Sunday, June 26, 2016

Cohen on Brexit

Prominent later life anti Leftist Nick Cohen really gets stuck into the pro-Brexit politicians in the Guardian today.  More reason to think it was a bad decision.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Brexit noted

I really haven't followed the Brexit story in any detail at all, except that I was applying two excellent and reliable rules of thumb:

the rabid Right, and the anti-regulation, must have small government at any cost ideology tank (it's not really a "think tank",) IPA was thoroughly for it; and

Krugman thought it a bad idea, while acknowledging at the same time the problems of the European Union as originally established, and saying that the economic downside won't be quite as bad as some claim.

It is therefore a certainty that the vote outcome is not a good thing.

Krugman's nuanced view is well worth reading (see last link.)

Also, it's a tad ironic, or something, that the Right took advantage in this campaign of a refugee crisis that is essentially of their own making.  If it weren't for the fact that socialism is perfectly capable of still conducting fantasy experiments that cause economic and social disasters (see Venezuela) the "street cred" of the Right in terms of experiments it's been willing to try has been taking a battering in the last decade or so.  But some idiot somewhere  is usually still giving nutty economists grounds to point and say "ha!  Look at how bad Leftist experiments are!"

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Current sources of happiness

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, currently running twice a week on SBS 2, I think.  It is just the funniest thing on television.  I think I may have missed the entire second season though, so I perhaps should go looking as to how I could see it.  On Netflix?

*  Anticipating rabbits. 

*  Anticipating a Spielberg movie (I saw today that The BFG is out on 30 June.  Not sure if I will have to bribe the teenagers to see it with me, or not.  They reluctantly went to The Jungle Book, but both liked it.)

* A detailed story about a sport fart incident in The Guardian, which reads as if it could have come from The Onion. 

* I dunno, I still think an election upset in Australia is a possibility:  probably with Xenophon and The Greens undertaking to support a Labor government.

*  Speaking of the election, when going to vote early the other day, one of the staff recognised me from 30 years ago.  For the last 20 years, she had been living in the next door suburb, no doubt shopping at the same local shopping centre, but we had never run into each other.   Anyway, after giving me sufficient hints as to where I should remember her from, I did remember her first name.  Good.  Brain not degenerating too much yet.

*  And speaking of memory:  I had a dream the other night in which I was annoyed I could not remember the name of a friend's child.  (Which would have been true while awake too, as I knew I had been thinking of the child recently.)   Anyway, it was in the dream that the name suddenly came to me.  Seemed a mundane thing to be dreaming about, but interesting how the brain recalled it while asleep.

* About to catch a plane, for the first time in a few years.  Posting may be light for a little while...

Current annoyances

Hey, what good is maintaining a blog if you can't complain to no one in particular?

1.   Ear candles being sold in pharmacies.   Yes, I first saw them in a pharmacy years ago, but last night I saw them again, and in a suburb with a big university student population.   This really annoys me - a totally useless, fantasy science based product that is barely a step above employing a witch doctor to provide consultations in the corner.  (In fact, that may be considerably safer.)  Lift your game, pharmacists!

2.  The extraordinary number of words still devoted to a violent fantasy soap opera each new season.   You know the show I am talking about (OK, Game of Nudes About to be Killed, or whatever) - and given that I noticed some news story devoted to explaining how a particularly realistic violent death was done in a recent episode, I still consider it extremely likely that the show is morally degrading.  

3. While I'm getting indigent about corrupting TV shows - what about Drunk History??  I've tried watching a couple of episodes of the British version of this show on SBS on Demand, and I was going to go on a rant about the depravity of modern England, but I gather now that in fact the British version came after an American version, which I have never seen.   In any event, I can't imagine a stupider idea from a social policy point of view than starting a show with "And today's narrator, after downing 2 pints of lager and 8 double scotch and soda, will now tell the story of ...."   I mean, for God's sake, are they serious about the amount claimed to have been consumed at the start of the show - because in one episode it sounded literally enough to kill some people if it was consumed within a couple of hours.   Honestly, I really can't imagine a worse idea:  well I can, although I suppose executive producers may be somewhat wary of going to jail if they try a show based on comedians who have just snorted two lines of coke.  And if they try one based on stoned comedians in cannabis legal America - being stoned just doesn't make people funny, from my limited experience around them.  But in any event, as far as I could make out, the end result even with alcohol is just not very funny.  It is a terrible idea.

More lightning deaths, or just more news?

India lightning strikes leave 93 people dead - BBC News

Seems to me that for some reason, international deaths by lightning are attracting more media attention lately.  Is it just journalists noticing this for the first time, or is there an unusual amount of lightning this year?  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Best to lose

Gee, I think it in David Leyonhjelm's best interest not to win re-election to the Senate.  The stress of the job is changing him in subtle but noticeable ways: 

Krugman talks Europe (again)

When Virtue Fails - The New York Times

Rabbiting away

Soon, I hope to be meeting rabbits - scores of rabbits. 

So it seems appropriate that I note Beachcomber's recent post about killer rabbits.  

I expect the ones I meet to be nicer.

To be read later, I'm a bit busy...

How American Politics Became So Ineffective - The Atlantic

South Pole rescue

Daring Antarctic rescue mission sets off for South Pole : Nature News & Comment

Someone's sick at the South Pole station and a little twin engine plane is flying there to the rescue.  It has happened before, but the conditions are extraordinary:

In 2001, Ron Shemenski, another physician overwintering at the station, came down with gallstones and pancreatitis. The NSF decided his condition was severe enough to warrant bringing him out. “I didn't want to look back on that year and think there might have been something we could have done to save his life,” says Jerry Macala, who was the station manager for the winter and participated in discussions about whether to evacuate Shemenski. Eventually, a Twin Otter flown by Kenn Borek pilots touched down on a runway outlined by
flaming barrels.

“It was very cold, more than 90 below,” says Nathan Tift, who served as one of two meteorologists that winter. The evacuation was “so strange”, he says, “just because it had never happened before”. Crew members filed out and took a photograph of themselves with the visiting Twin Otter. But then, when the plane tried to take off, they realized that its skis had frozen to the runway from the friction of landing.

