Friday, October 18, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on Leftist intransigence over the carbon tax

Greens MP Adam Bandt tries to make political mileage out of fires

Bandt is a Trotskyite -- an acolyte of Leon Trotsky, leader of the Red Army in the Russian revolution and a mass murderer. Trotsky never took prisoners of war.  He shot the lot.   So Bandt has exactly the low level of fellow-feeling you would expect of that

AN unrepentant and defiant Adam Bandt has stood behind the ill-timed bushfire comments he made on social media at the peak of yesterday's NSW firestorm.

The Greens MP infuriated many when he tweeted that "Tony Abbott's plan means more bushfires for Australia & more pics like this of Sydney".

That comment came at the very moment that every TV network in Australia showed graphic images of people's houses burning.

Mr Bandt tried to hose down his comments on ABC News 24 on Friday morning, arguing:

"Well, in the last 12 months we've had the hottest year on record, the hottest month and the hottest day. Tony Abbott has picked this time to say he's going to rip up action on global warming, which is going to to mean these are the kind of fires we will see more often."

The point many have already made as a counterpoint to this statement is that Mr Abbott didn't pick the exact moment that people's houses were burning down.

Mr Bandt attempted to add further context in his comments today, carefully adding words like "tragic" and phrases like "the amazing work of emergency services". But he continued to harness the moment to say things like:

"This is what global warming in Australia looks like and it's going to mean more fires happening more often and some of them more severe when they happen."

Mr Bandt also displayed a rather troubling ignorance of Australian geography today with his repeated statement that October is very early for bushfires.

October would indeed be super-early for Victoria, where Mr Bandt lives, but hot weather always arrives earlier in NSW, and fires have long occurred in the east of NSW in October and even earlier in September and August, which are the state's driest months of the year.


PEOPLE'S lives are at risk. Houses have been lost. At latest count there are at least 40 homes burned to the ground. That number will almost certainly rise.

It is a shocking, distressing time right now in eastern New South Wales. The sky above Sydney is thick with smoke. Ash is falling from the sky in many suburbs. A dry southerly change due any minute may only make things worse as the fires change course.

So what does Greens MP Adam Bandt do?

He ignores the unfolding human tragedy and pushes his political barrow on Twitter.

"Why Tony Abbott's plan means more bushfires for Australia & more pics like this of Sydney," Mr Bandt tweeted this afternoon, along with a link to the blood red sky over Sydney

Talk about too soon.

You'd imagine that even the strongest believer in climate change caused by human activity would concede there is a more appropriate time to argue the issue of carbon pricing than when people are fleeing their homes and brave fireys do their best to protect them.

Many people on Twitter are certainly expressing that sentiment.

If the great democracy of social media is any guide, people feel that by attacking the PM's plans to abolish the carbon tax on this particular afternoon, Adam Bandt comes across as a man more interested in political points-scoring than that basic human emotion called compassion.

And politicians wonder why people don't much care for them.


Hundreds left homeless as the gravest bushfire emergency in a decade strikes NSW

HUNDREDS of homes are feared destroyed and Premier Barry O'Farrell has spoken of the first death to be confirmed in the distaster.

"Regrettably this is what no one wants to happen," Mr O'Farrell said of the death of a 63-year-old man who suffered a heart attack while he was fighting a fire at his home at Lake Munmorah on NSW's Central Coast.

Mr O'Farrell amde the comments from Rural Fire Service headquarters in Sydney where he was being briefed this morning.

The premier will head to the Blue Mountains on this afternoon where he will inspect the damage from the air and speak to the media.

While the extent of the devastation was unclear on Thursday night, one of the worst-hit areas was Springwood, in the Blue Mountains, where more than 40 homes were known to be lost.

Large fires continued to burn into the early hours of the morning with emergency warnings remaining in place for the Ruttleys Rd fire near Wyong on the Central Coast and between Lithgow and Bilpin.

A drop in temperature is expected today of about 10C with the hope that the cooler conditions will give firefighters the upper hand but 100 fires continue to burn with 20,000 hectares being lost to the inferno in the Blue Mounatins area.

