93 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. I see from an earlier Monday Morning Message Board that this blog attracts GM scolds and apologists for organic agriculture. Here is my two cents worth.

    Organic food is a market segment in capitalist food production that is a maketing con job just like bottled water and alternative medicine eg homeopathy, chiro, iridology etc… Only suckers fall for these con jobs.

    Local organic food is what we all had to rely on 200 years ago. The result was extremely low yields and frequent famines. If we listened to romanticising nutjobs like Vandana Shiva, who has collected medallions and certificates from literally hundreds of Left Wing university departments and environmental groups, the world would once again see mass famine, disease and war.

    Organic food production is so land hungry because of its poor yields that if the world was to adopt it we would have to chop down every remaining forest.

    Organic food is no safer than conventional or GM food; just ask the 4,000 victims of organic sprouts in Germany in 2011 (other than the 60 who died).

    The vegetables we eat are a stew of naturally occurring toxins, many of which are the plants own defences against pests. 99.99% of the pesticides we eat are “natural” and we eat about 1.5 grams of these on average each day. Most of the naturally occurring toxins haven’t been studied but at least 40 of the common ones are carcinogenic and there isn’t a single veggie that we eat that doesn’t contain them.

    A single cup of coffee contains dozens of known carcinogens but probably many more because most of the 1,000 plus chemicals that occur in coffee have never been studied.

    All of this info is readily available on the net and in the scientific literature but left wing environmental reporters conceal it or lie about it just like lunatics on the right lie about climate change.

  2. @Watkin Tench
    Why the war on organic food? I accept most of your comparisons with conventional farming, presence of toxins etc., as does the consumer market, where it is of minority revealed preference ie. whatever people say, they don’t buy it. I’m not yet concerned about GMO, but why conflate them? It’s still fairly new and raises different issues than organic farming which merit scrutiny and debate – that’s rationalism.

    I suspect these “leftwing environmental reporters” you are suspicious about are usually catering to a lingering interest from the majority – it’s got news value because many of us are still uneasy about orthodox farming due to its factory modeling of nature. Not to mention the economic externalities: the danger of “tragedy of the commons”. We reject the emphasis on marketing the visually attractive tomato – we’d rather the tasty one, even with blemishes. The poor old orange growers in Sunraysia used to have trouble selling their Navels due to the green spot which put consumers off – now that’s irrational.

    In fact, you start to sound like the purists you criticise by making a cancer-coffee link, this is the stuff of daily media prattle. Perhaps you would like to progress this to action by drawing a conclusion? You concede we don’t know a lot about the safety of our food yet still want to close down debate, and ridicule a type of food which some people prefer to eat and pay more to do so. I guess I’m happy for others to effectively conduct privately funded research in homeopathy, iridology, chiropractic on themselves – something might be discovered which will be of general benefit which we otherwise might never know.

    What’s broken that you’re trying to fix?

  3. Thought bubble: Since so much of the world’s wealth is invested in much of the worlds debt, wouldn’t the easiest way to redistribute wealth be to simply declare all debt as odious? If we allowed people to own outright what they have obtained through borrowing what effect would it have on society. would it be entirely negative?

  4. @alex
    It would really screw up the entire financial system, markets, commerce and confidence. In Australia it would likely lead to more inequality however in the US it might lead to more equality albeit at a significant social cost.

  5. @Troy Prideaux
    I realise that’s the obvious answer – but debt seems such an abstraction – and it occured to me that the obligation to maintain wealth inequality exists at a behavioural level, where citizens dutifully repay debts, in order to maintain the system that benefits the wealthy more than it does the indebted. not a new idea i realise but sometime i run the experiment in my mind and wonder what system shocks would come first and whether a modern society could survive them.

  6. The lack of food is not an important reason for people going hungry. Maldistribution is the main problem.

  7. kevin1: “In fact, you start to sound like the purists you criticise by making a cancer-coffee link … ”

    I drink 8 cups of coffee most days. I’m not in the least concerned about carcinogens in coffee, I’m simply reinforcing the point that the organic industry’s concerns about trace elements of pesticides in conventional agriculture is risible and a cynical marketing ploy.

