Archive for May, 2012

Discrimination in Australian Jewry… again

Just saw this post on Galus, showing the number of female speakers in Melbourne shuls over Shavuot (in most cases, the number was “0”).

Shavuot Scorecard – Where are the Women? | Galus Australis | Jewish Life in Australia.

I may have a bit too much time on my hands this week, and I did a little survey after I received an email of all the Tikkun Leil Shavuot events happening in Orthodox shules [eds: The Tikkun Leil Shavuot is an evening of Torah learning that is held on the first night of Shavuot].

Each shule is hosting between 3-11 speakers on the night. Below is a list of how many women are speaking at each shule.

St Kilda Shule: 0

South Caulfield: 0

Elwood: 0

Spiritgrow: 0

Chabad Malvern: 0

Elsternwick Shule: 0

Hamayan: 0

Yeshiva: 0

CBH – Katanga: 0

Chabad Glen Eira: 0

Kew Hebrew Congregation: 0

Chabad on Carlisle: 0

Blake Street: 1

Bnei Akiva: 1

Mizrachi: 1

Caulfield Shule: 1

Beit Aharon: 2

Shira: 7

Regular readers may know that I have been looking at a lot of material on discrimination recently — mostly to do with racial discrimination, but there is an obvious overlap with gender.

A couple of very important points to note are firstly that discrimination is generally not a conscious decision and secondly that it is generally hard to see in individual cases, but reveals itself when you start looking at the broader picture.

This is a case in point. No doubt, each shul would have a very reasonable explanation for who they invited, but taken as a whole, it is obvious that Melbourne’s shuls are not interested in hearing from women. I would venture a guess that the picture would not look too different in Sydney (or indeed in most Orthodox communities).

This is once again a sign that Orthodox Judaism is a sect by and for men. As I have often maintained, manifest discrimination during the religious service filters into all other aspects of life on some level. This is off-putting even for people like me who are not women.

Yet the rabbis of these shuls are sitting there, staring at thousands of empty seats and wonder what could possibly be keeping their congregation away…

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Tales of an ordinary reasonable man

For all you lawyers out there.

Donoghue v Stevenson

Click to enlarge:

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This may (or may not) be how the recent ACTU conference went down

I’m seeing a lot of comments like this one from Labor Senator Doug Cameron:

Good jobs for Aussies is not a miner matter | thetelegraph.com.au.

We must have a clear and unequivocal position on this: If Australian workers are being denied employment on mine construction sites then companies should not have a licence to engage overseas workers. …

Since when was it unreasonable to expect that highly profitable mining companies should provide Australian workers with the skill upgrading, training, travel support and accommodation to ensure they have genuine access to employment opportunities?

And this one:

Robust’ Labor caucus meeting expected.

Victorian Labor backbencher Kelvin Thomson has also issued a sharp critique of the government’s Rinehart deal, telling reporters in Canberra that does not support the enterprise migration agreement policy, which allows “mega” resource projects to negotiate temporary migration needs up-front.

“We will end up with a situation where we have foreign companies using foreign workforces to send our resources in foreign ships to foreign countries for the use and enjoyment of foreign customers,” he said this morning.  

God forbid.

Sinclair Davidson from Catallaxy Files pointed to economist Brian Caplan explaining that it’s easy to play on peoples’ fears like this and make them scared of “foreigners”.

The real irony is that the ALP has been trying to paint itself as the party that’s more “compassionate” to asylum seekers. Apparently that only applies to people who are not actually going to contribute to the workforce — otherwise tehy are just “stealing our jobs”.

Meanwhile, you’re probably wondering what that headline was about. Well, does the whole situation make anyone else think of this?

Or this?

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UN Steps-up Syria Intervention

Now Kofi Annan AND Ban-Ki Moon have issued a JOINT STATEMENT, condemning Syria in the “STRONGEST POSSIBLE TERMS”. Hold onto your seats guys, this shit just got serious!

Fighting Assad one strongly worded statement at a time | Article | The Punch.

