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On Daniel Andrews being labelled a whinger!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/07/2021 - 4:56am in

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Politics

When Daniel Andrews commented on how different the treatment accorded to NSW by the Federal Government was to the treatment Victoria received when it went into lockdown, he was promptly labelled a whinger by various people.  This led me to consider the place that the whinger has in Australian culture.

There are aspects of our collective identity that we regard as virtues – being fair dinkum, being loyal to mates, standing up to adversity, being irreverent to authority, and there are vices among which dobbing is probably the most loathsome, followed closely by bludging, and whinging.

The word is ultimately from Scottish and northern dialects and is a variant of whine.   I was surprised to find that in the OED it was not marked as Australian English, and that it did not appear at all in the Australian National Dictionary, because I felt that it had a stronger place in our variety of English than it had in any other.  I was right about it not being part of American English.  Whingeing has made a late appearance there in the last few decades. One theory is that the popularity of Harry Potter books brought it to the attention of American readers.  Harry grows up in a suburb called Little Whingeing.  Previously you would have been hard put to find whingeing except in localities with a predominantly Irish character, with bellyaching and bitching doing the job instead.

In British English you can find whingeing kids and you can find the odd injunction not to be a whinger, but it has no great frequency.  Scottish English and Irish English is of course another matter.

In Australia a kid who can whinge effectively is a nightmare for a parent, but this is a recognised behaviour among children and there is lots of advice on how to deal with it.  It is when adults whinge that matters become more serious.

The aspects of adult whingeing that are particularly unpleasant are that it is complaining about something that can’t be helped, or is in fact a trivial matter, or about something that the whinger refuses to do anything about.  It is complaining that goes on at some length, is exaggerated beyond what is warranted, and is totally self-centred.

The moment you label someone a whinger you are immediately belittling the significance of their complaint and you are attacking them personally.  Words associated with whinger are cry-baby and sook.  A whinger has no ability to deal with life’s problems with the courage and resilience displayed by the battler.  The whinger has no strength of character.

If you want to round out the insult you can adopt the phrase whinger and whiner.  We all like the alliteration but the British seem to favour this phrase, probably because for them whiner explains whinger.  For Australians there is a bit of difference between the two.  Whining emphasises the high-pitched and irritating sound.  Whingeing is about the constant complaint.

The whingeing Pom became a stereotype in the 1960s in Australia in the heyday of the ten-pound Pom.  One such migrant interviewed for a book The Immigrants (pub. 1977) felt the description had a grain of truth initially because British migrants, despite embarking on a huge venture into another country, seemed unable to cope with any change in their daily circumstances.  As the interviewee put it:  ‘The English have always been very insular, and people from the more deprived parts are used to the same pattern of things. They’ve lived such narrow lives in these dark miserable little satanic mills and they don’t know how to cope with change.’

The example given was that, despite coming out on an Italian ship, the British turned up their noses at spaghetti.

Whingers are often described as perpetual or perennial whingers, full-time and chronic whingers.  More recently they have become serial whingers.

Whinger is a word that pops up frequently in the political sphere. It is often employed by governments in dismissing the criticism of oppositions.   Greiner was, in opposition, dubbed ‘whinger, whiner, one-line Greiner’. Keating called John Howard (as Leader of the Opposition) ‘just a little whinger, whingeing around on radio stations attacking me personally, hour in, hour out’. Latham described Gerard Henderson as ‘that most despised of Australian characters: a little whinger’.

So it comes as no surprise that the representatives of the Federal Government now should employ it against Daniel Andrews. Now that Andrews has come up with the line ‘The Prime Minister for New South Wales’, the taunts of whinger have ceased, and the Federal Government has decided to treat all states equally.

 

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Wanting a social marketing campaign on Covid and getting a band aid instead

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/07/2021 - 4:55am in

Tags 

Health, Politics

There is one thing almost everybody commenting about Australia’s poor vaccine roll out agrees with – the need for an advertising campaign.

There is less agreement on what sort of ad and how it fits into any broader social marketing campaign. Ads without the benefit of being part of a wider campaign combining best practice social marketing principles, behavioural disciplines and government initiatives just make ad agencies, research companies and media proprietors richer.

The most common cry in crises is for another Grim Reaper campaign and the ad man responsible for that, Siimon Reynolds, weighed in with an op ed talking about it. What is widely known about the AIDS campaign, at least among health professionals, is that the Grim Reaper ads, along with the film Basic Instinct, frightened the hell out of heterosexual males rather than inspiring action in the most at risk communities.

In contrast the Canadian Let’s Talk campaign was very effective. That campaign came out of a focus group which degenerated into a barney been an older veteran straight man and a young gay man. The dispute ended when a third person said: Hey – let’s talk.

Everybody calmed down and the creatives realized they had a great concept – let’s not get angry or scared but instead talk about what we need to do to deal with this problem.

While people keep talking about the Grim Reaper ads what is little known is that real progress on AIDS awareness and the need for specific actions wasn’t made until a variety of campaigns developed – according to good social marketing principles – materials and initiatives in conjunction with at risk communities.

