Saturday, July 21, 2018

Too stupid to work at Disney

I knew nothing of the background of director/writer James Gunn, who has no doubt made millions out of his involvement in the very successful Guardians of the The Galaxy series.    Hence, I didn't know that he made silly low budget comedy horror before getting going up the Hollywood eco-system to the heights of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.   I suppose this background gives some basis for believing he does really like bad taste humour.

But....what I can't comprehend about him is that he would not think until now that, if you're going to work for Disney and Marvel, it might be a good idea to go and delete some offensively un-funny tweets about underage sex and masturbation, made not when he was a stupid teenager or young adult, but in his 40's.  (??)

Cernovich is a moron conspiracist who thinks this proves Pizzagate, but this was like wingnut manna from heaven for him, and honestly, what else could Disney do but sack the guy?   At least Gunn has accepted the sacking as his own fault and a not unreasonable thing for Disney to do.   Maybe he accepts he is just too stupid to work for the company.

And, even for allowing that the tweets are out of context which might show (say) a poor taste string of escalating outrageousness, there are still going to be lots of people really wondering about him and what's going on in his head, 'cos no one gets to do bad taste paedophile jokes more than once or twice without people wondering why you would keep making jokes about it.

* (Readers may recall, I really liked the first movie, but found the second underwhelming.  They were the funniest characters in Infinity War, however.)

Friday, July 20, 2018

Two peas in a pod

A good piece in the Washington Post, talking about why Trump gets on with Putin.  Sounds very convincing:
When they emerged after more than two hours in private Monday at their summit in Helsinki, President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin indulged in some of their favorite conspiracy theories. Trump spoke of “the Pakistani gentleman,” echoing false right-wing media reports about a Democratic IT worker, and reprised the debunked theory that the Democratic National Committee withheld its servers — and critical information — from law enforcement. Putin went down the George-Soros-as-puppet-master rabbit hole and claimed, falsely, that a London-based antagonist of his had given Hillary Clinton $400 million. Predictably, the two agreed that the narrative of Russian meddling in the 2016 election — supported by a body of evidence that seems to swell by the day — could not possibly be true because, as Trump said, “I don’t see any reason why it would be.” (Of course, he insisted the next day that he’d meant to say the exact opposite.) Putin gave Trump a soccer ball commemorating the World Cup, but the two may as well have exchanged tinfoil hats.

The summit had official Washington in shock for days, seeking some explanation for Trump’s refusal yet again to confront, or even criticize, Putin. Whatever it may have shown about Russian kompromat or Trump collusion, at a deeper level the meeting was even more revealing. Putin, it turns out, is no longer alone in the world. After years of churning out fabulist explanations for Russian actions that always exonerate the Russian government, the Kremlin has finally found a willing audience for Putin’s version of reality: the leader of the free world.

“It’s hard for me to imagine their conversation,” says political consultant Gleb Pavlovsky, who served as a Putin adviser during his first decade in power. “They’re both very strange people.”

Putin’s government has long insisted that its actions are not to blame for the sad state of the Russian-American relationship — not Russia’s grant of asylum to Edward Snowden, not its annexation of Crimea, not the war in eastern Ukraine, not the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the deaths of the 298 people on board, not the mix of indiscriminate bombing of Syrian cities and targeted strikes on aid convoys trying to help them, not the support for far-right candidates in Europe. And certainly not the hacking of the U.S. presidential election in order to kneecap Hillary Clinton and boost Trump.

Whenever he is confronted with these allegations, Putin demands proof. When he is given proof, he claims it is fake. Anything that proves him to be at fault is publicly labeled a provocation — Russian for “fake news” — and anything that proves him innocent is truth, no matter how baffling, bizarre or downright impossible.

And now, the Kremlin has a U.S. president whose understanding of truth aligns so well with the Russian one that it’s become increasingly difficult to tell them apart. On his way to meet Putin in Helsinki, Trump tweeted what Russians have long insisted: This state of affairs is all Barack Obama’s fault. “It’s nice to hear that Obama is at fault for everything,” Pavlovsky says of how the tweet went down in Moscow.
Read the rest of it.

Libertarians and the Strong Man

We all know wingnut, culture war conservatives are presently readily aroused by the idea of a Strong Man - their sympathy and excuse making for Putin being the obvious case.    Psychologically, their fondness for him is at least partially explained by his social conservatism - what other world leader can they point to who's not shy to label homosexuals as risky wannabe paedophiles and runs a country where gang bashings of gays is still a thing?   (The other Right wing Strong Man who gives the nod to extra judicial killing - Duterte - has decided to actually side with gays against the Church!)   But apart from that,  the appeal is surely tied up with being on the losing side of culture war generally, and identifying with someone who just gets his way and doesn't have to give a damn what anyone else thinks about him.    The appeal of the authoritarian, in other words.   They see that in Trump, too, and that's what they like about him:  his gives them permission to be obnoxious jerks, and not worry about facts. 

But what about libertarians?   Rand Paul - whose insipid looks and manner has always made me puzzled as to how he has electoral appeal to anyone - is a high profile libertarian who is the only Senator actually bending over backwards to defend Trump's obvious fondness for Putin.  Allahpundit writes, amusingly:
Rand Paul’s spent the past 72 hours doggedly defending Trump’s outreach to Putin to anyone who asks, going so far as to block a resolution by Bernie Sanders(!) aimed at Russia. Let me rephrase: Paul is more nervous about alienating Moscow than a guy who honeymooned in the Soviet Union. You can read Sanders’s summary of his resolution for yourself right here. There’s nothing bizarrely anti-Trump in it to the effect that he’s a secret Russian agent, as you might expect from Paul’s invocation of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” at the start of the clip below. All it says is that the Senate accepts the IC’s verdict that Russia interfered, that Mueller should be allowed to finish his investigation and Trump should cooperate with it, and that the sanctions passed by Congress should be fully implemented. That’s what has Paul on the brink of an aneurysm. Why?
Allahpundit muses on why Paul is doing this, and comes up with one theory (to do with machinations about whether he really supports Trump's new Supreme Court pick), but I am more interested in the whole libertarians and Strong Men psychology thing.    You see it at Catallaxy quite a bit - for a supposedly libertarian blog, and libertarians' generally isolationist instincts,  it features military conquest routinely as a visual theme.  And, as is often easily observed, wingnut discourse on the internet over the last several years has been dominated by violence in language - their latest hero is always said to have "crushed", "destroyed" (or worse) their Lefty opposition.   

Of course, any libertarian who claims influence from Ayn Rand has her as an example to follow - her embarrassing fetish worship of rape-y Strong Men who know what's wrong with the world and forcefully get their way with women and society (or bunk out if frustrated by the dumb bureaucracy who pretty much deserve to die in a train wreck) is well known.  

But even others who don't seem so influenced by her - does Nassim Taleb, for example? - still have a fondness for the Strong Man - is it simply the case that anyone who aligns with pretty fringe politics, or has an over inflated ego, can't help but have grudging admiration for the ruthless Strong Man leader who gets just gets things done his way? 

It's a bit weird, if you ask me....


Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Festival of the Sardine

Guess where the can of Brunswick sardines (with chilli pepper) I just ate for lunch was from?  