The Secretary-General and the Joint Special Envoy condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of El-Houleh, near Homs.  Observers from the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria have viewed the bodies of the dead and confirmed from an examination of ordnance that artillery and tank shells were fired at a residential neighbourhood.

It seems that the UN observers are doing a great job observing more things for the UN to condemn, and the UN leadership is issuing condemnations right on cue. As Tory Maguire said in that rather aptly titled post that I linked to, “well that ought to do the trick.”

I think Jeffrey Goldberg had the best critique of this devastating strategy being employed by the UN, the US and the rest of the international community:

Obama Hits Syria With Brutal Blast of Adverbs – Bloomberg.

Almost 10,000 people [now over 13,000] have died in the current Syrian uprising, and each passing day brings the killing and torture of more civilians, including many children.

Some critics say the U.S. has shamed itself by not intervening aggressively on behalf of Syria’s rebels and dissidents.

They’re wrong. The Obama administration hasn’t helped to arm the rebels, nor has it created safe havens for persecuted dissidents. But it has done something far more important: It has provided the Syrian opposition with very strong language to describe Assad’s various atrocities.

The administration’s unprecedented verbal and written sorties against the Assad regime have included some of the most powerful adjectives, adjectival intensifiers and adverbs ever aimed at an American foe. This campaign has helped Syrians understand, among other things, that the English language contains many synonyms for “repulsive.”

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Sunday quote: expert opinions

Experts who venture “opinions” (sometimes merely their own inference of fact), outside their field of specialised knowledge may invest those opinions with a spurious appearance of authority, and legitimate processes of fact-finding may be subverted.

– High Court of Australia Chief Justice Murray Gleeson in HG v R (1999) 197 CLR 414.

These kinds of legal principles apply well beyond the courtroom. What Gleeson said rings true in everyday life and the media especially. It is precisely this phenomenon that results in crackpots like Noam Chomsky being listened to when they spout conspiratorial, pseudo-historic nonsense.

Being a decorated expert in linguistics or any other discipline does not mean that someone has any authority to speak about politics. Similarly, being a top geologist does not necessarily mean that someone will have any expertise in climate science; and being a climate scientist is not the same as being an economist.

We all need to be a little bit more skeptical about “experts” speaking outside their field of expertise – particularly when they are saying the opposite to what people who are genuinely experts in that field are talking about.

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The cancer that is eroding the Jewish character of Israel

Source: Activestills.org

Source: Activestills.org

It is hard to put into words what I feel about the events in the South Tel Aviv suburb yesterday with the bitterly ironic name of Hatikvah. That said, putting things into words is what I do. So here goes.

I’ll begin with someone else’s words: Ha’aretz journalist Ilan Lior, who was actually there and watched the whole thing play out. Here is how he described it:

How a Tel Aviv anti-migrant protest spiraled out of control – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

I have been a journalist for ten years. I’ve covered terror attacks, funerals, car accidents, and protests. I’ve seen fury, frustration, despair, and sadness in a variety of places and forms. But I’ve never seen such hatred as it was displayed on Wednesday night in the Hatikva neighborhood. If it weren’t for the police presence, it would have ended in lynching. I have no doubt. Perhaps a migrant worker would have been murdered, perhaps an asylum seeker, or maybe just a passerby in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Israel’s asylum seeker problem

I have written in the past on how Israel provides its African asylum seekers with a safe haven that is unmatched by any other country that side of Europe, but also that they still face difficulties. The situation that they find themselves in is depicted very well in this piece by Daniella Cheslow and I recommend clicking through and reading it, but in essence: Israel has no policy.

Tens of thousands of people have been fleeing for Israel over the past decade, primarily from Sudan and Eritrea. The horrors that they face at home and during the journey do not bear thinking about. Amongst other things, they are hunted for their ethnicity, quite literally shot on sight by Egyptian forces, and often abducted by Sinai Bedoins, held to ransom and then tortured to death when they can’t pay (African refugees do not tend to have a lot of money).

