START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
Oct 22, 2008

This is a new group I started. For some reason group invites don't work, so I'm doing a share instead. Please pass it on. All topics to do with Islam or interaction between Islam and the west are welcome.

Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Oct 22, 2008 8:10pm
Jan 9, 2007

How to make online debates interesting – for everyone

Have you ever noticed how on some forums the debate always ends up as a personal slanging match? This can kill a forum as it puts off newcomers. Eventually, even those who are interested give up trying to have a serious debate. The bottom line is, no-one really cares about your personal vendettas or the outcome of your epic battles. At best, they just find it amusing to watch people wind themselves up.

There are two main causes of this. If the moderators fail to enforce a reasonable code of conduct, or they show bias in the enforcement of it, then heated arguments will be inevitable. However, even if members mean well they can still end up in pointless battles because they are unfamiliar with a few common ‘logical fallacies.’ These are common lines of argument that appear to make sense on the surface, but are based on false assumptions and ignorance. I will outline the more common ones below.

If people do not realise that an opponent is using a logical fallacy, they tend to use the same argument to back up their point of view, then put considerable effort into finding ‘evidence’ to back up this argument, even though it doesn’t make sense. Either that, or they put considerable mental effort into countering an argument. This effort can make the argument appear even stronger by suggesting that it has some merit and is difficult to counter. Trolls take advantage of these situations – effectively taking advantage of people’s ignorance – because they are a shortcut to a heated debate.

Logical fallacies are often referred to by their latin name. Not only does this make you appear smarter than everyone else, it also saves a lot of time. For example, by simply passing of your opponents argument as an ad hominem, you are in effect saying that your opponent has failed to make a rational argument that is worth responding to. When people use these fallacies persistently, it can save a lot of effort to just drop the term, as you can avoid a lengthy argument with a fool. It also helps avoid the impression that you are just complaining about being called names and that you can’t stand the heat. Unfortunately, not everyone is familiar with these terms, so to avoid confusion (and sounding like a pratt), please refer people to this article if you are not familiar with them and think they may not understand you.

If an argument seems to go on forever even though it doesn't get personal, it is probably a result of failure to consider the assumptions (premises) behind each argument. People usually realise when a discussion has become pointless as it tends to get repetitive. At this point they often 'agree to disagree.' If the different sets of assumptions have been acknowledged and both are valid (ie, neither can be shown to be flawed) there is little point continuing. If the debate comes up again the participants can simply acknowledge the different assumptions rather than entering into another lengthy argument. Alternatively, people often 'agree to disagree' because they can't be bothered getting to the root of the disagreement. Many people fear this sort of scrutiny of their beliefs. If this is the case, the debate is likely to reappear and continue at a later date. Either that, or it can lead to the establishement of 'taboo' subjects, which are an interesting trap for newcomers. This outcome is more likely if the subject is not the main focus of the forum. Religion is a common taboo.

ad hominem

"You are an idiot, therefor you are wrong."

An ad hominem (short for argumentum ad hominem) is a personal attack. It is by far the most common logical fallacy encountered in online forums. It carries the assumption that by discrediting your opponent, you are also discrediting their argument. However, this would lead to the absurd situation that an argument is correct if one person uses it, and false if another uses it. Inexperienced debaters often fall for this and feel the need to defend their reputation against a troll, otherwise it will invalidate the point they are trying to make in the eyes of others.

An ad hominem is not always a logical fallacy. For example, if someone claims that their point of view on a technical issue carries more weight because they are a scientist then it would be reasonable to point out that they did not complete their PhD. It would not be reasonable to point out that they are divorced, or a socialist.

Merely insulting someone is not tehcnically an ad hominem unless it is done in a way that discredits their argumnet – however, it is still inappropriate.

The opposite fallacy to ad hominem is ‘appeal to authority,’ claiming that the good qualities of a person making an argument support that argument.

argumentum ad populum

“Everyone agrees with me, therefore I am right.”

This is frequently encountered by newcomers to a community of like minded people. Lots of members agree with their opponent, and their opponent claims that this is evidence that he is right. Alternatively, people can create ‘sock puppets,’ which are multiple accounts used to create the impression that others agree with them. Large corporations often create ‘dummy’ activist groups to make it look like their is grassroots support for their actions (also known as shilling or astro-turfing).