These campaigns involved very explicit advice on practices which exposed people to AIDS risks – advice that few politicians of the time would have been brave enough to articulate.

Those politicians who did know about the practices were deep in the closet and silent. There were probably as many gay (LBQT+ in today’s terminology) people in Parliaments as there are now but back then coming out of the closet would have ended their careers.

The Canadian Let’s Talk ads don’t get talked about so much because they don’t seem dramatic enough given the size of the problem but they led relatively seamlessly into the more targeted messages, channels and activities.

Most anti-drug and alcohol campaigns targeting youth suffer from the same failing. In essence they say drugs or alcohol are bad for you, which makes politicians feel they are doing the right thing, but which have little impact. A famous Howard era campaign showed young people at a party behaving stupidly, lurching around and vomiting.

When post campaign research was done – pre-campaign research is often useless because politicians know what they want and don’t know what they should want – it found that a common reaction among the demographics targeted was the wish to attend similar parties.

Not that scare campaigns are always ineffective. The 1970s Victorian road safety campaigns are one example but people tend to forget the impetus and the context.

The real inspiration sprang from a Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial 1970 road safety campaign when it was under the editorship of Harry Gordon. The Declare War on 1034 campaign (the l034 being the year before’s road toll).

Back in those days The Sun had an enormous circulation and serious impact. It was quickly picked up by other media and the State Government and Victorian Parliament responded with not only support but also serious policy reforms.

The Transport Accident Commission picked up the campaign and for decades ran a series of campaigns – initially scare campaigns about being killed in accidents and then morphing into ads about accident injuries. The latter was influenced by a cruel reality – as an accident insurer TAC faced much higher costs from people who had long term injuries than from the dead – although as the campaigns ranged over many road toll issues it always had a tactical emphasis on specific problems.

Today TAC still advertises about road safety but it has also pioneered a series of initiatives – starting with the need for seat belt wearing and tackling drink driving and shifting to include research and implementation on how to make roads and highways safer.

In that respect it was a forerunner of the detailed policy and targeting work undertaken on AIDS after the initial fire and brimstone from some quarters and the Grim Reaper campaign. It was this sort of work which made the US’ Dr Fauci famous, respected and even revered in some quarters.

So far in Australia we have seen a mix of COVID advertising – exhortatory, informational and now smiling faces displaying band aids on their arms with the call to Arm ourselves.

After some thought one realizes this is a reference to arming yourself with protection rather than a band aid but effective advertising ought not rely on you thinking about it for a while – it’s role is as a call to action.

Given the Morrison Government’s obsession with all things military it is hard to avoid the thought that this was not yet another nod to the militarization of our disaster responses made necessary by the way successive governments have systematically destroyed public sector expertise and capability.

Although it is also symbolic of Morrison Government approaches to most problems – stick a marketing band aid on them.

It is, though, also a reminder that if early AIDs campaign had depicted the need for condoms they would have been more effective than they were – but sadly that sort of message was confined to club lavatories and places frequented by the most vulnerable only after governments got smarter about targeting.

It is also a reminder that if the Department of Health had just some of the social marketing campaign expertise for which it was once renowned internationally public education about COVID and vaccination would have been rapid and effective.

Also, if there had been Health Ministers like Nicola Roxon or Michael Wooldridge, rather than Greg Hunt, they would have immediately  understood and supported what needed to be done.

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The ‘enemy within the gates’-the key to American politics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/07/2021 - 4:55am in

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Politics

It is not at all clear how much more stress, how many more incendiary inputs into its inflammable politics, the American Republic can stand before it becomes fully dysfunctional and unworkable.

Many American’s will find themselves in wholehearted agreement with President Biden’s forceful remarks on voter suppression. Many, but not all. While Biden elevated voting to a sacred duty, he simultaneously excluded his opponents, of whom there are also many, from America. There are now two irreconcilable camps and that is bad news.

It is not at all clear how much more stress, how many more incendiary inputs into its inflammable politics, the American Republic can stand before it becomes fully dysfunctional and unworkable. The factions have long since moved beyond seeing each other as legitimate competitors in a democratic market place of ideas. The other side is perceived as the holder of totally unacceptable moral, economic, and political ideas and values and only their total overthrow will suffice.

In the early Roman Republic external enemies were clearly identified, their status formalised through religious and civic rituals. The Republic identified itself by its enemies and its triumphs over them. However, in the civil wars between 88-30 BC that eventually brought an end to the Republic, Romans began to characterise their fellow citizen as the enemies. When Cicero derided other Roman citizens as the “enemy inside the gates”, and his political opponents as enemies of the state, he aligned his faction alone with the ideals and purpose of Rome.

This is a trend we are seeing emerge strongly in the US. Although evident beforehand, since the 2020 presidential election and the 6 January assault on the Capitol Building the rhetorical invective on both sides has been more acerbic and categorical in labelling the other side as traitors. Each side depicts the Republic as being threatened, not by the external enemy but by domestic enemies. Opposition factions are now placed in a category of being un-American, or hating America or being unpatriotic, making it impossible to reach any accommodation or reconciliation.