After weeks of travelling through harsh deserts, often on foot, they cross the border into Israel – where they are greeted by the Israeli border guards, given food and medical attention, taken to a detention centre in South Israel so that Israel can figure out who they are, and then given a one-way bus ticket to Tel Aviv.

That is the end of Israel’s plan for them. They arrive in Tel Aviv with absolutely nothing – no working visa, no knowledge of Hebrew, no friends, no family, no support network. There are now 60,000 of them – almost 1% of Israel’s entire population – and the Israeli government has had no policy at all to deal with the issue. For reasons outlined here by Shallya Scher-Ehrlich, this is in breach of international law.

What happens next is quite obvious: they serve the same functions as large groups of illegal migrants anywhere else. They work in below-minimum-wage jobs for people unscrupulous enough to employ them in these conditions, they live in crowded accommodation in the poorest neighbourhoods and, out of desperation and because criminal gangs are one group that do not exclude them for the colour of their skin, they often become involved in crime (although reports of them massively increasing crime rates are highly exaggerated).

The areas that they moved into were previously (and in some cases still are) the ones predominantly inhabited by Israel’s other marginalised groups – Jewish immigrants from Arab countries and from Ethiopia, or ‘Mizrachim‘. How the old residents have reacted was captured quite well in a profile by Ben Hartman on Sophie Menashe, a Mizrachi Jew who found herself to be the last Jew in a building now inhabited by African migrants:

Jpost | African influx to TA worries elderly Jewish holdout

Despite the descriptions of a gilded past, these neighborhoods were never upscale and had a persistent reputation for being crime-infested. However, the influx of Africans has added racial conflict to the already troubled social dynamic and has left many veteran residents feeling foreign and outnumbered. …

The apartment was once a source of pride for Menashe. …

Over the years, her neighbors grew older and died or moved out, and more and more foreigners moved in; first foreign workers, mainly from West Africa and East Asia, and over the past five or six years, East African migrants and asylum- seekers.

The sentiments that Menashe expressed toward the African migrants left little room for nuance: They carry AIDS and other diseases, are violent drunks and might be part of a plot hatched by the Jewish state’s enemies to flood Israel with African Muslims, creating a demographic threat to bring down the country from within.

Although such views would offend a wide swath of polite Israeli society, they come from a place of fear and frustration, and from long days spent cooped up in her apartment, afraid to step out into a world that has shifted beneath her feet – where Menashe now feels like a stranger.

These tensions have recently started coming to a head, and the government is finally reacting as a result – building a fence along the border to Egypt and building a massive detention centre to house the asylum seekers. In many ways, it seems as though they are taking a leaf out of Australia’s book.

Whatever your views on mandatory detention, one particular leaf that Israel has now taken is unambiguously disgusting, hateful and unjustifiable. That “leaf” is the 2005 Cronulla riots, which in many ways were mirrored by yesterday’s events in Tel Aviv.

This car with an African driver was attacked by the mob. Photo: Ha’aretz

I began the post with Ilan Lior’s eyewitness report of the incident and another, by Hagai Matar, can be read here. The worst part is undoubtedly the fact that the crowd was fuelled mostly by Members of the Knesset.

Hatikvah was a riot

Let’s be clear though, while some of these were government MKs, the protest was against the government’s policy. The protesters and the speakers were complaining that the government has not been harsh enough on the refugees. What the parliamentarians said, however, was disgraceful. Lior quotes Michael Ben-Ari, a Kahannist, saying, “there are rapists and harassers here. The time for talk is over.”

Wore still was the quote from Likkud MK Miri Regev, which I feel the need to emphasise in bold:

“The Sudanese are a cancer in our body. All the left-wingers that filed petitions in the Supreme court should be embarrassed – they stopped the expulsion.”

As a few have pointed out, this is precisely the kind of abhorrent, racist rhetoric that Iranian leaders use to refer to Israel and Jews, rightly drawing condemnation from most of the world.

