When R4,000 isn’t R4,000

Until we actually have hard facts instead of supposition and rumour, I’m steering well clear of the whole Lonmin/Marikana issue. However, if like me, you’re searching for those hard facts, it seems that the mainstream media isn’t the place to be looking.
There’s a surprise.

Whichever side you’re on, you surely can’t help but feel some pity for the rock drillers who – as we’ve been told here, here, here, here and here – earn just R4,000 per month. How one can survive, let alone support a family, on that amount is beyond me.

Except that Politicsweb has now alleged that the oft quoted R4,000 per month figure is actually some distance from the true amount earned by the Marikana rock drillers:

It was left, not to a journalist, but to Solidarity deputy general secretary Gideon du Plessis to go and find out the actual figures. In a statement issued on Monday he reported “The adjusted total cost package of a Lonmin rock drill operator is approximately R10 500 a month, excluding bonuses.”

In response to a separate query from Politicsweb Lonmin’s Mark Munroe Executive Vice President of Mining, basically confirmed these amounts. He stated: “Lonmin’s Rock Drill Operators earn in the region of R10,000 per month without bonuses and over R11,000 including bonuses. These levels are in line with those of our competitors and are before the wage hike of some 9% which will come into effect on 1 October 2012.”

If this increase applies to the whole compensation package it would push gross earnings – with and without bonuses – to between R11 000 and R12 000 per month. The net income of rock drill operators may well be considerably less than this – after deductions – but this is the cost to company.

If these figures are correct, it makes it even more bewildering, bizarre and tragic that so many lives were lost in search of what amounts to a R500 per month increase.

As the Politicsweb piece states:

One has to ask why no-one in the world’s media appear seem to have bothered to verify the R4 000 figure… Given the critical nature of this information for any analysis of the strikers demands it seems like a very basic mistake.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s news24.com seems to have evidence (via Al-Jazeera) that police were indeed fired upon before opening fire upon the protestors. The video is worth a watch.

I’ll leave the decisions as to whether R10,000 per month plus bonuses is an acceptable wage or whether the two shots apparently fired at police merited their response up to you. But wouldn’t it be nice if the journalists paid to report facts, actually reported facts?

Who blew up ‘the bridge to the future’?

And more to the point – why?

We should applaud the views of progressive environmentalists, according to 6000 miles… commenter stickman:

Monbiot’s been giving it to fellow greenies on this particular issue for a while. Google his comments on Fukushima, for example.
Actually, the good news is that there is an increasingly vocal environmental contingent that is embracing the science on things like nuclear and GM crops.

and he’s probably right. But what happens when they are persuaded to go back to the dark green side?

An article by Jon Entine – visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute – investigates one such occurrence – whereby the views of the progressive environmental lobby have turned, for no good scientific reason, on the subject of shale gas – a potential energy source close to our hearts (although not nearly so close to our surface as the Karoo aquifers) in South Africa.

Natural gas was seen as a marriage of enlightened capitalism and pragmatic progressivism—a fossil fuel, whose reserves would gradually diminish, as the price of alternative energy became cost competitive.

Now… inexpensive comparatively clean natural gas is portrayed as a Trojan horse that will bring “water contamination, air pollution, global warming, and fractured communities.” The morphing of natural gas from ‘a necessary alternative to dirtier energy’ to ‘worse than oil and coal’ happened, metaphorically, almost overnight. What’s behind this seismic turnaround?

It’s certainly not the science. Nor does it relate to any genuine concerns based around environmental issues involved in getting the gas out of the ground. So perhaps it’s the fact that the once-heralded ‘bridge to the future’ actually seems to be just too good:

while we are awash in natural gas, skepticism over the mass scale feasibility of alternatives has escalated. Overflowing supplies destroy Big Green’s argument that fossil fuels will get more and more costly till even wind and solar power are competitive. That undermines the argument for massive subsidies of alternatives that may never deliver competitive bang for the buck. No longer is natural gas a bridge to the alternative energy future. Much to the chagrin of energy activists, natural gas now is the future.

The result of this realisation is an almost desperate propaganda war by the green lobby – well funded by certain individuals through certain academic institutions, and faithfully reported via certain news sources. Entine goes into great (and well referenced) detail over how Cornell University professor Robert Howath and his wife have manipulated the debate over fracking and how it has been lapped up by the press, while criticism of Howath’s methodologies, rationale and conclusions are not reported;

The Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory reviewed the same data, concluding that natural gas, even from shale, results in far less emissions than coal. But that study did not make it into the NYT.

Whatever your take on fracking, Entine’s essay is well worth a read. His exposure of what he describes as the “media-philanthropy-university complex” and the “web of connections” in the anti-fracking lobby should sound warning bells for those looking for objective research into the subject – it seems that while environmentalists (probably rightfully) bemoan “Big Oil” spinning stories to support their work, “Big Green” is just as adept at managing the media. And, after all, as Entine says:

What if wealthy donors are deploying their money to manipulate public opinion and support research whose conclusions often conflict with science? That in a nutshell is the media rationale for scrutinizing public relations efforts by Big Business.

So why aren’t people looking with more scepticism at what they hear from all sources, rather than just those whose views disagree with their own?

That’s just human nature, I guess, but as I’ve said all along when blogging about fracking, there’s no point in relying on subjective data or unscientific rhetoric. Entine’s piece is a well-researched lesson for us all in that regard.

Semenya has ‘no womb or ovaries’

Australia’s Daily Telegraph is reporting (or will be, tomorrow) that it knows the results of Caster Semenya’s gender tests and if their reporting is correct, then it doesn’t look good for Julius Malema’s “Golden Girl”:

WORLD athletics is in crisis over the gender of Caster Semenya after tests revealed the South African world champion has no womb or ovaries.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is ready to disqualify Semenya from future events and advise her to have immediate surgery because her condition carries grave health risks. They have also not ruled out stripping Semenya of her 800m world championships gold medal.

Hier kom kak.