This argument is often used implicitly when people quote poll results on an issue. It can be extended to claim that because a person lives in a democracy (or even the ‘best democracy in the world&rsquo that the policies of it’s government are correct. This is also a ‘non-sequitor.’ that is, it just doesn’t follow. Living in a democracy does not mean that government policy is ‘correct.’ It is also the ‘fallacy of the single cause.’


This term probably comes from the middle ages, where people would build straw men to for military training. Strawmen are easy to defeat. In debates, people will often misrepresent the argument of their opposition, then gleefully shoot it down. Rather than explaining yourself again, just call it for what it is (provided of course you explained yourself clearly the first time).

People can set up sock puppets to pose as straw men. That is, creating a profile that disagrees with you, but makes such a poor argument that you ‘win’ the debate. Then you can point out to your detractors that you have already shown their argument to be lacking. You can even let someone else do the refuting, and just pass yourself of as ‘the enemy’ – a particularly stupid one.

McDonalds has made very good use of straw men in it's recent advertising campaign where it 'debunks' a lot of the cirticism made against it's 'food'. For example, they debunk the myth that they're burgers are not 100% beef (ie, no car parts or fertiliser), without addressing in any meaningful way the real issue of the fat content and quality of that beef.

false dichotomy

"If you don't agree with me, then you obviously believe this..."

This is similar to a strawman, but relies on a false assumption that there are only two choices on an issue. Those two choices can be general descriptions for the extremes of a continuum of views, or a simplification of a mutlidimensional issue (eg left vs right wing). A false dichotomy is often implicit in an argument that attempts to support a view by attacking an alternate view or comparing it with an alternate view. Other examples: "you are either with us or against us," "you don't support unregulated free market capitalism so you must be a communist," "you don't believe in evolution so you are a creationist."

appeal to emotion

This fallacy often crops up when discussing the cause of a disease or some other unfortunate situation. People will try to argue that those suffering are not responsible for the situation, or that something else (a company, a government, a chemical) is, by appealing to sympathy for the victims. They try to get you to agree with them by laying a guilt trip on you, with the implicit assumption being that you are 'adding salt to the wound' by disagreeing. Even if you are 'adding salt to the wound' that doesn't mean you are wrong or that you should capitulate out of sympathy. Effectively you would be agreeing to lie to people about the cause of their problem, thereby leading others into the same problem.

Appeals to emotion don't always rely on guilt or sympathy. For example someone can try to flatter you by telling you that you are smart or gifted because you are going along with them.

As an example, the peculiar fondness for 'battlers' that is so strong in Australian culture is getting in the way of progress towards sustainability by stigmatising those who point out the damage done by European farming practices to our environment or who suggest that farmers should be the first to cut back on water consumption during a drought merely because they use most of it and pay the least for it. It has lead our society to prop up unsustainable farming practices rather than allowing farmers to be forced to adapt to changing conditions.

argumentum ad consequentiam

If you are correct we are doomed, therefor you must be wrong.

An appeal to consequences is a form of appeal to emotion. It is an appeal to fear of the negative consequences of being correct. This one crops in most often in arguments about religion, with the implication being that because of the positive outcomes of religion, it must be true. The argument usually takes the form of the corollary - that an alternate world view must be wrong because it's consequences could be bad (eg leading inevitably to nihilism). From a logical perspective, this can be a valid reason not to discuss the matter if communal self delusion can avoid the negative consequences, though it is not a valid criticism of the argument itself. In more mundane situations the negative consequences are usually inevitable regardless of whether people believe it is coming. That is, they are the result of external factors rather than the result of a change in belief. In this situation self delusion is likely to worsen the consequences. For example, I have seen this argument used by fishermen to discourage discussion of the threats to a fishery and even to argue that someone promoting awareness of those threats must be wrong, because they do not like the solutions that are being offered.

reversing or misusing a correlation

90% of white people fall for this, so if you are white you should read this. I have pointed this fallacy out to some people repeatedly, but it rarely sinks in. As a simple example, imagine a man discovers that his daughter’s new boyfriend has a tattoo. He could point out that 95% percent of prison inmates have tattoos, which is technically correct. However, he would be hoping that his daughter would misinterpret this to mean that 95% of people with tattoos have been to prison.

correlation equals causation

This is a difficult one to counter because so many people are ignorant of the meaning of statistics. Even most scientists can have trouble with it. This is the root of the phrase “lies, damned lies and statistics” and is the reason why so many advertisements quote statistics.