Even worse, it is the kind of language that Sudanese President Omar Bashir uses when he’s busy inciting genocide against the black Africans in his Arab-ruled country. This is precisely what these people fled in the first instance, hoping for a haven in Israel, yet they are met with the same revulsion. It’s sickening.

Even this was not quite the evening’s the low point.

Ben-Ari, Regev and Major Karnage favourite Danny Danon  managed to rile the crowd enough that they transformed into a mob and began attacking the journalists mentioned above for being “traitors” and allegedly “throwing rocks at checkpoints” (which, needless to say, both of them deny ever doing).

The mob started chanting “Sudanese to Sudan!” and making their way towards the largely African neighbourhoods. What ensued was beyond harrowing. The mob went around South Tel Aviv, smashing the windows of African-owned businesses, looting African-run shops and attacking passers-by who happened to be black.

I cannot think of any epithets that even approach how repulsive this is. Jews Sans Frontiers, a group with whom I do not often agree, compared it — not unjustifiably — to Kristallnacht. Watching some of the footage, this is exactly what comes to mind:

Danon’s response? Well, he figured that he’d pen an op-ed. This was published in the Jerusalem Post the morning after the riot:

Deportation Now! – JPost – Opinion – Op-Eds.

We are at a critical crossroads with a strategic demographic threat developing within our borders that may upend our country’s very character as a Jewish and democratic state. It is nonsensical that such large numbers of illegal infiltrators from Africa are settling permanently in our country and so little is being done to rectify this problem. This is especially highlighted when taking into account that the crime rate among the infiltrators is almost double the rate of that in the general population. The desperately necessary solution is a three-pronged program to end this dangerous phenomenon: stop, arrest and deport.

A threat to Israel’s “character as a Jewish and democratic state”.

No.

The rhetoric that Danon was supporting and that pogrom he incited is exactly the sort of persecution that Israel was created to prevent. The Zionist dream was formed when Jews had to regularly endure this kind of treatment and longed for a place where they would be away from it, where they would be able to live without fear — not a place to import the violent prejudice that plagued the countries from which they fled.

The concept of a “Jewish state” may be difficult to define, but it was definitely not meant in the same way that the Nazis spoke of a “German state”. Whatever some anti-Zionists may choose to believe, Israel was never intended to be a land “cleansed” of non-Jews. It is supposed to be a homeland for the Jewish people, that to some extent embodies Jewish values.

This riot was about as far from Jewish values as anyone can possibly stray. Where is the “light unto the nations” now? Who is “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you?”

It is not the African migrants that are eroding Israel’s Jewish character, it is Danon, Regev and Ben-Ari. They are the cancer that is eating away at Israeli society, propagating this vile racism — not to mention trying to unravel the Constitutional basis for Israel’s democracy.

National unity

If there is some hope left to find in Hatikvah, it is in the fact that these MKs did manage to unite the Jewish people — against them. Jewish organisations around the world condemned what happened. Similar for everyone in Israel beyond a handful of extremists.

Even someone like Neil Lazarus — who has literally made his career out of defending everything Israel does — has come out strongly against Israeli racism as a result.

Moreover, the critical voices include members of the Government who are much more important than Danon:

Netanyahu condemns southern Tel Aviv violence – Israel News, Ynetnews.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on Wednesday’s violent protests in southern Tel Aviv and made it clear that “there is no room for the actions and expressions witnessed (in Tel Aviv). I’m saying these things to the general population and the residents of southern Tel Aviv, whose pain I understand.”

Rivlin: ‘Lawmakers Must Guard Their Words!’ – Inside Israel – News – Israel National News.

[Knesset Speaker Reuben Rivlin said that t]he people “may demonstrate and protest and demand the government formulate a solution, but there should be no incitement – and it is forbidden to use the same tactics anti-Semites used against us [in the Exile].”

“We suffered greatly from incitement and harassment,” Rivlin said. “We must be committed to sensitivity and finding just solutions. The main problem is not the infiltrators and refugees, but the lack of a clear policy from the government of Israel.”

