture is unsurprising, though.  Scorn for popular culture is common among the alleged superior beings of the Left

Alecia Simmonds

In one of Federal Parliament's many wonderful moments of Orwellian doublespeak, Labor announced recently that it would fund education through cutting education. Yes, so much did Julia Gillard appreciate the years of research conducted by Professor Gonski that she thought it best to make it more difficult next time round for Gonski and other academics to conduct research. In case none of this is making sense, Gillard recently announced that Labor will pay for part of its Gonski schools funding reforms by cutting $2.3 billion from universities. Excellent!

This may sound mad, given that universities are Australia's third-largest export industry. Social function aside, our economy needs universities. But I can also see how it makes perfect political sense for Labor to pillage the ivory tower. It wouldn't make sense in most countries. But in Straya, we don't give a dead dingo's donger about academics. Universities make a perfect target because, like few other Western countries, Australia hates thinkers.

In contrast to France, where philosophers often grace the covers of Le Monde, and England where Slavoj Zizek writes regular columns in The Guardian Weekly, Australia's public sphere looks like a desert. Each week we suffer the intellectual aridity of Peter Hartcher on anti-Gillard autopilot and the bile-flecked bleating of shock-jocks like Alan Jones.

Each week I watch Q&A praying for an expert, begging for someone who knows what they're talking about. And each week I get Joe Hildebrand accompanied by a flurry of tweets by the emotionally unstable. In fact Nick Osbaldiston and Jean-Paul Gagnon recently found in their research on Q&A that only 5 per cent of panellists since 2008 had a research background. Even in an entire show devoted to education issues, Professor Gonski sat in the shadows while Pyne and Garrett proffered glib inanities and vapid insults. No one learned anything.

My problem is not that our public sphere harbours ill-educated members (like the imbecilic Andrew Bolt who never made it past first-year uni). I think we need commentators from all walks of life. The problem is that as a country we are hostile to those who are well-educated. We prefer home-spun wisdom to years of research. Our language is peppered with vitriol reserved for those who think for a living: "chattering classes", "latte-sipping libertarians", "intellectual elites" and now Nick Cater's most unlovely term "bunyip elite".

If we want to emphasise the importance of something we say that the issue "is not just academic". Any idea that takes longer than a nano-second to understand is howled down. Or perhaps, more precisely, any idea that threatens conservative orthodoxy is consigned to the divine irrelevancy of the academy. I've never heard Tony Abbott be told that his Rhodes scholarship and privileged tertiary education meant he was out of touch with the common man. Calling someone an "intellectual elite" is simply a way of ridiculing those who think for a living about how the world can be a fairer place.

There's no doubt that Australia is a vast, sunny, intellectual gulag. The question is why. It's certainly not for want of thinkers. We're home to some brilliant minds, including Nobel-prize winning author J.M. Coetzee, cultural theorist Anna-Marie Jagose and legal theorist Martin Krygier. Yet how often do we hear them speak? Why aren't they chased down for their opinions on policy and social issues rather than wheeling out ageing politicians and professional laymen again?

Perhaps there's a link between the myth of Australian egalitarianism and anti-intellectualism. Australian history is popularly told as a story of democracy, equality and classlessness that broke from England's stuffy, poncy, aristocratic elitism. We're a place where hard yakka, not birth, will earn you success and by hard yakka we don't mean intellectual labour. Although, of course, equality is a great goal, we've interpreted it to mean cultural conformity rather than a redistribution of wealth and power. The lowest common denominator exerts a tyrannical sway and tall poppies are lopped with blood-soaked scythes. Children learn from an early age that being clever is a source of shame. Ignorance is cool.

There's also no room for cleverness in our models of masculinity or femininity. For women, intelligence equates with a dangerous independence that doesn't sit well with your role as a docile adoring fan to the boys at the pub. It's equated with sexual unattractiveness. And for men, carrying a book and using words longer than one syllable is a form of gender treason. It's as good as wearing bumless chaps to a suburban barbecue. Real blokes have practical wisdom expressed through grunts and murmurs. Real Aussie chicks just giggle.

It's not just a hostile public sphere that keeps thinkers at bay. Academics may also not want to enter public debate. And I can understand why. Firstly, they receive no rewards in terms of career advancement for writing for the public. And secondly, many may not want to engage with a knife-drawn public prone to Goldstein-style Two-Minute Twitter Hate Rituals. Academics are often timorous folk who specialise in showing the complexity of issues, not offering tweet-sized solutions. Social media doesn't democratise debate. It limits it to the resilient. Snark triumphs over insight, and commentary is reserved for those with voluminous folds of scar-tissue. Sensitive thinkers rarely fit this bill.

Ultimately, there is nothing elite about academics. Their wages are embarrassingly humble, they work ridiculously long hours and for most the aim is pretty noble – to create knowledge that will help make a better world. In a bizarre twist of logic exemplified by the short-lived Rudd mining tax, Australians have come to see elite multinational companies as having the same interests as the everyday person and academics as haughty public menaces. The former self-avowedly exists only for their own profits, the latter commits the crime of thinking about people.