I was surprised. 

I've spent some time rating sardines before at this blog, and I see that other people like to discuss sardine preferences in on line forums.

Why did I try Brunswick brand again?   I reported here that I thought they were awful, even though from nice, clean Canada.   This time, the sardines were supposed to be premium, skinless ones with chilli, as are my favourite brand (Santamaria, from Portugal.)  I assumed that they would still be from Canada.   So I gave them a try.

The verdict:  not bad.  Perhaps not quite chilli enough, but pretty good.  On some toast with avocado.

But then I checked the box, and it turns out they are from - Morocco!

Since when did Morocco have a sardine canning industry?   Well, now that I Google it, apparently Morocco claims to be "world leader" in sardine production:

Speaking at the first edition of “Festival of Sardine”, celebrated from August 27 to 31 simultaneously in five beaches of the kingdom (Al Hoceima, Martil, Agadir-Taghazout, Dakhla and Mehdia), Aziz Akhannouch said that Morocco is the world leader in the production of sardines, “with nearly 57% of national fish production.”
The minister said that Morocco currently has seven wholesale markets, 22 ports of fish, 22 halls and units for industrial fish.
The Minister proudly hailed the achievements of Morocco in this area, noting that “sardines have always occupied a special place in the eating habits of Moroccans in terms of their nutritional value and the price that is at the reach of all segments of society.”
 There - you can learn something new about sardines every day.

A simple point about My Health Record

I haven't been following the argument all that closely, but I would not be alone in getting the impression, from listening to privacy protection advocates and others who were saying people should opt out of the Commonwealth's My Health Record, that once you were in it, everything about your medical treatment had to, and would, go into the record.  Hence, the risk was that sensitive infomation that might hurt careers or relationships (you know, STD test results, abortions, drug addiction) would all be in one easy place for hackers or a malevolent arm of the government to find and use against you.

It was not until this morning, and on FM breakfast radio of all things (I was driving a teenager to school) that I understood that patients can ask to not have sensitive matters entered on it.   I then flipped over to a Radio National discussion of the scheme, and was frustrated that no one there confirmed that very simple and pertinent point.

So, it's up to me to check on line, and yes, here's a part of the government's website explaining to doctors how this works:
Under the My Health Records Act 2012, healthcare provider organisations are authorised to upload information to the My Health Record System. This means that, subject to the situations described below, there is no requirement for a healthcare provider to obtain consent on each occasion prior to uploading clinical information. There is also no requirement for a healthcare consumer to review clinical information prior to it being uploaded.

It may be considered good clinical practice to advise a patient that you will be uploading information to their My Health Record, particularly if this information might be considered sensitive. This approach is recommended by the Australian Medical Association in its guide to using the My Health Record system (section 4.5).

Situations where documents should not be uploaded

If a healthcare consumer specifically asks a healthcare provider organisation not to upload particular documents or information to their My Health Record, the healthcare provider organisation must comply with the person’s request. This is a condition of your organisation’s registration with the My Health Record system. You can advise the patient about the potential risks of excluding information from their My Health Record and explain the benefits of ensuring all information is included. However, you must comply with their final decision, and not upload the information, if this is requested.

I am a bit puzzled as to why the government is not making this a very clear point whenever they are defending the "opt out" nature of it.

Repeat after me, Minister:   "Yes it is a system you can opt out of overall - but you will be missing many potential benefits.   But also - you can opt out of it on a case by case basis - if you have a condition for which you want maximum privacy, just tell your doctor not to upload it onto your record and they must comply."



Trump, Putin and NATO

 Allahpundit at Hot Air has a post about Trump's weird grudge against NATO, in the context of a Fox News interview.  First:
The U.S. doesn’t pay 90 percent of Europe’s defense costs, contra what Trump says. It pays 22 percent of NATO’s budget, which is still more than it should but the true figure undermines the resentment at NATO that he’s trying to nurture by implying that nearly all costs are borne by U.S. taxpayers. The Europeans are total free-riders! They aren’t. They ride at a deep discount, and he’s right to want to change that, but collectively they provide the bulk of NATO funding.
And the interview brought up the matter of new NATO member Montenegro (brought in under Trump's presidency even), and Carlson and Trump worry that this might be a bad thing. As Allahpundit writes:

The strangest part, though, is Trump’s aside about Montenegrins being “very aggressive.” He tries to frame that as a positive thing, explaining it as a matter of strength — they’re a strong people, therefore “aggressive.” (It’s interesting that he’d conflate those two concepts.) But the point he’s trying to make is negative, that because Montenegro is allegedly so aggressive, you never know whether they might make a move on one of their neighbors, thereby embroiling the U.S. in the conflict under the NATO treaty. Again: This is a country of less than a million people that sought NATO membership for one reason, to protect itself from invasion by the nuclear superpower Russia. (Russia’s already tried more subtle ways of interfering there.) The idea of Montenegro getting “aggressive” with Moscow is farcical, the sort of thing you can imagine Putin mentioning in his meeting with Trump just to see if Trump would bite on it and repeat it. That’s not to say that’s what happened, but it is to say that the only place you’d see the idea of Montenegrin aggression treated semi-seriously is on Russian state TV.  

And what's with all of the self-contradiction anyway (a hallmark of the Trump presidency in all respects, not just NATO):

Which leaves you to wonder: What’s the point of him complaining publicly about it all the time without doing anything meaningful to withdraw from it? If he wants to complain privately about costs but defend the alliance publicly, that’s understandable. (Commendable, I’d say.) If he wants to withdraw altogether, that’d be disastrous for Europe and longer-term for the U.S. but at least there’d be clarity about his policy. And it’d give Europe some time to make alternate plans about mutual defense, whether via “NATO without the U.S.” or some new alliance. Hinting constantly, though, that he’s not really committed to NATO while remaining formally involved and supportive is provocative insofar as it invites Putin to test his resolve. What would happen if Russia made a move on Montenegro? Would Trump refuse to honor America’s Article 5 obligations? I doubt Merkel and Macron and May feel confident that they know the answer. How do you plan for defense under those circumstances? Or is that the point — that Trump’s trying to make NATO untenable in its current form due to uncertainty and hoping that other members will exit before he does? That seems to be his approach with problematic personnel like Jeff Sessions, hoping he can make life miserable enough for them that they’ll quit before he fires them. Maybe it’s his foreign policy approach too.

I think that is pretty good commentary, for a conservative!

Over at Vox, meanwhile, Alex Ward writes Trump Somehow Still Doesn't Understand NATO:
Trump said that if Montenegro got aggressive with another country, presumably Russia, then World War III would break out because the US would be obligated to defend it, thus dragging the US into a major war with Russia. 

What Trump misses is that the US doesn’t have to defend Montenegro if that country starts a fight, only if it’s attacked. NATO is a defensive treaty. If you start an unprovoked war, that’s your decision, and no one in NATO has to help you at all.

So even if Montenegrins were, as Trump said, “very aggressive people” — whatever the hell that means — the US wouldn’t have to lift a finger to help them.