    Likewise I’m not worried if fools chose homeopathy over conventional medicine, I’m merely drawing a comparison.

    Fran Barlow:

    The lack of food is not an important reason for people going hungry. Maldistribution is the main problem.

    The South Sudanese are starving because of civil war. War and poor governance are much bigger drivers of hunger.

  8. @alex

    Leaving out of consideration the dislocation caused, a general cancellation of debts would make net debtors better off but net creditors worse off. If your mortgage is bigger than your bank balance this might suit you; if your bank balance is bigger than your mortgage, perhaps not.

  9. @ Watkins Tench

    That’s nice, just make sure you don’t buy any organic food, will you.

  10. @Watkin Tench
    I would like to see some cited references for your claim that organic agriculture is significantly more land-hungry. I’ve never come across this claim before, and it contradicts a number of studies that I am aware of (most high profile being one some years ago from the US dept of Agriculture showing that organic farming methods significantly reduced land degradation and runoff).

  11. @Fran Barlow
    Good news about the Energy Brix (we can’t spell) Power Station closing down in Victoria, Fran. It’s only a small generator, I think maybe 120 megawatts, but it’s still excellent news. Black coal plants and South Australia’s brown coal capacity has been shutting down or running at low capacity for years now, but Victoria’s outlandishly CO2 intensive brown coal plants have kept on chugging on and choking on. The Energy Brix Power Station was on its last legs being 58 years old, but basically all of Victoria’s brown coal capacity is on its last legs and only kept going through extensive repair and maintenance. I wonder what its decommissioning costs will be as there is a good chance the place is riddled with asbestos. Perhaps the best thing will be to seal it in a concrete sarcophagus and leave it for future generations to deal with. I sometimes wonder if it is decommissing costs resulting from asbestos which explains why certain people seem so deperate to keep Victoria’s old brown coal plants operating.

  12. More info on the Energy Brix closure here. There seems to be some suggestion that the claim it is a “temporary” closure is a feint to avoid site cleanup costs.

  13. @Nevil Kingston-Brown
    I guess common sense is a good starting point. Organic food production doesn’t need expensive synthetic fertiliser/ agri chem nor does it generally use expensive patented seed. If it also doesn’t require much more land, you would think all farmers would go organic since the production costs would be so much lower.

    But if common sense is not enough, you might want to look at historical yield data. In particular, you might like to compare yields from the time when organic was the only alternative with yields from today’s capital intensive highly mechanised high or medium input farms. These comparisons are readily available and I will not insult you by assuming you can’t find them for yourself online in under one minute.

    Here is one meta-analysis comparing conventional and organic production systems. In the interests of fairness, I don’t cliam this or any other study is the final word and the more you read about the comparisons the more it becomes clear that they aren’t easy to do.

    @Fran Barlow

    You appear to subscribe to a range of fashionable undergrad prejudices against Monsanto. Monsanto has not sued farmers whose crops have been inadvertently cross contaminated with GM seed. In fact GM farmers and Monsanto has been the victim of such lawsuits, for instance the Marsh lawsuit in WA and the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association lawsuit in the US.

    Organic food is a bourgeois fad like bottled water and, well, hyphenated names. It allows better recompensed folk to set themselves apart from and above the unenlightened working class whilst symbolically, in their own minds, rebelling against the big end of town. It is all showmanship.

  14. Thanks for the link, Tim. I see it was a 164 MW plant and not about 120 MW as I thought. (I guessed 120 MW from its CO2 emissions, but obviously it wasn’t running at full capacity when those were measured.)

    Here in Adelaide we are familiar with the old, “We could open it up again at any time!” trick as Port Stanvac oil refinery has stood empty for years as a strangely beautiful monument to human stupidity. And as for closing down two years after receiving a $50 million compensation, well, the government could have given each of the 70 workers $700,000 each and set them up for life and still come out ahead.