Workers had to rock the plane from side to side to liberate it, so that it could eventually take off.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Trump lying noted

Trump: When I said more people at the Orlando nightclub should have had guns, I meant guards or employees � Hot Air

Campaign going down

Donald Trump’s May fundraising totals are disastrously bad - The Washington Post

If I understand the article correctly, Trump raised $3 million in May compared to $27 million by Clinton.

I am guessing that part of it may be due to his followers still thinking he's going to be self funded all the way to the White House (which, of course, he is not going to reach.)  They liked the idea of his being self funded - giving money would interfere with that.

What an amusing problem for the Republicans.

Paranoia has a win

I see that the Department of Justice made a statement justifying their initial decision to release a redacted  transcript of the Orlando killer's call as follows:
The Department of Justice released a statement later on Monday defending the redaction.
Officials said they wanted to remain sensitive to the victims, their families and the ongoing investigation, while also not providing "the killer or terrorist organisations with a publicity platform for hateful propaganda".
"Unfortunately, the unreleased portions of the transcript that named the terrorist organisations and leaders have caused an unnecessary distraction from the hard work that the FBI and our law enforcement partners have been doing to investigate this heinous crime," the statement said, before releasing the full transcript of Mateen's first 50-second phone call.
Seems reasonable enough to me.  But then, they underestimated the amount of nutty right wing Obama paranoia in their own country.

Who would have guessed (certainly, I don't think any science fiction writer ever did) that the trajectory of American history would read "start of the 21st century - first American black president elected - sends 25% of American population nuts."*

*  I'm willing to entertain debate on the precise percentage.   But it's significant, whatever it is.

Actual potheads

Cannabis use during pregnancy may affect brain development in offspring

Compared with unexposed children, those who were prenatally exposed to
cannabis had a thicker prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain involved
in complex cognition, decision-making, and working memory. 
The study sounds pretty careful, too.  No one is sure how to interpret it, though.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Oh Good Lord - the NRA is more sensible than Donald Trump?

NRA says Trump’s Orlando comments ‘defy common sense’ | New York Post

WASHINGTON — Two top National Rifle Association officials took aim at  Donald Trump on Sunday, blasting his suggestion that armed clubgoers could have prevented the deadliest mass shooting in US history as one that “defies common sense.”

“No one thinks that people should go into a nightclub drinking and carrying firearms,” said Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action told ABC’s “This Week.” “That defies common sense. It also defies the law.”

Trump fired up a Texas rally on Friday by saying if some people at the Pulse nightclub “had guns strapped … right to their waist or right to their ankle” it would have “beautiful sight” to have them shoot “the son of a bitch.”...

But Wayne LaPiere, NRA’s CEO, said Sunday that pistol-packing revelers are not a realistic solution.

“I don’t think you should have firearms where people are drinking,” LaPiere told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Seems they're more sensible than David Leyonhjelm, too.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

What Trump promises his base


Out of curiosity, I watched some of a live stream of a Trump rally from Arizona this morning.

As far as I can make out, his policy prescriptions are:

1.  I'm a winner! 

2.  guns are great;

3.  [missed the bit about Islam, so can't summarise it]

4.  I'm a winner:  look how awesome my primary wins were!

5.  the media are nasty liars

6.  build Mexican wall and Mexico will pay for it

7.  did I mention how great and awesome my win was?

8.  big tax cuts to everyone, especially the middle class*

9.  repeal Obamacare and replace it with "something better"

10.  winner!

11.  will not touch Medicare or any government benefit the sort of people who come to my rallies get

12.  something about Iran fooling the US, the US being stupid for getting involved in the Iraq/Iran balance of power in the first place, and how the US will get involved in the Middle East again to "smash" ISIS

13.  Veterans will get better healthcare

14.   re-negotiate trade deals

15.  "there will be consequences" for companies that dump American based manufacturing and go overseas**

16.  I'm a winner!  

I can't wait for this walking orange ball of contradictory thought bubbles to have to debate with someone, and with moderators, who will not let him bluster his way through his policy prescriptions. 

He is, as if we didn't already know, running on pure, thoughtless, populism;  promising that his base can "have it all", so to speak.   

*  read the extreme scepticism this has already met.

**  where's the free marketeer economists' questioning of that, I wonder

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Just you wait

So, after a disastrous couple of weeks for Donald Trump, where the over-reach in his reaction to Orlando that I predicted came into effect even more spectacularly and more quickly than I expected, how is BS artist Scott Adams going with his meme about Trump being the "master persuader"?  

Well, just like the positive effects of Laffer inspired tax cuts in Kansas, it's a case of "just you wait", apparently.  He writes it's just the last hiccup in the third act of an action movie:
This isn’t the Republican nomination, where Trump could dominate. The general election is a new game. There’s no way for Trump to solve a problem this big, right?
That’s what you are supposed to think at this point in the movie.
Wait for the plot twist this summer. You’re gonna love it.
What a maroon.  

Breaking up sleep

Somewhat interesting article about whether humans are better off with "bi-phasic" sleep:
Anthropologists have found evidence that during preindustrial Europe, bi-modal sleeping was considered the norm. Sleep onset was determined not by a set bedtime, but by whether there were things to do. Historian A. Roger Ekirch’s book At day’s close: night in times past describes how households at this time retired a couple of hours after dusk, woke a few hours later for one to two hours, and then had a second sleep until dawn.
During this waking period, people would relax, ponder their dreams or have sex. Some would engage in activities like sewing, chopping wood or reading, relying on the light of the moon or oil lamps.
Ekirch found references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th century. This is thought to have started in the upper classes in Northern Europe and filtered down to the rest of Western society over the next 200 years.
Interestingly, the appearance of sleep maintenance insomnia in the literature in the late 19th century coincides with the period where accounts of split sleep start to disappear. Thus, modern society may place unnecessary pressure on individuals that they must obtain a night of continuous consolidated sleep every night, adding to the anxiety about sleep and perpetuating the problem.

Friday, June 17, 2016

About mass shootings

6 Things Americans Should Know about Mass Shootings - Scientific American

Some good information in this article.

