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SydWalker.Info is a personal website. I live in tropical Australia near Cairns. I oppose war, plutocracy, injustice, sectarian supremacism and apartheid. I support urgent action to achieve genuine sustainability and a fair and prosperous society for all. I rely upon - and support - free speech as defined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see below).

with the dawg

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers"

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Unless otherwise indicated, material on this website is written by Syd Walker.

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Murdoch editor threatens to sue tweeter for defamation
Nov 27th, 2010 by Syd Walker

The editor of The Australian – Rupert Murdoch’s flagship newspaper in Australia which is distributed nationwide – has threatened to sue journalism lecturer Julie Posetti over tweets she made last week that he claims are defamatory.

Chris Mitchell’s threatened legal action is not the first in history over Twitter postings, but is unique in Australian experience.

It’s a remarkable case in many ways.

Julie Posetti tweet re Asa Wahlquist's comments

Julie Posetti's tweet re Ms Wahlquist's comments

Last Thursday Ms Posetti was tweeting live from the audience of a conference about journalism at the University of Technology in Sydney. She posted a few tweets commenting on a presentation by Asa Wahlquist, formerly rural affairs reporter for the Australian.

The Australian itself quoted one of the ‘offending’ tweets in an article published yesterday: The Australian’s Chris Mitchell to sue Julie Posetti for defamation. It’s not clear whether this tweet is the sole basis for Mr Mitchell’s legal threat:

Walhquist: ‘In the lead up to the election the Ed in Chief was increasingly telling me what to write.’ It was prescriptive.”

In another tweet (this one reported by the ABC)  Ms Posetti claims Walhquist said:

‘It was absolutely excruciating. It was torture': Asa Walhquist on fleeing The Australian after being stymied in covering #climate.

Here’s an extract from a report in Crikey by Andrew Dodd The ‘torture’ of writing about climate change at The Oz (emphasis added):

Wahlquist, the long-time science and rural affairs writer for The Australian, accused Mitchell of controlling coverage of climate change because he believes those who subscribe to the “eco-fascist line” that humans have induced climate change are “aiming to destroy everything he loves and values”.

Wahlquist has been a respected rural affairs journalist for more than 20 years, formerly working at the ABC and The Sydney Morning Herald. She won a Walkley Award and the coveted Peter Hunt Eureka Prize for her coverage of complex scientific stories. She joined The Australian 14 years ago, and joked yesterday she may have been the only person in the building who had a science degree. She resigned two months ago and now works as a freelancer.

Despite her qualifications, Wahlquist says she self-censored stories on the human causes of climate change fearing they would not be run. She described this as “professionally compromising” and “unbearable”.

Wahlquist noted the irony in Rupert Murdoch’s quest to reduce carbon emissions at his various News Limited companies around the world, while the editor-in-chief of one of his flagship newspapers appears to doubt that humans are responsible for global warming.

The one bit of good news from this is that it shows that News Limited editors are independent,” she said.

If this was accurately reported, I trust Ms Wahlquist made the last comment with tongue-in-cheek.

Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell: Australian Twit of the Year?

It’s my observation that when the Murdoch Empire requires uniformity, it gets uniformity – in trumps. Did anyone notice a single News Corp editor who opposed the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 or Iraq in 2003, said so publicly and survived in his/her job? If anyone knows instances of this I’d like to be to be told and I’ll correct my record promptly. As things stand, I have the distinct impression that support for these appalling, divisive and illegal wars attracted 100% NewsCorp editorial compliance, worldwide.

If Murdoch’s media empire now purports to be ‘even-handed’ or ‘aiming for balance’ on the issue of climate change, I’d say it’s because Mr Murdoch and his backers speak with forked tongue on that issue. Murdoch & co claim to be concerned about anthropogenic global warming, but set loose attack dogs like Andrew Bolt (a particularly obnoxious, well-promoted Australian ‘climate sceptic’) and Fox News (’nuff said) to undermine consensus for action. Let’s get real. This is clearly no accident. Murdoch knows how to fire staff if he so chooses – and there’s always reform school. Mixed signals from the Murdoch media on the challenge posed by climate change are an indication of conscious planning.