  15. Great that the Energy Brixton is closing down, and excuse me for changing the subject, but did anyone see Morrison on 7.30 report. Just appalling.

    I’m really really liking Sarah Henderson.

  16. Morrison had a 6-0 6-0 6-0 victory on the 7:30 report tonight.

    The claim that Sri-Lankan born Tamils who have lived in parts of India that are predominately Tamil are being persecuted to the extent that they have no option other than to travel thousands of miles to Australia is risible.

    If Morrison had more spine he would have put these characters on orange life boats with emergency beacons, food and water and towed them to the edge of Indian waters.

    Meanwhile, thanks to the Green Left, we now know that hundreds of new “Australians” have been busily blowing themselves up and chopping off heads in Syria, Afghanistan and goodness knows where else. We also know from experience that when these young men return to Australia many of them will bring Islamist Jihad ideology with them.

  17. @Watkin Tench

    Why are the “Green Left” responsible? The LNP are in control of current immigration and refugee policy. The Labor Party were in control before them.

    Who are the “Green Left” anyway? There is an Australian Greens Party at federal level but no Green Left party that I am aware of. There is a Green Left weekly. Who do refer to by writing “Green Left” with capital letters?

    You suggest towing Tamil refugees (genuine or not genuine as their cases might be) right across the Indian Ocean on small, enclosed life boats. This is the implication of towing them to the edge of Indian waters. If they were towed from Fremantle this would be a distance of about 6,500 km. Life boats towed at ship cruising speed or a little less across open ocean, through possible tropical storms etc.! I think it would be a rough ride to say the least. I suspect many babies and small children would die and possibly quite a few adults as well. A quick be-heading might be more humane. Perhaps you would prefer to just have them beheaded in Kings Square, Fremantle. Given your suggestion, I find it amazing that you consider yourself morally superior to the Jihadists you condemn.

  18. Organic farming does not emit as much greenhouse gasses from fertilising the soil as farming with artificial fertilisers emits. (Machine and transport emissions would be around the same dependent on machinery and distance etc)

  19. Perhaps if I confined myself to spouting hateful news ltd talking points rather than asking serious questions about the evidence behind establishment media assumptions I would find more favour?

  20. Fremantle? You didn’t see the 7:30 report or read the transcript, I take it.

    I feel greater pity for the starving woman and children of South Sudan. Compassion doesn’t mean being taken in by every gold digger who rocks up in a boat.

  21. @Watkin Tench

    We know from experience what to expect from people who return to Australia after having blown themselves up in other countries? Please stay after class so we can discuss this.

  22. @Watkin Tench

    I am not aware of any deepwater port near Curtin detention centre. But if you insist on them being towed from Derby W.A., I guess it could be done, probably after barging them out to sea. The towing distance in that case would still be about 5,000 km.

    You have written a literally idiotic thing and I am taking you at your literal word. Have you any idea how dangerous, difficult and costly such a towing operation would be? It would actually be cheaper to fly them back to India.

    Apparently there are 37 children in this group.

  23. I engage with Watkin Trench’s arguments, not because they are well made, but because I assume there must be many others out there who think like WT and I would like to understand why.

    Morrison’s sole argument was that the asylum seekers had lived in India for a “long time” hence they couldn’t be refugees. First of all, is there any evidence of this? Morrison did not provide any. I sometimes get the impression that our asylum seeker policy is determined by gossip.

    Secondly, by this argument, the longer people have been in refugee camps, the less chance they would have of being resettled. Surely even you, Mr (?) Trench, can see that is a soul destroying position.

  24. Australia’s current refugee policy operates to get the most inhumane result at the greatest cost. There is nothing to recommend this policy. It would more humane and more economic to rapidly process all refugees and asylum seekers on-shore in or near major population centres. The money being wasted on our Pacific and outback “Gulag Archipelegos” could be directly spent on rapid, legal and fair processing according to all proper UN treaties and humanitarian requirements. Then all legitimate refugees and asylum seekers could swiftly gain permanent residence and non-legitimate people could be repatriated expeditiously.