The fact that Trump doesn’t seem to understand that is beyond disturbing. If this were his first day in office, maybe it would be understandable. But it’s not. Trump has been in office for a year and a half. He’s met with NATO allies as a group not once but twice — including spending two days straight talking to them just a week ago. 

There is no reason why he shouldn’t have that down pat at this point.


The very stable genius song

This is probably the funniest Randy Rainbow parody song I've ever seen:



(The Trump "very stable genius" quip sort of got swamped for attention by all of the other appalling things he's been doing and saying lately.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

In search of ancient bread

A short article at Nature tells me that the oldest bread ever found is this old:
The flatbreads’ ingredients include wild wheat, barley and other grains, as well as a type of wild tuber. At more than 14,000 years old, the bread is the oldest known. It pre-dates agriculture, which emerged in roughly the same region, by about 4,000 years. For Shubayqa’s residents, bread — which required laborious milling and grinding — was probably a delicacy rather than a staple.
Speaking of bread, I've become quite the fan of good quality sourdough from small bakeries - especially when used for toast the day after it is bought.   

First class boring

Gee, Sinclair Davidson is up to three five (!) tedious posts now complaining about an RMIT fact check of claims made by him and Berg in their book calling for the ABC to be literally given away.   (A nutty suggestion I would love to see the Liberals adopt as an election platform.)

He's still complaining about the ABC (and RMIT) pointing out Berg's IPA connection, when he's actually paid by RMIT now.

Yess - I mean it's not as if the IPA is helping promote the book at all.  Last time I looked, it was thoroughly ignoring the idea, like this: 


Anyway, bore away, Sinclair.   It keeps you away from other problematic ideas, like the Keynesian response to the GFC causing stagflation.   (Incidentally, maybe ABC cuts have something to do with it, because the link in my 2013 post about it no longer works.  Lucky I cut and pasted it, hey!)

The misspoke President

No one sensible believes him, and within a few years, possibly sooner, some staffer will leak or write a memoir about the discussions in the White House about how to come up with some excuse and this was the one they settled on.  

Pathetic how the GOP will seize on it as an excuse to just keep putting up with him.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The gullible, gullible playthings of Putin

So, all Putin has to do is make a claim that US intelligence helped get dirty money ($400 million worth!) to Hillary Clinton's campaign, and the dumbest gay man on the planet, Jim Hoft, repeats it and it's being believed by hundreds of thousands of conspiracy loving Trumpkins around the world.

Never mind that there appears to be no basis at all for believing that Putin's claim is true.

Their openness to any and all conspiracy claims (except any about Trump - the one whose secrecy about tax makes him the most likely politician caught up in dubious finances) is just the hallmark of gullible Trump cult worship.


Has Trump lost Newt? (Probably only for 24 hours)

Ha!   The execrable Newt Gingrich has tweeted a demand that Trump "clarify his statements" on US intelligence services and Putin, and correct them, immediately, and he has 16,000 comments following.   Quite a few are just saying "it's simple - it's treason", but I am more amused about those  wingnuts accusing him of going over to the "Deep State".  

Maybe they'll have to be a civil war, but amongst the Right, hey Tim?


The disingenuous (or just dumb?) Tim Blair

Tim Blair has become the Nelson Muntz of Right wing punditry: never, ever tiring of going "ha ha" at any Lefty (or, especially - obsessively - Jonathan Green), and then getting on with his cheery outlook on the world in which motor sports is more important that just about anything else.

But really, sometimes I just can't work out if it is disingenousness or increasing stupidity which is more at work in some of his commentary.   Take today's column, wherein he notes that on his recent American trip, people were just getting on with life, without obsessing about Trump every day.   In particular, this:
Anyone who has not visited the US since Trump’s hilarious 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton might be surprised by the utter absence there of Trump in daily life. Everyday Americans are mostly just getting on with things, as normal, non-obsessive people tend to do. The apparent civil war we keep hearing about just isn’t happening.
The problem here is that those links to "civil war" are to articles in what Blair would call unreliable Left wing magazines - Newsweek and the New Yorker.   So he's suggesting that it's the Left that's been beating up the matter of America at risk of a new civil war??

How absolutely ridiculous, or just plain dumb, of him to ignore that the tsunami of paranoia about the Deep State plotting against Trump and the need of patriot Americans to be armed and ready to take out the wannabe usurpers of the last great hope for America (Trump) has been a ground swell building during the Obama presidency (he was about to stealthily disarm them, remember, and was a secret foreign Muslim not even entitled to the office)  that has gone mainstream at Fox News under a genuine conspiracy believing, dumbass President and a huge chunk of GOP congress persons.   


The civil war fantasies have arisen entirely from the paranoid streak on the wingnut Right of American politics, and just because some Left wing journalists note it does not mean they are responsible for promoting it.

In reality, like a lot of Australian Right wingers, Blair probably doesn't really care for Trump as a person, but their culture war attitude means that they will either defend him against all evidence, or (as in Blair's case) do another  Nelson Muntz and go "ha ha, look at how he drives Lefties nuts".   

It is a deeply irresponsible attitude, just as his is on (yes, but it's true) climate change.   "Ha ha, I can ignore science because it drives Lefties nuts.   Ha ha."

Waiting for the Fox News spin

I'm curious as to what Rupert Murdoch wants done re the disastrous* reception of the Trump "well, I think I can trust Putin more than my own advisers and intelligence agencies" Helsinki press conference.  [It also means he doesn't trust other allies intelligence either:
Damian Collins, a Conservative member of parliament in the U.K. who is leading a parliamentary inquiry into Russia’s use of social media and tech companies to influence the Brexit vote, was blunt: “To deny the existence of evidence linking Russia to disinformation and interference is to say to countries that are the victim of this that they are on their own,” he said. Collins added that the world had seen “odd messages” from Trump over the last week. “On the one hand, Trump has said, ‘spend more on security,’ and ‘the influence of Russia on your country is too great.’” (Trump slammed Germany during last week’s NATO summit in Brussels, accusing them of relying too much on Russia for oil and gas.) “On the other hand, he says Russia is not interfering,” Collins continued. “So he’s saying, essentially, ‘if you defend yourself against Russia, you do it without my support.”]
So, I think all eyes should be on Fox News as to how much excuse making they will engage in with Hannity and Fox and Friends. 

I see that Breitbart has gone with "Oh my God, the Deep State secret coup plans will be gearing up now, using Helsinki as an excuse":


I think it very likely that Hannity will take the same line, because paranoia trumps the tiny brains of the average Trump acolyte.  


Update:     I had missed that Trump suppository Steve Kates was already out with his summary of how the Helsinki meeting went.  Trump is, apparently: 

The Winston Churchill of our times

LOL.  What a nutter.


*  except to members of the Trump Cult, who remain obsessed as ever that nothing their glorious, inane, dumb, wildly inconsistent, jerk of a leader is ever really all that bad, and 100% better than what Hilary would have done.     Fear of strong women amongst wingnut men lingers long after they have gone.

Yah for the ABC

Typical that it was the ABC and 4 Corners that gave us a timely, calm and fascinating account of the Thai cave rescue.   It was well worth watching the interviews with the actual divers explaining why it was so difficult and dangerous, and a bit of a minor miracle that no boy was accidentally drowned.