Back to the storm in twitterverse, currently running on the hashtags #twitdef and #posettigate. A few comments of my own…

First, I find it extraordinary that no exact transcipt – or recording – seems to be available of what Asa Wahlquist actually said. Why not? She was speaking at a journalism conference for heavens sake!

Second, according to the Australian’s own report, Chris Mitchell made his decision to threaten legal action without himself being sure exactly what Asa Wahlquist did say:

Asa may or may not have said what the tweeter alleges. She denies to me that she did. But either way the allegations are a lie and Asa has admitted as much. …There is no protection from the law in repeating accurately allegations falsely made. Asa works from home and I have neither seen her nor spoken to her in years, as anyone on the paper would attest.

Julie Posetti

Julie Posetti: journalist, lecturer, tweeter & human being

It seems bizarre that Mitchell doesn’t appear to care whether Ms Posetti’s reports of Ms Wahlquist comments were accurate or not. Surely that’s of central importance? If suing reporters for accurately reporting another persons’ comments ever became the norm, social media and mainstream journalism would both grind to a halt. Mitchell himself, apparently, said back in 2004: “Defamation law as it stands has done grave damage to public culture in Australia”. More Newspeak?

Third, in the aftermath of Editor Mitchell’s legal threat, The Australian itself – along with the News Corp media as a whole – continues to behave like the bloated, outdated, incompetent, laughable behemoth that critical observers know it to be.

The story was reported in the Australian online which repeated the alleged defamation. This led a few observers to speculate whether Mitchell plans to sue his own newspaper as well?!

It was also covered by The Australian in Caroline Overington‘s Media Diary – see Australia’s first Twitter defamation case. After reading Ms Overington’s brief article I decided to post a polite but critical comment. I composed the comment, entered my details and clicked submit, after first taking the trouble to read the terms and conditions of commenting:

“We welcome your comments. All comments should be concise, focus specifically on the topic for discussion and are submitted for possible publication on the condition that they may be edited. Comments that are derogatory toward the blogger or at other comments, or those which may potentially incite racial hatred or violence, are defamatory or in contempt of court, will not be published. Please provide a screen name and suburb/location – these will be published . We also require a working email address – not for publication, but for verification.”

I waited for my comment to be approved. And I waited. Then I checked and to my surpise noticed that none of the articles in Media Diary seem to have any approved comments. So I tweeted Caroline directly:

@overingtonc Can’t see ANY comments on ANY articles in The Australian’s ‘Media Diary’. Is the comments form only for show? #twitdef #auspol

Murdoch's Media Diary

A Murdoch-approved 'Media Diary' - takes it all (except for comments)

Amazingly, I got a reply:

@SydWalker i haven’t figured out a way to turn it off, but the diary doesn’t take comments, sadly.

I couldn’t resist tweeting back 140 characters of gratuitous advice:

@overingtonc Try an ad in Craigslist perhaps? “Attractive Bondi blonde needs help switching off comments in blog” #twitdef #auspol #newscorp

Rolodex

Caroline's missing Rolodex?

Ms Overington’s bio describes her as a “senior writer and columnist with The Australian… two-time winner of the Walkley Award for investigative journalism (2004 and 2006) and a winner of the Sir Keith Murdoch Award for Excellence in Journalism”.

That probably entitles her to seek assistance from NewsCorp’s IT Department on complex technical matters such as switching off comments. (She might even dive into the new paradigm and allow comments!) All she need do is call for help.

But can she find her rolodex? :-)

___________________

One final comment.

Civilised society has a legal foundation, but anyone who thinks it is only about law has a demented view. Most of the time, conflicts are – and should be – resolved without recourse to the courts. In cases such as this there are such things as clarifications, explanations, retractions and apologies.

Ms Posetti stated yesterday – soon after publication of The Australian’s article announcing the editor’s defamation threat – that she had yet to be contacted by News Corp about this incident by phone, email or via Twitter.

Legal action should be the last step in an unresolved grievance – not the first act of petulance. Right now, Mr Mitchell looks like a puffed-up tin-pot dictator throwing a tantrum. It’s not a pretty sight.

If he wants to stop the sniggers, he should stop behaving like a prat.

