Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Value in the Dressing Room

It being the lazy post-Christmas season I'll just have to write you a post about Cricket.  American readers might like to wait for something else to pop up, or else try this helpful explanation of the game, or perhaps this more detailed one

Many commentators have been calling for the heads of veteran batsmen Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, but both have been picked for the Boxing Day Test.  Australia's new Chairman of Selectors John Inverarity explains that both players provide "great value in the dressing room".

This is is obviously a good thing as both have been spending a lot of time there lately.  They are clearly needed in the team, because while these two experienced players are devoting themselves to the dressing room, some other players are letting the side down.

Of course the bowlers can't be blamed.  They routinely spend long hours with their mates, followed by a brief stint batting and a swift return to the bosom of the team.  This means you can be fairly relaxed about which bowlers you select, since they all provide pretty much the same dressing room value.  This policy particularly applies to spinners - you can practically pick any spinner you like.  However, there are exceptions.  Nathan Hauritz, for instance, provided great dressing room value early in his Test career.  However, the longer he stayed in the team the more inclination he showed to stay away from his mates, and eventually the selectors' patience ran out.

No, it's the batsmen you need to worry most about.  Some of the recent additions to the Test team have shown a worrying lack of dressing room form.  David Warner is a case in point.  Selectors had high hopes for him, with his reputation for quickfire batting stints followed by long dressing room contributions.  So far in Test cricket his performances in this regard have been adequate, but there have been some alarming lapses.  The warning signs were there in the second innings of the Brisbane Test, with his failure to return to the dressing room until right at the end of the game, but the second innings in Hobart must really have the selectors worrying.  Warner went out to bat at the very start of the innings and failed to return for more than five hours, only reluctantly dragging himself back to the room when the last of his batting partners refused to stay with him any longer.  No doubt his captain will have something to say about this.

Which leaves me wondering about the recent dropping of Phil Hughes.  Early in his carreer, Hughes appeared almost incapable of spending time in the dressing room.  In his first two tests, on tour in South Africa, he was absent for over 12 hours.  Little wonder he was dropped early in the following tour of England.  Nonetheless, his form in the current Australian summer has been a huge improvement, with less than two hours absence in the recent series against New Zealand.  His axing for the India Test is baffling to say the least, especially when his replacement, Ed Cowan, seemed determined to do everything in his power to avoid the dressing room in the first innings against India on Boxing Day.

Of course the strains of captaincy are taking their toll on Michael Clarke, with long absences in South Africa and again in Brisbane an obvious sign that he is taking some time to settle into the role.  This is why Ponting and especially Hussey are so important to the team.  Ponting's contributions have been slipping a little of late but he has been a consistent contributor over the past two years, and his performance in his home Test in Hobart was outstanding, with all but an hour spent in the company of his team.  However, with Ponting's recent form a little patchy and Clarke struggling, Hussey has to bear more of the load than he really should.  His performance in the New Zealand series was world class, with only 66 minutes in absentia across the two Tests.  The man they call Mr Cricket is a durable, determined performer but surely he can't be expected to bear this kind of load every game.  Some of the young players will need to start stepping up soon.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Happy Saturnalia

It being Christmas, I've been thinking about Saturnalia, of course, and this led me to remember a fascinating passage in Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People.  Writing in 601 AD, Pope Gregory sends Abbot Mellitus to help out Augustine, the first Roman missionary to the Anglo-Saxons in Britain.  Among various instructions, he says this:

When, therefore, Almighty God shall bring you to the most reverend Bishop Augustine, our brother, tell him what I have, upon mature deliberation on the affair of the English, determined upon, viz., that the temples of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed; but let the idols that are in them be destroyed; let holy water be made and sprinkled in the said temples, let altars be erected, and relics placed. For if those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils to the service of the true God; that the nation, seeing that their temples are not destroyed, may remove error from their hearts, and knowing and adoring the true God, may the more familiarly resort to the places to which they have been accustomed.

And because they have been used to slaughter many oxen in the sacrifices to devils, some solemnity must be exchanged for them on this account, as that on the day of the dedication, or the nativities of the holy martyrs, whose relics are there deposited, they may build themselves huts of the boughs of trees, about those churches which have been turned to that use from temples, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting, and no more offer beasts to the Devil, but kill cattle to the praise of God in their eating, and return thanks to the Giver of all things for their sustenance; to the end that, whilst some gratifications are outwardly permitted them, they may the more easily consent to the inward consolations of the grace of God. For there is no doubt that it is impossible to efface everything at once from their obdurate minds; because he who endeavours to ascend to the highest place, rises by degrees or steps, and not by leaps.