It's all about the hair

My God, he's a nut.  This apparently is what people in Dallas came to hear Trump say today:

Friday Spielberg

Steven Spielberg: Indiana Jones won't be killed off - BBC News

I repeat my call from some years ago (when Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was coming):  the perfect way to end Indiana Jones would be for him to be revealed as one of the people being taken up into the mothership at the end of Close Encounters.   You know it makes sense...

Trump and the lion

I'm not sure if the base image is an official Trump one, but it's a little odd, isn't it?   I think it's meant to indicate that Trump is brave like a lion, or is it that he's brave in facing off a lion?  I'm going with the former, and have added my own bit.

Still having an odd feeling about this election

Who am I to disagree with the betting markets and journalists who are already calling it for the Coalition?

The story seems to be that the national swing to (perhaps) 51/50 in favour of Labor is uneven and won't cut it for a Shorten win.

Yet still there seems considerable uncertainty as to what will happen to many seats with Greens and Xenophon playing a big role.   Not sure how Barnaby Joyce is going, but WA seems to be on the nose for the Coalition.   And we haven't even had the campaign launches yet.  Don't they count for anything any more?

It seems to me that Bill Shorten, and most Labor ministers, have looked pretty good in their TV appearances.  Scott Morrison has not.  And Turnbull - well, not entirely sure.   To be honest, I have been busy and not seeing that much on TV lately.  

But for what its worth, to me the "optics" of the situation indicate we should still not be writing off a hung parliament as a possible outcome.

Trump big with the redneck vote; not so big elsewhere

Exclusive: Armitage to back Clinton over Trump - POLITICO: Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state under George W. Bush, says he will vote for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, in one of the most dramatic signs yet that Republican national security elites are rejecting their party’s presumptive nominee.

Armitage, a retired Navy officer who also served as an assistant
secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, is thought by Clinton aides to
be the highest-ranking former GOP national security official to openly
support Clinton over Trump.

“If Donald Trump is the nominee, I would vote for Hillary Clinton,”
Armitage told POLITICO in a brief interview. “He doesn't appear to be a
Republican, he doesn't appear to want to learn about issues. So, I’m
going to vote for Mrs. Clinton.”

Dozens of Republican foreign policy elites have already declared
their unwillingness to support or work for Trump, though far fewer say
they would cast a ballot for Clinton. The latter group includes Max
Boot, a prominent neoconservative military analyst and historian; Mark
Salter, former longtime chief of staff to Republican Sen. John McCain; and retired Army Col. Peter Mansour, a former top aide to retired Gen. David Petraeus.

Spectacular immaturity

Apprentice crew members on their old boss, Donald Trump.

I think it's been very clear from his campaign appearances that Trump is a mental teenager, and one with bullying instincts.   (His pathetic taunts to protesters about "going home to Mommy" are the best example of that.)   But it would appear that he is no better in his own workplace.  

Time to retire

McCain: Obama 'directly responsible' for Orlando shooting

He tried to walk back from it, but what a silly thing to say.

On guard

It's common dog behaviour, it seems, how they love to watch the road out the front window:

She will soon be one year old.  Still scruffy, though:

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Some history of gay executions

With all the talk of Islam and its views on death for homosexuality, I wasn't entirely sure when Australia had stopped executing gays (or at least, men convicted of sodomy).

I see from various sites that the last man hanged for sodomy in Sydney was Thomas Parry in 1839, although the last "gay execution" seems to have been one in Tasmania in 1863.

I've read before of scandal in Sydney relating to what convicts were getting up to at night in their barracks, but hadn't read of this more upper class, somewhat amusing, matter before:
But it was clearly a vice that was not confined only to the lower orders. In 1836, Sydney was rocked by the Reverend Yate scandal. This involved a protégé of the very respectable Samuel Marsden who was known as the 'flogging parson' for his penchant, as a magistrate, to hand out severe sentences as a deterrent. Yate was a well known and widely published preacher in England, who had even had an audience with King William IV. On the voyage out to Sydney on the Prince Regent, Yate had spent much time in the company – and the hammock – of the third mate, Edwin Denison. When they arrived in Sydney in June of that year, the two moved into lodgings together in Park Street, where they were joined by another sailor from the Prince Regent, with the unlikely name of Dick Deck. Neighbours soon complained about the men's behaviour, and the scandal became the talk of Sydney, although the Crown Solicitor suggested that 'it seems more than probable that the crime of sodomy cannot be proved against him according to law'. By mid-December of that same year, Yate and Denison had sailed for England, much to the relief of the Anglican community in Sydney.9

Good article on Obama and Islam

The Obama Doctrine: What the President Actually Thinks About Radical Islam - The Atlantic

Trump modestly attempts to repair his relationship with Republican leadership

Donald Trump threatens to go it alone - Donald Trump slammed GOP leaders on Wednesday for not lining up behind him, implying that he's willing to go forward without their help.
"We have to have our Republicans either stick together or let me just do it by myself. I'll do very well. I'm going to do very well. OK? I'm going to do very well. A lot of people thought I should do that anyway, but I'll just do it very nicely by myself," Trump said, though he did not elaborate on what doing it "by myself" would mean.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee also accused his party's leaders of being weak and told them to "please be quiet."
"You know the Republicans, honestly folks, our leaders, our leaders have to get tougher," Trump said during a rally in Atlanta. "Our leaders have to get a lot tougher. And be quiet. Just please be quiet. Don't talk. Please be quiet. Just be quiet to the leaders because they have to get tougher, they have to get sharper, they have to get smarter."
Pretty amusing train wreck we're watching.   

Not every high school safe sex initiative works...

Study: schools that give away condoms see more teen births, not fewer - Vox

Seems that no one is sure of the reasons.  Not enough banana demonstrations, so to speak, is mentioned in the article.

Or is it just that thorough education on the details of sex in a high school setting is one thing, but in-school steps which appear to actually facilitate it is another, not so good idea?   It's not as if condoms are not readily available, at cheap cost, for those teens who want to start a sex life.  Maybe making them responsible enough to go and buy them for themselves encourages responsibility in starting a sex life, generally?   Who knows.

And I hasten to add, again:  does any adult really think that it is a good idea for high school students to be having a sex life at all? 