Journalism of this quality is just not done by the major networks anymore.



Monday, July 16, 2018

Ethan Hunt is going after Putin?

What's this?:

The initial release is in Russia?   Surely that's unusual for any picture.

Actually, IMDB shows it being released in the UK on 25 July, so I'm not sure who got Russia up there on the Google search.

Over the weekend, the reviews were already released, and they are very positive.   (86% on Metacritic, higher on Rottentomatoes.)  

Unfortunately, for some reason (Tom Cruise used to like us!) it's not being released here until 2 August.   A whole extra week to wait.

But I'll be there early.   Now that I think  of it - this might be close to the last film my whole family will go see together. :(   [My daughter enjoys the MI films - she was impressed with the deadly neck breaking thigh technique of the heroine in the last one.]

In other weekend reading...

...I enjoyed this long, often funny, feminist's essay on the Jordan Peterson phenomena.   There are many sections that made me laugh, and I think she is pretty perceptive.   A sample:
Here’s his explanation of why men are frightened of women. (It comes with diagrams in the original video. They don’t help much.)
“Out of chaos emerges this first form, it’s the feminine form, it’s partly the form that represents novelty as such, and on the one hand it’s promise and on the other hand it’s threat…. Well, here’s the decomposition of the fundamental archetype. The dragon of chaos differentiates on the one hand into the feminine, that’s the unknown, and the feminine differentiates further into the negative feminine and the positive feminine. The negative feminine is the reason for witch hunts.”
Believe me, you are not too dumb to understand this. I speak fluent theory-wonk, and I promise, there’s no great secret here. I had a university housemate who used to come out with this sort of stuff at 3 a.m. on the morning before his essay was due while contemplating the ineffable beauty of his own screensaver in a fug of weed-smoke. In fact, I suspect that in order to absorb the full shuddering impact of platitudes like these, one needs not merely to be mired in the throes of a male identity crisis but also catastrophically high, and that would be a waste of good drugs.

Peterson has worked out the secret to monetizing his own persecution complex: If your audience is angry and lonely and you tell them that’s justifiable, you can take that muddle of meaning, blend it, and serve it through a candy-colored straw to those who are prepared to swallow anything and call it a juice cleanse. You can go quite far in the gig economy of modern entrepreneurial proto-fascism by talking to young men as if their feelings matter.

The Revolution remembered

Over the weekend, I enjoyed reading this essay summary of the French Revolution that appeared in Jacobin magazine, found via Peter Whiteford's great twitter feed.

You know, what I do find a bit odd about French history is how it seems high schools care enough to teach a bit about the revolution, but then the Napoleonic period is left as a great, lengthy mystery.  (Perhaps I am just generalising from my own experience.)

Virgin on the ridiculous

Who could resist that pun title?

Here's the article:
The US Association of Consecrated Virgins has said it is “deeply disappointed” at new rules issued by the Vatican that appear to say consecrated virgins need not be virgins.

The group has taken issue with section 88 of the new document, which states: “Thus to have kept her body in perfect continence or to have practiced the virtue of chastity in an exemplary way, while of great importance with regard to the discernment, are not essential prerequisites in the absence of which admittance to consecration is not possible.”

The USACV said it was “shocking to hear from Mother Church that physical virginity may no longer be considered an essential prerequisite for consecration to a life of virginity.”
A few observations:

*  I have never even heard of Consecrated Virgins as a "thing" until now - certainly not in Australia. 

*  Here's what it is:
A consecrated virgin is a woman who has never married who pledges perpetual virginity and dedicates her life to God. Unlike a nun, she does not live in a community and leads a secular life, providing for her own needs.
I dunno - seems a little creepy to me, a bit like those American conservatives Dads who go to "purity balls" with their teenage daughters.    Why want to live a secular life but with some sort of special public purity badge which, after all, is actually just what the Church says it expects of everyone (living a chaste life outside of marriage.)    Talk about unnecessarily setting yourself up for failure, too.

*  The Church would surely be better served by saying that this is an idea that has gone past its use by date.   Not virginity per se - but "consecrating" it.

Reason for optimism

Due solely to my wife's influence, both of my kids are musically talented.  They both do it as a subject at their (State) high school, and my daughter also has long been in various levels of the Queensland Youth Orchestra, which practices weekly during school terms and has mini concerts at the Old Museum at the end of each term, as well as one big concert at the Performing Arts Centre at the end of the year.  My son has been less active in using his talent, but his school bands have been in various inter-school competitions, one year ending up in a final concert involving schools from all over Queensland.   (Much to my surprise, it would appear that tropical North Queensland has some great music teachers and the school orchestras up there are terrific.)

Some years ago, my daughter was also persuaded by her violin teacher to participate in the annual Creative Generation concerts that Queensland Education has put on since 2005.   It's a show put on in the Convention Centre auditorium which features many excellent student vocalists (mostly from High Schools, but some primary school kids too), an orchestra backing that plays for just about the whole two hours, massed choirs, hundreds of dancers, drumming, a Big Band section, and even drama students sometimes doing a bit.  The staging and lighting is done by professionals, and there are some (not many) adults lending a hand musically.   But the end result (and we have been to three now) is a very professional and enjoyable show that is open to the public for 4 performances.   (Tickets are pretty cheap, but they don't sell out  -  it seems to me it doesn't get the publicity it deserves.)

Of course, they don't allow photos or video during the performance, but this is what the pre-show stage looked like on Saturday night:


And here is a screenshot (taken from their Facebook page video, so it's not great quality) as to what it looks like when nearly everyone is on stage at the end:



This is not one of those cheesy inter-school performance competitions that used to be popular and were dominated by private schools that taught microphone technique from year 7 3. (Have they stopped? You don't see them on TV any more.)    They feature primarily "pop" pieces but with the orchestra and massed choirs, can be quite moving in parts -  both from the effect of the music, and also when you see Special School kids being incorporated into segments.  

And this year, my daughter got out of the orchestra and did one "solo" bit (by which I mean, she and two other violinists were standing on stage doing their shared solo parts on one song.)   For that, she had the fun of being professionally made up and having her hair styled by a team of make up artists.   Of course, the end result was startlingly "adult" on a 15 year old, but she got used to it.  

Even though it may be self serving publicity, I am inclined to believe those from Queensland Education who say that our State system instrumental and music programs are top notch.   (Of course, a lot of the talent would be having private lessons too, like mine, but still...)   I am curious as to what the comparisons are like with the other State's public education systems.

But the end result is this:   for any ageing person suffering from the old "young people aren't what they used to be" syndrome,  and even those who whine endlessly about our education system, their attitude is surely held in ignorance of these school and community activities. 

This is the best thing about having kids participating in these things:  it makes it pretty much impossible to stay pessimistic about the future of the world when you know about the effort and talent of large numbers of our youth as shown on Saturday night, and at QYO too.


Never was the saying "takes one to know one" more accurate

Have a look at this sophisticated bit of analysis of Australia's energy policy from Catallaxy, and be sure to glance at the comments too.  

