News That’s Fit To Punt – 28/11/09

Turmoil In The Liberal Party

The week saw a full tilt in-fighting imbroglio on the Liberal Party over the Emissions Trading Scheme legislation. It’s providing a lot of fun for those of us who totally loathed John Howard and his patrician, (b)latently racist, fascist-class-warrior legacy. Not enough bad things can happen to the Liberal Party of Australia.

The really strange thing is that the Party of illiberality has been trying to come to terms with the Emissions Trading Scheme even against it’s worst instincts, if you will. Yes, why make deals when not all of you don’t wholly believe in the rationale of the scheme?

The people doing the revolting are those of the “Climate Change isn’t true” persuasion. The leader of the opposition Malcolm Turnbull, used to be the minister for the Environment and so has sought to bring some kind of ETS legislation into place when the Liberals were in power. The Labor Party appear to have incorporated almost all of the Liberal Party’s amendments, so the rebellious  Libs are of the climate change denier variety – like Nick Minchin.

On some level, that portion of the Liberal Party has allowed itself to become the party of anti-scientific opinion. Doubtless those ranks include believers of ‘Intelligent Design’ and ‘Flat Earth’ and anti-abortion legislation and other medieval outlooks like that. Let’s not beat about the bush, it’s the motley crew of un-enlightenment and irresponsible irrationalists – religious nutjobs included.

So now it appears Malcolm Turnbull’s goose is nearly cooked thanks to his agreeing to pass the ETS legislation and working out a deal. He’s got to be wondering just how deep the medieval-stupid runs in his party room. If/when he gets dumped by his own party, he might even consider swapping sides of politics like Winston Churchill.

Malcolm Turnbull As Bad Guy

This is where it’s at as of this writing.

Mr Turnbull said he has the support of Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey to remain as opposition leader.

“He and I have been at one on this,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“I believe we should honour our agreement with the government, the emissions trading scheme should be passed with the amendments we secured.

“Having got that issue behind us, we should focus on unity and working together and holding the Labor Government to account.”

Mr Turnbull is refusing to stand down from the Liberal leadership despite a growing belief his position is untenable following a mass revolt over emissions trading.

The issue is likely to come to a head at a party room meeting on Tuesday morning, where Tony Abbott or – potentially – Mr Hockey could stand for the leadership.

Mr Turnbull said he had a message to all Australians and the Liberal Party: “We have a duty to our country, to our planet, to our children to take effective action on climate change.”

“I respect the views of those who believe we don’t need to … but it is not responsible to proceed on the basis that there is nothing to be concerned about.”

Mr Turnbull said he understood the government’s frustration given an agreement had been reached on the ETS and negotiations conducted in good faith.

“What does it say about the character of the Liberal Party if, having entered into an agreement, we were to simply say we have changed our mind, we are going to renege on that deal. How could you trust us?”

The criticism of Malcolm Turnbull by those on his side of politics, if leaks are to believed is that He’s arrogant, he’s autocratic, and he just won’t listen. One would have thought that this is entirely the sort of leader one would get and deserve to get given the patriarchal instincts of the Liberal Party. In some ways, one wonders, aren’t they complaining about getting exactly the sort of guy they want? – just that he believes something a little bit different from the rest of the bogans and Vogon-poets of the Right? That maybe he actually *is* as brilliant as the self-appointed elite needs must be?

There have been some interesting moments in Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, including the rather tawdry ‘Utegate’ fake e-mail fiasco. The current repercussions seem to be a delayed response to the manner in which he took that non-lead and drove the party’s fortunes into a ditch of polling. The ETS deal-making is another case where it seems some kind of deep pragmatist seems to be operating against a very stark ideologue’s war in the ranks.

I know some people who swear black and blue that Malcolm Turnbull is a crook, and the day he becomes PM of Australia is the end. But then I kind of feel the same way about most of the Conservative side of politics so maybe  it doesn’t mean a whole lot. Who’s to say Australia isn’t already in the pits?

But that aside, Malcolm Turnbull as leader of opposition sure has been an interesting spectacle to date. When it’s all said and done and he bows out of politics, we might find that his views on the environment get vindicated by history – and that would be ironic for all.

Who’s Next? Joe The Gen-X Fratboy?

One of the leading candidates to replace Turnbull is Joe Hockey. I’ll be honest – I have a soft spot for Joe in spite of the vast, vast, vast gulf that lies between my world view and his political credo, so there’ a side of me that wouldn’t mind seeing Joe rise to the Leader of Opposition. He’s actually likable when you meet him.

Here’s the thing though. Joe was born in 1965 which makes him Gen-X. Not even Kevin 24/7 is a Gen-Xer. The last Federal leader to be vaguely closer to Gen-X was Mark Latham. Of course Barack Obama is half a year younger than Mark Latham and got elected in America 4 years on from the 2004 Australian Federal election, but the point is demographically speaking Joe is going to appeal to a whole lot fewer people than Malcolm or more importantly Kevin Rudd.