____________________________

Caroline's hair colour

Not everyone at The Australian sees red over tweets they consider to be inaccurate

CORRECTION AND APOLOGY

Caroline Overington tweeted me after this article was published to inform me that she is a redhead, not a blonde.

After de-misting my spectacles I can see she is entirely correct.

My sincere apologies for any distress this inadvertent error may have caused Ms Overington, her family and her testy editor.

Empirical science v Zionist dust puffs
Nov 25th, 2010 by Syd Walker

The time will come when those responsible for the mass muders of September 11th 2001 – and the subsequent extended cover-up – are brought to justice.

It will also be appropriate to honour the network of courageous men and women around the world who by then will have overturned a very evil conspiracy promoting the lie that Muslim extremists were responsible for those horrific atrocities.

Were thermitic reactions used on 9/11?

Were thermitic reactions used on 9/11?

I think Jonathan H. Cole, author, producer and narrator of the well-produced video (see below) 9/11 Experiments: The Great Thermate Debate , is one guy who’ll deserve an award. Even though all three branches of the US Government and the mass media have betrayed the American people, alert and energetic members of the community such as Cole refuse to let the real villains get away with it.

Mr Cole is an engineer. His work is a labour of love. He doesn’t get handsome government salaries and big expense accounts like the criminal collaborators who run cover-up agencies such as NIST. In this, Cole’s his latest video about 9-11, he demonstrates simple backyard experiments which support the basic feasibility of the hypothesis that thermitic reactions were used in the spectacular controlled demolitions observed on 9-11 – contrary to claims by various ‘debunkers’.

Best not to try these explosive tricks at home … but where are the publicly-funded universities on this crucial issue? These experiments are not hard to replicate and refine. Yet established institutions throughout the western world, academies supposedly dedicated to the pursuit of truth, hold back and force individuals to carry out that crucial responsibility. Institutional cowardice on such a scale is indistinguishable from corruption.

In the USA – and the rest of the English-speaking world – glasnost is LONG overdue!

Organicism: another way of thinking about reality
Nov 24th, 2010 by Syd Walker

“Philosophy is the endeavor to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience–everything of which we are aware, which we enjoy, perceive, will or think–can be interpreted”

“The metaphysician is seeking, amid the dim recesses of his ape-like consciousness, and beyond the reach of dictionary language, for the premises implicit in all reasoning. The speculative methods of metaphysics are dangerous, easily perverted. So is all Adventure; but Adventure belongs to the essence of civilization”.

A.N. Whitehead, mathematician and philosopher

Philosopher A.N. Whitehead

_____________________

- Alfred North Whitehead

Understanding creation to be alive

None of the most prominent religious leaders in human history were believed to have derived their wisdom from studying pre-existing texts. Books were written about them – or dictated by them – but the precise interpretation of ancient books was not thought to be crucial to their personal enlightenment. It was their own words and actions (and/or beliefs about their words and actions) that gained these teachers so many adherents and such memorable places in human history.

It’s more than mildly ironic that followers of the epic religious leaders, by contrast, often seem obsessed with ancient texts. The veracity – and precise interpretation – of particular religious literature seems a topic of endless fascination. I’ve never understood the attraction. Why should any text be entirely true and relevant for all eternity?

I accept that, to this day, many religious people hold such views in relation to their own religion and its sacred literature. I respect their choice to do so, but can’t share a belief in timeless literal perfection. Ultimately, I think, it’s a belief sustained by faith alone.

In popular discourse – steered and amplified by the mass media – it is these ‘text-obsessives’ who are generally perceived as standard-bearers for theism – belief in a universal super-intelligence of far greater antiquity and scope than human intelligence. I think that sells theism short. More sophisticated syntheses of religion and science were constructed and discussed generations ago. Indeed, Deism - the notion of an non-interventionist immanent God, approachable through science and reason – was popular at the time of the European Enlightenment hundreds of years ago. Yet even in the 21st Century, the dogmatism of fundamentalists is typically held up as the quintessence of theistic belief systems. Possibly because that’s because scriptural certainty is the perfect foil for its antithesis: dogmatic atheism.