Augustine and his helpers were not sent on a destructive mission.  They were not sent to wipe the slate clean of anything that had any relation to paganism and start all over.  The were not afraid of paganism, because they were confident that Christ would prevail over it.  They also understood that nothing was so universally human as the love of a good party.  Their parties and places of celebration were to be lovingly and gently Christianised, the good aspects kept and the evil or dangerous ones phased out.

This gentle, inclusive spirit surely also inhabited the Christian adoption of aspects of the Roman festival of Saturnalia into the Christmas celebration.  Saturnalia, the festival of the Roman harvest god Saturn, ran from December 17 to the winter solstice on December 23.  It was a celebration, a time of feasting and gift giving, a holiday in which there were both public and private feasts.  It was also a festival of misrule, in which masters served their slaves, children ruled their parents, and the festival was presided over by a Lord of Misrule whose absurd and chaotic commmands must be obeyed. 

The mid-winter date of Christmas is not a great match for the Gospel stories of Jesus' birth with their shepherds sleeping in the fields and Joseph and Mary travelling cross-country to Bethlehem.  Yet what could be more Christian than an upside down festival like Saturnalia?  How better to celebrate the birth of a king who entered his city on a donkey and died for his people, who took little children on his knee, healed lepers, touched bleeding women, befriended Samaritans and gave it to the chief priests and leaders of Israel with both barrels? 

Wouldn't it be great if we had our own Saturnalia.  We could go and sleep in tents and demountable huts while homeless people and refugees occupied our homes.  We could wait on the tables of the starving.  Our politicians could answer their own phones and open their own letters while their admin staff made decisions of state.  It would be thrilling and dangerous.  Some of the decisions of our misrulers might turn out to be better than those of our regular rulers.  Perhaps we might even make it permanent.

Happy Saturnalia everyone!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

More Lives of Jesus 5: The Twin Deception

When I reviewed Philip Pullman's The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ earlier this year, I made the mistake of assuming he had invented the idea of Jesus' twin brother.  I was wrong.  The idea has ancient roots, and as well as featuring in Pullman's book is the central feature of an exceedingly odd book, The Twin Deception, by Tony Bushby, published by the small independent Queensland publisher Joshua Books in 2006.

Bushby is a prolific writer of Christian pseudo-history with at least six similar volumes to his name.  There is a lot of familiar stuff here, including hidden messages, concealed identities and Catholic cover-ups, but Bushby takes the art-form to a whole new level.

I don't mean his writing.  His grammar is questionable, his prose convoluted and his telling of his story is so incoherent as to be almost incomprehensible.  Nonetheless, the extent of his reworking of the tale is beyond anything attempted by the likes of Barbara Theiring, Stephan Huller or even the redoubtable Michael Biagent. 

In summary his story is this.  Jesus had a twin brother, Judas Thomas.  These two boys were the children of the Jewish serving woman Mary and the Roman Emperor Tiberius.  Judas, the elder of the brothers, became the leader of the Essenes, a militant Jewish sect, before travelling to Rome to attempt to take his father's throne by force.  There he was arrested and sentenced to crucifixion, but escaped by switching places with Simon of Cyrene.  As a result he lost his freedom, was sold into slavery by his brother Jesus and ended his life in India.

Meanwhile Jesus was initiated into the mysteries of Osiris in Egypt, inherited his brother's position as head of the Essenes but fell out with them because he attempted to reveal their secrets to the common people.  This led to a journey to Britain where he spread his secret to the British Jews before finally being stoned to death in London.

This will of course leave you wondering how the story came to be told as it is in our bibles and of course Bushby has the answer.  Christianity as we know it was invented at the Council of Nicea, called by the Emperor Constantine, a descendant of Jesus.  This was not, as we have been led to believe, a gathering of Christian bishops (there being no such thing at the time) but a gathering of the teachers of a wide range of religions current in the Empire at that time.  Constantine was worried at the divisiveness of multiple religions and wanted to decide on a single faith to unite his empire.  In the end the Council, at Constantine's urging, decided to create a new religion, based around the persons of Constantine's ancestor Jesus and his brother Judas, which combined elements of the cults of Caesar, Krishna, Mithra, Horus and Zeus.  Bishop Eusebius was given the job of creating scriptures to support this religion and the New Testament was the result.