In his address Biden depicts his opponents as mounting “assault on democracy, an assault on liberty, an assault on who we are — who we are as Americans”. This demarcation of the opposition from real Americans is reinforced when Biden implicitly equates them with external enemies, saying his concern is “stopping foreign interference in our elections or the spread of disinformation from within”.

He makes the foreignness and wickedness of his opponents stark, couching the issue as deciding “[A]re you on the side of truth or lies; fact or fiction; justice or injustice; democracy or autocracy? That’s what it’s coming down to”. The struggle is now a question of morality. The other side are effectively dehumanised. The other side, are “an example of human nature at its worst — something darker and more sinister”. Biden declares that the Republic faces “the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War”, associating his opponents indirectly with slavery, racism, and white supremacy.

However, the opponents who Biden effectively declares as unAmerican are not insignificant; it is “not anything like a national majority…it’s a majority in some states—a plurality in more—and everywhere a significant minority”. Contrary to Biden’s claims about the “Big Lie”, the evidence indicates very substantial numbers of Americans genuinely believe the election was stolen and that Biden is an illegitimate president (see here, here and here). For them the situation is reversed, Biden’s supporters are leftists or communists, or atheists, and not genuine patriots.

Each side sees the other as the “enemy inside the gates”.

It is of course possible that the divisions in America over not just foreign and domestic policy, but about the fundamental values of America, political, religious and constitutional, might be resolved in a pluralistic compromise. However, it is hard to see the path to that outcome. Every issue evinces implacable opposition—abortion, immigration, vaccinations, policing, critical race theory, election security, climate change etc. It seems more likely that the efforts to frustrate and obstruct opposition parties in government, struggles over the purpose and function of major institutions, and the increasing tendency to vilify and to attempt to dominate opponents will continue to build in hostility and confrontation.

The prospect of the return of a Trump Administration, or of one aligned with Make America Great Again attitudes and polices, hangs over any assessment of America’s trajectory. The previous term of President Trump, and developments since the last presidential election, have clearly demonstrated just how deep and wide the divisions are in America. Small shifts in voting outcomes can now lead to radical swings in US domestic and foreign policies. This renders politics more desperate. Future changes of administration seem destined to bring more confrontation and determined opposition.

The allies of the US, as well as its competitors and adversaries, should be watching the for the signs of a breakdown. Recent experiences in Franco’s Spain, Pinochet’s Chile, and Mussolini’s Italy suggest when propaganda identifying internal enemies is accompanied or followed by political violence antennas should be elevated.

It seems unlikely that a civil war in the sense of military conflict will emerge, although these things generally surprise when they happen, and America is the most heavily armed and militarised state in history. The potential for serious violence exists in the heavily armed police forces, national guards, militias, and among the gun carrying public. But more probable will be paralysis of government, civil disturbances, protests and riots, and wild swings in policy based on identity politics.

Most people outside the US would be in sympathy with Biden, and be perplexed by the passion and persistence of the bizarre view among many Americans that the election was stolen despite the incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. But that is to miss the point. No advantage or success can now be conceded to the other side in American politics. They are the enemy.

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What Amazon and Facebook Get Wrong About FTC Chair Lina Khan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/07/2021 - 2:17am in

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Politics

Last week, Facebook filed a motion with the Federal Trade Commission demanding that its chair, Commissioner Lina Khan, recuse herself from any decisions involving Facebook. Two weeks earlier, Amazon filed the same request, with both tech giants arguing that her previously expressed views on concentration in the tech industry, coupled with her work in Congress investigating Silicon Valley, rendered her too conflicted to fairly regulate the industry.

It’s a brazen claim on one level, as companies never suggest that regulators who cheer on the success of major companies are equally biased in the opposite direction, and if the logic were accepted, it would create a situation in which only allies of Big Tech or those wholly unfamiliar with the industry would be allowed to regulate it.

On another level, it also reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of Khan’s antitrust approach, said Zephyr Teachout, a law professor and antitrust expert, in a recent interview for The Intercept’s podcast Deconstructed. When Khan was nominated to the FTC, the news media universally referred to her by some version of “prominent critic of Big Tech.”

Khan earned that moniker partly through her work as a Hill staffer leading a bipartisan Judiciary Committee investigation into leading Silicon Valley firms, but also through her landmark law review article titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.”

That’s where the confusion comes in. Though Amazon is in the title of Khan’s pivotal 2017 Yale Law Journal article, the company is used as a case study to make a broader point, Teachout noted.

The article is often used to claim that Khan is hostile to Amazon itself, when in reality her paper was grappling instead with the intellectual underpinnings of 40 years of antitrust policy. The introduction to Khan’s paper makes that clear, noting that the article “argues that the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to ‘consumer welfare,’ defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy.”

The clarity of the paper’s argument helped drive a major rethinking among antitrust policymakers, as it made plain that the “consumer welfare standard” was simply unequipped for the internet age of platforms. She summarizes her argument in a way that is at once easy to understand and impossible to refute:

We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon’s dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output. Specifically, current doctrine underappreciates the risk of predatory pricing and how integration across distinct business lines may prove anticompetitive. These concerns are heightened in the context of online platforms for two reasons. First, the economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits, a strategy that investors have rewarded. Under these conditions, predatory pricing becomes highly rational—even as existing doctrine treats it as irrational and therefore implausible. Second, because online platforms serve as critical intermediaries, integrating across business lines positions these platforms to control the essential infrastructure on which their rivals depend. This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors.