Even if 95% of people with tattoos had been to prison, this may not be a reasonable grounds for suspicion, especially in a community where 95% of the population have tattoos. Furthermore, many people misinterpret a correlation whose ‘direction’ is understood correctly, to mean that one thing causes the other, ie that getting a tattoo causes someone to end up in prison, rather than prison life causing many inmates to end up with tattoos. This fallacy causes many problems in science.

This sort of argument is often used by animal liberationists to equate their cause with the fight against domestic violence or high homicide rates. They argue that domestic violence, or ending up in prison, is correlated with pet abuse, with the assumption being that abusing pets causes violence later in life. Taking it even further, they imply that that failing to prevent your child from pulling the wings of flies will cause your child to become a mass murderer, and it will be your fault. Not only is the correlation itself on shaky ground, but there are obvious 'confounding' factors that can cause both. It should come as no surprise that violent men will harm both pets and people, but this does not mean that the violence towards pets causes anything, or that successful animal liberation will prevent violence towards people.

This misinterpretation of statistics adds false weight to the cause of animal liberation. It is so deceptive because it is something that people want to believe. However, it is a double edged sword because it relies on and encourages ignorance – the same ignorance that is partly to blame for sexism, racism and many other ‘isms’. For example, it can often be shown that there is a difference in the average ability of different groups of people. However, this difference is very small compared to the variation within each group and it is foolish to place any weight on it – though it can be a valid explanation for why one group is over-represented at one extreme. However, it is usually a result of historical or cultural factors rather than innate ability or genetic factors.

enemy of your enemy is your friend

This can be a powerful, if dangerous, political tool. However, people often make the mistake of talking up the reputation of a particularly nasty historical figure because they have a common enemy. For example, people may try to argue that Saddam Hussein isn’t really such a bad guy because they vehemently oppose US foreign policy. They attribute the charges against him to some kind of conspiracy by the US, despite all the independent evidence behind it.

association fallacy

eg Some charities have been fraudulent. Therefore charities must be frauds.

absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

The absence of evidence in support of a claim is not necessarily evidence that the claim is wrong. Often it is just that the person you are arguing with does not have the evidence. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as laziness, ignorance, lack of access etc. However, the onus to find evidence should usually fall to the person making the claim.

best available explanation

This is most commonly used by supporters of the theory of evolution against a variety of claims. The fact that it is the 'best available' explanation is subjective to start with. Furthermore, it does not mean that the theory has scientific merit. Given the complete absence of scientific explanations for our origins it is a valueless claim in that context. This line of reasoning could for example be used by UFO enthusiasts to claim that any light in the sky is evidence of UFO's unless their opponent can give a full and immediate account of it's cause, much as evolutionists tend to use their ability to explain observations from an evolutionary perspective as evidence for evolution.

reductio ad hitlerum

The reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy is of the form "Adolf Hitler (or the Nazi party) supported X; therefore X must be evil". This fallacy is often effective due to the near-instant condemnation of anything to do with Hitler or the Nazis.

by freediver, 18,20/12/06

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Posted: Jan 9, 2007 5:35pm
Jan 2, 2007

I just finished adding a blog to it that I thought I should share here too - basically, it is an introductory guide to starting your own website. The original article is at

If you spend enough time discussing an issue on online forums and blogs you will eventually find that they don’t do justice to the effort you put in. The obvious next step is to start your own website. It is fairly cheap these days, and has the potential to make you money, though you shouldn’t give up your day job just yet. If you actually have something to sell direct to the public, or an organization to represent, even better. While there are a lot of good tutorials online, they don’t offer much broad perspective, which is what I hope to give here, ranging from advice for beginners to some of the more frustrating issues you may encounter.

It’s been a steep learning curve over the last few weeks and my primary motive for writing this article is to share what I’ve learnt before it got forgotten, so that I could save others the same problems. It was not my intention to give an exhaustive tutorial but to make you aware of what options are available and what to search for if you want to find out more. I have only gone into detail where I was not able to find useful information online.


If you are new to this, you should probably start with a free online blog or website. You supply the content and they take care of the technical stuff for you, but you do not get to choose your URL and they get all the advertising revenue. They may also put annoying popup ads on your site. A free website will tend to give you slightly more control over appearance etc than a blog, which is little better than a glorified forum/bulletin board. Most sites give you a subdomain of the form, where hostname is the name of the company hosting your site, and yourname is whatever you choose. I started out with a website like this for political issues relevant to recreational fishermen.


