Interpreting Jessica’s tweets

James Jeffrey, Strewth columnist at The Australian, writes: Re. “Media briefs” (Friday). It’s a dark day when one upsets Crikey, but that’s exactly what I did on Friday when I ran in Strewth only this one of Jessica Rudd’s tweets after Bob Brown’s mighty press conference: “The late Enoch Powell famously said, ‘for a politician to complain about the press is like a ship’s captain complaining about the sea.’” At the time, I did not run her subsequent tweet, mainly because — and I hope this isn’t overly disappointing — it wasn’t as germane: “Nowadays, with glaciers melting and sea levels rising, the captain has a point and Powell would have had to use an alternative analogy.”

I’m not sure quite what it was you thought you could sniff when you wrote: “Why did Strewth’s James Jeffrey fail to mention the second tweet, which quite clearly turns the first one on its side?” Er, no — quite clearly, it doesn’t. Rudd is saying things have changed for the captain, not for the pollies, otherwise there would no need for an alternative analogy. The same rule applies for pollies as it did when Powell uttered the line, it just has to be expressed differently; in other words: same shit, different way.

Rudd’s sly point about global warming is just an added bonus. No doubt, as Twitter completists, you’d know her subsequent tweet was: “I don’t think he [Powell] intended for it to be used by Beijing-based lefties from the colonies to highlight the inconvenient truth. :)” And when I asked Rudd, she happily suggested this fresh analogy: for a politician to complain about the press “is like a MasterChef contestant complaining about her oven timer”.

Still, it is possible — not easy, but certainly possible — to misread these things. My only suggestion would be to ensure that when peering from the Sistine Chapel of Crikey into the stygian gloom of The Oz, you give your eyes a little more time to adjust. Peace be upon you.

Honest Malcolm?

John Crowe writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s Chunky Bits” (Friday, item 12). Richard Farmer, in claiming that Malcolm Turnbull “…is that rare commodity in politics — an honest man” has surely forgotten that John Howard used to be known as “Honest John”, a term that quickly become redundant after he became PM.

Carbon capture and storage

John Bushell writes: Re. “Carbon capture is doomed — is government finally backing away?” (Friday, item 11). Carbon capture and storage is only a political “solution” to climate change as is made clear in the two following reports: “Strategic Analysis of the Global Status of Carbon Capture and Storage” (WorleyParsons report to the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, October 2009) and “Sequestering carbon dioxide in a closed underground volume” (Christine Ehlig-Economides, Michael J. Economides, 2009 in the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 70 2010 123–130). The latter report contains this pithy summary of CCS:

“…and the findings of this work clearly suggest that it is not a practical means to provide any substantive reduction in CO2 emissions, although it has been repeatedly presented as such by others.”

It is well past the time that our government abandoned this CCS farce and put our taxes towards solar energy development, which has an energy resource life of some 6 billion years, a much longer investment time-frame than coal, which might be 200 years at best.

Extrajudicial killing

Neil James, Executive Director of the Australian Defence Association, writes: Ignoring the considerable irony of being accused of misrepresenting someone when trying to summarise complex positions, just what is John Richardson (comments, Friday) objecting to? From his stance I had naturally assumed (and so must have others) that he was against targeted killings (as most are in most circumstances) and that he agreed that extra-judicial killings are always illegal in both peace and war. Is this John’s position or not? But John also ignores my salient point that the killing of Osama bin Laden was probably neither a targeted or an extra-judicial killing because of it occurring as part of an armed conflict (albeit a new type of one) — but that the law is quite unclear in either regard (despite the absolute certitude of some because of their ideological beliefs) and argument will rage until international law evolves to clarity.

Greg Edeson (comments) oddly claims that it is “a bit tiring” that debate on a complex issue necessarily involves detailed explanations when confused, simplistic or biased criticisms mar effective discussion. But perhaps this is explained by his assumptions that the killing of Osama bin Laden involved a US “invasion” of Pakistan, was not during an armed conflict, this conflict did not involve Pakistan in any way (not even by negligence as to its responsibilities under the UN Charter by bin Laden hiding there), that any conflict can involve only sovereign territory (the self-defence ground is actually much wider), OBL was not a belligerent in a conflict, and his death was “indisputably” an extra-judicial killing.

All of these are, to various degrees, points of some contention in international law. His simplistic and illogical analogy with a group of Iraqis killing George Bush in the US is equally invalid. For one thing, Obama authorised the action as the US head of state, thus satisfying a key requirement in international law (and just war theory morally) when waging war. I could cite more flaws in his position but will prioritise brevity over detail.