News Ltd staff writers

Jun 22, 2009

5 comments

Another entry in the continuing series of misleading News Ltd beatups of sentencing decisions, with the Courier Mail in Queensland this week cynically stirring up some outrage with a dodgy contrast:

Molester free while dad who bashed him could be jailed

A QUEENSLAND father who bashed a man caught molesting his 10-year-old son is facing a prison sentence, while the boy’s attacker walks free.

That sounds odd. The boy’s attacker “walks free”? After pleading guilty to “molesting” a boy? Well, no, he was actually sentenced to a serious punishment:

Davidson was sentenced on Monday to a nine-month intensive corrections order.

Now, your average Courier Mail reader might not know how far up the sentencing scale an ICO is, or what it actually entails, but you’d hope the journalist would – and would perhaps consider explaining just what that punishment means in his or her article. You know, by way of providing information in the “news” section of the newspaper instead of shameless provocation. Sure, it would rule out referring to the sentence as “walking free”, but it would be a hell of a lot more honest.

As for the contrast with what’s happened to the boy’s father that the hacks are trying to draw, it’s dodgy in two ways. First, the boy’s father hasn’t yet been sentenced. Second, when he is sentenced, it’s entirely likely he might not be jailed either. If he is, it’ll be due to the sheer savagery of his attack:

The man then attacked Davidson, dragging him outside, throwing him on to a concrete path where he struck his head and repeatedly kicking him.

Davidson later underwent extensive facial surgery in the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

It sounds like the father tried to kill him – and that he was lucky he didn’t. You go bashing someone’s head on concrete, and it wouldn’t take much for them to receive serious brain injuries or die. Davidson tried to do something gross and disturbing, and to a child – but he didn’t put his victim’s life physically in danger.

Nevertheless, if the father has no priors, and given the circumstances, there’s every likelihood he could be spared actual jail time. And what are the writers suggesting, anyway? That jail time should not be a potential outcome for serious assaults? Or that vigilantism is now okay and charges should not be laid if the victim is a bad person?

So, let’s go back to that headline: “Molester free while dad who bashed him could be jailed”. The molester is not “free” – he’s not in a physical jail, but he’s in what is considered a form of imprisonment served in the community. The dad who bashed him “could” be jailed, sure, but hasn’t been yet. (As the molester could have been, if they’d run the story at a similar stage in his proceeding.) The contrast is a false one – they may both end up with similar sentences, neither of which would be being “free”.

If the Courier Mail really wants to run a “molester free, dad jailed” story, it should probably wait to see if that actually happens.

Still, the writers do, for once, report the sentence reasonably accurately (there’s no “minimum period” with an ICO, so they can’t exaggerate the total time downwards – although they’re completely misleading about what an ICO actually is), and even quote some of the Judge’s reasons for it – a pretty major concession for the company in question, for which I’d like to commend them. For News Ltd, that’s quite an achievement. The sad thing is that, even though we’re talking about a controversial issue – vigilantism prompted by disturbing crimes – that is definitely worth more than a few column inches, and could fire a vigorous debate in and of itself, they could not resist exaggerating the facts with a strong and misleading editorial line.

If you didn’t know better, you might suspect that the point of the article was never reporting what had actually happened – it was to reinforce the standard prejudice they’ve spent years carefully cultivating, and to prompt hits from easily-manipulated bloggers and other cranks on the internet.

And whilst you’ll note that the comments are turned off on the news.com.au post “for legal reasons” (I wonder whether they were there to start with before somebody realised the consequences of printing the sort of responses they were clearly prompting and pulled them back down again), it is clear that the dogwhistle was heard loud and clear. Each thread with a valuable link back to news.com.au.

PS This is another example of what I talked about here – our tendency to accept half-truths if they reinforce our pre-existing prejudices. The readers of the above sites already believe that judges are crazy, criminal-loving nutcases – after having internalised a relentless stream of similar stories from the same sources – and it doesn’t even occur to them to check how they’re being led. I doubt they even care, any more.

UPDATE 15/7: Further recent Australian decisions on the subject of pre-sentence punishment at Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Piers Akerman

Jun 22, 2009

5 comments

Heiner lotto

Guess how long it takes Piers Akerman to raise the Heiner Affair in his latest article about Kevin Rudd's "obfuscation" regarding UteGate. Leave your answer -- paragraphs and words -- i

Guess how long it takes Piers Akerman to raise the Heiner Affair in his latest article about Kevin Rudd’s “obfuscation” regarding UteGate. Leave your answer — paragraphs and words — in comments. Winner gets a genuine email from Piers Akerman, as read over the phone to my cousin’s ex-flatmate.

