Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Friday, December 21, 2018

That's what happens when you elect a fragile narcissist

The WAPO sums it up:
Trump has shown time and again that he cares way more about his supporters and his good standing with them than he does about the Republican Party. That has made him an impossible negotiating partner.

When it seemed as if Trump might cave, the right-wing media piled on. Ann Coulter called him “gutless,” and Breitbart News noted Trump’s walk-back of promises from the 2016 campaign (like the fact that “the big, beautiful wall” is now concrete slats). Moreover, Trump’s loyal foot soldiers on Capitol Hill are urging him to reject the spending deal, warning of the major damage it would cause Trump with his base and his 2020 reelection bid. In fact, the leaders of the Freedom Caucus are going to the White House on Thursday afternoon to deliver that message.
Adoration from his base is Trump’s lifeblood. The threat of losing his supporters' affection is enough to make him throw the rest of the GOP and the federal government under the bus. As soon as he started getting criticized by them, he yearned to appease them.

A similar dynamic played out over immigration earlier this year when Schumer offered Trump a deal: funding for his border wall in exchange for a path to citizenship for “dreamers,” the undocumented immigrants brought to America as children. Schumer believed Trump was on board, but as soon as Trump received pushback from his supporters, he turned down the deal.

Which, in a way, is how we got here. Trump never sticks with one line of thinking. His positions are constantly shifting, and he doesn’t provide any lawmakers on Capitol Hill any guidance of where his head is at any moment. The Senate passed a short-term funding bill Wednesday night believing he would sign it and woke up the next morning to find out he wouldn’t.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

To be or not to be (in Syria)

One of the great things about not being an American is that I can shrug my shoulders and say "I dunno" on the matter of when it is or isn't right the right time for the US to get out of wars in the "always in conflict" parts of the world. 

Hence, I really don't know if it is a good idea for Trump to be pulling out troops from Syria. 

Sometimes I wonder why your average Australian wingnut thinks they know enough to have a solid opinion on this.  But that's the nature of wingnuttery - it's not as if they have good reason to justify 90% of their opinions, so why should they be well informed on this one too?

Anyway, given Trump's general unreliability (to put it mildly), it certainly wouldn't be surprising if it was a bad plan.

Max Boot, former conservative who has turned big time against Trump, and the American Right generally, thinks it is a big mistake.  His piece starts:
A few weeks ago, I attended the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, Calif., where panel after panel of defense experts dutifully discussed Important Issues such as gray zone warfare, the defense industrial base and the future of U.S. policy toward Syria. It all seemed disconnected from reality, as if the defense cognoscenti were living in an alternative universe where they can generate policy options in the expectation that a wise and well-informed president will choose the best of the lot. That is not the situation we are in. We are at the mercy of an ignorant and impetuous president who, as Jeffrey Toobin quipped, “is unfit to run a charity in New York State but fit to control nuclear weapons that could destroy the world several times over.”
At one time, the world hoped that an Axis of Adults could constrain the juvenile in the Oval Office, but such naive expectations have been dashed repeatedly. Syria offers the latest example of the futility of expecting that lower-level officials can consistently save the world from the commander in chief.
Of course, ever since Vietnam, everyone has grounds for wondering whether Generals' advice about these matters is always wise.

Let's see how it plays out.

Brexit and democracy

I have been arguing in comments to my post earlier this week about how it is ridiculous to argue that having a second Brexit referendum, now that people understand the choice properly, would be a "betrayal of democracy".

I am pleased to read this morning a lengthy post by Simon Wren-Lewis arguing that the matter of how the country got to its present position has, in fact, been a circumvention of democracy.

I think Homer likes most of his commentary.  What's wrong with his argument on this topic?

Into the Red Room

OK, time for the spoiler filled commentary on the Red Room - the key aspect, really, of the final episode of the Haunting of Hill House.

My take:  I quite liked the idea, but am a little dubious about the execution.

The key thing that makes little practical sense is this:  how did the children not recognize the room from its location within the house?   The problem is that it is shown as having one door, at the end of a corridor - yet Steve (for example) in the final episode still seems to say that it was the door that had never been opened; yet he was also in there a lot of the time as a child.