But when the ashes settle, the number of destroyed or damaged properties across the state is expected to be much worse.

Elsewhere, thousands of firefighters were struggling against around 100 blazes across the state - on the Central Coast and further north, the Southern Highlands and the south coast.

It was too soon to estimate how many properties had been lost, but Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons predicted: "we'll be counting properties in the dozens, if not the hundreds." Premier Barry O'Farrell and Mr Fitzsimmons told reporters the public should brace for widespread destruction.

"It will take some days until we see the end of these fires," Mr O'Farrell warned.  "I suspect that if we get through that without the loss of life we should thank God for miracles."

Mr Fitzsimmons said firefighters faced the worst of conditions. "This is as bad as it gets," he said.

Schools at the Blue Mountains were also drawn into the drama and scores of Blue Mountains residents sought refuge at evacuation centres on Thursday night, including the Springwood Sports Club and Springwood Country Club.

While St Columba's students were kept in their school, St Thomas Aquinas School was evacuated.

"Firefighters are undertaking property protection under difficult, dangerous and erratic weather conditions," the RFS says on its website.

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said it was one of the worst days he'd seen.  "It's probably the most serious fire risk we've faced since the early 2000s," he said.

For most of the day there were six fires at "emergency warning" level, meaning homes were at risk and residents were being asked to consider fleeing.

At least two firefighters were injured, with one man sent to Sydney's Concord Hospital with burns to his face.

The fires created traffic chaos around Sydney, with a 20km queue on the Hume Highway for city-bound traffic.

All northbound lanes on the highway were reopened about 9.45pm (AEST), the Transport Management Centre said, with just one southbound lane opening.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has formally declared a "catastrophe" for affected areas.

ICA CEO Rob Whelan said the group expected to have a better idea of the damage by the weekend, but added that insurers were ready to take claims.


Aboriginal jobs program a complete disaster, says Nigel Scullion

THE remote indigenous jobs scheme launched by Labor in July is in "crisis", with people not turning up to work and some retreating to alcohol, prompting the Abbott government into emergency talks to try to rescue the $1.5 billion national program.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion will meet his senior departmental officials today to devise an immediate strategy to get indigenous people re-engaged in the scheme, which operates in 60 remote regions.

"It's just a complete disaster, all we know for sure is that people are disengaged," Senator Scullion told The Australian.

Under the Remote Jobs and Communities Program, a single provider in each region is contracted to work with individuals, communities and local employers to help more people into jobs and build stronger communities.

Senator Scullion said he had been told participants had left the scheme and returned to drinking.  "People have told me privately that the people who were working are now 'sad'," he said.  "I can tell you that is code for a very bad state of mind. They are drinking more. This is a disaster well beyond what I expected.

"We need to move very quickly. With the wet season coming on and Christmas coming on, if people are disengaged for five months, to re-engage them after decades of work will be very difficult."

Senator Scullion cited the example of 61 people who had been on an indigenous work-for the-dole-program in Gunbalanya, 300km east of Darwin. "Now they have gone home, but they are still getting paid, so they are completely disengaged from employment," he said. "You couldn't think of a worse possible outcome."

The RJCP was designed to provide a more integrated and flexible approach to employment and participation services for people living in remote areas. Most of the communities involved are in the Northern Territory.

Senator Scullion said a new community development fund - the centrepiece of the new scheme that provides $237.5 million in funding over five years - was not providing an adequate level of support for providers to run meaningful programs.

As a result, indigenous people were being sent home or choosing to leave. Senator Scullion said the program was contracted out for a five-year period and the department would need to look at ways of improving it within its legal obligations. "We are making this a priority," he said. "We need the people to re-engage with whatever system we have.

"I have a great deal of sadness about it and I know there was no mischief from the previous Labor government but they have got it so badly wrong that it can only take a couple of days to disengage and it can then take months to re-engage."

This week, The Australian witnessed many people in the West Arnhem community of Gunbalanya approaching the minister about the collapse of the system. He has also received reports from many other communities about dysfunction in the scheme.