Modern debate about the essential nature of the universe is thereby typically reduced to a false dichotomy. We’re presented with a choice between two starkly contrasting world views:

  1. belief in the existence of an active, intrusive, interfering and somewhat anthropomorphic ‘God’, an ineffable super-spirit ‘revealed’ to us most clearly in divinely sanctioned literature – or
  2. belief that scientific laws and processes alone created the universe we experience, directed by entirely unconscious and essentially purposeless physical processes, a belief-system summarised well in this brief quotation from Jacques Monod’s Chance and Necessity (emphasis added) “man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged only by chance.”

It’s as though there are only two concepts of reality worth discussing, epitomised by Jerry Falwell on the one hand and Richard Dawkins on the other. This suggests regression, not progress. Notwithstanding popular myth, the famous 1860 encounter over Darwinian theory between Thomas Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce was a comparatively sophisticated debate between TWO scientifically literate protagonists.

Theism posits the primacy of ‘spirit’ – etherial and sentient. It avers the material universe was created by the divine spirit, a non-material being that henceforth has been more or less ‘interventionist’ in the material world of things, beings and people. Matter, life and consciousness are regarded as divine in origin – products of the creator-spirit.

Atheism posits the primacy of matter/energy, and avers that life evolved from evolved from simpler, non-living antecedents and that consciousness likewise evolved out of unconscious antecedents. Atheism asserts that life and consciousness are emergent properties of the material universe – characteristics of complex biochemical assemblages that came into being and developed these remarkable propensities only through mechanical, unconscious, physical processes.

This materialistic and atheistic view of the universe is prevalent in modern secular societies, especially within the scientific community. As a teenager, enthralled by science, I considered myself an atheist for several years. At the time, I tended to view history as a gradual, long-cycle climb out of religious superstition and saw atheism as the manifestation of a humanity liberated from a childish past.

I gradually became aware of significant intellectual difficulties with the atheistic view of reality within scientific theory, which eventually contributed to my eventual rejection of materialist atheism.

Anyone attempting an understanding of reality that takes into account the totality of accumulated knowledge should be aware of unsolved problems, mainly connected with evolutionary theory, that have been largely dismissed by a dogmatic scientific mainstream even though (or perhaps because) they’ve proved intractable to generations of scholars.

Here are a few of them:

  • What explains the origin of the cosmos – the material whole we call the cosmos/universe which includes scientific ‘laws’ that supposedly ‘governed’ its subsequent evolution? (I’ll call this the ‘problem of the original miracle‘)
  • Why is it that, in our universe, the observed ‘laws of nature’ and ‘universal constants’ seem fine-tuned to make organic life as we know it possible? (the ‘problem of the anthropic principle‘)
  • How did major and statistically improbable ‘leaps’ in evolution occur, from the initial (postulated) ‘origin of life’ to subsequent macroevolutionary leaps? (the ‘problem of organic macroevolution’)
  • How did consciousness come into being? Are consciousness, experience and memory really just emergent properties and epiphenomena of biochemical configurations that arose by random evolutionary processes (the ‘problem of consciousness’)
  • Considering only our own planet and solar system, how is it that despite significant variations in solar output and composition of the earth’s atmosphere over billions of years, temperature, pH and water availability on planet earth’s surface remained continuously within a fairly narrow ‘sweet spot’ band suitable for sustaining organic life (the ‘problem of Gaian homestasis‘)

I don’t believe these problems are satisfactorily explained by mainstream modern science. Moreover, it seems unlikely to me that they can be explained within the atheistic/materialistic paradigm. They suggest that the materialistic/atheistic world view itself is flawed – at least as flawed as theism in its crude manifestation – and that the analogies underpinning both views of reality are inappropriate.

I now believe the universe is better understood, not as spirit/idea in essence or as matter/energy in essence, but as essentially organism. That’s not to claim the nature of the cosmic organism is directly comparable to organic life as we know it – but rather to assert that ‘living being’ is a more appropriate analogy for the whole cosmos (and many of its component parts) than ‘idea’ or ‘thing’. This intellectual tradition is known as ‘organicism‘.

The organicist view of reality is probably ancient; it’s possible it was humanity’s oldest way of ‘understanding’ the universe. Certainly, organicism is not a new or original idea.

