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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Teenage deaths, public policy and hypocrisy
Mood:  sad
Topic: aust govt

Picture: Shadow minister Greg Hunt MP significantly gets the first question of the day ahead of his own leader Tony Abbott who no doubt authorised the special prominence for his new shadow minister: Did Peter Garrett kill teenage insulation installers with a bad safety framework?

 

Did Peter Garrett MP, Environment Minister act soon enough and effectively on a billion dollar programme to ensure electrical safety standards on foil insulation? We defer to others on that detail.

Last week we commented both here on SAM and The Australian about the role of government in megafire fatalities through misconceived logging land use policy. More of that below.

Yesterday early morning we broadcast an email to all federal MPs which we argue is indirectly related: It's not about insulation or even Peter Garrett but it is about death and public policy: Failure of the Howard Coalition inclusive of Opposition leader Abbott as junior minister to action the Cape York Land Use Agreement of 1996, in breach of an election promise. That failure to apply $40M implementation funds surely resulted in many indigenous deaths through failed socio economic policy 1996-2007.

Abbott was a junior MP in 1996 but by 2003 Abbott was a favoured son of a PM who hooked up Australia like a rail car to the USA-Bush illegal invasion of Iraq resulting in 500,000 to 1 million death.

Then we have the Australian Building & Construction Commission star chamber process for unionists insisting on tough safety regulation and interventions. An initiative of the Howard Abbott Govt.

Then we consider cutting Australia's aid budget as suggested by Joyce for the Opposition lately: How many preventable deaths would that cause in socio economic terms amongst our near neighbours - thousands?

Token restructure of Australian climate policy by the Coalition which arguably will result in 100 million climate refugees from Shanghai to Bangladesh in the next 50 years. With grim attrition rate in the millions?

Another shocking public policy outcome alluded to above - a 50 year history of systematic removal of wet old forests and their water cycle of sopping wet undergrowth through south eastern and south western Australia to be replaced by dustry dry wildfire loving schlerophyll regrowth. Over hundreds of thousands of hectares and now in climate shift we are reaping the whirlwind.

This analysis pulls the wings off the Tony Abbott / Barnaby Joyce 'angry man' populist juggernaut. They are the problem not the solution. Ironically Garrett too has a reputation in the NSW green movement for being absent without leave on the long running saga of wet old growth forest protection. Because it exposed the ALP-CFMEU complex when he would rather discuss nuclear weapons. As head of the ACF Garrett famously refused to attend a Sydney Town Meeting criticising Premier Bob Carr. The job was left to Green MPs.

Yet how many have died from megafire in dry regrowth schlerophyll - 173 in Victoria Feb 2009 alone. But Abbott and Joyce are just as guilty in a bipartisan fashion. It's called hypocrisy and we believe the whispering in their heart adds the extra grievance in the Opposition Leader's voice on the current issue of aluminium foil insulation.

May they rest in peace - all fatal victims of public policy.

And a true accounting of the insulation rollout to 1 million homes would also consider how many lives have been saved statistically speaking from safer living temperatures in the latest summer heatwave, especially for the most infirm and vulnerable. Because heat is indeed a killer.

..............................

We also detect another impetus to the Abbott bitterness toward Garrett - apart from the symmetry of offsetting attention on risky shadow finance minister Joyce: An expert report on northern Australia agricultural expansion has come back very modest which was a big agenda of Abbott on both Indigenous employment and appeasement of National Party big agri interests. He wants revenge and Garrett will do.

...............................

We have been wondering about legal causation - as a lawyer here. Are the Government bodies who subsidise every teenage apprentice wage also responsible for guarranteeing a safe work environment or is it at first instance the small business employer? And the small business professional association of employers? Or is it the govt provider of the wage subsidy? Obviously it's the employer at first instance. Then the professional regulators of that trade sector. That seems a reasonable parallel with financial subsidy for a consumer product like insulation. 

What grates a deal with us is the notion of Kelly ODwyer MP in her maiden speech only 2 days ago 'that government can't solve every problem' and yet they are expected to be on the shoulder of every small business insulation installer. Mmm. That's not very consistent by Ms O'Dwyer even if she is a paddy.

The sad conclusion we have come to, without excusing anyone legally or morally, is that government policy deals in life and death every day. There are winners and losers for real and this life is not a read through.


 

 


Posted by editor at 8:35 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 11 February 2010 11:45 AM EADT
Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Climate danger denialism in federal parliament yesterday
Mood:  sharp
Topic: aust govt

We took these screen prints in chronological order of the real politik drama of ex Opposition leader in parliament yesterday well reported in the big media press today. The images reflect first Turnbill speaking, then longer shot of Opposition benches relatively well attended in respectul silence.

Then clean skin first ever ('maiden') speech of Kelly ODwyer MP in Higgins ex staffer now MP after byelection for her boss and ex treasurer Costello, again with long shot. O'Dwyer said not one word on the dangers of climate change despite the high drama around her and the issue of the day. Quite a Polyanna effort and a cynical expenditure of political capital by the Opposition whip/leader to offset the coruscating words of Turnbull repudiating the new leader as economically irresponsible.

Then finally Abbott in question time first quietly as here and then at his usual angry aggressive self.