If you want to start a ‘real’ website, the first step is to choose your URL (web address). It is worth taking your time to choose a good one, as it can be hard to find one that isn’t taken. I think I was lucky to get The ‘brand name’ of a URL can be very valuable and it could cost you traffic if you decide to move somewhere more appropriate later on. A lot of potential URL’s are &lsquoarked’ which means that ‘speculators’ have bought it with the intention of selling it later for profit. If you get desperate you could always buy one. Alternatively, there are plenty of ‘extensions’ (eg .info) that have been created to give people or not-for-profit organizations access to cheap or free URL’s. If you hope to make money eventually, a .com or (or whatever your local .com is) is probably better as it is easier to remember, though you will have fewer options for short URL’s. I chose an American .com URL, even though this site is primarily targeted at Australians, because it is a lot cheaper than (less than AU$20/year). Hopefully it is also easie to remember.


The other cost you need to consider is the cost of hosting, which is actually more expensive than the URL. At the time of writing this site was hosted for just over AU$6/month. This can be shared between up to 4 different websites. The host stores the website files on a computer for you. The alternative is to host it on your own computer, but that would mean that it would have to be online all the time. More importantly, you would have to deal with hackers. Unless you really know what you are doing it is probably better to get the site hosted by someone else. The host does not own your site and you can move hosts at any time. The URL registration and hosting for this site was done through the same company.

Your next big decision is how to create your website. You can either write up the code yourself, or use software to create it for you. I went down the path of writing it up myself, but I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. If you are comfortable with any other programming language, then html will be a breeze for you. But if you aren’t technically inclined you are probably better off going with software that will write the code for you (if that is the case you might as well skip the next few sections). Writing the html yourself gives you far more control and flexibility. It may take a bit more time, but you can create pages of the same complexity as any software package. In addition, the files will be smaller and people will be able to browse your site faster. No matter how powerful, a software package will always limit your designs by limiting your ability to take advantage of the full range of html capabilities. By simplifying the process, they inevitably limit your options. You may become dependent on the software package you use, which may become obsolete one day.


For those who are only familiar with html programming or who are not experienced programmers, I will start with some basic tips that apply to all programming languages. First, remember that you don’t have to start from scratch. Find something that is similar to what you want and pinch the code from that. So long as you modify it significantly and have a final product that doesn’t look the same, then you haven’t done anything illegal or unethical. Even if you did start from scratch, it would be highly unlikely that you would end up with something that is not very similar to another product (in this case a website) that already exists.


To &lsquoinch’ the code from another site, got to view -> source and save the file somewhere. (Note that the instructions I give are for windows/IE systems. If you use a different system you should be able to figure it out. If all else fails look for the file in your temporary internet files.) Do a text search (edit -> find or ctrl-f) to find some text, then look outwards from there to find the code that controls it’s location and appearance. This is where you will probably see a problem caused by many software packages – they create a lot of useless code that is hard to understand. When I was creating the files for the Australian People’s Party section of this website, I wrote most of the files starting from the text provided by Stuart. However, I asked him to convert one of the later documents to html for me. He must have done it by getting MS word or some other package to convert a document to a html file. The file ended up being about 150kb in size. Not huge, but far bigger than necessary for a simple text file. I opened it up and deleted a large block of code from the header. This halved the size of the file without changing the appearance in any way.


If you are not fluent in html, or are a complete beginner, it would be a good idea to do an introductory course, even if just as a refresher. When I started out I knew some basics and had created simple web pages. I did the free course at, which has ‘test areas’ where they give you some sample code that does something interesting and allows you to change the code and view the effect by clicking a button – this is more convenient than editing a text file, then switching to a browser and refreshing. Keep in mind that html is designed to create pages that can be viewed on screens of various sizes and resolutions, so the appearance of a page is not fixed. It is always a good idea to check how a page looks on different screens after you have finished coding. This can be done by altering your screen resolution (minimse all open applications and right click on your desktop, choose properties -> settings).


When you get round to creating your own code, write it in notepad, with text wrap on (toggle this in the format menu). Have the same file open in internet explorer, and hit refresh each time you save the file. Make sure you specify a html extension when saving the file, and choose ‘all files’ rather than ‘.txt’ so it doesn’t add .txt to the end of the file extension. It may help to select notepad as the default program for opening html files. Do this by right clicking on the file, then selecting open with -> choose program and ticking ‘always use the selected program…’ before choosing notepad. This can be undone later.


I have already mentioned the text search feature in notepad. Most programs have the same feature. In addition, explorer (what you use to browse your PC if you have windows) has a handy search feature that allows you to search for files with a word in their name or containing certain text. This is handy for finding files in your temporary internet files folder, or where you have saved them on your hard drive.

