2 TRILLION globally in fossil subsidies? #auspol #wtf

Two trillion in subsidies worldwide for fossil fuel producers? If that figure’s accurate, then the free market dogma so many conservative smog-baron types usually spout in support of, say, further disenfranchising the poor because it’s not fair that rich people should pay for other peoples’ bad luck or laziness via taxation should also apply to their own industries.

To flamin’ wit: if, even in the midst of an alleged local resources boom, your hole-digging businesses need billions in government subsidies in order to survive then, by your own standards, you’ve either had the bad luck to pick a loser or you’re too lazy or stupid to change your business model – and the rest of us shouldn’t be footing the bill. Not to mention that your lobbying for subsidies (like taxpayer-funded cheap diesel) rings a little hollow when your overfed CEOs not only make as much per year as Luxembourg but also have the spare cash to retain specialist lawyers, accountants and (presumably) some kind of goblin mage to ensure they pay less tax than the bloke who cleans out the shitters.

Renewables – chiefly solar and wind – have been on the rise for two decades and you’ve all had plenty of time to get used to the idea and take a few scoops from your money bins to invest in them. There’s simply no excuse for you to restrict yourself to just digging holes like a top-hatted 19th century industrialist and then expect a round of applause, much less handout after handout – it’s not as if fossil fuel is some fledgling industry with loads of promise that deserves a little public support to get off the starting line.

There’s also absolutely no point whining about renewables and trying to have your pocket-pollies shut them down when, again, there’s been ample time for you to realise in which direction the future of domestic energy lies and invest accordingly. Good lord, some of you have made so much money in the last decade you could’ve bought a chunk of desert and built a solar station in it big enough to power the east coast or enough wind farms to power both Las and Bris Vegas, all the while chuckling to your mates at the Club over how it didn’t cost you a farthing to locate and extract the raw material and gosh would they like to have a gander at your profit margins now.

Meanwhile, as location and extraction of fossil fuels gets more expensive and less efficient (not to mention more environmentally catastrophic – but as if you’d give half a roasted black swan in rhino-foam about that) domestic energy markets are changing and governments worldwide are committing to reducing carbon output and increasing usage of renewables. In the face of such progress and by their own market-worshipping standards, any fossil-burning CEO left stranded and hapless will – by their own standards – only have themselves to blame.

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EDIT:

This story details a recent report into government funding of mining at a state/territory level in Australia. Relevant quote:

“The Queensland Government has spent about as much money supporting its mining industry as it’s spent on building new hospitals,” [Dr Richard Denniss, ED of the Australia Institute, which produced the report] observed.

“The Western Australian Government has spent about as much money as it spent on its police force. So, these are enormous sums of money.”

Iron ore is Australia’s biggest export earner, but it doesn’t receive the bulk of mining assistance from state governments.

“There’s no doubt the coal industry is the biggest recipient of tax payer subsidies – both directly and indirectly,” Dr Denniss added.

Naturally, the hole-barons called it Greens propaganda – obviously unaware of the mote in their eye, in the form of the Institute of Public Affairs, the notorious fringe-right ultra-capitalist lobby group headed by Gina Rinehart and Murdoch and which gave a wishlist of free-market wet dreams to the Coalition government, who used it to dictate the bulk of their foreign, domestic and financial policies.

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Theologian Chess!

The well-known “Pigeon Chess” simile applies to creationists and their woeful misunderstandings of science and their generally deplorable behaviour: (paraphrased) “They don’t know the rules, they knock the pieces over, they shit all over the board and then they fly home to coo over their victory.”

Inspired by this exchange at WEIT (and countless other examples of theologians redefining their gods out of reach of inquiry [often as they simultaneously try to define them into existence]), I thought that perhaps theologians should have their own (slightly more complex) corollary:

In Theology Chess, the theologian has the entire chessboard to himself and only one piece: God. Whenever the opponent (who has no pieces) asks a question about God, the piece may be moved to a different square in any direction with no restriction on distance. This may be done indefinitely until the questioner gets up and leaves.

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EDIT 03/07/2014: commenter thedxman got busy and knocked this up (he earns four hundred billion points):

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What’s going on here?

Draw Something Dad

If, like me, you’re perhaps not that enamoured of the pictures of kittens and balls of yarn or castles, princesses and ponies that fill most colouring books. My 3.5 year-old daughter, Boodle, has been colouring in little doodles of mine since she could hold a giant egg-chalk in her chubby little fingers and has lately been requesting various scenarios – of course I’m more than happy to oblige. Recently, some friends requested their own custom pages for their own mini-humans and, of course, I was more than happy to oblige them as well. So pleased were they that they suggested I open this service to the public and, presto – last week that’s exactly what I did!