 

By coincidence Crikey.com.au Richard Farmer ran this NASA graphic of escalating global temperature with link embedded:


 

 




 


Posted by editor at 11:07 AM EADT
Sunday, 7 February 2010
Sunday tv talkies: Back to school for federal politicians unvarnished
Mood:  chatty
Topic: aust govt

 

Author’s general introductory note   

This is not a well packaged story. It’s a contemporaneous traverse of the Sunday television free to air political talkies indicating the agenda of Establishment interests: Better to know ones rivals and allies in Big Politics and Big Media. Perhaps the greatest utility is the headline synthesis above of the 3 or 4 shows followed in this session.

   

For actual transcripts and/or video feeds go to the programme web sites quoted including Riley Diary on 7. And note transcripts don’t really give you the image content value.

  

Other sources of pollie talkies on Sunday include SkyNews paytv Sunday Agenda, Radio National Monica Attard Sunday Profile show. And of course Sunday night shows SBS Dateline, Sixty Minutes and now Sunday Tonight on 7.  

  

Media backgrounders.  

1. Memorial for Black Saturday Vic bushfires, and Silly season officially over.

 

2. Paddy McGuinness – G Biz column continues to blaze the trail for depth of ecological economics business reportage every weekend in the Sydney Morning Herald.

 

3. SAM has been smacking down loggers in The Australian in the form of Gary Johns and redneck alliance.

 

4. TWS internal ructions will see a town hall meeting in Melbourne next week (12?).

 

5. SAM exposed the poisoned water hole creek evil history of murder of Blacks in the 19C, and fight for water in dying Murray Darling Basin as informing the pro development push in Cape York wild rivers today.

 

6. Even with the various ezines, we renewed our crikey.com.au subscription for 2 years.

 

7. SAM here pulls 31K January pageview stats (5 stories per page).

  

10 Meet the Press:  8- 8-30 am 

 Bonge in chair, opening is Abbott and Rudd re climate. Detour on economic discred of Opp esp Joyce, ethics of namecalling, twit Monkton, humour out take Abbott “first time nerves” [referring to his teenage years again?]

 

Adbreak with Irwin kids food product.

 

Panel Grattan in yellow glow (cool MG), Marius Benson. Opener on debt, says GFC. [really western FC].

 

Benson on 160 staff on ETS wasteful? LT refers to 1/3 artic tundra melting – have to act. One small fact.  Grab of Abbott re 20B waste given GFC over. LT says equity issue.

 

MG re population at 36M, says real issue is bad planning. In favour of aiming big? Change migration rate – economics [so does support high immigration, high population].

 

Humour out take Kudelka climate donkey. Restart Black Saturday memorial day – Premier of Victoria Brumby. Normalcy? Loyalty to 3 levels of govt and reconstruction authority, rejects criticism. Indian victims of crime.

 

Meet The Press - Watch Political Video Online - Channel TEN.

  

Riley Diary 7, from 8.40am 

Back to school, lots of Dr Evil themes.  Hanson Young most gracious. Abbott as direct action man. Bearded lady sledge of frothing Joyce. Q&A re Abbott carbon plan, notes Abbott simplicity approach. Good value.

http://www.seven.com.au/sunrise/weekend   

  

9 Sunday newshour Laurie Oakes interview 8.44 am 

Q&A of Riley cuts into start on climate. Gillard is talent. Notes Obama backing off, senate approach. Notes Abbott “crap” view. Back to senate.

 

Gillard has grey streak in her hair, and smart enough to know it. Suggesting gravitas, experience. Compensation for families in climate deal.

 

Rudd verbal sludge, black belt in boredom. Compared to Abbott. Disagrees with premise. Abbott punches through a simple message. JG says economic risk. Notes Costello would never have him as a deputy. Joyce as finance misjudgement by TA. TA Joyce risk all over them in the election.

 

As Ed minister – loyal to My School – says 110 schools will get more targeted assistance.  On IR runs better than Opposition on Work Choices [3 years ago]. Says it will be the next election campaign too.

 

Hoist on petard of Rudd PM workers no disadvantaged, JG belt and braces. Gillard repeats guarantee, LO says Rudd flip flopping should be briefed.

 

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/oakes

  

  

Insiders 2: 9- 10am

 

Riley style action man package. With big hair rock music back to the school. MishaSchubert, Bolt, LenoreTaylor. Turnbull to cross the floor.  Bolt sure this is irrelevant [wrong – 2 Lib senators].

 

Talent is Tony Abbott looking predatory, Rudd preface footage being very humble. $10B is the appropriate – says enough evidence to be prudent. Problem as conviction politician. Spinning climate is crap comment as scientific  Not vast in terms of overall government budget. Frontier as short to medium term measure. Nothing wrong sensible medium term plan. Worried by Turnbull cross the floor?  Not, everything changed after Copenhagen. Obama has plan B, Rudd doesn’t. Like Obama moving to direct action.

 

BJ mistakes acceptable – he will be barnstorming marginal seats over Rudd’s great big tax. 65 and 67 retirement ages unrealistic in battlelines – when? Says Lib policy longer productive lives, incentives.