As you write code, make regular backups. This isn’t just so you can go back to an old version if things go awry, it also helps you to debug (find errors). Get your hands on some software called araxis merge, or something similar (there is probably a freeware version available). This software allows you to open two files (say, your current buggy version and your most recent backup) and highlights the differences for you. You can then undo some of the changes (be careful you don’t lose your backup – it’s probably a good idea to create an extra backup of both files if you aren’t familiar with this process). Using this method, you can ‘re-impliment’ the changes one at a time until you locate the one that causes the error. This is much better than guesswork for difficult problems. This method prevents you from ever getting ‘completely stuck’ on a bug.


So, now you have the basic tools needed to start building your own webpage, either starting from scratch or by modifying someone else’s code. Make sure you use the title tag as that specifies the name that appears in the task bar and along the top of IE. Use the description meta tag to improve your ranking with search engines. Make sure you use the keywords from the description as often as possible in the body. Finally, use the robots meta tag to encourage or discourage search engines from listing your site. An example of these tags (from the ozpolitic home page) are given below. Until you start using external style sheets (see below) this is all you really need in the header () section of your html files.


Most programming languages are designed for instructing a computer to do a series of repetitive tasks. HTML was not designed with this in mind, however it becomes necessary when you start creating a website with many pages. There are aspects of the appearance, as well as text and links that will be common to all or most pages. There are different ways of handling this, depending on whether you want to replicate content (text and links) or style (colour, font, background etc). Styles are dealt with via external (cascading) style sheets (.css files) and content via javascripts (.js files).


A lot of the old html tags, such as the font tag, have been ‘deprecated.’ While they will probably continue to be recognized, the new system has big advantages. It allows you to define ‘styles’ that can be applied repeatedly throughout your html document without repeating numerous specifications. These styles can be defined within the html code in a similar manner to the old font specification, in the header section of your html document, or in an external file. The external file is a useful option if you have multiple pages with similar features. You can specify fonts, background colours, background images, padding, borders, text alignment etc. Then, by changing a single file, you can alter those properties throughout every page on your site. The file extension is .css, which stands for cascading style sheet. This refers to the way that specifications within your code take precedence over specifications in the header, which take precedence over the specifications in your external style sheet. This means you can override some or all of the styles at a local level, on a case-by-case basis.


Java scripts are similar to C code and allow you to add ‘dependencies’ in your page. For example, you can make a greeting dependent on the local time of a person browsing your site. Though it was not their original intention, you can also use javascripts to handle content (text and links) that is repeated throughout your site. For example, the links down the left hand side of this page, the links in the header, the copyright text in the footer and all of the ads are specified in separate .js files, and each html file calls those javascripts. I can now add a link on the left of every page in this site by changing a single file.

You can encounter problems when you get javascripts to refer to other javascripts, and I am yet to come across a satisfactory explanation for this. It is probably something to do with the fact that this was not the intended purpose of a javascript. By using a javascript in this manner, you are effectively inserting more html code into each html file. There is an alternative way to do this – by using top

There are several websites that will convert html to javascript for you, or you can do it manually.


When you start dealing with multiple pages, chances are you will have the same image appearing in them, and you will also start using subfolders. This is a good time to start using absolute references. An example:

Local: OzPolitic logo
Absolute: OzPolitic logo

The files on this site that start with are contained in a folder on the host server called gardening, and also in a folder called gardening on my PC when I am doing offline development. Local referencing can be used to refer to files from a different folder, provided they always stay in the same relative position (for example, ‘go up two folders then look in the images folder’ would look like ../../images/ozpolitic.jpg). When you start having multiple sub folders, and sub-sub-folders, the relative position will not always be the same. This is true even if the image is called from a single javascript file, because the browser takes the position to be relative to the html file, not to the javascript file that it calls. For this situation absolute referencing is needed. This makes it harder to wok completely offline because the pages try to load images from the web.

The reference to the OzPolitic logo, and all the links down the left hand side and in the header at the top of the page, are all contained in javascript files that use absolute references, so that they will work from anywhere. The photos in the gardening section, which only appear on one page each, are referenced locally, directly from the html file.

Advantages of local referenceing: easier, especially for offline development, html file and image can both be moved into a different folder without changing the html code Advantages of absolute referencing: multiple pages from different locations can include the same image or link via a javascript.