    If it became necessary, our voluntary immigration rate could be adjusted to keep total immigration within the bounds of our population policy… if we had a population policy.

  25. The other question I have for Watkin Trench relates to his claim about the Green Left and “new” Australians blowing themselves up and chopping heads of in Syria, Afghanistan and “goodness knows where else”. (His actual comment sounds as if he blames the Green Left for the fact that we know about this, but I presume that’s not what he meant.)

    @Watkin Tench

    I am I guess one of the Green Left you talk about – I’m a Greens supporter on most issues and I have left wing views on most issues, according to general standards (eg ABC Vote compass and the like). Do you mean to suggest that people like me are responsible for young Australian men becoming involved in the fighting you talk about, and if so, how?

  26. Also, I’ve been participating in and observing this blog for some time now and I agree there should be some concern about the way Megan is treated. Megan seems to be the only person who gets banned when someone attacks her – kind of blame the victim scenario.

    Professor Quiggin, I’m talking unconscious sexism again.

  27. @Val

    “Seems to be” is a good way to phrase your observations.

    There are other points of view about how one ‘ought’ to respond when attacked; there are even other points of view about what constitutes an attack.

    It can even be a growth experience to be ‘banned’ – but this hasn’t actually happened has it? Or are you using banned in a different sense than I understand it.

  28. Val,

    you were mostly kept in moderation on the pro-feminst Larvatus Prodeo blog because of your frequent and vexatious allegations of sexism and because of your obsessive commenting on Gillard. I put it to you that your accusation against John Quiggin is similarly vexatious and indicative of your own sexism, namely a rather scary brand of misandry.

    As to the Tamils, I note this Canadian report about how they return to Sri Lanka for hols.

    I wonder how many Jewish refugees returned to the Third Reich in the 1930s for a spot of sight seeing?

    Meanwhile the UN tells us that thousands of Tamils are voluntarily resettling in SL.

    Clearly the current system is being gamed by economic migrants.

    As it so happens, I went to a DIC tribunal hearing during the Howard era in order to bring my wife to Australia. It was a joke. The person who heard the case was a luvvie and the whole thing was over in 15 minutes.

  29. @Watkin Tench

    lol I put it to *you* that *your* comment to Val is evidence that you are someone who derives some sort of satisfaction from the discomfiture of others. As far as I remember from my childhood, this is not a characteristic of a moderate conservative or of someone who is to be admired and sets an example to others.

    I think, that you are motivated to make comments here – comments that you think will annoy people you don’t like – when you get irritable. Is there not this vague sense of irritability that you experience more and more these days?

    And, that irritability is so annoying and when it takes hold of you, reminding yourself how well you have done doesn’t work as well as it should, does it?

    Clearly something is happening and you don’t know what it is. Is your real name Mr Jones, perhaps?

  30. PrQ

    Can I ask you to reflect on whether Watkin Tench’s remarks at 21 above are within the discourse one ought to accept at this blog? I refer expressly to this passage:

    Meanwhile, thanks to the Green Left, we now know that hundreds of new “Australians” have been busily blowing themselves up and chopping off heads in Syria, Afghanistan and goodness knows where else.

    Firstly, the claim clearly fails the standard set out in Bolt v Eatock. There’s no evidence that “hundreds of new “Australians” have been busily blowing themselves up and chopping off heads in Syria”. We have a claim that one 18-year-old, (as I understand it he was born here) who staged a suicide attack in Iraq. We have a couple of others, also born here as I understand it, who have allegedly committed an atrocity in Syria. As others note there is no such thing as a “Green Left” in Australia, and to the extent that the term descibes those who see themselves as “Green and Left”, we clearly have nothing to do with people becoming involved in criminal activity. I know of nobody who self-describes as green and left who feels anything but disgust at the criminal violence going on in Iraq and Syria. This is a set of totally unsupported smears, informed by the usages of the culture wars.

    There is another poster, who strays in the same direction on refugee and ethnicity matters, who has been told to abandon the topic because he is unable to avoid writing bigoted nonsense. It seems to me that Watkin Tench’s observations easily fall within the same rubric.

