Saturday Salon 13/9


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. Scottish independence

Finally the vote for Scottish independence is to take place on Thursday 18 September.

Suddenly with a “no” vote possible, everyone is paying attention. Anatole Kaletsky in the New York Times says it would send a ripple through Europe, make David Cameron a lame duck leader if he doesn’t resign and destabilise what remains of the UK.

George Monbiot says a yes vote in Scotland would unleash the most dangerous thing of all – hope.

John Harris thinks the system is broken. What we are seeing is post-democratic politics.

what is happening north of the border is the most spectacular manifestation of a phenomenon taking root all over – indeed, if the splintering of politics and the rise of new forces on both left and right across Europe are anything to go by, a set of developments not defined by specific national circumstances, but profound social and economic ruptures.

Whether justifiably or not, millions of British people have passed through holding politicians in contempt and now treat them with cold indifference. Let’s face it: the only thing keeping all this alive is the electoral system.

Post-democracy is

a development seen “when boredom, frustration and disillusion have settled in after a democratic moment … [and] where political elites have learned to manage and manipulate popular demands”

2. Terror alert

Abbott announced, just after the anniversary of 9/11, that the country was going on high terror alert, this time without fridge magnets. We are meant to carry on as normal and not worry about his nasty budget. Sorry, I’m wandering!

Greg Barns wonders whether it’s just a case of the spooks, who are always jumpy, jumping as they do, and asks:

If no attack is imminent and Abbott says it is not, then why bother to make the announcement?

3. High court intervenes on asylum seeker detention

For the first time, the High Court clearly set out the constitutional limits on immigration detention:

It was previously unclear for what purposes the government could detain non-citizens. The court has now clearly stated that the government can lawfully detain someone in only three circumstances: to consider whether to let someone apply for a visa; to consider an application for a visa; or to remove someone.

Detention is only lawful if these purposes are being “pursued and carried into effect as soon as reasonably practicable”, the court held. The length of detention must be assessed by what is “necessary and incidental” to execute and fulfil those purposes. These limits on detention are constitutional. In other words, parliament cannot override them by introducing new legislation.

4. Obama has a plan

Obama is on the offensive at least rhetorically, promising to degrade and destroy ISIL. His foot is now firmly planted in the quagmire.

Australia will tag along, of course.

5. Submarines will be bought from Japan

It looks certain that the next batch of submarines for the Australian Navy will be made in Japan.

Whatever you think of this it looks like yet another broken election promise.

6. Oscar Pistorius convicted of ‘culpable homicide’

In other words, manslaughter.

I can understand him being acquitted of premeditated murder. To me his brain was minimally engaged at all. What I don’t understand is that you can fire four shots through a closed door at a presumed intruder without an intent to kill.

18 thoughts on “Saturday Salon 13/9”

  1. About Oscar… I was not there when the shooting happened, I have not followed the trial in any detail and really I am more interested in the process of a high-profile trial than the nuts and bolts of the crime.
    But Oscar repeatedly fired his very powerful gun at an undetermined target and a person died. Pretty reckless not to call out a warning: even the best Westerns give the bad guy a chance to come out “…with yer hands up!”
    I think that the trial outcome, from my vicarious perch is pretty right, the State apparently failed to prove outright murder. The parents of the deceased are outraged.

    The sentence is due next month. That should be interesting to watch. I’m pretty sure that the average guy that might have committed the same offense would be languishing in goal months ago, but high profilers seem to enjoy a different ride. OK, maybe money helps, maybe more judicial care from the State to get it right, but eventually the sentence tells a lot. I am really looking forward to learning of the sentence and also how the learned judge enunciates herself. I am hopeful she will explain how she arrives at whatever sentence.

  2. Geoff, yes, the sentence will tell a tale. I understand the judge has complete discretion up to 15 years. The judge spoke of negligence and excessive force, so I’m guessing something mid-range, say 8-10 years.

    On the trial, I can understand that Pistorius my have thought Reeva Steenkamp was in bed and it was a hard road for the prosecution to prove otherwise, beyond reasonable doubt.

    I don’t have the transcript to hand, but I heard the judge say something like Pistorius could not have reasonably known that shooting through the door four times would kill someone on the other side.

    At that point my jaw dropped. I thought it was manifestly clear that Pistorius was intent on blowing that someone away. This was not a case of warning shots or self defense.