Saturday, July 14, 2018

They take their fire drills seriously in India

It's hard to believe that a bunch of Indian college students were made to jump off a second floor balcony into a safety net below as part of a fire drill.   (The story is about a student who was pushed, hit her head on the way down, and died.)  Have a look at the photo in the article, which will explain her nervousness.

What a nutty drill.  Don't they have fire exits in that country?

Friday, July 13, 2018

In the "funny 'cos it's true" category

From The Onion:


Herpes and brains

Ed Yong has an interesting look at the previously rejected, but now somewhat more plausible, idea that herpes infections in the brains may play a significant role in many cases of Alzheimer's dementia.

To love a jerk you have to be a jerk

Just checking how the angry, angry, entertainer is going.  Here he explains when he started to love Trump:


It's so transparent, it's embarrassing for them:   just as in the US, to love Trump you basically have to be an over 50 year old white guy (the older the "better") who has never come to grips with feminism, climate change or the change in sentiment to gay relationships:



and:
The latest Washington Post-Schar School poll, released Friday, highlights the differences in the way women and men see Trump. Overall, the president’s approval rating among men is 54 percent positive and 45 percent negative. Among women, it’s 32 percent positive and 65 percent negative.

He's the last Hoorah of those, particularly men, who have already lost the culture wars, and think that exposing their anger at losing is a way that it'll be won back.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Time travel discussed

It's fairly generic, from a BBC show, but it has bits which are of interest.

'We can build a real time machine'

I have been mulling over an idea for a time travel story of my own, so any such discussion of the topic is of interest.    

A light anthropology study on Trump cult members

I recommend this Twitter thread by David Roberts, about his look at some twitter accounts of Trump followers.   (Very much like what you find at Catallaxy, by the way.)

Simple things sometimes work

Quite an interesting article at NPR about a relatively straight forward anti-suicide strategy implemented in some emergency rooms in the US which has shown good results.

I think I posted an article once before where it was mentioned that delaying the ability of people to impulsively make a suicide attempt can work - hence a barrier on bridge that might not be impenetrable, but just make it more difficult to climb over, may prevent a lot of attempts.   This program just takes that approach, it seems:
The intervention studied by Stanley and her group starts in the ER or a clinic, before the suicidal patient is released. First, a health care professional talks with the patient and tries to understand that person's warning signs for a suicide attempt.

"If they've grappled with being suicidal, they know what their warning signs are," says Stanley. For example, she says, someone might say, "'I find that I'm staying in my room, not answering the phone, not answering texts, not answering emails.' That could be a warning sign." Others might have repeated thoughts that they're not worthy.

The next step is for the patient — with help from the clinician — to come up with a set of coping strategies to help get through moments of intense suicidal ideation.

For most people, this intense state lasts only from between a few minutes to a couple of hours, she says.

The coping strategy could be something as simple as playing video games, watching TV or talking to a loved one.

If people contemplating suicide can distract themselves with something they enjoy doing, they can bypass that narrow window during which suicidal thoughts can overpower them, notes Stanley. "For suicidal people, the passage of time is their friend," she says. 
 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

That insect movie

A quick review of Ant-man and the Wasp:

*  Perhaps not quite as wittily enjoyable as the first Ant-man, but fun enough, and certainly amusingly inventive in its action use of varying sized cars, buildings and people.   I think it's likely to be one of the most appealing Marvel movies to the under 12 demographic.  

* Quite a funny cameo by Stan Lee.

* You might think it ridiculous that I say this, given the genre, but my fantasy physics toleration boundary was being pushed to its limits at quite a few points.   Even for Marvel, it seems particularly careless about providing  explanations of how some things happen (how the lab building has power no matter where it's enlarged, for example.)  But then again, some science-y explanations attempted in parts were very cringe worthy, especially the "healing quantum power" that features at the end in the post credit sequence that, nonetheless, achieves one of those satisfying tie ins with the greater Marvel universe storyline.

*  I do admire Disney/Marvel for making entertainment that is readily embraced by adults and children of all ages.   The ability of these films to appeal to the 9 year old, the cynical teenager, and the 50 something year old who never even cared for superheroes in their comic book incarnation, is quite the achievement.





The return of syphilis

The other night, I tried the first episode of The Frankenstein Chronicles on Netflix (it was OK, but after the lush, expensive looks of Babylon Berlin, the production values looked a little on the cheap side.  I'm also not that big a fan of Sean Bean).   I was interested to see that the main character is revealed to be suffering from syphilis.   (I would guess that, going forward in the series, this might be significant for introducing ambiguity as to whether what he is investigating is real or not.)  The show is set in  1829, from memory.

My son asked if taking mercury, as the guy does in the show, really did cure it.  Good question, I said.  I didn't think so - it might have helped a little, but there was always the risk that the mercury would kill the patient before the disease.   I had to double check, but I think my summary was right.   See this article from 1990, but there are several around discussing the many centuries of attempting to use mercury successfully.

Anyway, that's by way of background to some startling bad news from my home State:
In the last six years, six babies have died in the state from syphilis — a sexually transmitted disease that was nearly eradicated in the early 2000s.

In 2008, two cases were diagnosed in Queensland, and in the decade since, more than 1,100 other cases have been recorded in the north of the state, with about 200 new presentations each year.

The numbers continue to grow, despite penicillin being a cheap and effective cure.

Cairns sexual health clinician Dr Darren Russell works in the epicentre of the outbreak and said it was "out of control". 
It is, unfortunately, centred on the aboriginal communities in the north:
The outbreak started in the Indigenous community of Doomadgee, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, in 2011 with a handful of cases.

At the time, sexual health services across Queensland were cut by the Campbell Newman-led Queensland government, and health workers claimed the opportunity to stop the escalation was missed.

The number of cases quickly spiralled out of control because of the transient nature of people in Indigenous communities, and the outbreak spread across Queensland, into the Northern Territory, and into South and Western Australia.
I thought that it was at least one of the more obvious diseases to have realised you have caught, but according to this health worker:
Aboriginal Health worker Neville Reys from Wuchopperen Health, said testing — and therefore treatment — was hindered because of shame and stigma.

"Syphilis can draw out up to six months before you really realise that you have got it, and in that timeline there's lots of sexual activity, so it can be spread around really easily."
Well, now that I double check the timing, I see that the first, painless chancre can take  10 days to 3 weeks to appear, and particularly in women, may be internal and not noticed.  The secondary rash can take 2 to 10 weeks after the chancre.  So, yeah, that is getting close to 6 months if the primary indication is missed.   I would assume, however, that most men who have it for more than a few months have ignored the sore on their penis.  

Still, its appalling that the disease has been spreading so widely without successful public health intervention.

Clown culture wars continue

Everything has to be seen through the prism of culture wars, if you're an idiot with his own Sky News slot to fill:


The same high five-ing of men for being all round great was on the Catallaxy open thread too.

An appropriate feminist response might be along the lines of shrugging shoulders and saying, "well, now that you mention it, when was the last time you had a woman lead a bunch of teens into a cave  that might not have been the safest place to go in the circumstances and needing rescuing?"  

But note, no feminist went there first (as far as I know.)