Looking everywhere, except in the mirror

I'm not at all sure that it was a good idea for a couple of conservatives to write an article in the WSJ entitled The Mystery of Jewish and Asian-American Democratic Loyalty if they weren't going to look at their own side of politics.   (It's all the fault of liberal professors at universities and colleges, is their theory.)  They should have expected this comment:
So, very well-educated people tend to be more liberal.  Full stop.  Think about it.
Or this comment from a college professor (an Asian one, too):
I am a college professor. In order to have my vote, a candidate must pass two preliminary tests: respect for science, and respect for separation of church and state. The first test usually kills about 80% of the republican candidates, and the second kills about half. Very few republicans can pass both; those few who do pass cannot get the party nomination. It is a sad situation. But who can help but the republicans themselves? 
So, I am tempted to say that the current cluelessness of the bulk of the American Right continues.  Except - I do have to give them some credit for baulking at Trump.  On the other hand, as many have said, it is the leadership of the Republicans who really have themselves to blame for his rise in the first place. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Yes, he is...

From an article entitled "Is Trump losing the GOP?": 
Surely this time it would be different. Surely, after the worst mass shooting in American history, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee would choose his words carefully. He would make the case for an effective response to homegrown terror; listen to the counsel of his political team, and offer reassurance to the nation and—crucially—to Republicans who are desperately seeking evidence, even now, that they can embrace the candidate their convention will nominate in a month.

Instead, in a speech riddled with misleading and flatly false statements, Donald Trump ranted incoherently Monday about the need to toughen his Muslim immigration ban, even though the Orlando shooter was born in New York City 29 years ago (at a time when Afghan emigres like his parents were fighting on America’s side against the Soviet Union). In a TV interview, Trump suggested that the president of the United States was in some undefined way sympathetic to the murderous intentions of Islamic terrorists. And in the hours immediately after the massacre, he tweeted a self-congratulatory message about his prescience.
I see that Steve Kates, Australian Trump fanboy extraordinaire, has posted the full Youtube of the said Trump speech, with apparent approval.  Extraordinarily, Kates tells us where to find Trump telling the "the Snake", in which he treats the audience like they're watching Playschool.   We're supposed to be impressed?

Sinclair Davidson appears resigned to Catallaxy being the pro-Trump blog for Australia's nutty conservatives, with "balance" being provided only by his own, occasional, anti-Trump posts.  What a chump.  
In other air-headed Conservative commentator reaction, the sane and impressive speech by Obama against Trump's initial reaction to Orlando gets this sort of reaction from Dinesh D'Souza:

All Trump talking points.   I wonder if D'Souza, whose intellectual descent was chronicled at Vox recently,  has his number saved in Donald's cellphone?

Because the NRA policies have been helping so much in the fight against terrorism so far

Trump Says He Will Seek Anti-Terrorism Advice from the Domestic Terrorist-Loving NRA

What a "say anything" dangerous buffoon.  Trump's words:

“I will be meeting with the NRA, which has given me their earliest
endorsement in a presidential race, to discuss how to ensure Americans
have the means to protect themselves in this age of terror. I will be
always defending the Second Amendment.”

Spielberg speaks

Here's the video of Steven Spielberg's Harvard commencement speech.   Confirms all of my positive assessments of him, except for his choice of shoes when wearing a suit.  (Maybe he has foot issues?)

Update:  didn't mention - his 99 year old Dad is in the audience. 

How to raise tax revenue, sensibly

We're Going to Need More Tax Revenue. Here's How to Raise It.

Found this via Peter Whiteford's twitter feed.  He really strikes me as one of the most sensible economic/social commentators around.

Anyway, although it is about the American tax system, it seems that most of the recommendations translate well to Australia.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Watch an astronaut trying to make himself sick

Pretty good video from that British astronaut Tim Peake up in ISS:

Rather unfortunate discovery for the mice concerned

First rodent found with a human-like menstrual cycle : Nature News & Comment

Mice are a mainstay of biomedical research laboratories. But the rodents are poor models for studying women’s reproductive health, because they don’t menstruate.

researchers at Monash University in Clayton, Australia, say that they
have found a rodent that defies this conventional wisdom: the spiny
mouse (Acomys cahirinus). If the finding holds up, the animal could one day be used to research women's menstruation-related health conditions.

She's such a radical

Hilary Clinton, as quoted at Breitbart (!) sounds such a radical on gun control [/sarc]:
During an interview with the Today Show, she added, “Let’s keep weapons of war off our streets like the one that was used in Orlando.”
Clinton criticized Florida’s gun laws, blaming legislatures for not regulating assault weapons, 50 caliber rifles, or large capacity ammunition magazines. She also blamed Florida for not requiring a permit to purchase a gun, not requiring gun registration, and not requiring gun owners to be licensed to carry a shotgun or a rifle.
“We know the gunman used a weapon of war to shoot down at least 50 innocent Americans and, you know, we won’t even be able to get the congress to prevent terrorists or people on the no-fly list from buying guns,” she said.
Clinton demanded more gun control to stop mass shootings, reminding viewers that the mass shooting in Orlando was the worst in American history.
“Yes, there is a right for law-abiding, responsible Americans to own guns and, yes, there are reasonable common sense measures to try to keep people safe from guns,” she said. “We have to figure out the best way to move forward on that. That’s what I’m committed to doing.”
Clinton condemned gun rights groups after they “scared the heck out of voting officials” on gun control.
“We cannot fall into the trap set by the gun lobby that says if you can’t stop every shooting and every incident, you should not try to stop any,” she said. “That is not how laws work. it’s not common sense.”

Trump panders to the paranoid Right - no surprise

Donald Trump Implies President Obama Was Involved in the Orlando Shooting - The Atlantic

Good article on the 2nd Amendment

How the NRA perverted the meaning of the 2nd Amendment.

Stupid man halves his readership

One odd outcome of the Orlando shootings is that Jim Hoft, (the "stupidest man on the internet", as Little Green Footballs like to call him, with good justification) has come out as a gay Republican.   On Breitbart, no less, with several thousands of comments following.   (Can't be bothered fighting my way through them, although I'm sure some must be interesting reading.)