    Which to me means murder. Pistorius was attempting to kill persons unknown and took action which would reasonably have that effect.

    Another angle of this is I understand the family are considering a civil case, it was said based on the loss of Steenkamp’s earnings.

    There is much yet to unfold.

  3. Brian:
    “…Pistorius could not have reasonably known that shooting through the door four times would kill someone on the other side.”
    I did hear that, and like you I was a bit surprised. It seemed a hard thing to accept. Possibly I lost context somewhere and maybe the judge had in mind the State’s failure to provide evidence sufficient to convict for murder.
    As you say, there is more to come.

  4. So Pistorius claims that he thought that he was dealing with a home invader.
    South Africa has a serious crime problem. Not sure what the probability would be that a home invader would have been armed in SA.
    Pistorius’s leg problem would have made it hard for him to physically deal with a home invader. (The blades, even if he was wearing them would not have been much use in a tussle with a normally fit person.) This may have made him more inclined to shoot first.
    In Aus the law has (at least in the past) allowed householders to shoot home invaders under some circumstances.
    Lots of people have loud arguments without ending up killing someone later in the night.
    Having said all the above one wonders that someone would shoot through a toilet door with no warning when the toilet could have been being used by someone living in the house.

  5. Hi Brian and all

    Did you know that the Australian Climate Summit is being held this coming weekend in Brisbane?

    I’m doing a snapshot presentation on the Sunday and the organisers have asked us all to spread the word. As quite a few of you are in Queensland I believe, you might be interested in coming. The program’s at the link above. It looks interesting and pretty dynamic.

    There’s also a March on Sunday as you probably know.

    Cheers, hope some of you can make it.

  6. Sorry, Val @7. Stuck out in The Bush – but shall be with you in spirit – best of luck for a productive Summit.

    Terror Alert: What the heck purpose does it serve? Other than yet another stunt to distract us from the Bungled Bludget.

    There’s no statute or regulation that comes into operation once the High status is declared. My guess is that the Spooks actually doing all the hard work of spookery on the ground probably advised AGAINST such a declaration; it would almost certainly hinder the sort of work they do.

    A marker that this is merely an ill-planned political stunt is the complete absence of an effective public information campaign – other than some nebulous fear generating. Those who were in the United Kingdom (can I still call it that?) during the IRA bombing campaign will spot all the things missing here if there was a real High alert. That said, I expect atrocities will be committed in Australia, regardless of the declared status, because of who we ourselves are and with little real regard for what our government has done.

  7. Bungled budget or not, what would you have government do? Act or not act? If we fail to act we are giving some tacit approval to ISIL aren’t we? At the same time we are alarming those who really don’t want to see us in another conflict.

    I’m struggling to find middle ground here or come up with a solution of any sort. Best I can do is say that ISIL should be confronted – hopefully there is no argument about that. Just how we (and others of the Coalition) intervene is way outside my field but I would expect it will take more time than we hope, more money than we have and a lot of blood and guts. Of course too the media will feast upon it, seeking to drive the most entertainment value it can from the conflict. The government spin will be just as self-serving.

    So I wish the whole thing would just go away, but it will not, at least not without some external involvement.

  8. So far, ISIL has, with a few minor exceptions, been about a Sunni organizations conducting a war against Muslims. Some of this has been about fighting non Sunni muslims but quite a bit has involved fighting and oppressing Sunnis.
    The above is a major weakness of ISIL. Young Muslims may have second thoughts about going to fight for what is claimed to be a Muslim organization that is all about attacking Muslims. Some writers have suggested that the reason for the public beheadings of US and British prisoners was in fact to bring non Muslims into the war so that ISIL could recruit people to “fight against the infidel.”
    All this suggests that what the West does about ISIL has to be nuanced. It is not an area where someone like Abbott would be the right person to be seen as the spokesperson for the West.

  9. Geoff @ 9: I would expect any competent government to resolute yet flexible action to protect its citizenry and its national interest. I would expect it to take effective military action against manifestly evil threats; even if doing so looks like a muscle-flexing adventure – once or twice in a century that may be absolutely necessary. I also expect OUR armed forces to be deployed with utmost speed on humanitarian operations, such as happened in the Boxing Day Tsunami.

    What we neither want nor need are political stunts that give little protection or, worse yet, degrade our existing protection and hinder those trying to protect us.