 

Offshore processing of refugees, deter risky boat trips. Christmas Island over crowded. Strong enough deterent. And so on re climate costs. Barry grateful

 

Wine tasting Tas group in vox pop. Stupid comments about speedos.

 

Panel discussion on contrasting climate policy. Taylor reckons Abbott no chance of light green vote. Agreement ETS is problematic without other top 5 adopting, taking other action. Monckton as extremist. Role of media in fair reporting. Bolt agrees Joyce is a mistake. Finance is Mr Sober but Joyce is go for the throat. Damning footage of Joyce mixing billions with millions and trillions. Voter notes his terrible “flippancy”.

 

Talking pictures. Warren drinking a latte – very funny Monckton Fin Review David Rowe pieces. A toast – not very hygienic.

   

http://www.abc.net.au/insiders

  

Inside Business with Alan Kohler  .

Climate policy sharp end – Yallourn brown coal MD for TruEnergy Inc Ian McIndoe is talent. Convert to gas? Pace for 10 to 20 year policy. Capitalism risk – why pay out now? Ans – affect foreign investors in future, need for changeover.

Super resource tax being discussed.

Refer http://www.abc.net.au/insidebusiness/ 

 


Posted by editor at 10:29 AM EADT
Friday, 5 February 2010
Fran Bailey MP asleep during 50 years of wet forest conversion to dry schlerophyll?
Mood:  sharp
Topic: wildfires


 

Who plays politics out of a guilty conscience over the Victorian bushfire disaster? As we always say 'the government is the government, .... is the government', and in this we include bipartisan opposition figures who support woodchipping of huge old wet forests.

Main candidates today would be Fran Bailey MP, on ABC RN radio this morning and Sophie Mirabella MP (nee Panopoulos) in the federal parliament Matter of Public Importance motion yesterday.


 

As per the pictures in the penultimate story we have giant trees in parts of Victoria even today in wet forest types that obviously have lived for centuries without fatal wildfires. Wet areas resistant to wildfire.

But over the last 50 years highly mechanised logging has changed the majority of those landscapes to dry schlerophyll eucalyptus. Same species but hundreds of thousands of hectares of dry hot dusty regrowth that builds up wildfire on extreme risk days.

The question Bailey and Mirabella need to answer is Do you support an audit of logging impact on the water cycle in regional landscapes over the last 50 years?

They never will - because the whispering in their hearts tells them it's one major root cause of bushfire intensity because ..... it's moisture levels that makes the difference between a safe day and a very, very, very ordinary day.

To get a sense of the specific mechanism of redneck logging tradition ripping miosture out of the water cycle converting wet to dry landscape refer diagrams here: Bushfire science

and the tab here wildfires re more recent profound scientific evidence of logging and wildfire problems by Australian Professor Lindenmeyer et al.

.............................

Postscript: Will the egregious moderator at The Australian take our comment on this article today, rebutting this piece Black Saturday could happen again this month authored by "Max Rheese is secretary of the Victorian Lands Alliance, which includes the Australian Environment Foundation, Australian Motorcycle Trailriders Association, Australian Trail Horseriders Association, Mountain Cattlemen, Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, Victorian Association of Forest Industries, and the Victorian Game and Deerstalking Association." 

Will The Oz block me today? Let's see? And yes I did pile burns, bushfire bunker etc this last winter and know the feeling of insecurity if not the horror.

This resource industry front refuse to address their own record of trashing huge old wet forest types, ripping moisture out of the ancient forests. Moisture which is the true difference between safety and a very, very, very ordinary day. Hundreds of thousands of hectares over the last 50 years have been converted to dry, dusty, regrowth schlerophyll eucalypt. Thanks for nothing. And that's best science talking, not just common sense.

As the good book says, look to the log in your own eye.


Posted by editor at 8:37 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 5 February 2010 9:19 AM EADT
Thursday, 4 February 2010
The Oz censors comment on Gary Johns bogus climate science article?
Mood:  incredulous
Topic: big media

Gary Johns has a pompous climate science opinion piece today:

Don't count your trees, forests aren't that green

But The Australian is blocking our comment that it's stupid and boring because it airbrushes the expert science of Professor Brendan Mackey (not Mackie as we wrote) with the Australian National University about green carbon in forests, as we reference here now via ABC, and use your own search engines: 

AM - Forests have bigger than expected carbon storage

5 Aug 2008 ...
SARAH CLARKE: Its taken 10 years and endless field trips visiting 240 sites scattered across Australia's vast remaining natural forests. But a group of scientists from the Australian National University has for the first time come up with an accurate figure of the role these gigantic trees can play in the climate change solution.

Brendan Mackey is a professor of environmental science, and is part of the research team.

BRENDAN MACKEY: We looked at half of Australia's remaining forests and our estimate is that they can store around 33 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. These are very big numbers I know.

SARAH CLARKE: Very big numbers, particularly if you compare them to what scientists had previously thought. At last count they estimated temperate forests could store around 200 tonnes of carbon per hectare. This study reveals they can store on average three times more than that.

BRENDAN MACKEY: If all those forests were to be cleared and all of the carbon in the biomass in the soil were to be released into the atmosphere - that would be the equivalent of about 80 per cent of Australia's annual greenhouse gas emissions every year for 100 years. So we really have to protect our natural forests.