It is important to maintain perspective. As Michael Koplow pointed out, there were only about 1,000 people who attended the rally, and fewer still who actually rioted.

Also, while I did use the word “pogrom”, this is not like the state-sanctioned pogroms that the Jews of Eastern Europe were subjected to. Happily, no one was killed or seriously injured on the night – thanks in no small part to the heroic actions of the Israeli police. Israeli society has overwhelmingly condemned what went on and it has been made clear by the Prime Minister and the President that this kind of thing has no place in Israel.

In that spirit, I strongly believe that the Members of Knesset who were involved in the affair should be forced to resign. What they said and did is absolutely unacceptable and their parties should not countenance that behaviour.

Also, I will be donating money to the African Refugee Development Centre in Tel Aviv, I suggest that you do the same.

I will leave you with some words from Adam Ibrahim, a leader of Israel’s African migrant community:

An African migrant’s plea for a few basic rights – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

If you don’t want us here, don’t turn your rage at us, because we have no choice. I have nowhere to go. I just want to live in safety. I agree to be deported to any African country, other than Sudan. I just want to live with dignity, without people talking about the color of my skin, and I want to stop feeling hostility on the streets.

It is important for me to say that we are not a burden on society. We work for less than minimum wage in jobs that Israelis wouldn’t want to do themselves anyway. We pay rent, and make do with organizations that we established ourselves. It is hard for me to hear Eli Yishai’s statements in the media. Their impact on Israelis is tremendous, since in Israel everyone listens to the news.

The state is spreading negative propaganda against us – they say it is unsafe here because of us. I feel that the Jews are doing to us the exact same thing the Germans did to them. Don’t talk nonsense – we are in the 21st century. Don’t talk about skin color, don’t talk about slaves and don’t say that I stink. We want to see a real democracy – not only words.

I know that I will never have equal rights here. I just want to receive the few rights that I do deserve as a refugee.

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Jews should boycott Jews who boycott Jews, by Isi Liebler

It goes something like this: “Jews boycotting other Jews is a disgrace! Jews who call for a boycott of settlements should not be welcomed into the Jewish community!” — ie, we should boycott them.

Apparently the internal inconsistency of this argument has not dawned on Mr Liebler.*

The editorial correctly expresses consternation that the South African government is creating an atmosphere in which bullying Israel is considered perfectly legitimate. Surely the Diaspora Jews who indulge in similar activities should likewise be fervently condemned for conducting hostile acts against their own kinsmen. The suggestion that the vast majority of committed Jews in the Diaspora, as well as Israelis, should welcome Jews calling for such boycotts into “the big tent” if their “motivation” is deemed to be “well intentioned,” is thus idiotic and unconscionable.

________

* In case I really have to say this, I am not in favour of boycotting settlements, but I will defend to death Liam’s right to say it.

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WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO ME??

Max Read in Gawker  on the “race war”

Are You Prepared for the Race War?.

If nothing else you’ve probably noticed that “race relations are probably worse now among the average person on the street than they were the day President Obama was elected,” as activist Ward Connerly tells McKay Coppins in Coppins’ “In Conservative Media, A ‘Race War’ Rages,” an excellent summary of the current state of conservative journalism. Connerly is filled with pearls of wisdom: “Obama has been more racial than any white president has ever been in my lifetime,” he tells Coppins in an attempt to explain his perception of a current low ebb in American race relations. What a wonderful way of putting into words the conservative problem with Obama! He’s more racial than other presidents.

