Category Archives: Culture

Is religion good or bad for us?

Over Easter, apart from wondering Where is heaven? I read an article in the New Scientist Is religion good or bad for humanity? Epic analysis delivers an answer

    A scientific review of 10,000 years of history is finally revealing the unexpected truth behind religion’s role in human civilisation

The author is Harvey Whitehouse, who is chair of social anthropology and director of the Centre for the Study of Social Cohesion at the University of Oxford. Back in 2015 I took a look at Karen Armstrong, ‘the myth of religious violence’ and the secular state. Whitehouse claims his investigation is ‘scientific’. It is certainly impressive. Continue reading Is religion good or bad for us?

Where is heaven?

When I was really young there were no Easter bunnies around our place. The idea was introduced by the teacher of the small Lutheran Day School at Downfall Creak, near Guluguba, north of Miles, west of Toowoomba, when I was about seven or eight. We did have hens eggs coloured with dye, but no chocolate at all, let alone as eggs.

However, that’s not what Easter is about. It’s about the risen Christ, right? He conquered death and rose to heaven in a cloud, to sit at the right hand of God the Almighty, with a promise to return some day. So I was interested in an article What and where is heaven? The answers are at the heart of the Easter story. Continue reading Where is heaven?

Serena meltdown a missed opportunity

Much has been written since the women’s final of the 2018 US Open Tennis Championships saw world number one Serena Williams beaten by a young rising star Naomi Osaka after receiving a code violation warning, then a point penalty and finally a game penalty, which put Osaka in an excellent place to win the second set 6-4 and the match. Elite opinion, especially overseas, has come down heavily in Williams’ favour, blaming the umpire Carlos Ramos for his handling of the incident, which, it is said, was an example of sexism because he would never have treated a male player so harshly, and probably racism to boot.

I’ll tell you my opinion, on the evidence I’ve seen (I didn’t watch the match) and comment on the commentary. My conclusion is that tennis needs to put its house in order, and has missed a golden opportunity to enforce rules so that tennis fans can expect to see excellent tennis being played, rather than players venting. Continue reading Serena meltdown a missed opportunity

Care of strangers

Australian Border Force missed a Vietnamese boat, so now we have Dozens of migrants missing in crocodile-infested Daintree rainforest after boat sinks:

The boat containing irregular migrants that ran aground near the mouth of the Daintree River on Sunday 26 August 2018.

Steve Ciobo, newly minted Minister for Defence Industry, and a Queenslander from the Gold Coast, declared they should be taken to Nauru. Continue reading Care of strangers

Arms and the man: what does the Second Amendment really mean?

FILE PHOTO: An exhibit booth for firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson is seen on display at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago, Illinois, October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo – RC11E7FED7A0

Many see the individual right to bear arms as a basic American human right secured by The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. However, from 1791 to 2008 the matter has been debated:

    by attorneys and senators, slave owners and freedmen, judges, Black Panthers, governors and lobbyists. For some, the militia was key; for others the right that shall not be infringed; for yet others, the question of states versus the federal government.

The case of District of Columbia v. Heller in the Supreme Court in 2008 appeared to settle the matter, although the decision was quite narrow and constrained. Now new information has come to light which demands a reconsideration. Continue reading Arms and the man: what does the Second Amendment really mean?

The rise and rise of American gun culture

On the 4th of July in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence the thirteen American colonies then at war with the Kingdom of Great Britain—New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia— announced that they would now regard themselves as thirteen independent sovereign states no longer under British rule.

It was a very brave thing to do, because there were very few guns in the colonies and they had no significant gun industry. Yet the American War of Independence (1775-1783) was won and with it the American gun industry was born. ABC RN’s Rear Vision program recently took a look at the origins of the American gun industry (transcript available) with some erudite published authors and scholars. Continue reading The rise and rise of American gun culture

University funding: drifting to mediocrity?

Andrew Norton from the Grattan Institute says the modest university ‘reforms’ signalled for the budget will entrench the status quo, and will affect universities more than students.

George Morgan says the universities are drifting to mediocrity, and these cuts will not help.