It’s one of those funny things in demographics that Baby Boomers just didn’t want to vote for a guy born in the 1960s in 2004, and were willing to switch in 2007 because let’s face it, the Silver-haired Rudd was born in 1957 and therefore a Baby Boomer. Talk about vanity, but the Baby Boomers can be counted on to be persuaded through flattery – and they are a powerful voting block.

It’s hard to say if this factor will come into play again. On the one hand, Joe is going to have to front for those backward-looking forces of un-reason, and un-enlightenment as the political leader of the intellectually medievalist Party. Then, he’s going to have to drag the party to the middle and convince the swinging voters that such baggage is the way forward into the future.

On the other hand, they’re meant to be dying off ever so gradually, so maybe the younger constituency of the Liberal Party may not be so hostile to having some kind of policy to control emissions. It’s a juggling act. But if Malcolm Turnbull’s current strife as well as Brendan Nelson’s abject failure showed anything, sometimes it’s not just a political problem. It’s about the physical reality in which we live.

Why The Old Fogeys Deny Climate Change

This is a cool article. It gets really good around the middle:

In 1973 the cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker proposed that the fear of death drives us to protect ourselves with ”vital lies” or ”the armour of character”. We defend ourselves from the ultimate terror by engaging in immortality projects, which boost our self-esteem and grant us meaning that extends beyond death.

More than 300 studies conducted in 15 countries appear to confirm Becker’s thesis. When people are confronted with images or words or questions that remind them of death they respond by shoring up their world view, rejecting people and ideas that threaten it, and increasing their striving for self-esteem.

One of the most arresting findings is that immortality projects can bring death closer. In seeking to defend the symbolic, heroic self that we create to suppress thoughts of death, we might expose the physical self to greater danger. For example, researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel found that people who reported that driving boosted their self-esteem drove faster and took greater risks after they had been exposed to reminders of death.

A recent paper by the biologist Janis L. Dickinson, published in the journal Ecology and Society, proposes that constant news and discussion about global warming makes it difficult to repress thoughts of death, and that people might respond to the terrifying prospect of climate breakdown in ways that strengthen their character armour but diminish our chances of survival.

There is already experimental evidence that some people respond to reminders of death by increasing consumption. Dickinson proposes that growing evidence of climate change might boost this tendency, as well as raising antagonism towards scientists and environmentalists. Our message, after all, presents a lethal threat to the central immortality project of Western society: perpetual economic growth, supported by an ideology of entitlement and exceptionalism.

If Dickinson is correct, is it fanciful to suppose that those who are closer to the end of their lives might react more strongly against reminders of death? I haven’t been able to find any experiments testing this proposition, but it is surely worth investigating. And could it be that the rapid growth of climate change denial over the past two years is actually a response to the hardening of scientific evidence? If so, how the hell do we confront it?

This exactly echoes my contention why Joe Hockey won’t be the best choice.

Windies Really Suck

Australia aren’t this good.

Still hurting over their Ashes defeat, Australia vented their frustration by beating up the hapless West Indies in the first Test in Brisbane within three days.

The wilting Windies lost 15 wickets in all today to lose by an innings and 65 runs, as Australia rumbled to their sixth straight win at the Gabba dating back to 2004.

It extended their 21-year unbeaten run at the ground in Tests.

But it also added another sorry chapter in the tourists’ recent history – the once mighty Windies have now suffered nine straight Test losses in Australia.

At least first-timer Adrian Barath, 19, could hold his head high after becoming the youngest West Indian to score a Test century on debut.

But when he fell for a magnificent 104 – including 20 boundaries – in the final session, the end was nigh for the tourists.

Man-of-the-match Ben Hilfenhaus (3-20), spinner Nathan Hauritz (2-40) and Shane Watson (2-44) helped bowl out the Windies for 187 in their second dig after Ricky Ponting enforced a surprise follow-on earlier today.

As he did in the first innings when he took 2-50, Hilfenhaus tore the heart out of the top order in the second dig.

He claimed the prize scalps of Chris Gayle (one) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (two), as well as first-innings anchorman Travis Dowlin (four).

It endorsed Ponting’s decision to make the Windies bat again.

The only real stand of note in the Windies’ second dig came from Barath and Dwayne Bravo (23) who compiled 66 for the fourth wicket before the latter was inexplicably caught hooking minutes before tea to leave the tourists reeling at 4-106 at the break.

Perhaps the biggest surprise though was specialist batsman Mike Hussey claiming Bravo’s wicket.

Golly. It’s enough to make you think Australia are at the top of the tree again, but I seriously doubt it. The logical corollary is that the Windies really suck these days. It’s tragic.

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