SARAH CLARKE: The largest stocks of carbon were found in the mountain ash forests of the central highlands of Victoria and Tasmania. The eucalypt trees in these undisturbed areas are up to 80 metres tall with trunks around four and a half metres in diameter.

BRENDAN MACKEY: We've got a big brown barrel here Eucalyptus fastigata.

SARAH CLARKE: These gigantic trees tower above a dense layer of rainforest. Heather Keith is part of the team from the Australian National University.

HEATHER KEITH: It's the big old trees that have a very high amount of carbon and also the coarse woody debris so the dead standing trees, and the dead logs on the ground that are there in the natural undisturbed forests.

SARAH CLARKE: About half of Australia's forests have been cleared in the last two centuries in three quarters of these carbon stocks have been degraded by human activities such as logging. These scientists say it's crucial, what's left remains intact. If trees and forests are to help soak up the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and do their bit for global warming.

Virginia Young from the Wilderness Society agrees.

VIRGINIA YOUNG: It's the forests that enable us to act early and make deep cuts and that applies whether its Australia or globally.
............................................
Here is a media release of 2003 regarding the tree identified in East Gippsland shown above

15 December 2003

Biggest Tree in Victoria found

A massive tree has been discovered in a remote area of East Gippsland,
near Bendoc on the Errinundra Plateau.  The tree, a rare Errinundra
Shining Gum found only in parts of the Errinundra Plateau, has a girth
of 18.5 metres.  It is believed to be the largest girth of any tree on
record in Victoria.  The tree is situated in the Bonang River catchment
and is surrounded by rainforest.

Discovered by volunteer conservationists conducting endangered species
research, the tree has been brought to the attention of the National
Heritage Trust, who say that they have no record of a tree that large.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment have also been informed
of the existence of the tree, however, they stated that legislation does
not provide for the protection of the tree, as it does not fall into a
category for protection.  The tree is adjacent to a number of proposed
logging coupes.

One of the discoverers of the tree, Rena Gabarov, is concerned that the
tree will suffer the same fate as El Grande, Tasmania’s largest tree,
which was declared dead last week following a regeneration burn in an
adjacent logging coupe which fatally burnt the tree.

“It would be a tragedy if such an ancient tree remained unprotected. Who
knows how many more trees of this size are out there waiting to be
discovered?  It is time for the government to protect all old growth
forest and ensure that trees such as these can remain as part of
Australia’s natural heritage,” said Rena Gabarov.


 

 


Posted by editor at 1:57 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 4 February 2010 2:27 PM EADT
'Ethical products' PR launch for Brisbane based web retail operation
Mood:  chatty
Topic: local news


The blurb sent through reads:

"According to Peita Gardiman, the founder, one of the main aims of Ethikl is to promote and support the ethical consumer movement and encourage shoppers to make positive buying decisions, such as favoring ethical products, be they fair trade, cruelty free, organic, recycled, re-used, or produced locally.  

 

"One of our goals is to change the way the economy works and begin to change people’s consumption habits. Many people are tired of mass produced, chemically- packed products and want to get back to basics,” says Peita.

 

“We live in a culture of excess, we want more and more and then throw it away faster and faster. When you buy something from Ethikl, there’s a story behind it. There’s a person behind it. If people start to rediscover handmade, natural products, they will learn to treasure them and become more ethical consumers.”

 

While there is nothing like the experience of going to a farmer's market, smelling the fresh produce, tasting samples, and interacting with producers themselves, not everyone can afford the time, leisure, or access to do so ,  but now you can explore  Ethikl’s online marketplace and discover handcrafted jewellery, clothing, homewares, unique gifts, specialty foods and more at www.ethikl.com.au"

 

SAM is agnostic about this commercial enterprise except it does look idealistic (and beyond our humble budget). We do like industrial hemp products as a concept and rainbow coloured nappies are novel (shown above).


Posted by editor at 12:51 PM EADT
South Coast forest being smashed daily
Mood:  don't ask
Topic: nsw govt

South Coast Area Logging Compartments Current

February 2010 report from South East Forest Rescue.

South Brooman 56, 63, 65

Yadboro 418

Currowan 501

Buckenbowra 544

Wandera 585

Currambene 1042

Tallaganda 2433 & 2434, 2439

Bodalla 3013

Dampier 3123, 3231

That makes thirteen active areas destroying forest habitat daily.

South Brooman is being logged heavily at present on the pretence that when they logged it last time

about six years ago the marking up wasn't done correctly and missed out on a lot of area down by the

gullies etc. into the rainforest and there was only wattle regeneration happening in the areas they done

last time anyway so…what you see on the ground is "adaptive management" at an exasperating level of

dysfunction. Interestingly compartment 65 had a sudden change of logging style; originally the

harvesting was said to be a 'single tree selection' operation

[Forest stands of mixed age cover 100% of the net planned area (249ha) and will be harvested under a

single tree selection (STS) regime with the objective of removing approx 50% of mature trees and defective trees

containing a sawlog, while minimising damage to young regenerating stems, and creating canopy openings where

appropriate for regeneration.]

but when questioning the logging contractor Mr Condie last Sunday he told us that they amended that

and changed to an AGS style operation. Austalian Group Selection is predicted to feature prominently

in native forest logging to come

[AGS medium intensity canopy openings must not be greater than 0.39ha and the total area of canopy

openings must not exceed 22.5% of the net harvestable area within the AGS medium intensity tract.]

inside each AGS canopy opening (which vary in their size and do get rather large) is clear fall logging,

all trees removed, lots of ground disturbance and scant remaining habitat.