Given that Khan’s skepticism of the reigning antitrust orthodoxy is not specific to the technology sector, the rationale that she should recuse herself as chair would need to extend to every other industry in which concentration exists in new ways, which is nearly every industry. As Teachout put it:

Khan’s article was really important about Amazon, but it was about much more than Amazon. It was actually about agriculture. And it’s about airlines. And it’s about pharma. And it’s about the way we think about economic policy. So my pet peeve is you will often see Khan described as a thorn in the side of big tech or a big tech opponent, anti-tech — she’s not anti-tech at all. One of the things that we have seen is that these big tech companies are destroying innovations, they’re buying up competitors, they’re choking people who might have more exciting ideas. It’s pro-tech, and it’s about economic theory, not just tech policy.

So it’s very fact-based. It’s very much focusing on what actually happens, not what the theory does. And that’s where Khan’s training is. She started talking to chicken farmers about their experience. She wrote great articles about seeds, and patents, and Monsanto. So she actually started in ag. And then those insights helped her look at big tech without the blurriness and the sort of glamour that tech sometimes brings, where people say, “Tech is totally new! Everything’s disrupted! It’s never happened before.” She went in there and she’s like, “Hey, I’ve seen this. I saw this with Monsanto. I know these practices, because this is what Tyson does.” And I think it’s important to understand her as a pro-innovation, pro-worker, pro-small business, pro-changing the way that we approach equality.

Listen to the full interview here or wherever you get podcasts.

The post What Amazon and Facebook Get Wrong About FTC Chair Lina Khan appeared first on The Intercept.

Government Self-Support Scheme Posters (1971-)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 18/07/2021 - 10:20pm in

The government's self-support scheme launched in 1971. It's not known when the scheme finished because nobody could ever reach the government by telephone. Letters were returned with 'Not known at this address' written across them. Even when people turned up in London to complain in person, they discovered that many government buildings were just facades of the kind one might find on a film set. The Houses of Commons and Lords were in partial ruin, seemingly vacated years before, and had become home to goats, chickens and other livestock. This fact had only gone undetected for so long because the bleating and clucking of the animals coming from within the chambers was indistinguishable from those of their political predecessors.

Sunday environmental round up.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 18/07/2021 - 4:47am in

Tags 

climate, Politics

Plants and growth: where to plant 60 billion trees in the USA; climate change destroying kelp forests; burning biomass destroys native forests and fuels climate change; and forbs disappearing from Victoria’s basalt plains. Plus degrowth, of the economy rather than vegetation.

In view of the many benefits trees provide, they should be viewed not simply as an optional ‘decoration’ of the urban and rural landscape but as essential infrastructure just like public transport, electricity grids, clean water, efficient sewage systems, roads, etc.

The simple graphic above illustrates where the USA could plant up to 60 billion trees by 2040. These trees could remove 540 million tons of CO2 per year, about 10% of the USA’s annual emissions. The largest opportunities are by reforesting historically forested land (21 billion trees), increasing the stocking of ‘understocked’ forests used for timber production (24 billion) and integrating trees into pastures (13 billion). Smaller increases can be achieved by planting trees on croplands, for instance between rows, around field edges and along streams (2 billion) and in cities (400 million). As well as carbon sequestration, there are many additional benefits of increasing the tree cover: for instance, improving soil fertility, reducing heat stress on livestock, reducing the ‘urban heat island’ effect, cleaning the air in cities, and improving living environments. Landforms, climates and farming practices are very different in the USA than in Australia but it would be interesting to see where trees could be planted and in what sorts of numbers here.

Kelp forests provide sanctuary for marine animals big and small, protect coastlines by breaking up wave action, oxygenate the water and can store up to twenty times as much carbon as a similar area of land forest. Kelp is, however, very sensitive to temperature and the kelp forests along the coast of California were badly affected by prolonged marine warming during 2014-16. The situation was made worse by the warm water also killing millions of starfish that eat sea urchins that feed on the kelp. The urchins then proliferated and ate out the remaining kelp and the growing new kelp stalks and the forest was decimated. The urchins then entered a dormant state which they can maintain for years but during which they are of no commercial value. In some areas the devastation was not quite so bad and this seems to be due to the presence of sea otters that eat urchins and keep the population under control. It’s the kelp spores from the otter-protected areas that will, with any luck, drift to the devastated areas and start the recovery of the kelp forests and starfish. This problem is not limited to California. It’s occurring global and destruction of kelp forests by marine heat waves has also occurred in Australia.

There’s no easy fix to this problem but responses are available: immediate action to limit global warming; protect kelp forests by limiting other stressors such as agricultural run-off and other pollution in coastal areas; create marine protected areas; re-establish damaged ecosystems with habitat rehabilitation and transplantation of kelp; and researchers’ perennial favourite: more research.