"They have told me that previously people were turning up to work in hundreds (and) they were significantly engaged," he said.

"When the new RJCP provider turned up in Gunbalanya they expected some of the existing deliveries to continue delivering somehow but the net consequence is that people are not turning up."

The four main programs that previously delivered employment, participation and community-development services in remote Australia - Job Services Australia, Disability Employment Services, Community Development Employment Projects and the Indigenous Employment Program - have been brought together under the RJCP.

In a speech to residents of Gunbalanya on Wednesday, Senator Scullion said he believed that the previous CDEP scheme, which both sides of politics had been trying to get rid of, was superior to the new system.


O'Farrell fights push to ban CSG

The O'Farrell government has rejected a Labor push to keep coal seam gas activity out of Sydney's water catchments, despite a pre-election pledge to ban the practice.

Opposition Leader John Robertson introduced legislation to Parliament on Thursday seeking a ban on coal seam gas operations in designated "special areas" surrounding major water storages. The move would rule out about 371,000 hectares around Sydney, the Illawarra, the Blue Mountains, the southern highlands and Shoalhaven.

Labor will also investigate banning coal seam gas activity from catchments in the Hunter, the central coast and north coast. It follows calls by the Sydney Catchment Authority, as reported by Fairfax Media on Thursday, for coal seam gas mining to be banned in the same areas proposed by Labor, because it "may significantly compromise" water supply assets.

Mr Robertson said coal seam gas licences renewed by the Coalition as recently as March still covered Sydney's water catchments.

In 2009, while in opposition, Barry O'Farrell told a rally opposing a central coast mine: ''The next Liberal-National government will ensure that mining cannot occur in any water catchment area. No ifs, no buts. A guarantee."

Mr Robertson said the government "has had almost three years to deliver on a core election commitment and has failed". But Energy Minister Chris Hartcher said water quality would be protected.

He accused Labor of "absolute hypocrisy", saying it approved coal seam gas exploration licences when in power. Fairfax Media understands the government will not be supporting the bill.

The debate came as the government announced measures to fast-track mine approvals by cutting conditions for future standard coal mining leases from 24 to nine.

Nature Conservation Council NSW chief executive Pepe Clarke said accelerating the development of mines that will "have serious negative environmental impacts for centuries is not good policy".


When two tribes go to war

The article below by an Australian  Leftist has some correspondence with reality.  Left and Right do seem to some extent to exist in separate universes.  The author does not know why, however.  I think the answer is obvious.  I think that the separation exists because the Left has a reflex of closing its ears to anything it does not want to hear.  They do that because their beliefs are so easily open to challenge.  They cannot AFFORD to listen.  Reality is against them.  They have to invent a fictional mental world where, for instance, "all men are equal", despite the perfectly obvious fact that all men are different.  All men are (allegedly) equal only in the sight of God -- and Leftists don't generally believe in him/her.

Global warming is a good example of reality denial too.  It is agreed on both sides of the divide that the total amount of warming over the last 150 years has been less than one degree Celsius.  Why is such a triviality worth notice?  Leftists never say.  Global warming scientists theorize that the warming might suddenly leap but that is mere prophecy  -- and we know how successful prophecies generally are.

Conservatives, on the other hand spend most of their time in politics discussing and refuting Leftist arguments.  Read almost anything on, for instance, and it will be discussing and refuting Leftist arguments and policies with appeals to the facts -- anything but ignoring them.  By contrast, the fact that Leftists do NOT generally address conservative arguments is what makes them seem alien to conservatives.  It makes them seem alien to rationality.  Leftists very often mock conservative arguments in a superficial and cherrypicked way but that is a far cry from seriously working through them and honestly addressing ALL the relevant facts -- JR

My parents don't know anyone who would vote for the ALP [Leftist party] or Greens.

My friendship and cultural circles don't know anyone who would vote for the Coalition [conservatives].

Both view those without their voting intentions as highly strange, suspicious and people to fear. The opportunities, and the desire, for conversation are non-existent.