  31. @Watkin Tench
    I did spend some time in pre-moderation in LP (my comments were normally published, but first checked by moderators) but it was actually more because I was critical of the blog owner, Mark Bahnisch, I think. You’d have to talk to the moderators, especially tigtog, who definitely has something against me since she also has banned me from commenting at her blog (Hoyden about town) and told me that six (as I recall) other feminists on LP also strongly disapproved of me (apparently they had discussed this in a private forum).

    I don’t actually understand her reasoning, to tell the truth, but I have to say I’m not the only feminist that she has had fights with. It’s some kind of strange dynamic that I don’t really claim to understand, but I have to say it all seems a little bit sad and “mean girls” to me. I try not to worry too much about it, though it is unpleasant.

    For you to reproach me on the grounds that I have had arguments with other feminists seems a little far-fetched.

  32. @Watkin Tench
    By they way, you appear to have taken the name of an 18th century British officer, from my quick google? For myself, I am who I am, which makes it easy for people to find information on me.

    I’m not suggesting everyone should reveal their identity on the internet, obviously for some people there are good reasons why they prefer to remain anonymous. But attacking another commenter while hiding your own identity, which you appear to be doing, looks ethically questionable.

  33. @Val

    To be fair Val, there was at LP an express rule about not arguing the toss at moderators’ decisions in public. Ai I recall it, that was what created the friction.

    I wasn’t always in agreement with the women over there, but I accepted their rulings and was never moderated. I seem to recall that even here, you sailed pretty close to the wind in the course of some passionate pleading about the misogynist provenance of the ouster of Julia Gillard.

    I don’t want to be part of re-opening that matter now, but as a general rule, I find that treating participation in blogs as analogous to visiting someone’s home and accepting that the host makes the rules works pretty well. If you don’t like the rules, you leave.

    I would add that having the last word and settling a point of contention are not at all the same thing. That one chooses to say no more doesn’t entail a concession that one has been disproved. If you have put your strongest claims as clearly as you can then be satisfied with that.

    In a day long ago I used to feel an obligation to answer in detail every climate denier I came across. Now I generally don’t bother, and proceed for the most part as if their blather was just noise. It’s a liberating thing.

  34. Fran,

    Even Al Jazeera reports that a couple hundred Australian Muslims have fought in Syria alone, while dozens of others had been prevented from getting involved by having their passports confiscated. There have been recent reports of two Australian citizen suicide bombers in Iraq and then there is the man who can plainly be seen with a lopped head in each hand and a big grin.

    There have been heaps of reports over the years about Australian citizen involvement in terror groups in places like Yemen, Aghanistan etc…

    Al Jazeera quote a terror expert who reports “that one in nine Westerners who fight in foreign jihadist insurgencies ends up becoming involved in terrorist plots back home.”

    I think one of the defining qualities of folk who belong to what I call the Green Left is their wilful blindness to what is happening and their willingness to muzzle dissent.

  35. @Val
    Ditto, Val. Don’t like to watch political interviews, very much, I get too angry. I did get, very, angry watching this one, but was also impressed by Sarah

  36. @watkinTench

    Actually it guesses that perhaps 200 Australian Muslims have fought in Syria but concedes that exact numbers are unavailable. It doesn’t try guessing how many of these were busily blowing themselves up and chopping off heads. This is pure handwaving on your part. Nor does it say that these folk were refugees. Either they are Australians of Lebanese descent or perhaps immigrants, though this too is unclear, because they are speculating.

    You are now passing off their speculation as if it were uncontested fact in order to vilify a third group — refugees — as putative killers. Your wilfulness is marked by reckless commentary in the service of bigotry.

  37. @Watkin Tench

    Is anyone muzzling you here? Or do you mistake disagreement and counter-argument with being muzzled? I can still see your comments so how are you being muzzled?

    How is the Green Left (as a general group) responsible for results under Labor and now LNP policy? Has the Green Left ever run Australian domestic and foreign policy?

    How would you stop the problems you are concerned about?