If anyone retained any doubt whatsoever before COVID, the one thing we have learnt for certain from the last 16 months is that economic growth is king monarch regionally, nationally and globally. Without economic growth, so we are told, social conditions cannot continue to improve, wages and living standards will stagnate or deteriorate, the developing world cannot develop, and intra- and inter-national equity cannot be tackled. If you want to be considered a fool, suggest the need for a ‘steady state economy’ or, even worse, ‘degrowth’ of the economy. Economic growth is considered so fundamental in the corridors of national and international power that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body responsible for providing ‘policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation options’, has based its projections on three givens: unprecedented technological change to reduce emissions, unproven negative emissions technologies, and continuing growth in nations’ gross domestic products (GDP). Despite the association of massive economic growth with increasing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change over the last 200 years, steady-state and degrowth scenarios never get a mention in the IPCC’s considerations.

Perhaps realising that degrowth was unlikely to be on the IPCC’s agenda in the near future, Keyßer and Lenzen (remember the carbon loophole study a couple of weeks ago) have examined 18 degrowth scenarios to keep warming under 1.5oC. The scenarios involved various combinations of degrowth (all less than that experienced in 2020), renewable energy use and social change. Only simple carbon removal techniques, such as trees, were used. Compared with the IPCC’s scenarios, degrowth scenarios were found to ‘minimise many key risks for feasibility and sustainability compared to technology-driven pathways, such as reliance on high energy-GDP decoupling, large-scale carbon dioxide removal and large-scale and high-speed renewable energy transformation.’  But also that ‘substantial challenges remain regarding political feasibility’ – that’s an understatement if ever there was one – as degrowth would ‘require radical social change’. It’s important to note that degrowth is not seen as a return to some Neolithic or even 18th century-like existence. Rather, degrowth could be accompanied by not only reduced environmental impact but also maintained or even increased social welfare and quality of life and greater economic fairness and equity among countries. This is, of course, far from the last word on this topic but the findings do suggest that degrowth pathways should receive more consideration by the bodies responsible for tackling climate change.

There’s a simple common-sense appeal about burning the organic waste that emerges from the agricultural and forestry industries to produce energy rather than sending it to landfill to rot away. Not so appealing is chopping down trees to produce wood pellets to burn in power plants to produce electricity.

In 2009 the European Union (EU) committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and declared biomass (any burnable organic matter in essence) to be a carbon neutral renewable energy source. One local outcome was that the EU member states encouraged energy producers to burn biomass instead of coal and the demand for wood increased. One distant outcome was that the American southeast, particularly North Carolina (see also this 6-minute video), became Europe’s primary source of biomass for burning. In the USA the wood pellet industry has split communities. It provides jobs for a few but not prosperity for the towns and regions. It also creates health problems from noise and air pollution, particularly in the poor Black communities near which the pelleting-making factories are nearly all located.

Then there’s the problems associated with burning biomass at all. First, there’s debate about whether burning trees is carbon neutral – possibly it is over a hundred years or more but not in the short term, which is where our current problems lie. Complicating the emissions problem even further, in 1996 the UNFCCC decided that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with wood pellets should be counted where the pellets are produced, not where they are burnt. Also, chopping down native forests destroys ecosystems and biodiversity, which are not restored in the monoculture pine plantations that replace the forests. To cap it all, burning wood is not very energy-efficient and produces lots of health damaging air pollution, especially dust and small particulate matter. This all reads like a classic example of politicians acting like they are taking climate action rather than taking real climate action, as identified by Greta Thunberg recently.

‘We all experience the syndrome where we unconsciously lower our expectations to normalise what we might otherwise experience as a constant stream of losses.’ So begins an elegiac editorial in a recent edition of the journal Ecological Management and Restoration that focuses on ‘shifting baseline syndrome’ – the neglect of something we think of as common or not special leading to its gradual unnoticed disappearance. For example, the grasslands of the Victorian basalt plains west of Melbourne were once common but are now reduced to 0.15% of their previous range, with the loss of eleven grassland forbs (a type of flowering plant – I had to google it – see photos below). Unfortunately, this has been the fate of hundreds of previously common but now endangered ecosystems in Australia and globally. More optimistically, the writer relates recently encountering a healthy, diverse grassland ecosystem on a road verge and describes efforts to restore several threatened ecosystems and species, including forbs, shellfish, freshwater fishes and tree-kangaroos. The hope is that increasing people’s exposure to these ecosystems and species will shift the baselines in positive directions and encourage us to care more in future if threats re-emerge.

Of course, Joni Mitchell told us all about shifting baseline syndrome 50 years ago:

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone
They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot.

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Qui custodiet ipsos custodes? Counting down to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 18/07/2021 - 3:30am in

Tags 

Politics

In April 1949 Chifley agreed to host the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, the first time they were held in the southern hemisphere. Six months later, within days of returning to office as Prime Minister, Menzies agreed in principle to UK atomic weapons testing in Australia. Thirty kilotons were detonated at Maralinga in the three months before the Games opened. How was that allowed to happen?

From the outset, the goal was to develop the British thermonuclear H bomb that was detonated on schedule off Christmas Island in May 1957.