But maybe you haven’t experienced the Race War at all. Maybe you’ve somehow managed to avoid the dangerous gangs of black teens, flash-mobbing across the country in their insatiable search for white flesh. It’s okay. I myself didn’t know there was a Race War on until I read Sowell’s most recent column and learned that “the authorities and the media seem determined to suppress” the plain fact that “the hoodlum elements in many ghettoes launch coordinated attacks on whites in public places.” How frequently do these “coordinated attacks” take place? As McKay Coppins points out, Sowell’s column doesn’t “cite any statistics, relying instead on anecdotal evidence.” But what anecdotal evidence …

The local media might try to sweep these episodes under the proverbial rug, through its sophisticated false-flag tactic of “immediately and extensively covering these episodes,” but the national media will have trouble ignoring them when we have intrepid minds like Sowell (once called “our greatest contemporary philosopher” by no less a thinker than David Mamet) on the case. So long as someone is willing to do the hard, boots-on-the-ground journalistic work of visiting the Drudge Report, the truth of the Race War will never go unknown.

This brought to mind Randa Abdel-Fattah’s missive last week on The Drum:

What must Palestinians do to get your attention? – The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Dear Western leaders and the international media, what must a Palestinian do to get your attention?

I ask this question as I recall watching Gandhi with my parents when I was a teenager. With the confident zeal of an adolescent, I vividly recall telling my father (born in Palestine in 1945 and dispossessed of his land in 1967) that what the Palestinians needed to do to draw international attention to their plight was simply go on a mass hunger strike.

… since April 17, 2012, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, there have been more than 2,000 Palestinian hunger strikers demanding an improvement in their living conditions in Israeli prisons, family visitations, education, an end to solitary confinement, repression and night searches.

And yet, in the face of this dramatic expression of Palestinian non-violent resistance, the media and our leaders remain unmoved.

That’s a very good question Ms Abdel-Fattah, what could Palestinians possibly do to get peoples’ attention? Because they definitely don’t have it now.

I mean, they could maybe try and get all of the major international newspapers to base their Middle East bureaus in Jerusalem. Or perhaps they could try and win sympathy from some major press outlets — like the BBC, or CNN, or our very own ABC and SBS. Maybe even that new Al Jazeera network that seems to be quite popular for its Middle East coverage — I’m sure it could be convinced to air a story or two about Palestinians.

Well yes, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict gets more media coverage than just about anything else on the planet. What Abdel-Fattah is really complaining about is that the coverage by-and-large does not reflect her worldview.

You can criticise someone for ignoring a problem (like I criticise people for ignoring Africa), but your criticism sounds a lot more hollow when you’re just complaining that no one agrees with you. It’s a common message from people on the extremes of the political spectrum — they all complain that their publications don’t sell and they aren’t given column inches in The Australian, therefore the media must be “biased”.

What never seems to occur to them is that they may just be wrong.

Think about it, Ms Abdel-Fattah. Maybe it’s not censorship. Maybe you’re being ignored because your views are based fringe ideas that people who know what they are talking about dismiss as misinformed and not worth giving a pedestal to.

I know it’s a harder truth to deal with than the idea that everyone is being sucked-in by some mass conspiracy that doesn’t want you to be heard, but it’s also far more realistic…

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More on defence spending and the South Pacific

Despite not being the “shadow CIA” that Julian Assange tried to pretend it was (mostly so that hacking them could seem like a big deal), strategic consulting company does provide some useful analysis.

In this week’s dispatch, Stratfor director George Friedman has analysed the strategy of Australia, trying to answer the question of why a country that seems both secure and wealthy would take part in so many wars that do not directly affect its security.

As Friedman details, the answer is that Australia must contribute to our strategic alliance with the Us in order to guarantee US support in our own region. As I have pointed out, the maritime routes in the South Pacific are not quite as secure as they seem, and will probably be the subject of some conflict over the coming decades.
Australia’s Strategy | Stratfor.