Nutty conservative Catholic CL over at Catallaxy has been linking to Hoft's Gateway Pundit posts for years.  CL's startling contribution to Catallaxy reaction to the shootings was this:
Let us not forget that Islam is 100 percent correct about such things as gay ‘marriage’ and adoption. 100 percent correct. The gay lobby poses a far bigger threat to civilisation than ISIS.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Leyonhjelm can't resist

So, (hopefully soon to be ex-) Senator Leyonhjelm couldn't hold it back any longer - tweeting the solution to gun massacres in gay nightclubs is for gays to be armed.   Because, yeah, a flurry of bullets from pistols as well as the spray from a rapidly firing AR15 in a semi dark nightclub full of a few hundred dancers is a better solution than - not letting nutters (Islamic or otherwise) getting their hands on a AR15. Not to mention the fact that Florida already has concealed weapon licences, although bars are apparently "gun free zones" by law.*

 What a "guns cure everything" moron.

*  Of course, the appalling gun nutters believe this is unfair.   If Leyonhjelm thinks people going out to a bar or nightclub would feel safer by knowing some patrons are probably carrying a concealed carry pistol, then he should say so; and the rest of Australia can laugh at his face.

Trump and terrorism

Without taking away from the personal tragedies in Orlando, the bigger picture everyone will be thinking about is the extent to which Trump may benefit out of Islamic inspired terrorism (whether or not the killer  appears - like in Sydney's Lindt cafe siege - to be a generic violent nutter from way back, as well as an IS fanboy.)

While Trump fans will think he has already benefited (there is a line already popular with the gormless Right at Catallaxy that "Trump was right",) and there will probably be a hundred pieces of panicky commentary about this is how America slides into becoming a Trumpian fascist nation, I think that in all likelihood, Trump will overreach; and when pressed for details, will not come up with a response that is legally, or even morally, credible.  In fact, with his statement, sensible people (I know:  that's not Trump supporters) will already see overreach.

This is what those who are appalled with Trump need to do - demand he get specific with Constitutional responses that make sense.    Not let him waffle on with his generic loudmouth demands and thought bubbles.  

Update:  when will someone ask Trump about his position on this story from 2015? :
Senate Republicans rejected a bill that aims to stop suspected terrorists from legally buying guns, on Thursday.  The vote came a day after at least 14 people were killed during the San Bernardino massacre in California by two suspects, including a woman said to have pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Forty-five senators voted for the bill and 54 voted against it. One Democrat, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and one Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, crossed party lines.
The measure would have denied people on the terrorist watch list the ability to buy guns.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who sponsored the legislation, argued that former President George W. Bush initially proposed the legislation in 2007, and the Obama administration also supports it.
 Update 2more on the general nuttiness of the killer.  Still able to buy an assault rifle, though. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Madness loves company

United States of Paranoia: They See Gangs of Stalkers - The New York Times

A fascinating article here about how the internet is letting the paranoid find and support each other - and reinforce their mad theories.  (I have never heard of the "T.I." - Targetted Individuals - community before.  It's pretty sad.) 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Another in the series - Untopical Movie Reviews

After recently buying a cheap Blu-ray of the Coen brothers' 2010 version of True Grit, I watched it last weekend.

It was well reviewed when released, and there is much to like about it.   First and foremost - it's a fantastic looking film.   Just gorgeous on Blu-ray, and the town where it starts looks extremely authentic in a way most Western settings struggle to.   [It turns out there's a good reason for that - in the fascinating short Extra feature about the film's production design*, the setting is shown as a street in a real Texas town that had facades built in front of some buildings that were too modern, some period alterations to others, and truckloads of dirt emptied on the paving to make it look like the right era.  It's really awesome, sometimes, to see the effort large scale movie making can go to.  And it was great to realise that my perception of authenticity was justified, and that I hadn't been fooled by a green screened background.] 

Secondly, the Coens are great with loquacious characters in period pieces.   We know, from Ken Burn's The Civil War how eloquent even working class men and women  from this period could be, and the Coens showed a similar flare for such dialogue in Oh Brother Where Art Thou?**  Mind you, I am not at all sure how much of the dialogue is lifted from the novel.  I take it from another extra feature that this movie is probably closer to the novel than the John Wayne version.

Thirdly - well, actually, there is no thirdly.   Here I have to move on to a couple of issues I had with it.

Number 1 on the downside:  Jeff Bridges being allowed to growl his way through scores of pages of dialogue.  I've never been a huge fan of his; he always strikes me as a bit of a B actor who has been out of his league in A movies.  But really, in this film, his line delivery was too often too much of a challenge to follow:  it was rough and gravely to the point of being hard to understand.   And it makes the plot of the film (in terms of his background story) too difficult to follow.

I also think the film has a bit of a structural problem.  Look, I can barely remember the John Wayne version (I probably saw it on TV in the late 1970's), and certainly was never a Wayne fan; but I do remember thinking that the climatic scene (the horseback confrontation with the four outlaws) was effective, and felt iconic as soon as you saw it.

But the same scene in this re-make plays flat, for some reason.  Perhaps because the preamble is poorly set up - there's some "past" between the two main antagonists, but it was lost in the thickly accented shouting at each other before the charge begins.    I also think it may be that the scene just seems to spring up too suddenly.  I would have to watch the movie again (and I almost certainly will) to work out why this climax seems poorly handled, compared to the cheesier John Wayne version, but I think it is.

That said, there are other sequences and images that do work very well (for example, it's an extremely realistic looking hanging sequence that startles by not pulling back from the actual violence of the act).   And  apart from Bridges, the actors are all quite fine.  (Even Matt Damon, who I often find oddly unconvincing.)

So I enjoyed it very much as a "nearly great, but flawed in interesting ways" sort of experience.  Recommended.  

*  You can see a shorter version of it on Youtube.

** Production design was great  in that one too - along with Spielberg, they seem to care about production design to an extremely pleasing degree.

Remembering a parody

How the Gremlins 2 Creators Feel About Their Donald Trump Parody Now | WIRED

Yes, I was wondering if anyone recalled the Trump like character in Gremlins 2 - which I thought was a much better (and much funnier) movie than the original.   