In the 25 years I have been researching the British tests, I have only seen one official reference to the approaching 1956 Olympics. There were six major detonations between May and October 1956, until a month before the opening of the Olympics. Despite repeated public statements, ‘the true character of these tests is understood’ by the senior Australian ‘authorities immediately concerned’.

Menzies appointed “three Australian scientists” to advise him on the safety aspects of the first three detonations – at the Monte Bellos in 1952 and Emu Field in South Australia in 1953. A close reading of even the opening pages of the Report of the 1985 Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests [available online] shows that Menzies was well aware that Ernest Titterton, the newly appointed inaugural Professor of Physics at the Australian National University, had been a pivotal player in the development and detonation of the first atomic bomb in July 1945 and its deployment at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and had been actively working with the British weapons development team led by Dr William Penney in the postwar years.

Menzies may not have been aware that Titterton was invited to be Trials Director at the 1952 Monte Bellos test before he left England for Canberra, but the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department was informed by Titterton himself that he had offered to take a similar role at the Emu Field Totem tests from his post in Canberra in 1953. Nevertheless, Menzies called him into his office and asked him to look out for Australian interests whilst he was pitching in with the UK scientific team. Penney was particularly keen to have his telemetry skills to ensure detonation.

The 1985 Royal Commission stated baldly: “Titterton had been intimately involved in ensuring the success of the atomic tests at Hurricane and Totem and could not be described as a guardian of Australian public interest.” But the other two “safety advisors” were also active weapons scientists.

Documents in File A6455, RC599, Part 2 [supplied to the Royal Commission, available online from the Australian National Archives] show that in August 1952 Penney proposed to Lord Cherwell that the Scientific Adviser to the Australian Department of Defence,

Professor LH Martin
should be “invited to join the Health Physics team at Monte Bello”. Martin had been chairman of the Australian Defence Research and Development Policy Committee since1948.

Martin had worked at the Cavendish Institute in Cambridge for several years where he impressed Penney as being “able, sensible and discreet.” He “already has shown an excellent spirit of collaboration and a realisation of the security aspects of the matter when he carried out a preliminary reconnaissance of the proposed A.W. [Atomic Weapons] Site.”

Penney commented, “We have not treated the Australians very generously in the way of inviting their scientific help, and the invitation to Prof. Martin would, I think, give them pleasure and would make them feel that we were not attempting to use their land but at the same time were keeping them out.”

It was agreed that the UK should approach the Australian Government to propose Martin as an Australian adviser at the first atomic bomb test but also as a working member of the Health Physics and Meteorology teams.

Since “The Commonwealth Government are likely to be nervous about the use of a site in the heart of the continent for atomic weapons tests, and may have to face criticism from their own people. It is obviously desirable that one of their own scientists should be able to advise them from first-hand knowledge, and it seems right to use the Monte Bello test as an opportunity for indoctrinating such a scientist.”

The writer acknowledged that “the best way” to proceed would be to ask the Australian government “to make a nomination for this purpose, but we cannot risk their unfettered choice.” This was because they might nominate their senior atomic physicist Mark Oliphant who had been blackballed from any revived Anglo-American collaboration – the goal of the British rush to develop their own H bomb – as a security risk.

This proposal “may cause fresh trouble with Oliphant, but no doubt the Commonwealth Government can deal with that.”

In August 1952 a British official wrote “I have only one comment as regards procedure. As Professor Martin is Scientific Advisor to the Australian Department of Defence, I am sure that we must approach the Australian Government, though we can leave it to our people on the spot to decide whether to do this before Martin has been sounded or afterwards.”

Martin was duly invited to “join the Health Physics Team at Monte Bello.” The official memo to Martin – from the British officials – informed him “official action is being taken to inform Australian government.”

In mid-September 1952 the Australian Minister for Supply was reported to be asking British officials if W.A.S. Butement, in charge of the Woomera Weapons Research Establishment, could attend the Hurricane test. Penney was already actively looking for a new test site on the mainland with Butement.

The UK High Commissioner in Australia was instructed on 18 September 1952 that “We are agreeable to attendance of Butement at Hurricane test. Please issue appropriate invitation to Australian authorities as soon as possible.”

Which is to say all three had been nominated and/or vetted to join the scientific team by Penney, ratified by the UK government and then proposed to the Australian government as “Australian scientists” who would each also be assigned a scientific “task” in the operation to build Britain’s first atom bomb.

In May 1955, after three bombs had been detonated, Prime Minister Menzies formed an Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee. While his Department of Defence thought it would be sufficient to constitute the Committee from just these three scientists, Menzies favoured adding two more – J.P. Baxter and C.E. Eddy. He wrote to his Minister for Defence McBride “I believe that the Committee must include members who are sufficiently well known to command general confidence as guardians of the public interest and who are not in any way to be identified as having an interest in the success of defence atomic experiments. I doubt whether a Committee of less than five could be constituted which would meet these requirements, particularly if the Defence Scientific Advisor and Chief Scientist of the Department of Supply are to be included.”

Even the official UK historian of the tests was surprised that “Professor Oliphant, Australia’s most distinguished nuclear scientist, was not included.”