So, if you want something different and a little more fun for your mini-you to perfect with their crayons, I can draw you a page, a strip or series of pages with exactly…

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@Matt_Dillahunty vs Sye Ten Bruggencate: a very brief recap

Recently, Texan atheist beserker-in-chief Matt Dillahunty debated shopworn, cranky, smugnorant used-god salesman Sye Ten Bruggencate on the question: “Is It Reasonable to Believe that God Exists?” Please, watch the whole thing here.

Sye, what’s known as a “presuppositionalist”, essentially holds that the only reason you can know anything is because of God, who invented logic, reason and things to apply them to and anyone who doubts that is actively lying because they actually know that God exists and are knowingly denying it. Before Sye even gives you the time of day you have to accept that he’s right and concede the argument, which is kind of the opposite of what debates are for.

Matt, a former Christian and seminary student, seasoned debater on related questions and long-time host of call-in show “The Atheist Experience“, presented the negative position. I won’t recap his argument as it’d be superfluous to most people who are familiar with atheism (though you should watch it anyway, because it’s not only Matt D’s usual well-stated watertight logic, but the argument – including most of his rebuttals of Sye’s points – were written well in advance because Sye, infamous among internetters for his shite arguments and belligerent narcissism, never, ever changes the record and is more predictable than a CSI episode).

Anyway, here’s Sye’s argument in a nutter-shell (which you should also watch for the sheer slo-mo train wreck spectacle of watching a man completely out of his depth and making not even a token attempt to actually address the question – that is, if you can handle large doses of the kind of intense exasperation that makes you yell at your screen):

If you accept Sye’s worldview, which you must, because it’s true, because it has God in it, which Sye believes because it’s true because of God inventing literally everything, then you have to believe in God because if you don’t you’re a liar because it’s completely obvious that God exists (because God autographed your cardiac muscle, which it says in the Bible, which God, who wouldn’t lie, wrote) and so there’s no need to make an argument that it’s reasonable to believe in God because God is the only reason there’s reason – and even things to believe in – in the first place; accordingly, it is entirely reasonable to believe in Sye’s God and completely unreasonable not to, the reason being that if you don’t, God will burn you in Hell, which is perfectly reasonable to God, which has to be reason enough for you, because it is, because God’s Reason™ is beyond you.

That’s essentially the core of presuppositionalist Christian apologetics: your first presupposition should be that the presuppositionalist is right, has won the argument and demolished all possible counter-arguments before you even start the discussion, or they will simply dismiss you as a hell-bound liar. Seems reasonable.

And here I was thinking that nowhere could be found a more vapid, facetious, childish intellectual black hole of Christian apologetics than the far-right fringe fundamentalism that engenders Young-Earth Creationism – but no, Sye strapped a rocket to his pocket and jumped the shark clear into a close orbit of former planet Pluto.

In closing: Matt’s argument was a shiny, airtight space helmet; Sye’s was an old top hat with an abandoned bird’s nest in it. And some cat vomit.

The Institute of Public Affairs #auspol

Today in The Saturday Paper I found this nice writeup of the innocuously-named “Institute of Public Affairs”, the hard-right corporate extremist think-tank who tell our government what they want – and then mostly get it. Not for nothing that it was founded by one Mr Murdoch, whose son is currently a director, and is a staunch supporter of that eminently respectable and respected journalist, Andrew Blot, and his right to lie about and defame and insult anyone who he feels encroaches on what he considers to be his lawn.

What do they want? Good question. However, it’s perhaps more illustrative to ask what they don’t want (this is not an exhaustive list by any means): any environmental restrictions to mining, any funding for renewable energy tech (even as the rest of the world skates past us in adopting and profiting from it), renewable energy itself, unions, media ownership restrictions, even mild reforms of the pokie industry, healthcare or education to remain public in any form, high wages – basically, anything that could delay or slightly reduce profit for a very small number of entitled narcissistic economic absolutists is considered a grievous sin. Thou shalt not hinder thy bottom line.

Why does the LNP listen to them? Simple: because they’re fat with tobacco, gambling (sorry, “gaming”), media and fossil-fuel money, full of influential captains of industry and contain more than a few Liberals.

Why should you be concerned? Because even after Tony’s mob went through each department with a flamethrower as soon as they were elected (I can only imagine Pyney flicking his Bic and giggling like an eight year-old), and even after this ideological fisting of a budget (many of whose line items were prescribed by the IPA itself), the IPA is concerned that their pet government hasn’t gone far enough.