Trump gets the Roseanne Barr endorsement he so richly deserves

It's probably not worth reading, but here you go.

Amanda on Adams

Dilbert has gone fascist: The strange unrequited love Scott Adams seems to have for Donald Trump -

I haven't fully followed the weird Scott Adams hearts (but does not endorse) Trump saga, but Amanda Marcotte seems to have.    And I suspect her analysis may be close to the truth.   (Although she doesn't consider my theory - that Adams will later claim that he managed to fool everyone with his own powerful mind control techniques.)

This never works

Public servants told it's Armidale or find new jobs

It could be that the audience at Q&A this week was not representative of the electorate (of course it wasn't, some will say), but I did get the impression from it that Barnaby  Joyce could be in real trouble.  It would be a very bad look for a narrowly returned Turnbull government to have lost its Deputy PM.

In fact, this whole election campaign is a bit weird.   It seems we keep hearing mainly about Liberal seats that are in trouble for various reasons; the Greens are probably more electable than ever before with their relatively moderate sounding leader; and Malcolm came across to me as a bit desperate to change his image with his "me and my Dad" video - which I haven't yet watched;  yet the betting market (based, presumably, on some internal polling stuff we don't know) seems thoroughly convinced of a comfortable Coalition win.

A documentary getting strong reviews

De Palma Reviews - Metacritic

I guess it'll be on SBS soon enough.

I like quite a few De Palma films, but his peak must surely be The Untouchables.   (And, hey, I just Googled the movie, and up came a link to a 3/5 star review by Ebert, who apparently complained about de Palma's "curiously lead-footed direction" (!!)   I knew there was a reason I never could trust Ebert's reviews - he was sometimes right, but at other times so off the mark I didn't really bother regularly following him.)

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Sequel-itis discussed

Hollywood Has a Big Millennial Problem - The Atlantic

Not sure I've learnt much new from this article, but sure, everyone recognises there is too much money going into too many sequels.  Even if I did like the Star Wars, Bond, Mission Impossible and Jurassic movies of last year.  Sorry...

Republicans on the nose

Just How Bad an Election Night Was It for California Republicans? - The New York Times

The political problem of climate change

It would be funny if it were not worrying, but this post at Real Climate shows how the American Right (and a large slab of ours) likes to "double down" when their beliefs on climate change are challenged:
My study asked the question: “how do Republican individuals perceive persuasive information on climate change action, and what types of information are more or less effective?” To answer this question, I conducted a survey experiment wherein respondents in the treatment conditions were asked to read a paragraph about climate change. Each paragraph linked climate change to a prominent concept in American politics (either free markets, national security, poverty alleviation, or natural disaster preparation), attributed the message to a fictional but realistic-sounding source (either a Republican former Congressman or Democrat), and ended with a call for public action on the issue. These passages were rigorously pretested to ensure realism and impact.

The experiment, conducted in March 2014, used a nationally representative sample of 478 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, who were randomly sorted into one of the eight treatment groups or the control group, where respondents were asked in a single sentence to consider climate change as a political issue. Afterwards, all respondents were asked a series of questions to assess their support for or opposition to governmental action against climate change, their likelihood of taking personal action on the issue, and how sure they felt about their climate change opinions.

What I found was that every single treatment condition failed to convince respondents. In fact, treating Republicans with persuasive information made them more resistant to climate action regardless of the content or sourcing of that information. Overall, simply being exposed to pro-climate action communication appeared to polarize Republicans even further; they became more opposed to governmental action and less likely to take personal action compared to the control group. They also became more certain of their negative opinions on the issue, displaying significantly lower attitudinal ambivalence compared to the control group. What’s more, all of these treatment effects doubled to tripled in size for respondents who reported high personal interest in politics, all statistically significant outcomes. These highly politically interested individuals make up roughly one-third of Republicans in the sample and in the United States.
 If you ask me, a large part of the problem is due to Republican leadership:   if you had the leaders of the party actually prepared to tell their supporters that, sorry, they are wrong on this, in the same way that anti-vaxxers are wrong and hold beliefs supported by only a handful of contrarians whose policy views are against the public interest, you may start to get some marginalisation of the denialists at least underway.  Who is going to be the first high profile Republican leader to take such a position?

It's the current leadership, pandering to their nutty support base, that prevents any movement.  But why should I expect any different?   It is a party full of people ideologically devoted to cutting taxes, no matter what the circumstances, as the economic cure all, listening to just one set of evidence resistant economists. 

When will the Party come back to its senses?

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Kristina arguing reasonably

Labor has not backflipped on corporate tax cuts. Here are the facts | Kristina Keneally | Opinion | The Guardian

I suspect she is right - the benefits of corporate tax cuts are being oversold by many economists, particularly in the context of the Federal government's current need to not be giving away revenue.  Small government fans, of course, think it's a great idea, because lower revenue is never a problem for them - it means smaller government.

Yet another cleverer than we thought animal

Fish can recognize human faces, new study shows

Trump secures the Australian comb-over vote

That's Maurice Newman, of course.  Completely un-expected - not.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Look at meeeeeeeee

Just a minor observation, but for a person such as Tim "Freedomboy" Wilson, who has always self promoted (and posted selfies) with an intensity that suggests a mental teenager,  becoming the Liberal candidate for a safe seat has been like entering Seventh Heaven.    It's his perfect excuse for a zillion photos of his beaming face to be printed.  Some examples from his twitter feed:

That last one features another young person who always strikes me as a bit of a self promoting right wing lightweight - Grace Collier.

And how much of a swing would be needed for Labor to unseat the Coalition?   According to Wikipedia - 11%.

Tim, you can ease up a bit now.  No, seriously.  Your over-promotion is probably doing you more harm than good.  On second thoughts - just keep it up:  there's no way an electorate could ever get sick of seeing your face and start thinking you're a vain try hard.   Have you tried sky-writing yet?  

Tuesday links

Work's still distracting me from the important job of blogging, but here are a few recent links of note:

*  anyone who was taking Dilbert writer Scott Adams even half seriously on his "Trump as Master Persuader" meme should perhaps read his latest post in which he endorses Hilary Clinton for the obvious reason [/sarc] that she's now sounding persuasive and may well trigger a race war in which he [Adams] would be a target for assassination.  