Open threads

Jun 22, 2009

5 comments

We love having you comment here at Pure Poison but it’s a little bit difficult for discussion to continue uninterrupted on specific posts when off-topic comments land in the middle of them. So each day we’ll launch an open thread where you can leave comments that don’t quite fit on one of the other posts. Remember that tip-offs can be made here.

Have at it!

Tim Blair

Jun 21, 2009

5 comments

Tim Blair points the finger:

Kevin Rudd’s education revolution begins:

Almost 2000 classroom teaching positions in NSW will be axed next year.

However, in his desperation to declare any Rudd initiative a failure, Blair overlooks the fact that this particular decision was made by the NSW government, not the Federal government. What does Kevin Rudd have to do with the utter basket cases that are the NSW government and economy?

Tim Blair

Jun 20, 2009

5 comments

Game over

I really have no idea whether the human-induced climate change some predict will actually eventuate or not. There appears to me to be a reasonable and growing collection of evidence

I really have no idea whether the human-induced climate change some predict will actually eventuate or not.

There appears to me to be a reasonable and growing collection of evidence available which indicates that there’s at least a disturbing possibility of our causing serious problems for ourselves down the line, that deserves a bit of caution – but, who knows? We might be lucky. We haven’t seen how the Earth copes with industrial activity to this extent before – maybe it’s got a hitherto-undemonstrated system for dealing with it without causing chaos to our civilisations. Maybe it’s a lot more resilient and capable of absorbing whatever we throw at it than the climate scientists fear.

That seems to me somewhat doubtful, however. And I suspect that most of the mud thrown at climate scientists is motivated less by an open-minded caution as it is by stubborn resistance to change. And antipathy for the particular people and groups who have taken up the cause.

That’s why much of the opposition is run not by scientists, but professional polemicists.

That said, however, I would be absolutely ecstatic if they turned out to be right. It’s not a “game” that I particularly want the cautious people with whom I’m inclined to agree to “win” – I want them to succeed in having the decision-makers take the results of their research seriously, of course, and if the science demonstrates that there’s (say) a 10% chance of catastrophic climate change, then it would make sense for our governments to allocate an appropriate amount of resources to reduce that risk.

But I don’t want the pessimistic predictions to be right! It’s not as if I’ll be jumping up and down cheering as the seas rise, and I doubt any environmentalists would either.

The reverse would be true, too, by the way. If I were convinced that the environmentalists were completely wrong, and there was NO RISK WHATSOEVER, but I was, so it happens, mistaken – I’d much rather that were proven sooner, when there was still something we could do, than later, when it was too late.

Either way, it’s far from a game – it’s a serious issue.

All of which was a long-winded way of expressing surprise at the manner with which our old friend Mr Blair greeted the news that China has basically declared “screw you” to the rest of the world and promised to increase emissions, and to hell with the consequences:

Game over…

Continued Chinese economic expansion – and Japanese opposition to emissions cuts – reduces to less than irrelevant any Australian attempts at climey-warmy-carbony-changiness. Penny Wong may as well start looking for a new job.

Ha ha! If there’s any possibility of emission-induced catastrophic climate change, it’s now guaranteed! Our civilisations may well collapse; millions may die; whatever. The important thing is that Penny Wong and other lefty environmentalists have LOST! GAME OVER! Hooray!

But Tim Blair is no more a climate scientist than I am. You would think the possibility that the other side might be right might have occurred to him, even if he’s not convinced by it. A possibility that’s non-zero, and quite serious. (It’s not like we have a backup Earth.) So why’s he really so thrilled by the news that China is going to charge ahead regardless?

I mean, apart from the fact that it will worry people he dislikes, of course.

Open threads

Jun 20, 2009

5 comments

Sorry about the quiet week, everyone. The three of us have each been up to our eyeballs in work and found it difficult to find time to write much content for Pure Poison. Things have settled a bit for us now so we should be back on deck this week. But in the meantime, have at it!

Open threads

Jun 19, 2009

5 comments

We love having you comment here at Pure Poison but it’s a little bit difficult for discussion to continue uninterrupted on specific posts when off-topic comments land in the middle of them. So each day we’ll launch an open thread where you can leave comments that don’t quite fit on one of the other posts. Remember that tip-offs can be made here.