The obvious and simplest way around this would be to show the room having a second entry, and then only reveal the distinctively shaped red door as the alternative entry in the final episode.  That would leave some plausibility, would it not?, that the rambling layout of the house meant that the kids found their own entry into the room, and possibly without ever realising that it was the Red Room that their Dad could not enter.  Or, they might have recognized it as the Red Room, but have liked it for its privacy.

The more complicated explanation, which I think the storm episode perhaps sort of established, was that the house could deceive the occupants as to its own layout, and hence have provided access to the room for the kids without them realising where they were.   But that seems to me to be more elaborate than was really necessary.

Why don't I have a job as a script doctor, hey?

Anyway, I don't want to sound too negative.   Overall, I quite liked the final episode.  I particularly liked some of the twists - the way it first looked worrying like the whole series could have been just Steve writing another book; and the reason why the sister was so sensitive to her husband's potential adultery. 

Once again, the subtlety of some of the creepiness was very pleasing - I am thinking in this episode of the way the Tall Man ghost bends down to peer into the face of Steve, while he looks away.

I did like how the series still leaves open the possibility that the black mould is the source of madness within the house.  And the whole idea that it was recognised by the caretakers wanted it preserved as a place where they could keep visiting their poor daughter - that sort of made sense (and added some of the bittersweet aspect that was to be found in The Orphanage.)  

So yeah, overall, it ended up being pretty satisfying.   Well worth watching.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Netflix reviews

*   As everyone else on line who has talked about it has already said, the third season of The Good Place got off to a shaky start, particularly with Australian audiences cringing at the attempts at our  accent.  But by episode 4 or 5 (I forget which) it regained its mojo and has some very funny writing again.   (And, co-incidentally, left Australia.)

I don't really understand how anyone could not like this show.   Terrifically smart, very funny, and a charming cast. 

Fargo, second season.   I've finished it and the big question is:  how did I feel about the UFO?   In a way, it didn't bother me - its re-appearance was foreshadowed often enough.  But it certainly did make for an oddball conclusion.  To be honest, I thought that part of the last episode was way, way too close to Raising Arizona (with its dream of the future),  so that I feel that the peak episodes were closer to the middle of the series.   Despite feeling a slight let down with the ending, overall, it was really great viewing, and I'll watch the third season too.   (My son watched the first season alone, and says he thought it was a bit better, but I find it hard to believe I could find any episodes better than some in this series.)

* Norsemen:  have finished watching the second series.  Still very funny.  I see that a third series is being made.  Good.   Have more people found it yet, I wonder?

* Am wanting to finish the last, apparently controversial, episode of Haunting of Hill House before Christmas.  The show has sucked me in, despite its flaws.   Expect a review of the ending soon.

*  I wrote recently that Jason Momoa seems so likeable on TV chat show appearances that I am tempted to see the kind of ludicrous Aquaman, and I did try watching the first episode of Frontier, a Canadian series in which he stars.   It had some exceptionally badly written exposition dialogue within the first 10 minutes; so bad that both my son and I said "this is not good" and chose to discontinue.   Maybe it gets better?

American politics, yet again

This is a pretty good exchange between Ezra Klein and of the guys who has written a book about this:  
“Of the many factors that make up your worldview, one is more fundamental than any other in determining which side of the divide you gravitate toward: your perception of how dangerous the world is. Fear is perhaps our most primal instinct, after all, so it’s only logical that people’s level of fearfulness informs their outlook on life.”
That’s political scientists Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler, writing in their book Prius or Pickup, which marshals a massive trove of survey data and experimental evidence to argue that the roots of our political divides run so deep that they make us almost incomprehensible to one another. Our political divisions, they say, aren’t about policy disagreements, or even demographics. They’re about something more ancient in how we view the world.  
Hetherington and Weiler call these worldviews, which express themselves in everything from policy preferences to parenting styles, “fixed” versus “fluid.” The fixed worldview “describes people who are warier of social and cultural change and hence more set in their ways, more suspicious of outsiders, and more comfortable with the familiar and predictable.” People with a fluid worldview, by contrast, “support changing social and cultural norms, are excited by things that are new and novel, and are open to, and welcoming of, people who look and sound different.”
What’s happened in recent decades, they argue, is that politics in general, and our political parties in particular, have reorganized around these worldviews, adding a new, and arguably irreconcilable, difference into our political divisions. That difference is visible in everything from what we think to where we live to how we shop, but it’s particularly apparent in how hard it is for us to understand how the other side views the world.
It's undeniable that the Trump campaign was based on ludicrous fear-mongering;  but Klein is still  skeptical about some of how this is meant to work, asking twice why this has happened when the world has actually become safer.   (And that's objectively true too, given that we don't live in a Cold War of the kind we did in the first half of my life, and the murder rate has dropped dramatically in so much of the world.)