In mainstream political discourse we talk about 'Left' and 'Right', or 'progressive' and 'conservative', as political groups, hanging on to antiquated notions of consistent political ideas, but in fact it is becoming increasingly evident that these are now simply cultural groups.

We can broadly describe a culture as the behaviours and beliefs of a particular group of people. These behaviours and beliefs compound themselves as they are continually practiced. Large distinctions in cultures occur when groups are isolated and not exposed to any different influences or practices.

Both of these cultural groups are what could best be described as 'subscription packages'; with a checklist of positions to hold in order gain membership.

For the 'Left' we have positions that fall under the umbrella of socially liberal and economically interventionist. For the 'Right' it is the binary opposite: socially conservative and economically liberal. Regardless of the outcomes they produce these are the standpoints of the tribe.

These coalitions of ideas feel consistent because everyone in the group continually reiterates them. The beliefs of the group are reinforced by the group's beliefs. With an added constant suspicion of outsiders, any attempt to influence their positions is vigorously resisted.

The internet was meant to be the great conversation, the space where difference would converge and enlightenment would prevail. Yet it instead seems to be forming into information ghettos, where these 'Left' and 'Right' groups inhabit spaces exclusive to one another. Increasingly this is even becoming the way that we consume our mainstream news.

While news outlets have always had perspectives and agendas, we are now experiencing what is best described as the 'Foxification' of news. It is a model that preaches solely to the converted and strokes and manipulates their biases. In the US we have seen Fox's tribal rival MSNBC adopt this model for the 'progressive' cultural group with similar success.

In Australia this is mimicked in a less extreme, but still significant, fashion by the News Ltd/Fairfax divide.

As a result public debate has now become an endless game of Pong, where these two cultural groups simply expel rhetoric into public space to be rejected by the other. The suspicion between the two cultural groups is so strong, that if one iterates a position then the other simply claims the opposite must be the truth.

Persuasive arguments aren't worth communicating because there is little intention of them being considered. Greater comprehension or even conversion are not motives. The objective is solely about expressing one's outrage at topic du jour.

This kind of rhetoric is designed solely to consolidate one's position within the pack. It is a combination of conformity to the group and a desire to increase your power within it. The louder you yell, the more impassioned your indignity, the more removed you are from the other reviled group.

Social media plays an important role in highlighting this phenomenon. There is the obvious echo-chamber of following only those who are members of your tribe.

However, there is also the interesting device of changing a Facebook profile picture to indicate a voting intention, or using a Twibbon to demonstrate support for a cause. These are not intended to be a persuasive arguments, in fact there is no argument at all. The audience is their peers, an indication that you above reproach with your adherence to the team.

This firm adherence to the group is expected of each member of the group, and anyone who would stray will not be tolerated.

Former ALP President and prominent Indigenous Australian Warren Mundine is a good current example of this. It is believed that he is 'selling out' by working with the new conservative government on indigenous issues. Instead it is expected that he get in the trenches and throw solution-less grenades at them. The conflict between the two tribes takes priority over any potential positive results. Conflict is the oxygen that they need to survive.

Conspicuous free-market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs insistence on choosing warriors like Andrew Bolt and Janet Albrechtsen to speak at their events indicates that their intentions are combative, and not persuasive.

No other organisation looking to attract sympathisers would go anywhere near such polarising figures. These are hostile acts, roadblocks to conversation that entrench mindsets and make finding consensus increasingly difficult.

During the election campaign I had to explain to my mother that Kevin Rudd's use of the phrase "working families" was an attempt to talk to her. As a member of a family that worked she was offended that someone not from her tribe would use a term that described her in his vision.

It was an indication of the depth of this cultural divide.

I'm not naïve enough to believe that differing political allegiances have ever simply been disagreements in the approach to problem solving. Yet the idea that we view our opposing group in this political culture as actively nefarious is highly detrimental to any problems being solved.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Funny, Bandt and Trotsky (real name Bronshtein) share another similarity. Imagine my surprise.