Have at it!

Open threads

Jun 18, 2009

5 comments

We love having you comment here at Pure Poison but it’s a little bit difficult for discussion to continue uninterrupted on specific posts when off-topic comments land in the middle of them. So each day we’ll launch an open thread where you can leave comments that don’t quite fit on one of the other posts. Remember that tip-offs can be made here.

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The Australian

Jun 17, 2009

5 comments

Bernard Keane, in yesterday’s Crikey, showed how utterly biased The Australian‘s StimulusWatch campaign is.

The Australian’s campaign against the “education revolution debacle”, which faltered badly on Saturday when it had to essentially retract much of its story about funding for “axed schools”, limps on today with an issue by Christopher Pyne yesterday about the South Australian Government’s education capital works budget falling this year. South Australian budget papers show that in recent years the capital budget has, like you’d expect of a capital program, moved up and down between $52m and $76m and was $70m this year and will be $62m next year. That is apparently evidence of cost-shifting, though, and was duly given a run.

Have a look through The Oz‘s coverage and let us know if you find any real clangers, or indeed anything positive.

Open threads

Jun 17, 2009

5 comments

We love having you comment here at Pure Poison but it’s a little bit difficult for discussion to continue uninterrupted on specific posts when off-topic comments land in the middle of them. So each day we’ll launch an open thread where you can leave comments that don’t quite fit on one of the other posts. Remember that tip-offs can be made here.

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Open threads

Jun 16, 2009

5 comments

We love having you comment here at Pure Poison but it’s a little bit difficult for discussion to continue uninterrupted on specific posts when off-topic comments land in the middle of them. So each day we’ll launch an open thread where you can leave comments that don’t quite fit on one of the other posts. Remember that tip-offs can be made here.

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Andrew Bolt

Jun 15, 2009

5 comments

Andrew Bolt suggests Penny Wong “calls in reinforcements” speak to Steve Fielding:

Penny Wong calls in two alarmist scientists to put her case

Shouldn’t Fielding be allowed to bring in his own scientists so both sides are argued before him?

Let’s look at reality. Here is what Fielding said:

Well, I think what hasn’t happened so far is a debate on the science, and so what I want to do is take the information that I’ve currently got, and give it to the Rudd Government and their scientists, and see what they say about it.

Now, if the answer is, “Look, it’s just rubbish” and they’re just going to discount it, well I think that’s not good enough. I think you need to argue a case on a scientific basis.

Well, if the Government’s fair dinkum they’ll give me access to their scientists, and we’ll be able to have decent and open discussions on a scientific basis, looking at the stuff that I’ve got that I can give them, and that way we can hopefully get to the bottom of it.

But it’s up to the Government; if the Government give me access to their scientists, and we have a decent, open debate, then I think we can.

Fielding didn’t ask for “his” scientists to be put into a debate with the Government’s scientists. He asked the Government to give him access to its scientists so that he could put his questions to them. And Fielding is going to get to discuss the issues with Penny Sackett, the Chief Scientist for Australia, and Will Steffen, the Department of Climate Change’s scientific advisor. So, the Government is giving Steve Fielding exactly what he asked for, yet it’s still not good enough for Andrew Bolt.

What’s more, is Bolt’s reference to allowing Fielding to bring “his own scientists” a telling indication of Bolt’s own denialist stance? Fielding claims to have an open mind – he wants a response to the information other scientists have given him, but based on his comments he does not claim to have accepted their argument. Bolt seems to imply that Fielding should be actively arguing against the Government scientists.

Christian Kerr

Jun 15, 2009

5 comments

It seems we’re all talking about blogging today – after Jeremy noted that some journalists don’t seem to understand what the word means, I want to talk about Christian Kerr’s latest column.

Kerr seems to be saying that the Australian political blogosphere is no good because our bloggers don’t do what journalists do – break stories. Rather than uncovering and reporting the news, the political blogs in Australia (according to Kerr, at least) comment on the work done by the traditional media. This seems to be based on a flawed assumption that blogging is, or should aspire to be, “citizen journalism”, and an equally flawed assumption that analysis of others’ commentary serves little purpose. And Kerr’s arguments themselves seem to contradict one other. The Australian blogosphere apparently is too analytical – with Kerr singling out Crikey’s own Possum (while misspelling Scott Steel’s name) for criticism here – while simultaneously claiming that the blogosphere is too intolerant and unable to consider alternative viewpoints.