  38. @Watkin Tench
    To compare yields from non-organic farms today with yields from non-capitalised, peasant farms 200 years ago would be an obvious apples and oranges comparison. It’s a ridiculous non-sequitur. Whatever else organic farming might or might not be, it doesn’t mean hand-tools, ox-ploughs, and medieval levels of knowledge (also, subsistence peasant farms tend to focus on maximising yield per unit of labour and use staggered intercropping systems to ensure a minumum safe yield all year round, rather than the commercial farm’s focus on dollar yield per hectare/dollar invested).
    The study you have linked is interesting. I note the conclusion that organic farms use 84% more land per unit of yield. However, the study also shows significantly lower Greenhouse gas production and energy/phosphorous/nitrogen use per unit of land & yield, as well as higher biodiversity on organic farms. Thus the result seems to be something of a wash as far as claiming the impact of organic farming is better or worse on the overall environment, and certainly not that it is so unreliable that its use would lead to mass famine. The study concludes that there is a lot of potential for combining organic and low impact non-organic techiques to get more with less impact. Perhaps you could conclude the same.

  39. The disgusting Morrison slanders the head of the Human Rights Commission and then we learn this:

    The Kafkaesque nature of the reply from the immigration department official is equally abhorrent. It looks as though an already corrupted bureaucracy is capable of plumbing undefined depths. Taking a child’s epilepsy medication for christ’s sake! So much for our much vaunted ‘Aussie Spirit’. Judging by their level of outrage (i.e. very low) many of my fellow citizens would appear to be capable of filling the role a concentration camp guard.

  40. @patrickb

    Judging by their level of outrage

    I think it’s there but the establishment media does a huge amount to mask it/misrepresent it.

    I watched most of the Sydney hearings today. This morning about 24 people were watching the livestream. By the time it broke down mid-afternoon about 100 people were watching via livestream.

    If they weren’t so terrified of “us” and our outrage they wouldn’t be working so hard to hide the truth.

    As an aside, has anybody seen any evidence whatsoever that people have been released and safely re-settled on Nauru? (I mean actual direct evidence – I’ve seen the “reporting” that it has happened but not so much as a single photo of, or interview with, any of these refugees).

  41. Someone on twitter has just sent me a copy of a Bill Leak cartoon in The Australian. It appears to be suggesting Arabs in Gaza are sending their children to be killed in order to win the “PR war”.

    Has anyone else seen this? I don’t ever read The Australian. I’m sure it’s true but at the same time it’s still hard to believe, as if there is no depth too low for The Australian.

  42. @Fran Barlow

    There is another poster, who strays in the same direction on refugee and ethnicity matters, who has been told to abandon the topic because he is unable to avoid writing bigoted nonsense. It seems to me that Watkin Tench’s observations easily fall within the same rubric.

    Careful Fran. mention his name and he appears 😉

    In a day long ago I used to feel an obligation to answer in detail every climate denier I came across. Now I generally don’t bother, and proceed for the most part as if their blather was just noise. It’s a liberating thing.

    Amen to that.

  43. Fran,

    you unwittingly sound like Keith Windschuttle in the Fabrication of Aboriginal History.

    A wide range of members of the intelligence community, including chaps like Andrew Zammit, who is a lefty or a centrist as far as I can tell, has written at length about Australian Muslim involvement in world Jihad and he confirms what I am saying.

    People don’t travel all the way to the badlands of the ME to join Jihadist group to make falafels; they join to kill folk. There are plenty of gore sites on the web that show happy Jihadists posing for happy snaps with as many as a dozen heads. It appears to be standard practice.

    Do you think Henry Reynolds should suffer puinishment pursuant to the Bolt v Eatock precedent unless he provides documentary proof of the death of the 20,000 Aborigines he says were killed by whites in frontier violence.

    How about we apply the same evidentiary standards to crime and misconduct regardless of the colour, gender and social class of the victims and perpetrators?


    I once made the mistake of using my name in a letter to the local rag in support of a kangaroo cull and got unsolicited angry phone calls as a result. Never again.

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