I wouldn't be surprised if he later reveals that anyone who believed him is a victim of his own persuasive powers.   The guy's just a tad nutty, and an attention seeker.

*  The Boston Globe has set up a very good looking site called STAT - Reporting from the Frontiers of Health and Medicine.  (I don't think it's a great name though - Googling it comes up with lots of alternatives.)  And it's from there that you find an article that raises a good point relevant to recent transplant news:  How do you ask grieving parents to donate their son's penis.

*  The Conversation looks at the question of whether East Coast lows that caused much flooding and wave damage the last few days are expected to become less or more frequent under global warming.  The answer:  modelling suggests they may become fewer, but those that do come could be stronger.  I don't think that's an encouraging answer.  Here's a screen shot from The Guardian yesterday of the before and after situation at that Sydney beach:

Update:   I think Slate is probably taking the right mocking tone in its Trump Apocalypse Watch, and this entry about his ridiculous comments on judges is good.

It's annoying, but I have to keep re-assuring my kids that Trump is not going to become President. 

Monday, June 06, 2016

Wait (oh OK, I'm bringing up racism)

I've got a lot of work on my plate at the moment.  As much as I enjoy not getting to it by posting here instead, I'm not going to do that today.  Well, at least not until this evening.

OK, wait.  From the weekend:  I really hate Andrew Bolt's posts when a migrant/s is/are caught in a crime, and he says "who let them in?"   Yeah, Andrew:  the government hasn't yet got a Precognition Unit up and running, so instead I suppose we just should go with "don't let in blacks or Muslims" hey?   The guys in the video you're complaining about (and of course their behaviour was bad) don't even look to be adults.   How the hell are governments supposed to be able to tell which children/teenagers coming with their families will get into trouble, and which won't?

It really is pretty disgusting race-baiting to the Pauline Hanson level voter.  Up there with Trump bringing on stage victims of Mexicans.   And what about Steve Kates and the subtle racism that goes over a treat at Catallaxy?  Hey wait a minute....A couple of days ago Kates published one of his "Obama is the worst most disgusting Presidents eva!" posts and the first paragraph is now shown as this:
Sure it’s funny in a pathetic kind of way. Sure the president of the United States has been elected because he can read a teleprompter. Sure we know he pretended to have written two books when we know the first one was written by the communist Bill Ayres and the second was just a gaggle of campaign rhetoric written by no one in particular. The only people who will find the video truly funny are our enemies, the enemies of the United States, the enlightenment and Western civilisation. They laugh at us because so many across the US are simpletons and fools, and their president is all the proof they need.
I am sure that's been editted.  The post originally read - I would say with about 95% certainty (anyone please correct me if I am wrong):   "sure the president of the United States has been elected because he is black and can read a teleprompter."

I very nearly posted about it when I read it, but didn't.   Can any of my readers confirm my recollection?

If it was pressure from Sinclair that led to the change, good.  But he's left so much slide on this blog, I have my doubts.  

Friday, June 03, 2016

Blogroll clean up time

It's hard keeping a blogroll current, isn't it?   Links change and hide in other locations (if not disappearing forever); I keep on wondering for how long I can possibly keep the few formerly respectable, now so utterly partisan and driven insane by the Obama Presidency that they're rarely worth a look, right wing sites still on the list.   (Well, Hot Air I'll keep, but the "columnists" at PJ Media just haven't been worth reading for years.) 

I've also got to try to remember any blogs/sites that I have been meaning to add but not got around to yet.  NPR was probably the most recent one.  The Barfblog is surely the world's best and most active blog on food poisoning, and deserves a place.

As I think I have lamented before, there are actually few good, active sites or blogs on things I've always been interested in - the paranormal and even UFOs.   (By the way, my shower thought of the other night - is it possible that the now highly debris cluttered region of low earth orbit be part of the reason we don't see many alien visitors in the last couple of decades?  I thought there was one or two pretty well testified sightings from the 60's or 70's of what looked like satellites that suddenly took paths that could not possibly be followed by Earth launched ones, but I haven't heard of anything like that for a long time.  Perhaps because it has become too dangerous for them to hang around there.)

Somewhere on twitter I noticed recently a list of science fiction authors who tweet/blog.  Not that I really read any of them lately, but one or two might be worthwhile.  Jerry Pournelle is increasingly frail, and he's a bit of a climate change skeptic, further confirming the rule that denialism is a club for old, white men, and silly (usually rich) but slightly younger libertarians.

Speaking of aging climate change denialists, it was funny to read that Mark Steyn  is asking the court to hurry up with his defamation case because his expert witnesses are mostly old and at risk of dying before they can give evidence at this trial.  (He noted that one had died already - I'm betting it was Bob Carter.)   As far as I can make out, Steyn has taken the too-cute-by-half technique of doubling down on over-the-top criticism of Mann and climate science generally since this action started, all as a way of being able to argue at trial  "come on, look how I exaggerate and carry on all the time - no one can really take it seriously, and nor should Michael Mann."   It's a pretty shameful thing to do, and it's no wonder no lawyer is involved.

Anyway, blogroll clean up later tonight.  Or tomorrow.


LDP games

Election 2016: Cash for candidacy: Leaked documents show $500,000 offer to become Liberal Democratic senate candidate

Senator Blofeld Leyonhjelm seems to be having some serious leakage issues lately.

All rather interesting;  and all confirming what a joke his little dog and pony party is.

Not very clever

I watched some of the much promoted ABC aboriginal superhero TV series Cleverman last night.

A few comments:

*  is it just me, or does the body hair on the "hairies" look really, really fake;
*  just before the daughter hairy was shot, I think her Mum was clipping her nail, which I could swear wobbled like it was a not-properly-glued on fake nail;
*  the newspaper/media owner baddie was terribly arch acting.  They should have put a moustache for him to twirl and be done with;
*  the whole thing suffers from the over-ernestness that seems typical of TV or movies which try aboriginal quasi mysticism.  (I'm thinking the fire sparks sequence in The Right Stuff as another example, but I'm sure there are others not coming to mind.)

I doubt it is worth re-visiting.