Of course the "true knowledge" of the existence of the twins and the fictitious nature of the Gospels was not completely suppressed.  It was known to the Catholic heirarchy, preserved by the initiates of various secret societies, leaked out in the works of the Renaissance masters and had to be suppressed again with a complete rewriting of the New Testament in the late 15th century. 

It's useful at this point to keep in mind Michael Shermer's criterion for assessing conspiracy theories - the likelihood of a conspiracy theory being true is inversely proportional to the number of people who would have to be involved. The cover-up described by Bushby involves literally millions of people over almost seventeen centuries. Surely someone would have had an attack of consience and released the true story by now?

What evidence does Bushby have for these astonishing claims?  It's difficult to tell.  Most of his sources predate the 20th century.  He cites a number of obscure and out-of-print 18th and 19th century historians, and has a love for 19th century editions of the Encyclopedia Brittanica and Catholic Encyclopedia, from which he quotes (or perhaps misquotes) extensively.  This means, of course, that most of his sources can't be verified.

Where they can, the result is not encouraging.  Virtually every time he cites the New Testament he either misquotes it or distorts its meaning.  A classic example is his brief section on "the biblical evidence of Jesus' twin".  He cites the parallel passages in Mark 6 and Matthew 13 which refer to Jesus' brothers, who include "Judas called Thomas", and relates these to the references to the apostle Thomas "the twin" in John's gospel.  The problem is that the Mark and Matthew passages don't mention "Judas called Thomas", merely "Judas" or "Jude", and there is no suggestion that he is Jesus' twin.  Hence the connection with Thomas in John is completely spurious.

Other sources that I could easily check showed the same pattern.  He cites the story of the conflict over Easter in Britain in the 6th century as evidence that the original British church did not celebrate Easter.  Yet the original of this story in Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People (which Bushby appears to have only read at second hand) makes it clear that both sides of the dispute celebrated Easter and the source of the conflict was the method of calculating the correct date. 

Bushby even goes so far as to cite Geoffrey of Monmouth's fantastical History of the Kings of Britain as if it were a real work of history.  Even then he misquotes it, confusing a passage about the imaginary king Cymbeline, "a powerful warrior whom Augustus Caesar had reared in his household and equipped with weapons" and the following paragraph, "In those days was born our Lord Jesus...", as evidence that Augustus armed Jesus and sent him to Britain.  If this small sample is any indication, none of his citations can be trusted.

He even struggles to get his own story straight.  The Gospel accounts of the crucifixion are described both as inaccurate retellings of Judas Thomas' supposed crucifixion in Rome, and veiled accounts of Jesus' initiation into the Egyptian mysteries.  Jesus is both the son of Tiberius, and armed and dispatched by Augustus.  The Gospels were invented by Eusebius in the 4th century, then again by the church authorities in the 15th.  Bushby is able to both have and eat multiple servings of cake.

So why did I bother with this tedious, badly written nonsense?  And why am I boring you with it?  I have to admit I wondered that myself as I skimmed the latter part of the book searching in vain for something that made sense.

The answer is that these retellings have cultural resonance for 21st century Western readers.  While Bushby is a little too out there even for Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code used the various common pseudo-historical tricks to turn a second-rate detective novel into a publishing phenomenon.  The religion sections of secular bookstores contain as many works of pseudo-history as they do collections of the Dalai Lama's sayings.  Even Bushby's extreme left-field ideas found an echo in Pullman's decidedly more mainstream treatment of the subject.  Why is this stuff so popular?

Partly, of course, it's fashionable to take pot-shots at the church as Western society grows into its own increasing secularism.  However, these stories also provide the same fascination as a well constructed science fiction or fantasy world.  The boring, hum-drum, incompetent society in which we live conceals another, far more exciting reality in which super-competent, malevolent rulers conspire to deceive ordinary people for their own gain.  The suggestion of historicity in these claims, however flimsy, just adds to the excitement and the thrill of horror.