This isn’t exactly a new argument from Kerr – in fact, it’s somewhat ironic that he is back to grinding this axe, when last year he was calling blogs an “echo chamber where assertions are endlessly repeated.” And it’s a regular topic for discussion among blogging journalists, most recently at the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

As a contributor to a blog whose primary purpose is to critique the work of journalists and columnists, it should be obvious that I see value in analytical blogging. And it seems to me that the traditional media are starting to see value in the same model, with News Ltd’s The Punch serving as an aggregator of news and opinion and attempting to build a discussion community around it, along somewhat similar lines to the current iteration of Crikey’s web site. And Kerr’s particular targets seem to be driven by the Australian’s desire to discredit its critics and competitors in the online space, with bloggers such as Possum and William Bowe having damaged the reputation of that paper as a reliable source of polling analysis.

Does Kerr have a point about the poverty of news-breaking in Australia’s blogosphere, and should blogs be judged according to how well they usurp the role of journalists? I’ll be interested to hear what you all think (but only if you agree with me completely, of course).

UPDATE: On a related note, it looks like Fairfax is getting into the opinion aggregation game. On the details announced so far, Jason Whittaker’s criticism of The Punch would seem to apply equally to National Times. If the traditional media corporations are moving to online models that don’t actually involve journalism, why does Kerr believe the blogosphere should be derided for being a journalistic failure?

Marcus Kuczynski

Jun 15, 2009

5 comments

Bloggers redefined

What does the word "blogger" mean to you? Is it someone who maintains a "weblog" - one of those internet sites in which anyone can write down their thoughts in "posts", and readers can

What does the word “blogger” mean to you? Is it someone who maintains a “weblog” – one of those internet sites in which anyone can write down their thoughts in “posts”, and readers can comment on them? What is the “blogosphere”? Is it a collection of people with “blogs” writing about issues? Is one of the distinguishing features of the “blogosphere” that it is citizens writing about issues outside the confines of traditional media?

No, according to News Ltd’s recent unsubtle attempt to appropriate the popularity of this independent online space, it isn’t. The “blogosphere” and “bloggers” are people who comment on News Ltd websites.

A Marcus Kuczynski from the Courier Mail in Brisbane reports that “even the blogosphere has turned against satire”. His evidence for this? Well, after That Chaser Sketch –

Many bloggers perceived this as a sick attempt to poke fun at dying kids.

One story about the skit on the Herald-Sun site attracted more than 700 online comments.

Marcus then goes on to quote a whole lot of other “bloggers”, none of whom appear to actually have blogs at all. If they do, they’re certainly not listed – the only sites Marcus is willing to name are couriermail.com.au and heraldsun.com.au (imagine if people clicked on an external link and read some material not located on our own servers! We can’t take the chance!). I had thought that the “blogosphere” could reasonably be interpreted to extend beyond the long-established commercial media empire owned by Rupert and other corporate titans – and, in fact, that this was one of its main strengths – but apparently not.

Yes, apparently the entire blogosphere (“bloggers” in general) is pretty much entirely represented by half a dozen commenters on news.com.au stories. Who needs independent writers from all corners of the planet with their disparate communities of commenters? If it’s not published on News Ltd, well, whatever it is, it’s not the “blogosphere”. Who knows what those other sites are – they don’t matter. Now, they don’t even have a name. When we write about the “blogosphere” and “online opinion”, it’s only the bits we control that matter.

Expect more of this. This is the first time Marcus has attempted to call News Ltd commenters “bloggers”, and pretend that they’re representative of “bloggers” in general – but it’s not the first time he’s attempted to sum up “online opinion” as if the only important things happening online were on his employer’s site.

Which is a pity, because I thought the whole point of this new online venture by News Ltd was to get involved in the national debates – not just pathetically pretend nothing was happening outside.

PS Would whoever’s editing “Punch” mind either indenting the first few words of each paragraph or inserting line breaks between them? The formatting of this piece was abysmal.

Andrew Bolt

Jun 15, 2009

5 comments

Andrew Bolt says that England is where “the English used to live”, based on one observer’s comments about a cricket match.

Changing Britain. David Lloyd on the England-India game at the ICC World Twenty20:

India have more supporters here at Lords…

Of course, it’s inconceivable that an English citizen — one of “the English” — who originally hails from India might barrack for India. It’s not like an Australian would barrack for the team of his parents’ homeland.