Oh, and, perhaps more importantly, you should be concerned because having some extremist, well-funded ideological cabal telling our government what to do to best serve them – and having the government listen as they lie, bald-faced, to the most vulnerable in our society and screw them over – is the goddamned polar opposite of democracy. Abbott’s mob want education, healthcare, environmental regulations and everything else run American-style, to the benefit of profiteers – it appears they’re more than happy for politics to go the same way.

@pzmyers @JaclynGlenn @RichardDawkins #notallmen who hate women need to be ‘insane’ to spree-kill

In the aftermath of the recent Santa Barbara spree-killing, the latest public mass-murder in the only country in the developed world that seems to suffer them almost annually but which is loathe to do anything about it, much has been made of the mental state of killer Elliot Rodger. Specifically, in response to his at-length, self-expressed misogyny and loathing for women he thought he was entitled to favours from, many have been falling over themselves to say, well, actually, he was mentally ill, so his misogyny wasn’t his inspiration to murder seven people. The gist of this commentary is that because Rodger was (apparently) mentally ill, what he himself said was his murderous motivation – put simply, his contempt for the kind of women he desperately desired but could not “have” – is secondary to him being a raving nutter. Others are saying that his murder-spree couldn’t have been inspired by his hatred of those women whose affections he could not attract because he also killed some men (never mind that misogynists do hate other men, routinely describing any man not up to their mammoth-hunting standards as “beta” or deriding any man who appears to lean toward feminism as “manginas” – and never mind that killers often take precautions by eliminating potential witnesses).

I take issue with these keyboard diagnoses of Mental Illness™; I feel they’re unhelpful and they they’re deflections perpetrated by people who, for whatever reason, appear to feel incredibly uncomfortable discussing both misogynist undercurrents in society and certain groups, as well as mainstream, everyday, unapologetic sexism. I will of course grant that mental illness might well have played a part in this atrocity, but as I’ll discuss (modifying some blog comments I’ve made today elsewhere) mental illness is by no means a prerequisite for irrational, vengeful brutality.

All it takes to permit an atrocity is true belief. It can be a new and revolutionary idea or a case of “the older, the better”. The Germans of the early 1930s weren’t clueless, naive pawns of the National Socialists, for instance; anti-Semitism was a centuries-old social reality reinforced by generations of lies and suspicion going back to Luther and beyond (the post-WWI confusion and humiliation was also still an open wound; the anti-Semitism was seized upon by those looking for a scapegoat and eagerly entered into by people at large). The soldiers who then dispossessed, enslaved, gunned down and gassed men women, children and the elderly and those who gave the orders: are we to take it that were they mentally ill – or just patriots convinced that what they were doing was right and necessary, convinced that their time had come, that their nation was entitled to greatness and that a certain rot needed to be purged to accomplish this goal? 

Rodger, while obviously not subject to indoctrination on a national scale, nonetheless hewed toward a toxic ideology that told him he was superior. He was told that he was entitled to sex; when his attentions weren’t returned and when the prescriptions for securing that attention failed, he didn’t abandon them. He didn’t try something different. He maintained his idea of superiority and the idea of the targets of his desire as some underclass to be dominated and possessed and his loathing for those he desired and those that had failed to help him secure them grew. People needed to be punished – those who’d denied him and those who’d “succeeded” where he’d failed. He thought he was right and he acted accordingly.

However, on some level Rodger appeared to know that what he was doing was wrong, hence he’s no longer around to be properly analysed (which, btw, isn’t what I’ve done here; just tried my own summary of his own words). Accordingly I think the question of whether he was mentally ill and what role that illness might have played should remain open. I’m not discounting it but I’m also certainly not giving too much credence to “He was crazier than a shit-house rat and his woman-despising ideology didn’t inform his actions!”

What took Rodger over the edge from ranting online to carrying out his agenda might not be apparent, however Rodger’s criteria for target-selection are crystal clear, stated in black and white in his own words and calmly stated on film. Rodger himself told us why he did this. In the absence of a proper diagnosis, invoking mental illness <i>to the exclusion of Rodger’s own words</i> makes as much sense as blaming this on a brain tumor.

To take it back a step, I think it bears repeating that the people who instigated and who participated in some of the most infamous and brutal crimes in history were not, to our knowledge, mentally ill. Those old atheist-bashing chestnuts, Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot, for example – were they insane? Arguably, perhaps – who actually knows? But what about the large numbers of people who willingly went along with them and carried out their wishes? Can you diagnose millions of people as mentally ill? What about poster-country for Stalinist oppression, North freaking Korea – is that country “insane” in any sense apart from the colloquial?