But the AWTSC had very little room for manoeuvre given that its press releases were written for its “sponsorship” by the Department of Supply as is evidenced in File A6455, RC596, submitted to the Royal Commission in 1985 (online).

The releases stated there would be “no hazards to any living thing outside the test area” in the weeks up to and including the four detonations of Operation Buffalo at Maralinga up to a month before the1956 Olympics opened in Melbourne – of which there was absolutely no mention.

Drafted by two officers of the Department of Supply, they were vetted by the Minister, then sent virtually on the eve of their publication to the AWTSC Chair, Professor Martin.

By August 22, 1956, three months to the day before the Olympics were due to open, the AWTSC was asking that the Ministry of Supply, which was responsible for the Australian contribution to the tests “should obtain an alternative sponsor for these articles.”

Minister Beale was advised by his Secretary to remind Professor Martin that:

“THE QUESTION OF SELECTING A SPONSOR FOR THESE ARTICLES IS A VERY DIFFICULT ONE. IT WAS CLOSELY AND CAREFULLY EXAMINED BY YOURSELF AS MINISTER, THE DEPARTMENT AND PRIME MINISTER’S DEPARTMENT AND FOUND UNDESIRABLE TO ATTRIBUTE THEM TO ANY INDIVIDUAL PERSON, INCLUDING THE MINISTER. THEREFORE WE WERE FORCED TO DECIDE ON SOME AUTHORITY…WE WERE FORCED TO THE CONCLUSION THAT, ON THE GROUNDS OF KNOWLEDGE, STATUS AND AUTHORITY, THE SAFETY COMMITTEE WAS THE OBVIOUS SELECTION.”

Two months before the Olympics began, Penney signalled from Maralinga that “really exceptional weather” was delaying firing but “Have Olympic Games dates in mind” as he prepared four detonations. This is the only reference I have seen to the Games in official records – not including the scores being withdrawn from the UK archives or lie “unexamined” in the Australian National Archives.

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The US Government Threatens Tech Companies To Push Censorship Agendas

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 18/07/2021 - 12:00am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/91086c14040e77978fcd1b45b7454754/href

The elephant in the room with the ongoing controversy about the Biden administration’s push for more internet censorship is the fact that both the US government and the Silicon Valley tech companies who are being pushed to censor are acutely aware that those companies can be brought to their knees by antitrust cases and other regulation if they don’t censor people’s voices in accordance with the government’s wishes.

After Press Secretary Jen Psaki admitted on Thursday that the administration has given Facebook a list of accounts to ban for spreading “misinformation” about the Covid vaccine, she has now doubled down saying that people who circulate such materials online should be banned from not just one but all social media platforms.

“You shouldn’t be banned from one platform and not others for providing misinformation out there,” Psaki told the press on Friday.

When asked by the press for his thoughts on companies like Facebook, President Biden said the failure of those platforms to adequately censor posts about the vaccine makes them guilty of “killing people”.

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When confronted about the extremely serious implications of a US presidential administration telling social media platforms who to censor, Psaki said the administration wasn’t censoring people but merely raising the issue with the tech companies.

“We don’t take anything down,” said Psaki. “We don’t block anything. Facebook and any private-sector company makes decisions about what information should be on their platform. Our point is that there is information that is leading to people not taking the vaccine, and people are dying as a result. And we have a responsibility, as a public health matter, to raise that issue.”

Psaki is not technically lying, but she isn’t telling the truth either. While it’s true that the Biden administration is not directly blocking or taking down social media posts, it is also making social media companies a Godfather-style offer they can’t refuse.

For years the US government has been making it abundantly clear to the giants of Silicon Valley that if they do not greatly escalate censorship of undesirable content per Washington’s instructions, there will be consequences.

In 2017 Senator Dianne Feinstein threatened social media platforms that, because of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, they need to start utilizing more censorship or else face consequences, saying, “You created these platforms, and they are being misused. And you have to be the ones to do something about it — or we will.”

In 2019 Louisiana Representative Cedric Richmond issued a similar threat, saying social media platforms had “better” start regulating what he considers harmful content on their own, or the government will take matters into its own hands.

“They better go do it because what they don’t want is for us to do it, because we’re not going to get it right,” Richmond said. “We’re going to make it swift, we’re going to make it strong and we’re going to hold them very accountable.”

“We have the First Amendment, and we’re very reluctant to pass speech laws,” House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler told The Washington Post in 2019. “But there’s a problem, and we have to deal with it.”

“Let’s see what happens by just pressuring them first,” Nadler added. “I’m reluctant to have regulation of speech. It usually goes too far. I don’t know we have to get there yet.”

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As Glenn Greenwald noted on Twitter following the latest admissions from the Biden administration, executives from these tech companies are being regularly hauled before congress and “threatened with legislative and regulatory retaliation” if they don’t conduct censorship in alignment with the will of the US government. We saw this in 2017 when representatives from top internet platforms were brought before congress and told they needed to adopt a “mission statement” expressing their commitment “to prevent the fomenting of discord,” and we continue to see it through 2021.