It's all nonsense, but perhaps there's an upside.  With a bit of luck, Tony Bushby may get to have twice as much fun at Christmas as the rest of us!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Answer on Asylum Seekers

Back in September I wrote to Julia Gillard, Immigration Minister Chris Evans and my local member to express the view that both offshore processing and immigration detention should be abandoned and asylum seekers allowed to live in the community.  Not long after, the High Court ruled that offshore processing is illegal and the Gillard government accidentially arrived at a policy somewhat similar to my suggestions.

Finally, I have a reply to my letter to Chris Bowen from Kate Falvey, Director of Protection Policy in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.  Some of the things she says are as follows.

You will be pleased to know that on 18 October 2010, the Government announced that it would move the majority of children, and a significant number of vulnerable families, into the community by the end of June 2011, by expanding the community detention program.  This commitment was met.

As at 21 November 2011, the Minister had approved 2382 clients (1266 adults and 1116 children) for accommodating in the community detention program since October 2010.  Of these, 1292 clients (774 adults and 518 children) are residing in the community under these arrangements.  Around 1000 clients have left the program after being granted protection visas.

On 25 November 2011, the Hon Chris Bowen MP, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, announced a new approach to the management of asylum seekers.  Following an initial mandatory detention period for health, security and identity checks, eligible boat arrivals who do not pose risks to the community will be progressively considered for community placement on bridging visas while their asylum claims are assessed.

Asylum seekers on bridging visas will have the right to work and support themselves, and will also have access to necessary health services.  Some will also be eligible for support services through the existing Department of Immigration and Citizenship funded programs such as the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme and the Community Assistance Support Program, which will be determined on a case by case basis.

Astute readers will note the weasel words in this letter - the "majority" of children, a "significant number" of "vulnerable" families (presumably some families are invulnerable), "eligible" boat arrivals will be "progressively considered" for community placement, and "some" will be eligible for support services.  This is a cautious bureaucratic document which leaves a lot of wriggle room.

Nonetheless it's a move in the right direction.  Community detention represents a sort of half-way house, much like parole in the prison system.  The Immigration Fact Sheet on the program says:

Community detention enables people to reside in the community without needing to be escorted. These arrangements do not give a person any lawful status in Australia (for example, no visa is granted at this stage), nor does it give them the rights and entitlements of a person living in the community on a visa (for example, the right to study or work). The person remains administratively in immigration detention while living in the community....Conditions include a mandatory requirement to report regularly to the department and/or their service provider, and reside at the address specified by the minister.

This is problematic because they still remain in limbo, with no way to support themselves and limited opportunity to engage in meaningful activity.  However, at least they have basic freedom of movement and a home environment rather than a traumatic institutional one.

The bridging visa option is a further improvement.  People are allowed to start establishing their lives, to work and become independent.  However, it does provide less security for people - they have to jump through the hoops to be approved for discretionary assistance programs run by the Red Cross (see the fact sheets here and here) and you can be sure many will slip between the cracks.

The letter doesn't mention the High Court decision but it is clear the court has set the cat among the pigeons.  Policy is moving fast, cautious public servants are having to think on their feet, and there is an opportunity for those who are looking for humane solutions to get ahead of those who see only danger.  I'd still like to see more generosity, but at last after years of the zero sum game of detention we seem to be moving in a more generous direction.  May we keep moving forward!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Art of Persuasion

Still ploughing through my rapidly diminishing pile of periodicals.  Right now I'm reading Zadok Perspectives No 112, Spring 2011, and it includes a lovely lucid article by John Dickson, director of the Centre for Public Christianity and one of Australia's foremost Christian apologists, reprinted from the Sydney Morning Herald

Dickson is talking about the very same thing as Michael Shermer, confirmation bias or as Dickson calls it, the "Backfire Effect".  We readily believe evidence which supports our pre-existing views, while contrary evidence not only fails to convince us, it often "backfires" and strengthens our erroneous opinions.

His point is the same as Shermer's - that our beliefs are so rarely dictated by the evidence, and instead we read the evidence with beliefs in hand.  This effect applies equally to Christians and atheists, the those on the left and the right, to those who refuse to see the evidence that there is a real physiological basis for sexual orientation and those who refuse to accept the empirical evidence that Christian belief really does make you a better person.