The British philosopher A.N. Whitehead is often cited as the leading organicist of the modern era. His ‘process metaphysics’ is highly sophisticated and not for the faint-hearted. But its ambition cannot be denied. When he turned to this work in the 1920s, Whitehead was well versed in cutting edge physical science. A brilliant mathematician (he co-authored Principia Mathematica with Bertrand Russell in the first decade of the 20th century), Whitehead was acquainted with the nuances of Einstein’s relativity theory and early quantum physics. He attempted a reconciliation between metaphysics and post-Newtonian physics which more recent scholars have built on, including highly original philosophical thinkers such as biologist Rupert Sheldrake and theologian David Ray Griffin.

Organicism provides an alternative to both dogmatic theism (based largely on faith) and blinkered atheism that blithely discounts pointers to phenomena inexplicable by chance and necessity alone.

Organicism reverses the common modern notion that ‘life’ evolved from matter. In a organicist model, it’s implausible in the extreme that human consciousness is the first or only form of ‘consciousness'; organicist tend to view life and consciousness as intrinsic (not emergent) properties of the universe as a whole.

Instead of ‘universal laws’, organicism posits universal tendencies, such as the tendency to greater complexity of organisation and diversity over time – tendencies that themselves might be subject to change (Sheldrake believe they can change and calls them ‘habits’)

Evolutionary leaps so significant they cannot easily be explained by Darwinian processes are far more explicable within an organicist paradigm. Their phylogentic extraordinariness is similar to the largely unsolved ‘problem’ of ontological morphogenesis in organic life as we know it. Organicism views creative evolution – whether evolutionary (for phyla) or morphogenetic (for individual organisms) as an intrinsic tendency of the cosmos – not an accidental consequence.

Organicism is a distinctive cosmological paradigm with profound philosophical and religious implications. It’s as different from dogmatic theism as it is from atheism. Attractively, it can ‘connect’ with both enlightened religion and honest science.

Organicists can and should acknowledge the value of:

  1. sophisticated traditions and techniques for developing spirituality, compassion and moral qualities.
  2. science, reason and real scepticism.

Positing that all existence is essentially alive, organicists are interested in understanding, appreciating and living in harmony with the whole creative universe of which we find ourselves a part. We can draw on both theistic/idealistic traditions and scientific/rationalist traditions to aid our understanding and appreciation of the entirety of existence.

Viewing the cosmos as fundamentally organism, organicists seek neither to dominate nor renounce the material world, but to understand, appreciate and enjoy our living cosmos and find within it meaning, purpose and joie de vivre.

Orchestrated ideological bullying in US academia
Nov 24th, 2010 by Syd Walker

Harvard-educated Dr Francis Boyle is a Professor at the University of Illinois’ College of Law, teaching courses in Constitutional Law of U.S. Foreign Affairs, International Law, International Human Rights Law and Jurisprudence.

Boyle’s cv is impressive by any standards. He has represented several overseas governments in controversial cases and has been involved in a range of international peace-making and advocacy work throughout a lengthy career, working in locations as varied as Bosnia and Palestine. Naturally, he’s a speaker that many students interested in law and international affairs wish to hear. He gets invitations…

But Professor Boyle, an advocate for the Palestinian cause who’s been openly critical of Israel, is subjected to an astonishing level of harrassment on many of the USA’s most prominent campuses, as he explains:

Hardline Zionist organisations now represent the major threat to free speech throughout the western world – and arguably within the world as a whole. Their ruthless determination to silence and marginalize opponents goes way beyond the influence most sectarian pressure-groups seek to exercise.

Boyle claims the USA is worse than other countries – and that may be so in terms of the extreme one-sidedness of US mass media reporting. But in other respects, the situation is even more desperate elsewhere. Zionist organisations adapt to local circumstances and constraints on free speech over the Jewish-Israel-Palestine issue are imposed by different means in different jurisdictions.

Overall, there’s clearly a global attempt by mainstream Zionist networks to dominate public discourse and stifle opposing voices.

The struggle to defeat Zionism has become central to the struggle for free speech.

________________________

Hat tip to Gilad Atzmon’s excellent website where I first spotted this video.

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