It's no wonder Gillard chose to pick on academics. They're the perfect targets: too socially obscure to be missed and too loathed to be defended.


NT Chief Minister Adam Giles says fears over "Stolen Generation" are causing child neglect

Leftist fantasies hurting people, as usual

NORTHERN Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles says he will remove neglected Aboriginal children from their parents and place them in adopted homes if necessary.

Mr Giles, Australia's first indigenous state or territory leader, said governments had failed Aboriginal children because of fears they would be accused of creating a new Stolen Generation, but he would not be put off by such accusations, The NT News reports.

"Whatever we do has to be about making parents take responsibility for their kids," Mr Giles said.

"And if they won't, (we're) prepared to provide alternative solutions. If that means those kids are loved and cared for by other parents, then so be it."

Mr Giles said despite the federal intervention, only one Aboriginal child had been adopted in the past decade.

"There are situations in the Northern Territory where nobody has been prepared to support a permanent adoption of a child for fear of Stolen Generation," he told the Northern Territory News.

"There is a lineup of families out there who say, 'If you want help with children, we'll be happy to foster a child, look after a child.'"

Mr Giles, speaking in an exclusive interview, said there would not be a mass grab of children, but he and his cabinet were ready to consider cases of child neglect on a case-by-case basis and move to protect them.

"I think it needs to be negotiated (with biological parents), but there has to be a point in time where you take the necessary steps to protect children."

Mr Giles said the legal mechanisms for adoption were already available, but governments had been reluctant to act.

The result, he said, was that in towns across the Territory, numerous children wandered in high-risk situations, often fearful to go home to households awash with alcohol and violence.

"Where there are couples who wish to provide love and support for children who are neglected and not cared for properly, and it can be determined that the parents will not be able to look after their kids properly till they're older, then we need to make that opportunity available," he said.

"You mean to tell me when we've got all these alleged cases of chronic child sexual abuse, children running around on petrol, going on the streets at night sexualising themselves in some circumstances, and there's only one permanent adoption, for fear of Stolen Generation?

"That is not standing up for kids."

Mr Giles said he wanted the public to know he was prepared to act and said his cabinet was fully behind him.

"If you've got kids who aren't being looked after by their parents, there's only so many times you can try and intervene to get that right," he said.

"And if it's not working, and those kids' lives are falling apart in front of your eyes, make a decision.

"It's not like we're coming in to take kids, but where individual issues come up, we will take that decision.

"People were too scared of Stolen Generation. And I believe that's why there's a lot of kids out there with such social dysfunction."


Signs that warming scare is all hot air

    Andrew Bolt

AND so the great global warming scare dies. Around Australia, bruised taxpayers will ask each other: "What the hell was that about?"

The 10 signs of the death of the scare are unmistakable. Now it's time to hold the guilty to account.

Just why did we spend the past year paying the world's biggest carbon tax, which drove our power bills through the roof?

Why were our children forced to sit through multiple screenings of Al Gore's dodgy scare-flick An Inconvenient Truth?

Why did we scar the most beautiful parts of our coast with ludicrously expensive windfarms?

And why did so many people swallow such bull, from the British Climatic Research Unit's prediction that "children just aren't going to know what snow is" to ABC science presenter Robyn Williams' claim that 100m rises in sea levels this century were "possible, yes".

Yes, we may yet see some warming resume one day.

But we will be wiser. We have learned not to fall so fast for the end-of-the-world sermons of salvation-seekers and the tin-rattling of green carpetbaggers.  And here is why.

1st sign: The world isn't warming

Yes, the planet warmed about 0.7 degrees last century, but then halted.

Professor Richard Lindzen, arguably the world's most famous climate scientist, has argued for two years that "there has been no warming since 1997". Others date the pause as late as 2000.

Even the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admitted in its latest draft report that while its usual measurements of global temperature found some warming trends since 1998, "none of these are statistically significant".

2nd sign: The warming models are wrong

The weekend papers screamed alarm: "The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history."

But wait. Lots more carbon dioxide, but no more warming? This isn't what we were told to expect.

See, predictions the world is heating dangerously are based on mathematical models of how the climate is meant to work. Add our emissions to the equation, and scientists are meant to figure how much the world should warm. But as Professor Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told a US Congressional committee last month, those models guessed too high, and didn't predict pauses in warming longer than 17 years.

Ed Hawkins, of the University of Reading, found the global temperature since 2005 on the very lowest end of the widest range predicted by influential climate models.

3rd sign: Warming disasters aren't happening

In 2007, Chief Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery predicted "even the rain that falls isn't actually going to fill our dams and our river systems". But it did.

In 2001, the IPCC predicted "milder winter temperatures will decrease heavy snowstorms". But the US National Snow and Ice Data Center this year tried to claim global warming had now increased snowstorms in the US.

In 2008, Greens leader Bob Brown claimed data showed "drought is the new norm across Australia's greatest foodbowl", the Murray-Darling basin. But the drought quickly broke.