The headline figure is a saving of $2.8 billion over the forward estimates, and a 7.5% increase in student fees over the period. Total Commonwealth Government payments to universities over the next four years amount to of $74bn, so the impact of this $2.8bn reform package is less than 4% of the revenues to universities from taxpayers and students, according to Simon Birmingham. Continue reading University funding: drifting to mediocrity?

Saturday salon 21/5

1. Protect your plastic money

If you haven’t heard about it you will. And if you think it won’t happen in Australia, you’re wrong.

Thieves can use RFID technology to empty your card. Seems they can steal your details with a cheap credit card reader, which they hold near you wallet or purse. It could be on public transport, or standing next to you in a supermarket. Continue reading Saturday salon 21/5

Comments facility broken fixed

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Unfortunately a WordPress update appears to have broken our comments facility. The “Submit” button has gone missing.

Unfortunately too our technical guru is on holidays with limited internet access, so I’m not sure when it’s going to be fixed. So I can only apologise and hope for better days. If anyone has any bright ideas, please let me know at climateplus@bigpond.com

I was going to do a post on GM foods, but I’ll leave that until the comments facility is fixed.

ABC cuts run deep – over 400 jobs to go

The ABC has announced that more than 400 ABC staff could lose their jobs as the public broadcaster moves to implement the $254 million the Federal Government will cut over the next five years. That’s $254 million out of an otherwise projected budget of $5.5 billion.

I’d like someone to do an historical perspective on this. My memory is that in the 1980s the ABC had 6000 staff. There were cuts during the Hawke-Keating years. I heard yesterday that Costello’s first budget saw cuts of 12%. The Howard years were not kind to the ABC, not receiving any of the largesse distributed in the good years. The Rudd-Gillard years actually saw some improvement in the ABC budget, mostly through negotiated support for additional services. Supporting a strong and vibrant public broadcaster was part of ALP policy. At the same time the ABC did Labor no favours in its reporting.

That’s from memory. I’d like to see a proper study.

I’ll come to broken promises later. First some detail on the cuts:

  • Adelaide TV production studios to close
  • State-based 7.30 programs on Friday to be scrapped and replaced with national 7.30 program
  • Lateline moved to a new timeslot on ABC News 24
  • Foreign bureaux will be restructured to create “multiplatform hubs” in London, Washington, Jakarta and Beijing, although the number of correspondents will stay the same
  • The Auckland bureau will close down and a new Beirut post will be opened
  • Regional radio posts in Wagin, Morwell, Gladstone, Port Augusta and Nowra to close
  • ABC Local, Radio National and ABC Classic FM programming changed, with some programs scrapped
  • State-based local sports coverage scrapped
  • The creation of a new regional division and ABC Digital Network, to begin in mid-2015, and a $20 million digital investment fund.

Radio National’s Bush Telegraph will be scrapped. I used to listen to it to keep in contact with happenings in the bush. In recent years I’ve favoured Richard Fidler’s excellent and compelling Conversations, which clashes in the timeslot.

In another blow against the bush, Local Radio Afternoons programs will go state-wide. In Queensland that will likely be Kelly Higgins-Devine, who has lived in the far north and will do a good job. It’s just not the same. There is a lack of localism, evident at times when Brisbane has had to be combined on a temporary basis with the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

Apparently 100 internet sites are to be closed, which sounds like a real blow to ABC’s generally excellent internet presence. Presumably there will be fewer transcripts of radio and TV programs, which will be a loss.

Managing Director Mark Scott told Leigh Sales that at least 10% of the 10% would be administrative or support staff. As to why a 5% cut translates into a 10% staff cut, Scott didn’t answer very well but I think the story lies in fixed infrastructure costs.

As to broken promises, the only thing worse that breaking a promise is pretending that you didn’t. ABC’s FactCheck verdict is This promise is broken. It was all very clear:

During a live interview with SBS from Penrith football stadium, Mr Abbott said: “No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.”

Turnbull has been saying:

“Prior – prior to the election, I said on a number of occasions, I think possibly on this show, certainly on Lateline, that while we weren’t planning to make, you know, massive, slashing cuts to the ABC to cut their programming resources, as some people were urging us to do so, we would be looking to make… savings and cut waste right across government and ABC and SBS would not be exempt,” he said.