The reasons change, but the agenda remains the same. Sometimes it’s foreign election meddling, sometimes it’s the Capitol riot, sometimes it’s domestic extremism and white supremacy, sometimes it’s misinformation about a virus and vaccines, but for every reason given the instruction is the same: censor online communications in accordance with the wishes of the US government. Or else.

These threats have been explicitly made, but really they did not need to be. Everyone involved in this dance is acutely aware that the US government has the ability to make things much harder and far less lucrative for these Silicon Valley tech companies. This could mean actions ranging from fines and minor regulations all the way up to the revocation of Section 230 protections or full-scale antitrust cases which can go as far as breaking up online platforms in the same way the government broke up AT&T and Standard Oil.

The stage is already set for massive antitrust measures to be implemented, with the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust finding last year that corporations like Facebook and Google are guilty of monopolistic practices, and some less severe antitrust cases are already underway.

So now we’ve got worldwide online speech being herded onto a few monopolistic platforms, and the government forcing those platforms with increasing brazenness to censor that speech in alignment with its dictates under threat of total destruction. The effect being, of course, US government control of a vast swathe of public speech, not just within the US but around the world. Which means an ungodly amount of narrative control, the ultimate prize for anyone who understands real power.

https://medium.com/media/a76f033a65bcf292307e0a72ed4259ed/href

The primary factor in determining what will happen in our world is not control of capital, nor control of government, nor control of resources, nor control of weapons, but control of narrative. All the others follow from narrative control. Control the narrative and you control where the weapons will go, where the capital will go, where the resources will go, what the government will do. Real power begins with narrative control. Understand this and you’ll understand why governments, plutocrats and media behave the way they do.

So while antitrust laws ostensibly exist to protect the citizenry from corporate power, here they are being leveraged to ensure the union of corporate power and state power. The carrot is billions of dollars, and the stick is the threat of painful government intervention.

Obviously the US government would prefer to simply have monopolistic corporations voluntarily censoring content in accordance with government interests, but for them the only thing worse than having no monopolistic companies serving the empire would be having monopolistic companies which refuse to serve the empire. So the threat being issued here is, “Censor the way we tell you to censor, or your company will be broken down and replaced with one that will.”

And that’s exactly what could easily happen. Facebook, Google/Youtube or Twitter could easily be regulated into dysfunction or broken up into smaller companies, and then some other more government-aligned corporation could be allowed to take their place. Silicon Valley billionaires are hardly known for being the most principled people in existence to begin with, so that threat is all it would take to ensure they conduct themselves in alignment with the will of the empire.

This is just one of the many, many types of glue that keeps power structures aligned with one another’s interests within the US-centralized empire. If you want to be a billionaire and control massive amounts of wealth, you have to collaborate with existing power structures. Otherwise you won’t be allowed in, and if you are in you’ll be kicked right out.

It’s always easier to move with power than against it. That’s why ambitious journalists promote the imperial narrative, it’s why new money plutocrats always wind up aligning with establishment interests, and it’s why so many other nations align with the US.

In theory, markets and government checks and balances are supposed to keep the big players competing against each other to our benefit. In practice, the big players always wind up collaborating against us for their own benefit.

__________________

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Haiti Ruling Families Create and Kill Monsters

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/07/2021 - 3:45pm in

How Haiti is a fiefdom for gangs and foreigners pilfering the country's natural resources.

Is the Artic Permafrost Thawing?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/07/2021 - 8:32am in

 

Source
Down Under is enjoying a comfortably cool winter. Because of La Niña, this year has been relatively rainy too, which means that crops were abundant. The bad news is that plenty water and food also means mice galore.

But the really terrible thing is that rain over the Murray-Darling Basin makes the rats go berserk.


Perhaps all that, plus the obsession with COVID19 (now with the Delta variant scaring the living daylights out of Victorians and New South Welshmen and -women), has kept local media too busy.

Whatever the cause, local journos have all but ignored the ongoing heat wave affecting almost the entire northern hemisphere since the last week of June (see image above, courtesy of The Washington Post). Here we’ve only heard about the western states of the US and Canada, where the heat has killed hundreds of people.

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On top, NASA is currently reporting wildfires in British Columbia (June 30):

Source
The Sakha Republic (Eastern Russian Federation, July 5):

Source 

And the northwestern coast of the US (July 8):

Source
This map shows the relative locations of those fires:


And local Russian media in English reports that

Source
It’s not only physical structures and economic activity which are at risk either, according to Staalesen’s story: “With the melting of the frozen tundra comes also growing risks of new and lethal diseases. Among the many infectious disease agents preserved in the permafrost is Anthrax.”

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Before closing. Yesterday (Friday July 16th) ABC Online published the following extremely disturbing story (from the international news agency Agence France-Presse):

(Source)

The AFP release itself provides little detail on the research it comments on and yesterday I could not verify any of what little information AFP made available. Only today, therefore too late for this post, I found a note at The Guardian providing more particulars.

The research paper (“Amazonia as a Carbon Source Linked to Deforestation and Climate Change”) appeared in Nature and was written by Luciana V. Gatti (from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research) and another 18 researchers. It is available for viewing here (not downloadable).

More on this soon, once I give it a good look.

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