This leads to Australia’s strategic problem. In order to sustain its economy it must trade, and given its location, its trade must go by sea. Australia is not in a position, by itself, to guarantee the security of its sea-lanes, due to its population size and geographic location. Australia therefore encounters two obstacles. First, it must remain competitive in world markets for its exports. Second, it must guarantee that its goods will reach those markets. If its sea-lanes are cut or disrupted, the foundations of Australia’s economy are at risk. …

Australia is in a high-risk situation, even though superficially it appears secure. Its options are to align with the United States and accept the military burdens that entails, or to commit to Asia in general and China in particular. Until that time when an Asian power can guarantee the sea-lanes against the United States — a time that is far in the future — taking the latter route would involve pyramiding risks. Add to this that the relationship would depend on the uncertain future of Asian economies — and all economic futures are now uncertain — and Australia has chosen a lower-risk approach.

This approach has three components. The first is deepening economic relations with the United States to balance its economic dependencies in Asia. The second is participating in American wars in order to extract guarantees from the United States on sea-lanes. The final component is creating regional forces able to handle events in Australia’s near abroad, from the Solomon Islands through the Indonesian archipelago. But even here, Australian forces would depend on U.S. cooperation to manage threats.

Once again, Australia is secure because we have played our strategic hand very well over the past century, but this may not necessarily be the case in future. Reducing our military — and especially naval — capabilities by cutting defence spending, as the Government is, is a huge mistake.

There is no shortage of Government projects that could be cut back instead of defence . We can start with some of these ridiculous middle class welfare/pork-barrelling measures that my favourite treasurer has just introduced, or that useless bid for a seat on the UN Security Council that has been our top foreign policy endeavour since 2009.

What is the point of having a vote in the Security Council when we are a military non-event?

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This is how a climate change article is done: take note

As you may have guessed by the infrequent posts recently, for a number of reasons I have not had the time to read/write like I usually would (and won’t for a while). Catching-up on the New Yorker from two weeks ago, I just read this article by Michael Specter on geoengineering.

I was going to provide excerpts and commentary, like I usually would, but that really wouldn’t do this article justice. Specter manages to succinctly cover almost every relevant piece of information about climate change: the history of the science, the current state of knowledge, the different options available, the possible economic costs, the political will etc.

The article shows that there is potential for catastrophe and there are a lot of horrible-sounding predictions, but these are all unreliable and we have historically been very inaccurate when trying to predict weather patterns. Similarly, the most coveted option (of cutting carbon emissions entirely) is completely unrealistic and probably more insane than the geoengineering options described in the article, all of which are a insane to some extent.

The one point that I want to concentrate on came close to the end, it concerns the lack of an international legal system to deal with activity that alters the climate. I have not finished processing the repercussions of this, but I will probably write a post once I have thought it all through.

In the meantime, I strongly recommend clicking through and reading the full article. It makes Mark Latham’s attempt look like a primary school science project (if it didn’t look like that already, that is).

Can Geoengineering Solve Global Warming? : The New Yorker.

The most environmentally sound approach to geoengineering is the least palatable politically. “If it becomes necessary to ring the planet with sulfates, why would you do that all at once?’’ Ken Caldeira asked. “If the total amount of climate change that occurs could be neutralized by one Mt. Pinatubo, then doesn’t it make sense to add one per cent this year, two per cent next year, and three per cent the year after that?’’ he said. “Ramp it up slowly, throughout the century, and that way we can monitor what is happening. If we see something at one per cent that seems dangerous, we can easily dial it back. But who is going to do that when we don’t have a visible crisis? Which politician in which country?’’

Unfortunately, the least risky approach politically is also the most dangerous: do nothing until the world is faced with a cataclysm and then slip into a frenzied crisis mode. The political implications of any such action would be impossible to overstate. What would happen, for example, if one country decided to embark on such a program without the agreement of other countries? Or if industrialized nations agreed to inject sulfur particles into the stratosphere and accidentally set off a climate emergency that caused drought in China, India, or Africa?

“Let’s say the Chinese government decides their monsoon strength, upon which hundreds of millions of people rely for sustenance, is weakening,” Caldeira said. “They have reason to believe that making clouds right near the ocean might help, and they started to do that, and the Indians found out and believed—justifiably or not—that it would make their monsoon worse. What happens then? Where do we go to discuss that? We have no mechanism to settle that dispute.”

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