For that matter, what about those equally brutal and infamous crimes such as the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the witch hunts and everything else we atheists happily point to as evidence that being Christian is not equal to being morally superior, that, throughout the ages, Christian morality has more or less matched the prevailing contemporary morality and not, as some would have us believe, informed it for the better or even revolutionised it? Were the burnings and tortures and massacres all performed and ordered by “the mentally ill” or conceived and executed by true believers who thought they were serving their God? Shall we discuss the dispossession and genocide of the Native Americans, both north and south and the similar criminal treatment of indigenous Australians? The results of literal insanity or simply the results of technologically (though not ethically) advanced imperialists encountering and exterminating “primitives”? How about the centuries of kidnap, torture, enslavement, abuse, lynchings and later denial of basic rights perpetrated against Africans and their descendants?

Back to the Nazis: does the fact that German National Socialism of 1933-1945 was an abject, monstrous and demonstrable failure dissuade anyone from, right now, shaving their heads, having swastikas tattooed on their persons and calling themselves Aryan Brothers? Obviously not – but should these people be considered insane for latching onto an irrational and failed ideology? Maybe not, but how about when these neo-Nazis cross the line from word to action and commit hate crimes? Insane? Or just utterly convinced by something utterly wrong?

Erm…anyone for Rwanda? Ugandan gay-murderers? Kenyan witch-hunters? Genocides in the former Yugoslavia? Saddam’s Ba’ath thugs? Plain old crazy or in thrall to some highly compelling social poison?

Enough history – how about “honour” killers? Mutilators of girls’ genitals? Fundamentalists who kill abortion doctors or bomb clinics? How about the faith-healing or Christian “Scientist” parents that, right now, are denying their children medical treatment for what should be trivial, curable conditions and instead praying while their children die in confused, terrified agony? Mad? Or just so convinced of the truth of their fringe dogma that what would be an obvious course of action to anyone else isn’t even on their radar until it’s usually far too late?

I could go on but I’m hopeful the point is made. Start throwing diagnoses around, as far too many seem far too keen to do right now, and pretty soon you find that the whole goddamn world is bugfuck mental.

I maintain that all it takes to permit – even demand – an atrocity is strongly-held belief. Belief that the target is deserving of their fate via some inherent inferiority or some behaviour deemed unacceptable and unforgiveable, and perhaps also that the perpetrator is performing a service either for themselves or their group at large. Throughout history it is crystal clear that people do not need to be mentally ill in order to demand or perform atrocities – they just need to think that they’re right.

Now, I realise the dynamics of a group – especially a large group such as a nation or empire – are not exactly like those of an individual, but Rodger wasn’t that well-worn trope, the lone angry man whose loathsome ideas come from whole cloth, unbidden and unfed by any external source. Far from it – he was the member of at least one large group of people who, regardless of its source, shared, propagated and defended a toxic and delusional view of women and their purported role in the world and an incandescent, adolescent rage at the perception that said role was not being correctly fulfilled. Many self-proclaimed “alphas” currently cheering Rodger on on social media and the kinds of pick-up artist (pick-up artist hatred) fora he used to frequent share views similar to his. Are they mentally ill? What about those on other male-supremacist sites calling him a “beta” and noting his “gay midface”, distancing themselves from his raging misogyny by invoking madness? Their views can be just as aberrant and poisonous as Rodger’s, even though they mightn’t follow through as Rodger did. But should we start tracing their IPs and just start locking them all the fuck up, just in case? Who knows how close to the line – the one that Rodger crossed – any of these people are?

Mental illness in this case might well have been a factor in Rodger’s decision to kill or the ideas that led to it, but to blame such an illness both without sufficient evidence and to the exclusion of what has been presented by the killer in his own written and recorded words is an act of foolish presumptuousness, even willful ignorance and I’m fairly certain (I’d say 6.9 out of 7) that no hyperactivity on Youtube will convince me otherwise. It appears that for those who would casually blame the three thousand murders of 9-11 on the pervasive and poisonous memetics of Islamic fundamentalism and <i>not mental illness</i>, having this latest spree murder blamed on mental illness and not the pervasive and poisonous memetics of misogyny is very important. For what reason, I’m unsure.

However: even if you grant, beyond all evidence, that mental illness was THE reason Rodger went on a rampage it was pure, raging, unchecked, free-range, internet-fed misogyny that put the women Rodger both despised & desired, and the men he thought undeserving of their attention, in his sights. Were his victims random and had he not left a chilling public trail of escalating hate and loathing behind him, this conversation would be very different – but they weren’t, so we must play the ball as it lies.