Both Yadboro and Currowan forest are situated between the Clyde River and the escarpment to the

west; Currowan 501 has had neglible logging, and Yadboro 418 also only lightly logged historically.

Buckenbowra is west of Mogo and was nominated to be declared wilderness, yet tragically more

roading continues in compartment 544.

Wandera 585 can be seen kicking up dust from the highway just north of Moruya.

Currambene 1042 is way north up by the St Georges Basin. Coastal forest being scientifically thinned

for various Forests NSW research projects

The total combined green mill recovery based on volume was 48.3%.

This forest research said that about half of the logs become actual product ie. rough sawn green boards.

Tallaganda compartments are either old growth or minimally disturbed along the Great Dividing Range

west of Braidwood, Shoalhaven River drains to the east, Murray-Darling River Basin to the west.

Bodalla 3013 is out along Mitchells Ridge Road north of Narooma, more overcutting in coastal forests.

In Dampier 3231 there is original forest being destroyed. Compartment 3123 has been logged but a

very long time ago.

Future Plans

More roading in Buckenboura 543 after 544. Wandera 584 next after 585. Macdonald 1101 and 1104

beginning any day now. This forest is north of Milton has scant records of previous logging events.

Currowan big time in April with five compartments slated to start; 486 is virtual old growth, 487 was

last cut in 1984. Compartments 227 228 and 230 have only been selected for mining timbers with much

original forest still intact along the Clyde River.

Bodalla 3063 next, then Gulaga compartment 3047 in April , then with compartment 3023 in May.

Four Dampier compartments waiting in the wings 3127, 3102, 3162 & 3163.

All information for this report obtained from publicly available from government sources.


Posted by editor at 10:44 AM EADT
US Supreme Court 'aberrant endorsement of big money politics': PBS
Mood:  blue
Topic: corporates
 


 

Sent: Wednesday, February 03, 2010 5:46 PM
Subject: for legal eagles -Bill Moyer's brilliant interview / discussion on implications of THE most radical US Supreme court decision of all time.

Friends
I've highlighted in various colours the really essential 'interesting' and unprecedented legal points raised in this three-way discussion re. the recent US Supreme court decision on funding elections.
I really like the concluding remark:

...there are so many signs of people being hungry for involvement in politics. And I think, the odds are against it. But that there's a really substantial chance that a combination of this and what's happening in the financial sector are really going to lead to a populist revival like we haven't seen for 100 years. But it's going to require left working with right. It's not going to happen if it's just a left wing response, and it's not going to happen if it's just the tea parties.

Onward!
Maireid

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01292010/watch.html

January 29, 2010

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the JOURNAL.

When the five conservatives on the Supreme Court decided last week that money is speech and corporations have the same rights to spend as much of it buying elections as you do, you could hear the champagne corks popping over at Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Exxon Mobil.

But when the late night talk shows heard the news, they didn't break out the bubbly; they broke out in laughter. At THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART, correspondent John Oliver made fun of the very notion of corporations as an oppressed minority.

JOHN OLIVER: What a day! With this historic ruling, the last bastion of discrimination in this country has come toppling down. For too long, Jon, corporations have suffered under the yoke of laws, stripped of the basic freedom and dignity guaranteed by our founders [...] For the first time in history, corporations can walk with heads held high, having left their mark on American democracy.

BILL MOYERS: But seriously, folks, is this the end of democracy as we know it? Can it get any worse? My first guests say this is no laughing matter.

Monica Youn directs the money in politics project at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice. She's litigated campaign finance and election law issues in federal courts throughout the country.

Zephyr Teachout, is a faculty member at Fordham University's School of Law, who at this moment is also a Visiting Assistant Professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School. During the presidential campaign of Howard Dean in 2004, she was director of his online organizing, which as you know revolutionized political networking and fundraising.

Welcome to you both.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Thank you.

MONICA YOUN; Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: Now, comedians can be funny and journalists can be facetious, but in very plain language, who won the Supreme Court decision?

MONICA YOUN; Well, corporations clearly won this decision. I mean, essentially, what the court does is it awards monopoly power over the First Amendment to corporations. You can think about the last couple of elections as, you know, the slow rise of the grassroots. And as a result, the political parties, for the first time, had an incentive to start reaching out to small donors, to start cultivating grassroots organizing networks. And you saw what happened in the last election. Now, what the Supreme Court has done here is really a power play. It takes power away from the grassroots, and it puts it squarely back in the hands of corporate special interests.

It threatens to make these grassroots networks irrelevant. To say, you know, it's no longer going to be worthwhile for, you know, parties to look for fundraising opportunities, $20, $100, even $2,400 at a time, if they can just have multimillion dollar support directly from corporate treasuries.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: This decision, at base, is about power. And that's why people are responding. That's why people from left and right are responding. This decision means that when you walk past a sign that says Goldman Sachs or Ford, that, what that represents has the same rights that you do to speak about politics, to spend as much money as you want on a political campaign. They are basically equal, and treated as equal entities, even though you're the citizen. That's why there's a really deep grassroots response, is there's a sense that power, political power, is being taken away from the citizen, which is really a core idea of this country.