One of the most frustrating tasks I encountered was trying to get curved corners on the tabs:

The problem is that html only allows one background image. With .css files you can go a step further and have a background image for each section (eg, one for each

tag). However, this is still not good enough as four different images are required. The width of each tab varies depending on the amount of text it contains, so you cannot simply have one background image that contains all four curved corners. The height may also vary, for example if I decide to change the text font (or if a user’s browser does something different with the font). Apparently the next version of html or style sheets will get around this by adding a function to create the rounded corners. However this is likely to take some time to come into general usage. It also may not be flexible enough to handle all the different things people may want to do with multiple background images.

Eventually I came up with a technique that worked. I had come across vague references to it, but not anything that works. You will find the code for it in the header-xxxx.js files, where the xxxx varies depending on which section of the site you are in. Let’s take the example for the picture shown above. I will convert from the javascript back to html:

  • Home

  • You can view the javascript files (eg header-home.js) and the ozstyles.css file by entering the following URLs into your browser:

    If given the option, save the file to your hard drive and then open it in notepad.

    The code above is a series of five list (

  • ) tags. Usually you only need one for each of the links in the header, however for the ‘current’ section you need the extra four tags – one for each curved corner. Each ‘class’ statement refers to a section in the ozstyles.css file. The ‘headerlink3’ class tells the browser to put each list item on the same line, rather than creating the default bullet point list. Within each list tag is a link () tag. Only the central one contains a working link, with a class ‘headerlinkcurrent’. In the css file, this class is given the lighter background colour with the darker text. The other four link tags are included to make use of the references to classes in the css file. The four different classes: headerlinkleftlow, headerlinkleft, headerlinkright and headerlinkrightlow each specify a different background image. Each image is a small square with one curved corner. The curve is in a different location in each image and the background colour is light for the two central sections and dark for the outer two. The .css file specifies where to place the image – the bottom left, the top right etc. It also specifies the different background colours – light for the inner two and dark for the outer two – and the top and bottom padding. Finally, there is a span () tag within each of the four extra link tags. The ‘headerlinkcurrent’ tag specifies no padding on the left and right of the text. The span tags specify (via a class) the width of each section containing the curves, so that the two sections on each side of the text have the same width as the padding on the left and right of the other links in the header.

    No doubt you are a bit confused by all this. I posted the actual code because I could not find a working example posted online anywhere and it took a lot of experimentation to get it working well. To try it out, copy the ozstyles.css file, the header-home.js file and the index.html file to a folder on your hard drive. Edit the relevant sections of the .css file on your hard drive until you get a feel for how it works.


    Even if your primary motive is advocacy or politics, you can still offset the cost of your site with advertising – if the cost is a concern for you.

    At the time of writing, roughly 6 weeks after I launched this website, I had only made AU$1.09 from the google ads which are hosted here, via 9 ‘clickthroughs’. I have no idea whether this is a competitive rate as the income from each click is highly variable (from 2c to 40c), and neither google nor it’s competitors advertise rates. In any case, there isn’t much point to setting up advertising until you get a reasonable number of visitors. It may even work against you by putting people off and diverting traffic away from your site. Pop-ups should certainly not be used. By the time you get enough traffic to make advertising worthwhile, you may be able to attract enough interest to negotiate advertising directly. If you do decide to use google ads, please sign up for the scheme via the ‘referral ad’ under the vertical banner ad on the right of this page, so that I get a kickback (it won’t affect your earnings). One advantage that google (and the competing schemes) have is that they can negotiate ‘targeted ads’ based on the content of each page on your site. Businesses bid competitively for ads on your site (or more likely, on sites that contain certain key words) and can also bid based on the location of your visitors, so a visitor in America sees a different ad to one in Australia. All this means higher rates from advertisers who wouldn’t normally bother talking to you, though google obviously gets a big cut.


    You should get easy access to forums, blogs and many other features through the control panel provided by your hosting service. These can be installed at the click of a button. If you don’t have such access, there are plenty of freeware packages available that you simply upload onto your site. I do not have enough experience with these to recommend any in particular. The yabb forum here works fine, but they have not got a good anti-spam package yet. I suspect that spam is a fairly new problem on yabb boards. In any case, it sounds like the next version will have good functions for reducing spam, and there are plenty of hacks for reducing spam on the current version. I have recently added a hack that creates an error when new members or guests post URL’s. I have had no spam at all since.