Universal Basic Income discussed

A pretty good article (by way of a book review) of the dubious idea of a Universal Basic Income is at Slate.   Here are a few paragraphs:
 UBI is having a moment right now. The idea has been around for centuries, but there’s something about UBI that’s resonating today, with dozens of books written on the subject from all manner of different perspectives. The most common takes come from the left (as Lowrey does), from the right (as a means of dismantling the welfare state), and from the techno-dystopians, who worry about a future where the robots have taken over and no one has a job. The appeal of a UBI to all three groups is easy to see: It appears to be a very simple solution to any number of incredibly complex problems. Think of it as the “put it on the blockchain” of political economy....


Lowrey’s UBI is “an ethos,” she writes, as much as it is an actual proposal. It’s a way of espousing a certain set of beliefs; it’s “a lesson and an ideal”; it’s a push “to keep imagining, so that when the future arrives, we are ready.”

Perhaps that’s because UBI is a pretty inefficient way of giving poor people money. Think about it this way: Just 40 percent of a UBI’s expenditure would go to the bottom 40 percent of the population, and a mere 10 percent would go to the 10 percent who need it most. What would happen to the rest of the money? 

Study after study has shown that when you give money to the homeless and the very poor, they don’t spend it on frivolities like booze and tobacco: In fact, rates of drinking and smoking invariably go down rather than up. On the other hand, if you gave me an extra $1,500 per month, no strings attached, I’m sure a significant chunk of that would end up in my wine fridge. That might be popular with my local wine merchants, but as a means of redistributing society’s wealth in the interests of fairness and equality, it does leave something to be desired.....

Lowrey understands this, and is not particularly wedded to a truly universal basic income. In India, she toys with the idea of excluding anybody fortunate enough to own an air conditioner. In the U.S., she says, the UBI could be applied only to the bottom 60 percent of the population. She also brings up the idea of instead giving “baby bonds” of $50,000 to everybody born into the lowest wealth quartile, or implementing some kind of jobs guarantee. At one point, she writes that an “even better idea would be to implement a UBI as a negative income tax” that takes your annual income and, if it’s below a certain minimum level, raises it to that level. 

There are always trade-offs. A negative income tax would not benefit anybody much above the poverty line, and in that sense, it would lack a key feature of the UBI, which is that it’s needs-blind and benefits everybody. If only the poor benefitted from a negative income tax, that would create resentment among the middle classes: The slogan coined by British sociologist Richard Titmuss is that “a policy for the poor is a poor policy.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Fishy

On the weekend, I was looking for a white, firmer fleshed fish to cook.  Fresh Australian caught fish has become ridiculously expensive.  Even at Coles, the most suitable looking stuff (ignoring barramundi, an overrated fish with flesh that is usually too mushy) was $32 a kilogram.

I went into Aldi and found frozen ling (which I know from past experience is a reliably firmer fish) for $16 - I think for a kilogram pack.  It was from Iceland, of all places, and had 5 thick fillets packaged in individual plastic pockets, so you can cook as many as you want and save the rest.   It worked fine in my baked Mediterranean fish recipe. 

Seems to me there is something a bit out of whack with the way the world operates when it is much cheaper to buy highly processed, conveniently packaged (yes, I feel a bit guilty about the plastic packaging) ocean fish from Iceland rather than any fish from Australia, or even New Zealand.  

Odd news

I'm feeling like there's little blogworthy news today:  sure, Brexit is blowing up (see David Frum's pretty good article);  the death toll in Japan is shockingly high (and the coastal town of Mihara, which my family went through on the way to Okunoshima, the Rabbit Island, a couple of years ago has featured in Japanese media as badly hit);  everyone loves a successful underground rescue;  and Sinclair Davidson is complaining about the ABC continually reminding everyone about his and Berg's IPA connections, when it turns out that they wrote their anti ABC book on the RMIT payroll.   (Why does RMIT pay its economics academics to write books about the ABC?  Seems a weird institute.)  

But, here's the odd news that I will post about: 

Samsung has just opened the world's biggest smartphone factory in - India?    Surprising.

And:   I watched a doco on SBS last night by Michael Mosley in which he looked at e-cigarettes and came to conclusions which I thought were strangely unjustified by the evidence he presented during the show.   Britain has been remarkably soft on e-cigarettes, it seems to me, with much support for them (including from Mosley now) as an aid to stop smoking.   Yet, he ran a mini trial of people who were trying to stop, and I think the group that used patches or other nicotine replacement stopped just as successfully as those who used e-cigarettes.   So why complicate health issues by supporting a product with completely unresearched long term effects of inhaling flavourings and carrier chemicals if nicotine via a simple patch or gum can work just as well?  

And behold:  this morning, I see another report that indicates smoking nicotine laced e-cigarettes may be pretty much as bad for vascular effects as smoking a real cigarette.

Mosley also ignored evidence about teenage use in other countries, such as the US.   It was not one of his best efforts.   



Monday, July 09, 2018

You can't please everyone

So, some guy writing in the Washington Post complains that he thinks that the latest series of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee shows that it has "run out of steam".  

As it happened, I watched the first, longer than usual, episode with Zach Galifianakis last week, and thought it was particularly funny.  

The whole concept of the show ensures that individual episodes will be pretty hit or miss - much depends on the mood of the interviewee on the day, surely.   But Jerry himself always comes across as a very non judgemental, empathetic ear interested in all sorts of comedy.    He doesn't really deal in emotion at all - and can sometimes feel a bit coldly practical - but I like the way he keeps things in perspective (such as in the Galifianakis episode, he shrugs off being recognized in the public as no big deal).  

Not so incredible

Went and watched Incredibles 2 yesterday.

I'm not sure if I can review it fairly - even though it was a midday screening, I felt unusually tired during much of it.   The cinema was pretty empty, too, so there was no reliable sense as to how well it was or wasn't playing with a bigger audience.  The people who were there were pretty quiet during the whole thing

But I have to say, based on the trailers, which I thought were uninspiring, I went in with pretty low expectations and they weren't exceeded.

I think it's far too talky (and Brad Bird wrote the script, so he only has himself to blame there) and while many people seem to find the action is great, it didn't have the same innovative feeling about it as did the first movie.   It felt a bit too overwhelming - sometimes throwing in too much movement and busy-ness on the screen reduces its effectiveness and becomes a tad tedious*, and I think that's why I didn't really get a thrill from the action this time around.   (Interestingly, my son, who said he liked the movie, came out of it complaining about having a headache, which is pretty unusual for him.  He wondered if the flashing light sequences might have caused it, and I'm not sure if they could, but I think it was a mistake including those sequences in the movie because they aren't much fun to watch, headache or not.)

There are funny sequences, but they're too far apart.  And to be honest, I didn't even really care for the additional detail in the character animation.  This (to my mind) was a bit distracting rather than engaging.

I'm making it sound as if I really disliked it, which isn't quite accurate.  It was just more of a feeling that I was unmoved and it was wasted effort by a talented director.   I can honestly say I liked the ideas and execution of his Tomorrowland much more than this one - despite the fact that it got much worse reviews, overall.   

* see my comments on the visually awful Lego Batman movie

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Climate change deaths in Japan, noted

Nearly a year ago, I posted about the regularity of record summer rainfalls in Japan causing death and destruction. 