What hope is there for us, if we are so intractably unreasonable?  Dickson turns to Aristotle's On Rhetoric for an explanation.  Aristotle identified three controlling factors for persuasion.  The first, logos, is about evidence and reason.  According to Aristotle we all like to believe that we believe on the basis of logos, but this is rarely the whole story.  Two other factors are also in play.  Pathos is our emotional reaction to an idea or proposition.  We are more likely to believe an idea or assertion we find pleasant or fitting, less likely to believe one we find repugnant.  The final factor is ethos, the social or ethical dimension to belief.  We accept the ideas of people we like and trust, disbelieve those we dislike or distrust, irrespective of the strength of their evidence. 

What counts in debate is a combination of intellectual, aesthetic and social factors. I find it interesting that Christian believers will very often admit that their convictions emerged in this threefold way; that their faith rests on the holistic basis of logos, pathos and ethos. For Christianity, indeed, satisfies all three dimensions of our existence. But what is especially interesting to me as I reflect on Aristotle and the research on the ''backfire effect'' is the way sceptics rarely admit that their scepticism rests on the same combination of reasons.

Typically, my atheist mates have protested that, for them, it is entirely a matter of evidence. "If there were more proof," they say, "I would readily believe." I don't believe them for a moment.
Yes, evidence is important, but it is not the only factor. I have spoken to too many atheists over the years who start out with a "proof" line of argument only to eventually admit that their reasons for rejecting religion have equally to do with some painful event in the past that called into question God's existence or some ugly encounter with a religious hypocrite that caused them to distrust religious claims. Personal and social factors prove as important as intellectual factors in the formation of belief and unbelief, whether on religious, ethical, political or social matters.

Whether on climate change, politics, religion or ethics, we do not change our minds on the basis of facts alone. Indeed, they may even bolster contrary views. What environmental campaigners, refugee advocates, gay rights lobbyists, atheist evangelists and churches need if they are to be persuasive are not just more facts but a narrative that stirs our hearts and a social movement that wins our trust.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Development Projects Shot Down

Amongst the huge backlog of periodicals I am currently skimming my way through is an issue of Target, the quarterly magazine of aid agency TEAR Australia, which celebrates 40 years of TEAR's operation.  We've been supporting TEAR for almost 30 of those 40 years, signing up as soon as we had an income in 1983.  I love the way TEAR has always focused on working with people and local agencies, and held to its dual role of supporting and empowering people in the third world where the problems are experienced, and working for change in the first world where most of them are caused.

Deborah Storie's editorial provides food for thought.

We have a lot to celebrate!  Yet over recent decades, if conversations linger and range broadly enough, a darker shadow story is also told.  Despite all their achievements, people testify that their lives are harder and more precarious, or that they are worried about the future.  Why?  Common themes across countries and regions emerge.  People speak of losing access to natural resources: land, forests and water.  They say the weather is changing, rainfall is less reliable, harvests are disappointing and severe weather events are more frequent....  People speak of fear and of violence, of conscription and coercion, of looting, rape and death, of soldiers, police and militia, of guns.  Conflict and militarisation are increasing.

I wondered: are they?  Or is this just people's impression, current problems looming larger than past ones?  I remember quite vividly a project from my early days as a TEAR supporter.  They had a system where you could follow a particular project closely, getting regular updates on progress and analysis of results.  We followed a project called Vision Terudo in Uganda.  It was a classic and very effective community development project, run by a church-based regional organisation in Uganda employing local people, doing a variety of community development projects focused on things like health, food security, reforestation, and capacity building.  Results were good, people's lives were clearly improved. 

However, it didn't provide the warm assurance of progress we had been hoping and praying for, because after we had followed for a while the whole thing was wiped out in one night of violence with the onset of civil war.  Participants were killed, crops destroyed, livestock stolen, staff had to flee for their lives.  It certainly gave us an education in the precariousness of life in Uganda, but it was hard not to give up in despair.

Is it any worse now?  Has militarisation and violence really increased?  I asked Google, and it led me to the website of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, and the revealing graph below showing military spending, in 2009 US dollar values, from 1988 to 2010. 

So the short answer is "yes", but the long answer is both more interesting and more depressing.  From the end of the 1980s, with the collapse of the Soviet empire and the end of the Cold War, global military spending declined substantially, from over $1.4 trillion US in 1988 to just over $962b in 1998.  Remember the "Peace Dividend"?  Yet since then, the trend has been all upwards as the potent combination of militant Islam and concern over control of the world's diminishing oil reserves has raised the global temperature.   By 2008 spending was back at its 1988 level and it has kept growing.