Good to see

Hillary Clinton Warns Donald Trump’s ‘Thin Skin’ Would Set Off War or Economic Crisis - The New York Times

Friday history snippet

An email from Literary Review contains this bit of information which I had not heard before:
Over the course of the 20th century, British prime ministers reacted to the intelligence services in various ways. Neville Chamberlain turned a blind eye to reports that appeasement only made Hitler more aggressive, even after the foreign secretary had drawn his attention to the fact that the Führer had called him an Arschloch (‘arsehole’) by underlining the word;

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Good PR for rats

Rats in the ranks? Tanya Plibersek left cradling a rat in new Chaser stunt

Yes, it is odd that pet rats are featuring heavily in this election campaign.

Of course, my opinion of Tanya Plibersek is only enhanced by her natural rat handling manner, indicating that she is reasonably fond of them, as all the nicest people are....

Not interested

Wow.  Henry Miller's work, and personal attitudes, do sound pretty repulsive in this article.  Yet, as it notes, he had some big-names-in-literature endorsements at the time.

A proposition with which I have complete sympathy

Running a marathon is a dangerous, expensive, stupid, meaningless task. Don’t do it.

Here's a key section (not sure if I was writing it that I would bother including figures for "chafing", though):
Indeed a vast, disturbing literature has now accumulated on the ill effects of running marathons. Studies find that up to 1 in 12 participants end up seeking medical help during the race. (At
hot-weather events, runners can end up “dropping like flies.”) As many as four-fifths report having gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and fecal incontinence while on the course. Some runners suffer from blood poisoning. Others must endure a blitz of dermatological conditions: sore nipples (affecting up to 1 in 6 on race day); chafing (another 1 in 6); blisters (1 in 3); and jogger’s toe (1 in 40). Given all the risks, it’s no wonder that some marathon organizers have asked doctors to embed as race participants so they can quickly tend to runners who collapse.
When researchers consider all the injuries that accrue during the period of training—and not just on the day of the marathon itself—they find even greater cause for alarm. One study looked at 255 participants in an extended, 32-week marathon training program and found that 90 of them—that’s 35 percent—experienced “overuse” injuries. (Among the most common training ailments are anterior knee pain, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, and stress fractures.) Another research group surveyed 725 men who raced in the 2005 Rotterdam Marathon, and found that more than half of them had sustained a running injury over the course of the year. Among those who sustained a new injury during the month leading up to the race, one-quarter were still suffering, to some extent, three months later.

Cultural notes

*  The BBC has a story about the odd, and secretive, ways that Indians go about having a drink.

An American survey (and not one of the silly ones done by a condom manufacturer for publicity) seems to show an apparent rise in sexual experimentation of the same-sex variety (or at least, preparedness to admit to it).  Up to about 8 percent now, and the differences between the genders is interesting.  It's a bit funny to read the "lesbian before graduation" term being used in the reports - I remember I first heard it used by Libbie Gore on one of her shows on the ABC many, many years ago - and I imagine it probably really annoys some lesbians.

*  In other survey news, I stumbled across this one when looking at the Gallop website for other reasons:
1% of russians approve of u.s. leadership, the lowest approval in the world in 2015 and the lowest approval gallup has ever recorded.
Russians are a bit of a worry, to put it mildly.

[And I reckon if you did the "have you ever had a sexual experience with a member of the same sex" survey in that country, the number would probably be "- 8%".  At least if Putin had anything to do with it.]

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Fun while it lasted, I suppose

Police make first arrests over Y1.4 bil theft from ATMs ‹ Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion

This crime - stealing $12 million or so from Japanese ATMs - was the sort of one you would expect to see in a movie, committed by likeable rogues. But there were always too many people involved for it to have any hope of long term success.

Loudmouth Canadian disappointed there is no market for right wing rants and poetry

Spineless, Supine and Proud Of It — Quadrant Online

Quadrant has become the home for the Tea Party style constituents of Australian conservatism, and has painted itself into a corner where its subscribers are in the overlap section of  the Venn diagram with "people who succumb to the pleadings of the IPA for subscribers because Gina's donations have (apparently) dried up."

Look, how can proponents of the free market really complain that their "product" can't stand on its own two feet?   Especially while they keep running the argument that the ABC is ridiculously biased and doesn't present the conservative side?  Surely that means the ABC is not "crowding out" the views in their product?

I find it hard to pick between James Allan and Rowan Dean in the competition for the title of Australia's most irritating conservatives.  (Yes, I find them worse than Bolt in manner).  

Krugman considers the narrative

Good post here by Krugman, complaining about media "narratives" that don't really hold up to scrutiny. 

Big money still doesn't believe in climate change

See, I occasionally learn something from reading the Dunning-Kruger Blog (aka Catallaxy):  JC kindly quotes a Wall Street Journal editorial that praises Trump for his climate change ignoring energy "policy".

This is a real scandal, isn't it?  That the newspaper of business and big money is still, despite recent records,  denying that there is any reason to take climate change seriously.   It's like they get their science from Watts Up With That and Lomborg exclusively.

And speaking of those two ridiculous sources of advocacy, have a look at the graphs on sea levels at this post at Open Mind.    (I have posted that Lomborg illustration before - but I see the technique is repeated by others.  How can anyone take Lomborg seriously when they see this example of how disingenuously he can argue?)

And  here's the recent article about the Dunning-Kruger effect and Trump that I've been meaning to link to.

Quite right

Leaks, secrets and the really scary thing about the NBN raids

I don't fret much about meta-data access, but I reckon Holmes is right that it's ridiculous that even the recipients of a leaked NBN report are in danger of prosecution.

But this is what the fascist-lite Coalition government has acclimatised the public to.

(Need I repeat the point - for years, silly Lefties have flung about "fascist" as an all purpose complaint against Coalition Prime Ministers.  Yet when we got a Coalition government under Abbott that actually comes closest to the name, the insult has fallen out of fashion.  Strange.  Perhaps a bit of the "boy who cried wolf" effect going on?)

The nutty, nutty libertarians of America

Gary Johnson needs to leave the Libertarian Party behind.

A very amusing read here about the convention of the nuttiest political group of all - the American Libertarians.