BILL MOYERS: By permitting corporations to use their own, the money from their own treasuries to advocate for or against a candidate? So, that diminishes the power of the individual?

MONICA YOUN; Well, what the Supreme Court has said by equating money with speech, what the Supreme Court has said is that elections aren't really about votes anymore. What elections are now going to be about is money and who has the most money. And an individual citizen saying, "I can't possibly compete with Wal-Mart, with Exxon Mobil, with Goldman Sachs," is just going to say, "Why should I even bother? My voices will never, my voice will never be heard. My elected official is not going to listen to me. I should just stay home."

BILL MOYERS: But if I understand the decision, it doesn't enable the chairman of Exxon Mobil, or the chairman of GE to write a check to Zephyr Teachout, who's running for Congress from Vermont. It says she can spend as much money as they want to, in the, right up to the election. Right? Advocating that you be elected or defeated?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Yeah. Or, what happens more likely is candidates getting threatened and encouraged. It's a much subtler form of corruption. Where your mind shifts to say, "Well, do I really want to take on that financial transaction tax if I know that Goldman Sachs is going to do an ad campaign?"

MONICA YOUN; And I think that the threat is going to be even more of an important weapon than direct, you know, "Vote for so and so who we like."

BILL MOYERS: How do you mean?

MONICA YOUN; I think there's going to be a threat of corporate funded attack ads against elected officials who dare to stand up to corporate interests. Corporations have basically been handed a weapon. And when you walk into a negotiation, and you know that one person is armed and is able to use a weapon against you, they don't have to take out that weapon. They don't have to even brandish it. You know that they have it. And every elected official who goes up against an agenda on regulatory reform, on climate change, on health care, will know that the corporation who, you know, he or she is opposing, can fund a, you know, a $100 million ad campaign to take him or her out.

BILL MOYERS: But I mean, our elections are already saturated with money and the outcomes of money before this Supreme Court decision. And I still am trying to understand what is going to be different-

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Okay.

BILL MOYERS: -from this decision.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Okay. Let's say you work for Goldman Sachs. You mentioned Goldman and I like talking about Goldman, because they're the smartest political party I know in the country.

BILL MOYERS: Goldman Sachs?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: "Mr. Sachs", right.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: No, they're very effective, politically, as a company, in their lobbying and in their ability to influence people's thoughts about -- directly.

BILL MOYERS: Right.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: So, up until now there have been a series of laws that have restrained Goldman's direct political involvement. And they have a political team, but for the most part, they don't have a team that is looking at the country, trying to figure out which races to get involved in early. Now, what this decision does is say, "We give you the sanction, we actually encourage you as an important, vibrant part of our society to engage." Now, that may be a difference of degree, but differences of degree are everything in politics.

MONICA YOUN; It used to be that when corporations got involved in elections, they would do so kind of skulking around by subterfuge. And what this decision does is it says the Supreme Court of the United States says that you, a corporation, have a First Amendment right to buy as much influence as you can afford. You go out there and get them.

BILL MOYERS: But, you know, some people would say, "That's all right. This is a free market society. America's all about free markets. What's wrong with that? That is a basic American value."

MONICA YOUN; The marketplace of ideas doesn't give any one, any corporation or any individual the constitutional right to buy an election. I mean, the First Amendment is an important part of our Constitution, but so is the idea that this is a democracy. This is -- no matter this is a society based on the idea of one person, one vote. And our elections should not be marketplaces. They should be about voters. They should be about helping the electorate make an informed decision. And the electorate is not going to be able to make an informed decision if all they can see on the air, if all they can, you know, hear on the radio are, you know, attack ads funded by hidden corporate agendas.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: I would say that it's -- we're a society of freedom and markets. And political freedom is so important. Political freedom means the freedom to speak and say what you as an individual citizen believe, the freedom to vote. And it means having some power in your society. And then we have this extraordinary system of markets. But it's very dangerous when the two mix. It's not just that it's bad for politics, it's also bad for markets. If you have Ford more focused on spending millions of dollars on trying to influence a congressional race, instead of making the best environmentally efficient car, we all lose. It moves towards a society where markets and freedom are confused, instead of both sort of separate values.

BILL MOYERS: But the court was talking about a very limited matter. The First Amendment, and whether or not it permits speech. What's important is the First Amendment forbids the government from interfering with speech. And that applies to anybody who speaks.

MONICA YOUN; But the problem with that is when you are talking about money being equivalent to speech. And corporations being equivalent to people. It's as if you're saying, "Okay, I'm going to put an ordinary person in a boxing ring against a Sherman tank and that's a fair fight. May the best fighter win." You're talking about artificial constructs that were built to accumulate money. That's the purpose of a corporation. There's nothing wrong with that. As long as that economic inequality does not directly translate into political equality. There's a reason our Constitution was set up the way it was. And there's a reason that you can't buy an election. Because we didn't intend for those who have the most money just to be able to get everything in the system the way they want it, every time.