Of course the USA is the main culprit here by a huge margin, accounting for almost half of global arms spending and more than half the increase since 1998.  However, the rest of us are also in on the act.  Only Central and Western Europe have shown no significant increase since 1998.  Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania (in which Australia is the dominant power) and the Middle East have all shown increases of between one third and half in real terms since 1998.

No wonder we are fearful for the future.  Our looming ecological crisis means the need to work together is more urgent than ever.  We need global trust and cooperation to manage the transition to low carbon economies and renewable energy, and to halt the destruction of ecosystems and natural resources.  Yet we are busy tooling up for more war, eyeing each other across increasingly tense borders.  Can we pull back from this rearmament, or will we solve our ecological arguments through war and conquest?

Friday, 2 December 2011

How Not to Sell the Carbon Tax

The Australian Senate passed the final version of the "Clean Energy Future" bill (in other words, the Carbon Tax) on 8 November, amidst much fanfare and no small amount of criticism.  This means that assuming Tony Abbott is just posturing when he says a Coalition government would repeal it, from June next year it will cost money to release carbon into the atmosphere.  $23 per tonne, at least at the beginning.

This is not a popular measure.  Over the past few years support for a carbon price and carbon trading has eroded.  Big polluters have sowed seeds of doubt, funding visits and lecture tours by climate change deniers like Lord Monckton and mounting scare campaigns about the damage to our economy.

Meanwhile, I've been going through the pile of periodicals and occasional publications that has been growing in my in-tray for the past eight months.  One of the little gems I found was a Commonwealth Government publication called What a carbon price means for you: the pathway to a clean energy future.  It was put out a few months ago, when the legislation was first introduced to Parliament, and it is the major promotional document for the package. 

It would have to be the oddest piece of marketing I have ever seen.  The summary page lists four key points.

9 in 10 households will receive some combination of tax cuts and increased payments to help with the cost of living impact of the carbon price.

Over 1 milion extra Australians will no longer need to lodge a tax return.

Almost 6 million households will be assisted to meet their average price impact.

Over 4 million households will get assistance that is at least 20 percent more than their average price impact.

What's missing from this summary?  Oh yes, that's right, that whole climate change thing.  Damn, we forgot all about that!

The rest is not much better.  Three of the twenty pages are devoted to talking about reducing carbon pollution.  On none of these pages is there any explanation of how a carbon tax will help with this.  Instead there are generalities about how important it is to reduce carbon pollution, and assurances about the effectiveness of the tax.  "Trust us," they seem to imply, "we know what we're doing."

After this brief non-explanation about what the policy is actually about, the next ten pages are devoted to spelling out how Australian households will be compensated for the price increases caused by the tax.  There are precise details of the amount of cost increases we can expect to see, and the amount of tax cuts, pension increases and other such baubles ordinary Australians will receive to help pay for them.  Everyone is covered - workers, students, low income earners, pensioners, people with disabilities.  No stone is left unturned to reassure us that we will not be worse off.

Why am I not convinced?  Why, with such a wealth of detail, is the Australian public as a whole not convinced? 

Well, we have before us a classic example of poor communication.  The good thing about a carbon tax is that it provides a financial incentive for businesses, particularly power generators and large scale users of energy, to cut their emissions and move to low- or no-emission technologies.  They pay for every tonne of carbon they emit.  Renewables suddenly have a huge head start if only they can make their technology efficient enough to compete.  Emissions reduction technologies have a tangible financial benefit.  Offsetting measures suddenly make a lot more economic sense.  The carbon tax speaks to polluters in the language of capitalism, saying "reduce your emissions, and you will make more money".  It is an ambitious attempt to move capitalism towards sustainability.

Yet this core message, this basic rationale for the policy, does not appear anywhere in the marketing.  All that appears is the downside.  This will cost you money, it says.  Don't worry, it won't be as much as you think, and we'll make it up to you.  But of course if you have to spend 10 pages explaining how people will be compensated, the message which underlies those ten pages is that this is a destructive policy.  Why do it, if people need this much compensation? 

It suggests the government has no faith in its own policy.  It has no confidence in the vision and imperative to tackle pollution and climate change, or in the effectiveness of its chosen strategy.  The carbon tax may be a necessary evil, but nonetheless it is evil.  So we need to reduce the evil as much as we can.  The deniers, be they in the business community or the Opposition, have got into the government's head, and made them afraid of their own policy.  If they are afraid, why should we not be?