    If the present shower wanted political advantage out of the situation then what would have been wrong with Tony appearing in series of TV ads with practical advice on how to avoid harm whilst getting on with normal life? Something like the “unattended luggage” warnings that the Brits put on during the IRA bombing campaign for example. Such ads could even feature Tony in his lycra-&-bike-helmet, if you like.

    John D, the so-called Islamic State and its adherents are chock-a-block full of obvious weaknesses, far more serious than the very real weaknesses of The West (immorality, drugs, neglect of family, obsession with money, ungodliness corruption, etc., etc., etc. ad nauseum).

    It is unbelievably strange that The West does next-to-nothing about exploiting these manifest weaknesses to cause the so-called Islamic State to implode. Such measures are dirt-cheap or are even being paid for by the Enemy!!!, yet the The West still fails to use them. Instead The West goes straight to horribly expensive and usually ineffective political shenanegans and playing around with destructive war-toys.

    Very strange indeed.

    Perhaps not s strange when you consider that nobody is going to make a fast buck out of cunning strategies and effective tactics at a bargain basement price – whereas each hour a war-toy is in the air costs tens of thousands of dollars; plenty of loot in that.

  10. We could get cynical Graham. One of the things that strikes me is that we should surely understand that ISIL is not going to back down because of our threats and bluster any more than we are going to back down because of their threats and bluster.
    There is a war going on for the hearts and minds of Islamic people. It is time we started thinking about what needs to be done for civilization to win that war.

  11. Val @ 7, Thanks for the heads-up on the Australian Climate Summit this weekend. My life is governed by work, the weather and medical appointments. I’m hoping to make it to the march on Sunday, but can’t make the weekend as a whole.

  12. Hi Brian, I hope you made the March. I didn’t see your email until today or I would have tried to catch up with you. People on the March seemed pleased with the numbers so I guess it did better than marches like this have done in Brisbane? (At least in recent times?)

    The summit went quite well, perhaps the most interesting thing (to me at least) was the difference between those who believe we can transition to clean energy using the available, rapidly improving technologies, with little economic pain, versus those like Nicole Foss who believe the existing system is dangerously over-leveraged and we don’t have the capital resources to make sufficient investment in new technology before further financial crashes.

    Nicole – and others coming from a range of perspectives – was advocating localism, building more self sufficient local sharing communities – particularly more permaculture type local farming. There was another inspiring speaker on this, I forget her name but will add more later.

    Polly Higgins, speaking by video from England on her campaign to get the crime of “Ecocide” in the international criminal code was also very inspiring.

    Plus there was a range of speakers from BZE and other organisations talking the facts and figures about how we get to zero emissions. BZE have released – or are in the process of releasing – several reports (as you no doubt know) worth reading. The land use one looks as if it’s going to be pretty eye opening and controversial, so I think there’s going to be a staged release of some kind.

    You heard it here – eat less meat. (I don’t know if they will say that, and there’s loads more too it than that, but the evidence grows stronger all the time)

    Join me – become a vego


  13. Val: It was a good march wit enough people to stretch out of sight. The ABC estimate was 1500 for what it was worth.
    The conference was interesting, in part because it had speakers ranging from those talking about how individuals and communities can reduce their impact on the environment through to those like BZE talking about large scale actions that need governments and other large organizations to act.
    I think the green movement needs both these lines of thinking.
    In the meantime the Greenhouse emission rate is growing at about 2.5%

    If continued, this situation would lead to global average temperatures between 3.2C and 5.4C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

    a particularly worrying development is that

    There have been other striking changes in emissions profiles since climate negotiations began. In 1990, about two-thirds of CO2 emissions came from developed countries including the United States, Japan, Russia and the European Union (EU) nations. Today, only one-third of world emissions are from these countries; the rest come from the emerging economies and less-developed countries that account for 80% of the global population, suggesting a large potential further emissions growth.

    Continuation of current trends over the next five years alone will lead to a new world order on greenhouse gas emissions, with China emitting as much as the United States, Europe and India together.

  14. Val, John D., Brian and me (well, in absentia, anyway) – that’s the start of a crowd of people concerned about the future of our planet – and twice as many as in the Federal Cabinet; that’s a good start.

    Don’t forget that way back in the mists of time, it was the singer, Eartha Kitt, who took up the cudgels against Ecocide long before most people had even a clue about the concept..

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