Open threads

Jun 15, 2009

5 comments

We love having you comment here at Pure Poison but it’s a little bit difficult for discussion to continue uninterrupted on specific posts when off-topic comments land in the middle of them. So each day we’ll launch an open thread where you can leave comments that don’t quite fit on one of the other posts. Remember that tip-offs can be made here.

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Daily Telegraph

Jun 14, 2009

5 comments

The Daily Telegraph runs a headline and leading paragraph (quoted in isolation by Tim Blair) that suggest religious discrimination.

Muslims get interest-free loans

ONE of Australia’s major banks is planning to introduce “Muslim-friendly” loans that do not charge interest, to comply with Sharia law.

The loans are not strictly interest-free; the interest is just built into the loan in a non-standard way.

For example, to get round the Islamic ban on usury – or unfair lending – a Muslim mortgage often works by the bank buying the property, then selling it to the customer at a profit, with the customer then repaying the entire sum in instalments.

In this way the profit margin is built in from the start. It also has the advantage of making the loan immune from future interest rate rises.

Sounds saucy, what with all this special treatment the Muslims are getting at the expense of the rest of us. Until the second last paragraph.

The loans would also be available to non-Muslims.

Oh.

Open threads

Jun 13, 2009

5 comments

We love having you comment here at Pure Poison but it’s a little bit difficult for discussion to continue uninterrupted on specific posts when off-topic comments land in the middle of them. So each day we’ll launch an open thread where you can leave comments that don’t quite fit on one of the other posts. Remember that tip-offs can be made here.

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Andrew Bolt

Jun 12, 2009

5 comments

One of the lamest pieces a polemicist can write is a screed attempting to link a particular criminal psychopath with their political opponents. The logic is self-evidently flawed – if nutcase A believes in political cause B then everyone who also believes in political cause B must be a nutcase; Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian, therefore vegetarians want to annexe the Sudetenland – it’s a pretty ludicrous accusation. That doesn’t stop it being a favourite of pathetic hacks screaming at each other in the dark recesses of the internet – but usually mainstream newspaper columnists have the good sense to avoid it.

Nonetheless, newspapers around the world have made a point of linking the killing of a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington by a crazed neo-Nazi this week with “the Right” – even though his political screeds, available easily on the internet, indicate that he hated the Left and the Right pretty much equally. He hated the Bushes as much as he hated Obama. He called for some kind of “Aryan socialism”, whilst decrying those who aren’t “patriotic” enough.

Calling him a “rightwinger” was an unfair attack, as Andrew Bolt rightly pointed out yesterday – he was “an Equal opportunity hater“:

In fact, from his writings, the murderer seems equally at home with the “Right” and the “Left”

Unfortunately, that moment of clarity and good sense appears to have left Andy this morning, as he wrote a post implying that the killer was actually some kind of lefty. He lists a whole lot of the killer’s traits also associated with the left (well, by rightwingers – I don’t know many left-wingers who are “anti-Christianity” or “anti-Zionist”, no matter how many times people like Bolt throw the accusation around), smarmily asks “who have I described so far?” and concludes:

And that sudden sound you hear? It’s of the Left switching labels.

His readers certainly got the message:

Lefties are Stalin & Hitler clones.

Although some had the decency to call him on it, in the hope he’d return to the good sense of yesterday:

All this philosophical debate over whether this geriatric crank should be labelled ‘left’ or ‘right’ is a childish game. As someone said on yesterday’s thread on this “he is ‘midnight’ on the clock”.

Those who used this tragedy to try to score some petty political capital should be ashamed of themselves – lefty hacks and righty hacks alike.

Channel Nine

Jun 12, 2009

5 comments

This photograph to me sums up the whole Gordon Ramsay/ Tracy Grimshaw “controversy”:

Ramsay and the media all running around pretending to chase each other, everyone having a good time.

More than one commentator has suggested that the whole thing smacks of confected outrage in a cynical attempt to promote Ramsay and his programs on Channel Nine, and many people have rolled their eyes at the way that even Kevin Rudd has stopped mangling colloquialisms long enough to have his say on the matter. Now Tracy Grimshaw has been offered $50,000 to do a raunchy shoot for Zoo magazine.

So what do you reckon? Is the “controversy” real or confected? Do people have a right to feel cynical about it? Is Channel Nine condemning Ramsay on the one hand, yet backing him on the other by continuing to run his shows?