To be honest, unless he can provide an actual quote I think that is a flat out lie. Certainly he said something along those lines after the election.

Overwhelmingly, I think Ben Eltham is right, it’s about revenge – punishing the perceived enemies of the right.

There has been an appalling associated decision – Janet Albrechtson has been appointed to a panel to oversee the appointment of board members. There can be no clearer sign of a desire to domesticate the ABC.

Scott himself is apparently too much of a leftie. Turnbull has suggested that he relinquish the role of editor-in-chief. I think overall editorial and resource allocation roles are not usefully separated.

This attack on the ABC was of course expected. In it’s conception and execution, however, it has exceeded my expectations of brazenness and perfidy.

We Could Learn a lot from the Scandinavians

The Conversation has run this interesting article suggesting that we could learn a lot from the Scandinavian Countries re Public policy.  It is all about comparing countries with a long history of governing to improve the welfare of the people and accepting high taxes with our far less people friendly policies that help minimize the taxes of the rich.

Funny thing is that people like the Yanks have been saying for years that what the Scandinavians are doing will wreck the economy despite the durable success of the Scandinavian countries.  The Yanks and clowns like Hockey don’t seem to understand that good health, excellent education, a fairer distribution of income etc. actually help economies stay healthy.

Worth a read and worth discussion.

The OECD has identified Australia as one of a small number of countries in which long working hours are common. In comparison, parents in Sweden and the other main Nordic countries have working weeks shorter than the OECD average. This is in addition to their substantial paid parental leave and publicly provided child care.

Shorter working hours allow parents from Sweden to pick up their children after work without the time pressures Australian parents face.

Australia will probably move to make child-care centre hours more flexible to suit our long working hours. However, the government should encourage shorter working hours, which are more compatible with family life.

 

Remembering the Lessons from 9/11

I am fan of of Rob Burgess of Business Spectator.  I particularly liked what he had to say about the IS beheading and our reaction to it.

Burgess starts by reminding us how we reacted to 9/11:

Whichever account of Bush’s actions one accepts, history now tells us that the US response to the Al Qaeda threat was exactly what terrorists would want.

Anyone old enough to remember the shock of those attacks will understand why the US was driven to define Al Qaeda as tantamount to a rogue state that could be tackled by a conventional war.

Not lunatics. Not criminals. But warriors who wanted a war … and the West was damned if it wasn’t going to oblige.

It was the wrong choice. We were damned because we did oblige, and the power vacuum in Iraq, and the massing of extremist forces in Syria, are some of the ghastly results.

In our ignorance, Australia also fell into the mistake of demonising Islam as a whole instead of the Islamic extremists who were behind 9/11.  In Australia 9/11 was used as an excuse by some to burn at least one mosque, throw stones at least one busload of students going to an Islamic school and rant and rave about hijabs.  Then there were the comments from some radio jocks as well as some of our politicians.

There are two dangers here.  The first is that we will be so busy trying to avoid “the mistakes of Afghanistan and Iraq” that we will fail to see the differences between what is happening now and what happened then.  (For example IS seems to be the foreign invaders this time around while the Kurds are the natives.)

The second is that we will simply mindlessly repeat the mistakes.  In Australia Abbott is already rabbiting on about how this (beheading) could happen in Australia despite al the anti terrorist laws we have in Australia.  His comments about “team Australia” aren’t really helping unite Australia and its communities.

Burgess had this to say:

We now seem to be again on the brink of allowing a force of between 10,000 and 17,000 extremists to define a conflict – with themselves as glorious warriors, rather than lunatics and criminals.

The brutal video of the beheading of James Foley is a symbolic missile fired into the heart of the liberal democracies that the IS fanatics so despise.

Their greatest joy is watching the missile explode and rip holes in our democratic political culture, when we could so easily choose to defuse its destructive force.

and

Civilised, democratic debate is the precious core of our society — and that makes it a target for the symbolic missiles sent by groups such as the Islamic State.

To the extent they rouse us to anger, and provoke ill-considered responses, as happened with 9/11, the missile can be said to have ‘exploded’. Let’s not let that happen again.

So what should we do this time round?