Same story with so many other scares. Al Gore was wrong - the critical glaciers of the Himalayas are not vanishing, with Bristol University researchers now finding "negligible mass loss". Nor are we getting more cyclones, bigger floods, worse diseases or greater famines, as some predicted.

4th sign: People are relaxing

People are now less prone to panic, as a Lowy Institute poll confirmed.

In 2006, two in three Australians thought global warming was so serious we should act now, even if it cost us plenty. Five years later, just one in three Australians thought that.

5th sign: The rest of the world is chilling, too

The Gillard Government told us it was not ahead of the world with its carbon tax. Other countries were just as scared of global warming and keen to stop it.

Rubbish. The US still won't agree to a national carbon tax, because voters won't wear it. China, the world's biggest emitter, doesn't have one either.

And Europe, home of the world's biggest carbon trading system, is now so broke and bored with global warming that the price of its permits has fallen to under $5, a fraction of our own $23 a tonne, leaving us looking like mugs.

6th sign: Even Labor hardly seems to care now

If the Gillard Government still believed "climate change is the great moral challenge of our generation", would it have tied our own carbon trading system from 2015 to Europe's, so permits could fall as pathetically low as $5?

Would it now be considering hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to green schemes in tomorrow's Budget?

7th sign: A bit of warming seems good for us

Global production of wheat, rice and corn have all doubled since 1970, when man-made global warming is said to have really taken off.

Perhaps it's because of better farming. But more warming also means more rain in most places, and more carbon dioxide means more plant food.

8th sign: Warming seems worth the price of getting richer

More carbon dioxide is what we get when lots more people become rich, helping themselves to more electricity and all things that use it.

That is why China's carbon dioxide emissions soared as it dragged hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. China now produces a quarter of the world's man-made gases and rising. It's the price of progress.

9th sign: "Stopping" warming isn't working

Australians pay a $9 billion-a-year carbon tax and billions more in subsidies for "green" technology.

If we keep paying these billions for the next seven years, what difference will we make to the world's temperature by the end of the century?

Australia's Professor Roger Jones, a warmist, says no more than 0.0038 degrees, and that's even assuming the climate models are right.

10th sign: Sceptical scientists now get a hearing

In 2007, ABC staff protested when the ABC decided to finally show one documentary questioning the warming scare, The Great Global Warming Swindle.

The ABC compromised. The screening was given a hostile introduction and was followed with an even more hostile panel session.

That's how hard it was for sceptical scientists to get a hearing.

That wall is now breaking. Dissent is being heard, with Professor Ian Plimer's sceptical Heaven and Earth alone selling more than 40,000 copies here.

Yes, the world may start warming again. Yes, our emissions may be partly to blame.

But, no, this great scare is unforgivable. It's robbed us of cash and, worse, our reason.

Thank God for the 10 signs that this madness is over.


Gai Waterhouse pleads not guilty to two charges laid over the More Joyous affair

LEADING Sydney horse trainer Gai Waterhouse has been charged and high-profile owner John Singleton fined over the More Joyous affair.

Singleton pleaded guilty to two charges of conduct prejudicial to the image, interest and welfare of racing following a marathon hearing in Sydney which heard explosive evidence from rugby league legend Andrew Johns, retired former jockey Allan Robinson and brothel owner Eddie Hayson.

Singleton was later fined $15,000.

Waterhouse is facing two charges in relation to her handling of champion mare More Joyous in the lead-up to the Group I All Aged Stakes at Randwick  last month in which the highly-fancied Singleton-owned mare finished second last.

Another leading figure in the drawn-out  affair,  Gai's son Tom Waterhouse, escaped sanction, with chief steward Ray Murrihy saying there was insufficient evidence to charge the young bookmaker.

Singleton was charged as a result of his high-profile spat with Waterhouse, which started in the chairman's lounge at Randwick and spilled into the mounting yard, where it was captured on television and broadcast across the nation.

A remorseful Singleton immediately entered a guilty plea today but reminded stewards of his unblemished record across 40 years of registered horse ownership.

“My actions were inappropriate and regrettable,” Singleton said.  “That's why I pleaded guilty. In my 40 years of being a registered horse owner, this is my first steward's inquiry and hopefully my last.”

Murrihy said Singleton had been given a discounted penalty - down from $20,000.  “We take into account your guilty plea, your very good character in the racing industry, and we're also well aware of the many, many good things you do quite unannounced in the racing field,” Mr Murrihy said.

But the public nature of Singleton's comments was an “antagonising” factor, he said.  “You must have been aware ... that saying those things on that stage was going to attract mass coverage,” he said.

Singleton has been given two days to pay the $15,000 fine.

Gai Waterhouse was charged with failing to report More Joyous' condition and failing to keep proper records of the treatment given to the group one winner.  More Joyous was troubled by a neck condition in the lead-up to the All Aged Stakes and finished second last.

Waterhouse entered a not guilty plea to the charges.

“I was not trying to hide anything," Waterhouse said.

Waterhouse's case has been adjourned until next week.


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