BILL MOYERS: So, did the Supreme Court declare, in effect, that a corporation is a person, like the three of us, endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights? Is that what it was saying, in effect?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: I don't recommend-- on the most part you should stay away from legal opinions, if you can avoid them. But I encourage people to read this opinion because there's some really weird sections. Where Justice Kennedy says "Government cannot stop people from speaking. And anyone who it stops," I'm not quoting exactly, but there's pronoun switches that put "who" and "those" and "they" switching people and corporations in and out. And it seems like, you know, if you almost read it as a literary text, he does have this respect for these legal creations as individuals whose political interests we ought respect.

MONICA YOUN; And there's a very strange alternative reality aspect to the decision. It's like you're reading a work of science fiction. At one point Justice Kennedy says, "Government has muffled the voices of corporations." And-

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: No, no. It's worse. He says, "muffled the most," and then he quotes from Scalia, "the sort of best advocates for the most important interests in our economy."

MONICA YOUN; And so, the idea being that we don't know what Exxon Mobil thinks about climate change. We don't know what Goldman Sachs thinks about financial regulation, because those corporations have somehow been unable to make their viewpoint known on the Hill.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: But this is not just a First Amendment question, as you suggested. This is a question of what kind of society do we want to live in? How do we want it to work when a group of people call their representative? Does she answer the phone? Whose phone call is she taking?

MONICA YOUN; And in a system, you know, the preamble to the Constitution is all about "We the People." And it sets up a vision of representative self government. One in which the citizen is the sovereign and the citizen rules. And was "We the People" meant to include corporations, this artificial legal entity? I mean, should corporations now be able to vote? Should they be able to hold office?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: And there's this beautiful passage in Stevens' dissent, where you can feel his -- he wrote one of the longest dissents in recent history. And you can feel his -- I think very heartfelt anxiety as he's confused. "What is this thing we are giving these rights?" And these are not small rights. These are rare in human history that you have a right like the right to speak freely, politically. We had, you know, we're dealing with in the sophist way in giving it to a corporate form. It's very strange.

BILL MOYERS: Giving it to a corporate form, as I understand the decision, which enables it on the night before an election, if it wants to, it may not want to, but if a corporation wants to, to run a series of ads saying, "Don't vote for candidate Teachout or candidate Youn, right?" And that's a right, as I understand it, that corporations have not had.

MONICA YOUN; So, yeah, that's correct.

BILL MOYERS: To run an ad a night before the election, saying vote for this candidate or against that candidate.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Okay, see, imagine a Senate race in a few years. And, efforts to break up the banks got into a higher pitch. And a candidate recognizing that people in her state are very supportive of this effort to break up the banks. But the polls are close. So, she comes out with a strong statement saying, "I want a per se cap on how big a bank can be. In the billions, okay?" That night, there can be ad hominem attacks funded by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley on her, directly paid, that cover the airwaves. Now, not only can that happen, but she knows that can happen. How likely is she to take on one of the most important economic questions that we have right now. Is how to structure our financial industry. When she knows the financial industry is already spending $400 billion -- $400 million in a year on lobbying?

BILL MOYERS: Well, proponents of this ruling point out that unions are also freed up by the decision. Have they created a level playing field here between the corporations and the unions?

MONICA YOUN; Well, the short answer to that is that if you compare unions' available funds versus corporation's available funds, we're not talking about a real fight here. But I think the more important fight is why should the only people whose viewpoints count in this, be large organizations with money? Whether that be the unions or the corporations? Why shouldn't ideas be dealt with on their merits? And why shouldn't ideas be dealt with by the number of votes they can command, as opposed to the amount of dollars they can spend?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: I also want to go back to something you said earlier about sort of we all know, what was it? The threat of money-

BILL MOYERS: Implied threat that if you do something I don't like, I'm going to, and I have a lot of money, I'm going to make you pay for it in the next election.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: So what I want to say is not only do we all know it, but this is actually fundamental to our Constitution. Our founders knew it. Hamilton knew it. Madison knew it. And they talk about the importance of keeping the temptations and threats of money outside of politics. They weren't naive. And we're not naive. We don't have a vision of money entirely outside of politics. But it's not just that it's common sense. It's a common sense that's embedded in our best traditions. This idea that we should try to create structures that avoid those, that experience of threat and temptation on the part of our politicians.

BILL MOYERS: The decision seems at odds with some of the very positions taken by some of the people who wrote it. I mean, for example, we've heard a lot from conservatives about "judicial activism." That is, judges, liberal judges, Earl Warren and others, actually making decisions that usurp the power of the legislature. So, let me play you an excerpt from Roberts' nomination hearings, when he is talking about judicial activism.

JOHN ROBERTS: Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around...Judges have to have the humility to recognize that they operate within a system of precedent, shaped by other judges equally striving to live up to the judicial oath...I do think that it is a jolt to the legal system when you overrule a precedent...it is not enough that you may think the prior decision was wrongly decided...the role of the judge is limited; that judge is to decide the cases before them; they're not to legislate; they're not to execute the laws."

BILL MOYERS: Is that what he was doing last week?

