Maurizio – Omnologos

Where no subject is left unturned

Archive for June 2007

Heroical Immigration Police

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I am having a nightmare.

It is about a democratic country on this planet, where Immigration Police routinely ambushes people at their place of work, sending armed officers into workplaces to apprehend those guilty of working a decent and honest job.

In the process, those officers scare the wits out of any law-abiding person in sight.

Anybody and everybody, not just the person they are looking for, is threatened if not manhandled, unless he or she provides full co-operation, including letting said officers rummage through personal items including e-mails without showing so much of a photo ID.

All in all, the experience has the one result of instilling terror in perfectly innocent people, more than a couple of train bombs put together. How much they will feel protected, it’s anybody’s guess.

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My nightmare is that such a country is 40,000km/25,000mi away from where I am standing at the moment.

Written by omnologos

2007/Jun/13 at 22:17:08

Newsmedia, not History Books

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Somebody has posted a great list of all that is wrong with newsmedia:

1. Great emphasis on the dramatic
2. Failure to distinguish between opinion and fact
3. Repetitive dissemination of original reports from a few limited sources without checking or questioning information
4. A catering to what the media perceives as the popular belief or their belief over reporting the facts
5. Reporters that have disturbingly low levels of knowledge in the areas they report on
6. Sometimes blatant misrepresentation of the facts by reporters in major news organizations
7. A tendency to run with the “latest story” to the point of boredom at the expense of broader, more informative reporting
8. Information becoming “truth” based on degree of repetition

Those points truly are the way contemporary newsmedia work, and especially those dealing with day-to-day stuff.

We should never forget that newspapers, newsmagazines, TV/radio news programs are meant to be sold and capture the widest possible audience.

They are built to re-inforce the prejudice and convictions of the people that are going to buy them. Sometimes, they could challenge their readers, but bankruptcy is in order if they do that too boldly.

You simply can’t do that by being 100% honest, informative, opinion-free…articles based on that would bore to death most of the readership.

That’s why history books are written by scholars, instead of being reprints of old newspapers.

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The above is not meant to be taken as an insult. Hey, I am a part-time journalist myself!!

I see it more as the way things “are”, just as new models of cars are always presented with scantily-clad girls and watches invariably point to 10 past 10 in photo ads.

People have tried to act differently but few if any of those businesses have survived.

On the other hand I do agree there is no internal, contemporary  “media trend” toward alarmism. Readers’ titillation has always been the order of the day, so any change is likely to have been as a result of a change in what the readers wanted.

As an example, compare the opening pages of London’s The Independent from 20-30 years ago with the screaming trendy single-issue front page of today. And don’t forget the failure of the “good news” newspaper put out a few years ago, again in London (by the Guardian, I believe)?

I don’t think I need to mention any self-proclaimed “Fair and Balanced” news network here.

Perhaps the newspapers of 1907 were scary, exciting and dramatic for their readers, but they don’t appear as such to us simply because (by definition) we are not the people those were meant to be sold to.

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There is only one challenge for all the readers: and that is to provide ourselves with the tools for critically managing the streams of news we are bombarded with.

And by that I mean being able first of all to look for cause-and-effect, so that if event A should cause event B, don’t believe A has happened until B has showed up too.

Written by omnologos

2007/Jun/12 at 22:45:56

TB or not TB: The Speaker’s Affair as a Monument to Our Fears

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I am aghast at finding out it’s open season on Andrew Speaker, the American lawyer that honeymooned around Europe despite being affected by a particularly dangerous strain of TB.

See for example a letter on the IHT asking for Speaker’s incarceration.

Emotional outpourings like that say a lot more about our current Age of Fear than of any recklessness on the part of Mr Speaker.

Fact is that nobody anywhere has ever caught TB because of a shared flight with a TB carrier.

The whole story is actually too murky to understand, with Speaker getting diagnosed by chance after breaking a rib, his father recording conversations with health care officials, and his father-in-law a prominent federal microbiologist and an expert on TB of all things.

It remains pretty much unexplicable why Speaker was not stopped before or whilst travelling, when there were plenty of occasions to do so: unless of course the whole “scandal” has been overbloated.

Methinks nobody will die out of Speaker’s travels; he himself will not suffer of any consequence, and will not develop any TB symptoms; the diagnosis will be revealed incorrect in the future; and no lessons will be learned in how to handle potential health scares…especially as there was no basis to speak of for the “scare” in the first place.

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2007/Jun/09 at 21:31:22

Way to go, Senator Brownback!

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Kudos to Sam Brownback for the wisdom of not dismissing evolution wholesale as an atheist conspiracy (“Creation does not preclude evolution“, International Herald Tribune, June 1).

But will the Senator have the courage of accepting the consequences?

Brownback states that “the process of creation […] is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him“. In other words, God may as well have been using multi-billion-year evolution, 6-day creation or whatever else of His liking.

Therefore, to think of “evolution” as changing one species into another is no blasphemy.

To the contrary, it’s a hard-headed, literal reading of the (English?) Bible that strikes just as absurd and close-minded as those declarations by scientists using evolution to “prove” the non-existence of God.

As for “man’s unique and intended place in the cosmos” (another of Brownback’s points) that may well be but… it is a dangerous reasoning path for a person of Christian faith.

The way of Jesus is one of humility, not hubris.

Written by omnologos

2007/Jun/05 at 21:09:42

The Death of Climate Change

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G-8 leaders are preparing to go through the motions about “doing something against Climate Change” (presumably, with similar successes as their wars on poverty and drugs). Countless pacts, accords, international conferences have not meant much as yet, and in all likelihood they won’t make any perceivable difference in the future either.

In the meanwhile, the “science” of Climate Change is as clay-footed as ever. A leading IPCC reviewer publicly states “We should respond prudently to the threats from climate change“. The NASA top honcho Michael Griffin commits the cardinal sin of saying the obvious against all “consensus”:

I’m not sure it’s fair to say that [global warming] is a problem we must wrestle with […]

I would ask which human beings—where and when—are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we might have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings.

In a further sign that something is amiss, there is not even the suggestion of designing a satellite capable of collecting global data and possibly evidence of global warming / climate change.

GoreSat itself is not mentioned anywhere, despite sitting ready to fly for the past 7 years.

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The above clearly indicates that “Climate Change” as a real issue has died already, or is at a terminal stage.

At best, it has revealed itself as a proxy for something different, at worst a smokescreen, ancillary issue.

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Let’s give everybody involved the benefit of the doubt. What is the real problem they are concerned about, then, if “Climate Change” is just a proxy?

Possible candidates include: (1) the will to counteract the power of global companies by establishing some kind of (toothed) global government; (2) a general feeling tha Humanity must be cleansed of its sins, especially of greed and of disrespect for the Environment; (3) a way of keeping the development of places such as China and India in check, by making their lives difficult with newly-fangled emission caps.

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But the one trouble I am presently more inclined to consider, it’s (4) the worry that there simply are too many humans alive at the same time, and their numbers keep on increasing: at the same time, we have the attitude but not the tools nor the will to provide them all with a decent life.

That’s a much more interesting topic than silly measures of atmospheric carbon dioxide and unreliable, patched-up, secretive historical temperature recordings.

Written by omnologos

2007/Jun/01 at 01:32:23