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    Posted: Jan 2, 2007 1:07am
    Sep 12, 2006
    There are so many ways in which people can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They can change spending habits and buy different types of products. They can buy the same type of product, but choose ones that have a lower carbon cost. They can switch off lights when they aren't using them. Industry can use electricty, heat etc more efficiently. They can completely change how things are made. They can fix leaks in the compressed air system. They can decentralise to reduce transport requirements. Buildings can be made far more energy efficient at little or no extra cost. Electricity production can change too. Carbon could be sequestered. Waste heat can be recaptured. Transmission efficiency can be improved. They can switch to alternative sources.

    All these options. How could the government possibly know which is cheapest, and how could they possible mandate change effectively? They can't. It shouldn't be up to the government to figure that out. It should be up to the government to ensure people consider the full cost of their decisions, and they should let all the economic forces drive the most efficient changes.

    You can bet that the cheapest changes wouldn't be more wind trubines and it won't be people switching their cars to gas, both of which are being heavily subsidised in Australia. There are far cheaper ways to reduce emissions.

    Green Tax Shift


    sign the petition:
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    Posted: Sep 12, 2006 11:37pm
    Aug 23, 2006
    A Green Tax Shift is a way to address global warming, create jobs, save the environment, strengthen our economy and reduce our dependence on middle eastern oil, all at the same time. For greenhouse emissions, it could involve reducing income tax for low income earners and increasing the tax on coal (=electricity), oil, gas, beef, milk and cement. The increase in tax on each product would depend on the amount of greenhouse emissions from it. The decrease in income tax would be set so that government revenue was unchanged. Income tax at the low end would be the best option for the decrease because it would result in the least change in the distribution of wealth and would create more jobs. Petrol will not bear the brunt of the price increases because it causes only a small fraction of our greenhouse emissions.

    This method of reducing greenhouse emissions is preferred by economists. If you consider the negative impacts of global warming to have real economic value (ie, would people pay to get rid of them?) then it will actually strengthen the economy. This is because not charging companies for the right to pollute is effectively subsidising pollution.

    A green tax shift is better than carbon trading because society is effectively renting out the right to pollute, rather than giving the rights away for free. It allows you to reduce other taxes to offset the increase in the price of petrol etc, rather than just having an increase in price with the extra money going to oil companies. It is also the more moral choice, because the right to clean air should rest first and foremost with the public, rather than the right to pollute resting with companies.

    A Green Tax Shift is more flexible, as the taxes can be adjusted as is necessary or as more information about global warming becomes available. Overtaxing slightly will not harm the economy as it will just be an alternative form of revenue raising. Carbon trading may require governments to buy back emissions rights at hugely inflated prices (= profits for greenhouse emitters). Or, as is currently the case, the emissions rights may become worthless due to minor adjustments made by industry that have a big impact on effiency, or other changes that limit industrial activity in participating countries.

    A Green Tax Shift does not require international agreements because it does not place a country at a competitive disadvantage.

    Green Tax Shift

    Read the statement of economic consensus:

    sign the petition:

    A follow-up share:
    Visibility: Everyone
    Posted: Aug 23, 2006 5:40pm
    Jul 30, 2006
    I often see care2 members in unresolvable battles over percieved slights going back for years. Part of the reason for this is that there has never been a place for open debate about what is acceptable behaviour on care2. The admin promote the COC, yet leave it completely open to interpretation. Many people misinterpret it badly. The admin then don't allow us to discuss it on F&S, and the misinterpretation never gets resolved - it just leads to hostility for which the root cause is never brought out. We need a place where we can look at these issues in detail in a responsible manner. Here it is.

    Ethics in Progressivism

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    Posted: Jul 30, 2006 8:23pm
    May 28, 2006
    Visibility: Everyone
    Posted: May 28, 2006 5:58pm
    Mar 13, 2006
    Focus: Government
    Action Request: Think About
    Location: United States
    We need some form of global government to deal with the following issues:

    • fishing, boat traffic and piracy in international waters
    • extraction of fresh water from rivers that cross national boundaries
    • cross-border pollution, especially air pollution
    • peacekeeping
    • control of multinational companies, especially in poor nations that do not have an adequate government to prevent exploitation of citizens
    • etc (please add to this list)

    Such a government will probably arise out of the UN. I imagine a senate style government with representatives from each country, where the voting power held by each member is proportional to the number of people they represent - provided there is a functioning democratic structure that put them in place.

    Eventually we could move on to a system with a number of members from each of the larger countries (roughly proportional to population) and a minimum of one member from smaller countries. This would require that the members from larger countries be directly elected rather than appointed by their respective national government.