MONICA YOUN; Absolutely not. This started out as a case about a very narrow issue. It's, is this 90 minute infomercial attacking Hillary Clinton, is this a corporate campaign ad or is it not a corporate campaign ad? And what the court did is they said, "Well, you know, we could rule on that question, but instead let's talk about this entire topic of whether corporate spending in elections should be limited."

BILL MOYERS: In other words, that question was not in the case, that the judges reached out and brought to the court.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: It was not only not in the case, but the parties stipulated that they wouldn't have to deal with these questions. And the judges reached out. The justices reached out and decided to make this statement of their view of corporate independent expenditures.


MONICA YOUN; And this is so disturbing, because one reason that, in that clip, the chief justice is paying, you know, homage to the idea of judicial modesty is people recognize that in this system judges are given a great deal of power. Judges can not only say, "Oh, what you did, Congress, was wrong. But forever more, you are barred from doing anything like that again. That option is completely off the table now." But the way that's limited in our constitutional system is that judges are only supposed to decide the particular case in front of them. They're not going to -- they're not supposed to say, "Oh, we don't like that particular area of the law. Let's just go out and change that, just because we have the five votes to do so." And I can think of very little more scary for our democracy than a five, you know, justice majority that finds itself unconstrained by precedent. That finds itself unconstrained by the case before it. And feels like it can just go out there and pursue its own agenda.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: This case did overrule established precedent. It dealt with an issue which could have been dealt with on several different minor grounds. Much, much narrower grounds. And this -- these laws against corporate expenditures came after massive public response to what they perceived to be corruption in the system. Passed by Congress with enormous amounts of support. And there are times when justices should get involved. And say, "No, no, no. There is a minority here that is not being protected. There are interests that the public isn't hearing." But here the justices were not reaching out to protect an unheard minority, but rather to protect one of the loudest voices we already have in our politics.

BILL MOYERS: Well, John Oliver said it's an oppressed minority. Corporations are an oppressed minority, right? But what now? What do you think can be done to counter, if one wants to counter, the -- this decision?

MONICA YOUN; You know, I have faith that this decision is a constitutional aberration. And I feel like the shock that this decision has resulted in across the left and the right will hopefully show the court that they have taken things too far. That the results of their logic is no longer democracy, which is rule of the people, but which is plutocracy, rule of the wealthy.


ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: I think that ten years ago ordinary citizens felt really left out of politics. And we saw that start to change. We saw in the last election, on both sides, we saw people -- you know, feeling like they gave $100, they went out there, they knocked on doors, they got people to the polls, and that mattered. And that was the focus of the election. That was what mattered in an election. And I think what we're going to start to see, maybe not immediately, but certainly down the road if this trend is not changed, is that's going to stop mattering anymore. That's not going to be important. What's going to be important is corporate spending.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: I'm more hopeful than you are, despite my despondent initial response. I think there are so many signs of people being hungry for involvement in politics. And I think, the odds are against it. But that there's a really substantial chance that a combination of this and what's happening in the financial sector are really going to lead to a populist revival like we haven't seen for 100 years. But it's going to require left working with right. It's not going to happen if it's just a left wing response, and it's not going to happen if it's just the tea parties.

BILL MOYERS: Monica Youn and Zephyr Teachout, thank you very much for joining me on The JOURNAL.

MONICA YOUN; Thank you.


Posted by editor at 10:34 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 4 February 2010 10:41 AM EADT
Woohoo, SAM pulls 30K hits for silly season month of January
Mood:  incredulous
Topic: independent media


More background here on SAM stats over our trajectory from inception 3rd January 2007, in frustration at official Sydney Indy Media going offline in the lead up to the NSW state election:

http://www.sydneyalternativemedia.com/blog/index.blog/1977860/sam-slog-reader-stats-on-upswing-again-3-years-later/

 


Posted by editor at 9:35 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 4 February 2010 9:45 AM EADT
Pray tell Penberthy how MySchool reveals bad apple teacher?
Mood:  incredulous
Topic: big media

Picture: This screenshot in 2005 suggests David Penberthy's posture as honest broker on MySchool issues is a bit strained.

 

 

We wrote recently of 'foolish' big media and big politics parading their non sequiturs on the value or not of the new My School website. We used the example of a 135 million strong yet frivolous Youtube posting to prove high web hit rate is not probative of serious content. The specific Youtube 'Charlie bit my finger' was indeed cute and a celebration of humanity but entirely frivolous.

News Corp golden web-ster  David Penberthy who runs Punch (or is that Punchy?) was paraded in two page press feature yesterday in the Sydney Daily Telegraph print version, with a sledge on the teacher unions: In short the union is just protecting dud teachers is the claim.

Worth unpacking this assertion to show how poor Penberthy's arithmetic must be.

How can a single school average over say a 1000 student school show which teacher is dodgy? The proposition is a non starter - because it's 'a school' appraisal not an individual teacher assessment. Indeed it's not even a school assessment, it's a student assessment in all their diversity and systemic disadvantages.

A global number for all students in a school to measure a single teacher? Mmm. So much for the 3Rs and basic mathematics.

All Penberthy is parading is the ideology of his anti union News Corp employer.


Posted by editor at 9:31 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 4 February 2010 1:01 PM EADT

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