This year's record rainfall story seems particularly bad:
The Japan Meteorological Agency reported on Saturday that rainfall in many of the affected areas had reached record levels — with some areas reporting rain two or three times as high as the monthly average for all of July over just five days.

“This is a record high rainfall which we never experienced,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a Saturday morning ministers’ meeting, urging his cabinet to take “every measure to prevent the disaster from worsening by taking advance actions.”
It's affecting some famous cities, too (Hiroshima and Kyoto):
By Saturday evening, at least 51 people were dead and 48 were missing, according to the public broadcaster NHK. More than one million people in 18 districts had been ordered to evacuate their homes and 3.5 million had been urged to leave.
The infrastructure damage in that country is hardly likely to be able to explained away as being caused by new development - it's not as if it's a booming population expanding out into the countryside.  Quite the opposite.

I would also like to know how the economists and their rubbery calculations of "up to temperature increase X, benefits of warming outweigh damage" manage to figure in the loss of life and infrastructure from floods.  

Climate change is real and causing deaths now.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Victorian medicine remembered

From the London Review of Books, a review of thisThe Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine.

Go read the whole thing, but here are some highlights: 
Even the worst corner of the worst slum couldn’t compete with hospital wards and dissection rooms for filth. Berlioz trained as a doctor and recalled a visit to the ‘terrible charnel-house’ of a Paris dissecting room. ‘The fragments of limbs, the grinning heads and gaping skulls, the bloody quagmire underfoot and the atrocious smell it gave off’ made him feel ‘terrible revulsion’. Sparrows squabbled over morsels of lung; a rat gnawed at a vertebra. Berlioz jumped out of the window and ran home to take sanctuary in music. Surgeons took pride in aprons so dirty they could have stood up on their own; Robert Liston, who pioneered the use of anaesthesia, stored his instruments up his sleeve between surgeries to keep them warm. The mortality rate among medical students – who were liable to let the knife slip – was high: the surgeon John Abernethy concluded his lectures with a resigned ‘God help you all.’ When John Phillips Potter nicked his knuckle anatomising – at the dead man’s request – the circus performer the ‘Gnome Fly’, he swiftly succumbed to pyaemia, a kind of blood poisoning caused by the spread of pus-forming organisms which cause abscesses. The pus drained from his body could be measured by the pint.
 The Great Stink played a role in advancing the state of medical science:
... one of the strongest challenges to the anti-contagionist theory came not from a paper in the Lancet, but from the Great Stink of 1858. The Thames, by this stage little more than a sewer conveying effluent to the North Sea, began to emit a stench which, according to Faraday, could be observed ‘rolled up in clouds so dense that they were visible at the surface’. Londoners fled; there was a proposal that the Houses of Parliament be evacuated. And yet there were no epidemics that year, contrary to the expectations of proponents of the miasma theory.
 And then Lister got the idea of cleaning wounds with carbolic acid by a bit of luck:
Lister’s greatest advance was prompted by a newspaper report. In Carlisle, sewage engineers gagging at the smell of liquid waste spread over nearby fields had addressed the problem by covering it with carbolic acid, a substance used with indiscriminate enthusiasm for tasks including preserving ships’ timbers and preventing body odour. But a curious side-effect was observed: an outbreak of cattle plague in the carbolic-soaked fields was halted, the plague-causing parasites having been eradicated. Lister, who had abandoned his trials with potassium permanganate, quickly obtained a sample of carbolic acid. Shortly afterwards, treating a child whose leg had been shattered by a cart, he faced a choice: whether to amputate to forestall the inevitable gangrene, or to test his theory that carbolic acid could prevent infection. With the arrogance necessary to the practice of medicine, Lister decided to put carbolic acid to the test. Some weeks later the boy walked out of the hospital.
He then went on to treat Queen Victoria:
In a broadside reminiscent of those levelled at Darwin, one opponent castigated Lister for portraying nature as ‘some murderous hag whose fiendish machinations must be counteracted’. Nonetheless, when Queen Victoria could no longer bear the pain caused by an abscess under her arm, it was Lister who was summoned to Balmoral, accompanied by a copper pumping mechanism known as a ‘donkey engine’, which sprayed a fine mist of carbolic acid (including, to the horror of onlookers, into the queen’s face). The abscess and the surgical instruments were soaked in antiseptic; the pus was drained; the wound healed well; and Lister – with what one imagines to have been a rare flash of humour – declared himself ‘the only man who has ever stuck a knife into the queen’.

Moral philosophy of the Aztecs (just ignore the human sacrifice bits)

I'm not entirely sure whether there is much to be gained from the study of a human sacrificing society's moral philosophy, but this intermittently interesting article at Aeon indicates that Aztec moral reasoning wasn't all that far from your ancient Greek ideas.   Take this:
At its core, Aztec virtue ethics has three main elements. One is a conception of the good life as the ‘rooted’ or worthwhile life. Second is the idea of right action as the mean or middle way. Third and final is the belief that virtue is a quality that’s fostered socially.
 The difference with Greek virtue ethics is said to be this: 
While Plato and Aristotle were concerned with character-centred virtue ethics, the Aztec approach is perhaps better described as socially-centred virtue ethics. If the Aztecs were right, then ‘Western’ philosophers have been too focused on individuals, too reliant on assessments of character, and too optimistic about the individual’s ability to correct her own vices. Instead, according to the Aztecs, we should look around to our family and friends, as well as our ordinary rituals or routines, if we hope to lead a better, more worthwhile existence.

This distinction bears on an important question: just how bad are good people allowed to be? Must good people be moral saints, or can ordinary folk be good if we have the right kind of support? This matters for fallible creatures, like me, who try to be good but often run into problems. Yet it also matters for questions of inclusivity. If being good requires exceptional traits, such as practical intelligence, then many people would be excluded – such as those with cognitive disabilities. That does not seem right. One of the advantages of the Aztec view, then, is that it avoids this outcome by casting virtue as a cooperative, rather than an individual, endeavour.
The article goes on about moderation as being important, and the "aptness" of behaviour, which sounds fairly practical and sensible, except when taken too far (my bold):
Our actions are virtuous, then, when they are aptly expressed. This aptness of expression turns on the circumstances (eg, how formally we should dress), our social position (eg, male or female, commoner or noble), our social role (eg, warrior or physician), and whether we are performing a rite of a specific sort. A memorable example of this last kind concerns drunkenness. Public drunkenness was severely punished in Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire; for nobles, the penalty was death. But the elderly at a wedding were not only permitted, but expected to become drunk.
Anyhow, it's interesting how he doesn't address the elephant (being a still beating, ripped out human heart in this case) in the room.

Maturity level in the negative

Here's a reaction at Catallaxy to the news that a judge with Army Reserve experience has been investigating SAS members about some long standing war crime allegations:
Just when you think you might have seen peak school boy immaturity from that convalescent home for the Perpetually Angry Rightwing Culture Warrior (who really wish they could just get out and shoot a few people, like the SAS get to do), you're proven wrong.

Stand proud again, Sinclair Davidson, for the service you provide in ensuring that cohenite and his angry, like-minded kin need never feel alone.  