    Currently there is nothing to stop large businesses going into third world countries, extracting resources and not paying a fair amount to the citizens of that country, who ultimately own the resource. All they have to do is pay (bribe) the local government or militia enough.

    Visibility: Everyone
    Posted: Mar 13, 2006 7:34pm
    Mar 5, 2006
    Focus: Environment
    Action Request: Write E-Mail
    Location: Australia
    We have a tax reform coming up in Australia. This is a significant opportunity for us to deal with greenhouse emissions, water usage etc. Please read this letter I just submitted, and submit one of your own:

    Dr Mr Costello

    re: Tax reform

    I support moves to reduce the total tax burden on Australia. I would like you to introduce a Green Tax Shift (GT with the upcoming tax reform and also take the opportunity to remove damaging subsidies.

    As per the philosophy behind a GTS, the income from these taxes should be offset by reduction in income and other taxes. Failing to tax a negative externality such as CO2 emissions is an effective subsidy as society must bear the costs associated with the emissions. Thus green taxes represent no net burden to the economy as they are removing an effective subsidy. The opportunity they present for reducing taxes on environmentally and socially benign activities – such as employment – represent a huge and underappreciated lost potential. A GTS can be implemented alongside whatever reform option you choose.

    A GTS is preferable to a carbon trading scheme in which emissions rights are given away for free. This implies that industry has the right to pollute and we do not have the right to clean air. Giving away these rights for free would be a huge subsidy and a huge loss to society. Furthermore, they should be rented in the form of a tax instead of sold. This is the only way to keep a mechanism for changing emissions levels as we get a better understanding of the greenhouse effect. State governments made a mistake when they gave away commercial fishing rights last century and society is now having to pay to buy them back.

    Most Australians support efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. However, far fewer are prepared to do so on their own accord at significant personal expense while still putting up with emissions from other people. We are all in this together and a GTS allows everyone to adjust their lifestyle as is necessary. Furthermore a GTS is the only way of enabling consumers to find out the true cost of all products they purchase and is the most economically efficient way to reduce emissions.

    Damaging subsidies, such as all subsidies to fossil fuel industries and farming should be abolished – including drought relief. No established industries or technologies should receive subsidies.

    Petrol and diesel taxes should cover the full cost of road construction and maintenance. Petrol consumption is the best indicator of wear and damage to roads. Petrol taxes should replace ‘fixed charges’ such as vehicle registration and licence fees.

    In addition, petrol should be taxed at a rate high enough to get consumers to consider the negative impact of CO2 emissions to society. This will not only affect consumers at the bowser, but will also make the price of all goods reflect the true cost to society of emissions. CO2 emissions at power plants and factories should be charged at an equivalent rate. Beef production should also be taxed according to the emissions produced by cattle. This can be refunded for exported beef until our competitors do the same.

    Water should be charged for at the same rate across whole catchment areas. Farmers, householders and industry should be charged the same amount. The price should be increased enough to restore significant natural flows to our waterways. The recreational and environmental value, and the value to our fisheries of healthy flows should be taken into account.

    The tax on tobacco should be doubled. The tax on alcohol should be increased if consumption is still relatively inelastic to price. Marijuana should be legalised and regulated like tobacco, and taxed to buggery.

    More discussion:

    My group on green taxes:
    Green Tax Shift
    Visibility: Everyone
    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted: Mar 5, 2006 9:01pm
    Feb 19, 2006
    Focus: Election
    Action Request: Think About
    Location: United States
    The American electoral system is flawed because of the vote counting system used. Under the current 'first past the post' vote counting system:

    1) A candidate can lose an election even if he is the majority favourite (the spoiler effect)

    2) People do not feel they can vote for who they really want (strategic voting). In order to avoid the spoiler effect they feel they should instead vote for one of the two major parties.

    Strategic voting destroys the chances of 'third parties,' which leaves the two major parties without adequate competition. Rather than competing on a level playing field they are only competing against each other. It is then easy for both major parties to accpet bribes from the same interest groups. The artificially reinforced two party duopoly is the main reason why American political leaders are so slow to respond to the will of the people.

    There are simple ways to eliminate these problems, such as instant runoff voting, that do not fundamentally change the system of representation, that do not involve computerised voting and do not introduce any other problems.

    Find out more here:

    Visibility: Everyone
    Posted: Feb 19, 2006 5:12pm


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