Gina and and her minions

Damn.  Isn't it annoying when you get to a paywalled article once via someone's Tweet, but find you can't a second time, even on a different device?

Anyhoo, was fascinated to read a Courier Mail story this morning about this:
Daughter's bid to involve Barnaby Joyce in bitter court battle an attempt to embarrass former deputy PM, Gina Rinehart says
Bianca Rinehart seems to want clearly disclosed in her ongoing court fight with her Mum the amount of donations Gina has made to Barnaby Joyce and the IPA.

The report  mentioned Gina's donations to the IPA and some other body (was it their fake environmental lobby group?  not sure)  of around $5 million, which is not small change for a lobby group that shows revenue in 2016/2017 of $6.10 million, and cash freaking reserves of $3.83 million.

(Doesn't stop them panhandling regularly for yet more donations.   Defending the right of billionaires to make yet more money by mining the coal that's destined to flood scores of cities both rich and poor doesn't come cheap, obviously.)  

She is, of course, an Honorary Life Member - more like puppet master, by the sounds.

The only puzzle about her involvement at the IPA is the Alan Moran scandal.   He got sacked from the IPA in 2014 for some anti Muslim tweet, but continues to write his completely untrustworthy analyses of energy policy (wherein renewable is bad, always bad) at Catallaxy (and the AFR, I think.)

Anyway, Alan's shtick is surely right up Gina's alley (perhaps I should re-phrase that), so I wonder if she was upset at his IPA sacking?   Did she try to stop it?  Or did he cross her in some other fashion?   Because I've always found his departure a bit odd - I mean, really, how much Muslim support do you  think the IPA would have?   


 

Friday, July 06, 2018

Yet more Nietzsche summarised

Over at the TLS, yet another summary of what Nietzsche was on about.

I like to read these to reinforce my continual surprise as to why people respond to his pessimism and ambiguities which are obviously dangerous for their ready application by those who want to refute a morality based on a common sense view of decency.  [And, quite frankly, his complaint that morality - whether based on Christianity or utilitarianism, according to this article - is "inhospitable to the realization of human excellence" and/or "makes man ridiculous and contemptible" is just nonsense of the kind that barely separates him from Ayn Rand, and I have trouble understanding why people continue bothering to study him.]

Anyhow, I was interested in this section, talking about the philosophical background he was coming from, and in particular, a writer who was obviously very influential in Germany in the mid 1850's, but of whom I had never heard:

Nietzsche’s classical training had educated him about ancient philosophy; the Presocratic philosophers (with their simple naturalistic world view) were his favourites, while his disagreements with Socrates and Plato persisted throughout his corpus. But it was only by accident that he discovered contemporary German philosophy in 1865 and 1866 through Arthur Schopenhauer and, a year later, the neo-Kantian Friedrich Lange. Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation (which was first published in 1818, but only came to prominence decades later, contributing to the eclipse of G. W. F. Hegel in German philosophy) set Nietzsche’s central existentialist issue: how can life, given that it involves continual, senseless suffering, possibly be justified? Schopenhauer offered a “nihilistic” verdict:  we would be better off dead. Nietzsche wanted to resist that conclusion, to “affirm” life, as he would often put it, to the point that we would happily will its “eternal recurrence” (in one of his famous formulations) including all its suffering.

Lange, by contrast, was both a neo-Kantian – part of the “back to Kant” revival in German philosophy after Hegel’s eclipse – and a friend of the “materialist” turn in German intellectual life, the other major reaction against Hegelian idealism after 1831. The latter, though familiar to philosophers today primarily by way of Ludwig Feuerbach and Karl Marx, actually received its major impetus from the dramatic developments in physiology that began in Germany in the 1830s.  Materialism exploded on the German intellectual scene of the 1850s in such volumes as Ludwig Büchner’s Force and Matter, a publishing sensation which went through multiple editions and became a bestseller with its message that “the researches and discoveries of modern times can no longer allow us to doubt that man, with all he has and possesses, be it mental or corporeal, is a natural product like all other organic beings”. (Think of Büchner as the Richard Dawkins of the nineteenth century: a popularizer of some genuine discoveries, while also an unnuanced ideologue.)  Nietzsche, who first learned of these “German Materialists” from Lange, wrote in a letter of 1866, “Kant, Schopenhauer, this book by Lange – I don’t need anything else”.


More on working in America

Last month I wrote about a chat I had with an Australian who had some first hand knowledge of American work conditions, and how there's good reason for full employment to not result in everyone feeling good about their situation.  (Mind you, they also seems to have lowered their expectations as to what "doing OK" means, too.)   Here's some more grist for that argument:

*  an article at The Guardian noting the high injury rate in American pig meat processing plants:
Records compiled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reveal that, on average, there are at least 17 “severe” incidents a month in US meat plants. These injuries are classified as those involving “hospitalisations, amputations or loss of an eye”.
Amputations happen on average twice a week, according to the data. There were 270 incidents in a 31-month period spanning 2015 to 2017, according to the OSHA figures. Most of the incidents involved the amputation of fingers or fingertips, but there were recordings of lost hands, arms or toes. During the period there were a total of 550 serious injuries which cover 22 of the 50 states so the true total for the USA would be substantially higher.
Obviously, with their love of pork, there must be many who work in this industry, but that still sounds like a high rate of serious accidents.   It would be good to see some international comparisons.  (Except from China - I would assume that their records, if they were ever available, would be appalling.)

*  in the Washington Post,  an article with the self explanatory title:

Is it great to be a worker in the U.S.? Not compared with the rest of the developed world. 

is worth a read.  It's about a lengthy OECD report that does some comparisons.   This is a key finding:
In particular, the report shows the United States’s unemployed and at-risk workers are getting very little support from the government, and their employed peers are set back by a particularly weak collective-bargaining system.

Those factors have contributed to the United States having a higher level of income inequality and a larger share of low-income residents than almost any other advanced nation. Only Spain and Greece, whose economies have been ravaged by the euro-zone crisis, have more households earning less than half the nation’s median income — an indicator that unusually large numbers of people either are poor or close to being poor.
It's also interesting to read about how temporary American jobs can be:
Joblessness may be low in the United States and employers may be hungry for new hires, but it’s also strikingly easy to lose a job here. An average of 1 in 5 employees lose or leave their jobs each year, and 23.3 percent of workers ages 15 to 64 had been in their job for a year or less in 2016 — higher than all but a handful of countries in the study.

If people are moving to better jobs, labor-market churn can be a healthy sign. But decade-old OECD research found an unusually large amount of job turnover in the United States is due to firing and layoffs, and Labor Department figures show the rate of layoffs and firings hasn’t changed significantly since the research was conducted.
Now, sure, getting rid of an employee in Australia can be ridiculously difficult, but once again, America sets itself out as ridiculously uninterested in fairness for the worker:
The United States and Mexico are the only countries in the entire study that don't require any advance notice for individual firings. The U.S. ranks at the bottom for employee protection even when mass layoffs are taken into consideration as well, despite the 1988 Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act's requirement that employers give notice 60 days before major plant closings or layoffs.
So, yeah:  full employment in the US can, understandably, make people not feel as happy as it does in other countries.