I didn't find the answer completely satisfying.  You can go read them yourself.

But I did think the authors are right on this point -
The problem starts with conservative leaders.
The simple fact is that Republican leaders more often traffic in falsehoods than Democratic leaders do — climate change denial, birtherism, suggesting voter fraud is rampant, and more. These are not positions of the conservative fringe. The president of the United States himself has embraced all these falsehoods. If Democratic leaders were similarly likely to push false narratives, more Democrats would believe them.
Conservative media amplify these falsehoods. This is what links what leaders say and do to what the public believes. Liberals tend to rely on a range of liberal and mainstream news sources. Conservatives tend to rely on a much smaller number of highly ideological sources. According to a 2014 Pew study, consistent conservatives expressed the same level of mistrust of ABC News as consistent liberals did of Sean Hannity.
Hence, conservative Americans are more likely than liberals to believe falsehoods about the other side. For example, Democrats were about 12 points more likely than Republicans to say that the Bush administration directed flooding to parts of New Orleans during Katrina. But Republicans were 34 points more likely to believe Obama was born in Kenya than Democrats and 32 points more likely to believe that Obamacare included “death panels.”
That doesn’t mean that there is no biased thinking among liberals. They, too, are more willing to support or oppose a policy because it is or isn’t being carried out by their team. But skepticism about basic facts does, in fact, differ markedly by party and ideology.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Charles the worker

Pretty much by accident last night I saw about 20 minutes of Prince, Son & Heir: Charles at 70 on the ABC. 

He came across as down to earth (for a monarch in waiting), and very hard working.   His sons talked about how he eats dinner very late (although I did not hear how late), and then works at his desk often til midnight, and sometimes falling asleep on his papers, waking up with one stuck to his nose.   They obviously think the world of him, and their main wish seems to be that he could slow down and spend more time with their young families.  (Yeah, I know, Harry doesn't have a kid just yet.)

He drives the much of the Right nuts for his environmental concerns, and somewhat quaint interests in organic food and (I suppose) older styles of living. 

But he certainly seems smart and passionate, self-effacing and as such, very likeable.  Pretty much what you need in a future monarch, I think.

Brexit prediction

John Quiggin's post (and the following comments) predicting a revocation of Brexit early in 2019 makes for interesting reading.

Does sound plausible to me.

I again heard Theresa May on the radio this morning saying that another referendum would be a betrayal of democracy, or some such nonsense. 

I still can't get my head around how politicians like her can't get their head around how context matters.   The people would actually understand what is at stake now.  They obviously did not at the time of the first referendum.

And no Homer, you're just wrong on this one.

Monday, December 17, 2018

All about cement (and its CO2 problem)

This is more interesting than you might first expect - a very good explanation at the BCC about concrete (including its history) and its problematic nature vis a vis CO2 production.   I mean I knew that using it created a lot of greenhouse gases, but not this much:
Cement is the most widely used man-made material in existence. It is second only to water as the most-consumed resource on the planet.

But, while cement - the key ingredient in concrete - has shaped much of our built environment, it also has a massive carbon footprint.

Cement is the source of about 8% of the world's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to think tank Chatham House.

If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world - behind China and the US. It contributes more CO2 than air fuel (2.5%) and is not far behind the global agriculture business (12%).

Box office observed

I haven't been much motivated to see any movies recently, and I've noticed that a few major releases have had so-so reviews.  Bohemian Rhapsody has 48% on Metacritic.   The latest Harry Potter prequel 53% (but only 38% on Rottentomatoes.)    I was curious to see how they have fared at the box office.

Well, Box Office Mojo seems to indicate that Harry Potter movies are virtually critic proof, at least for international box office - it'll end up making more than $600 million internationally, which must be enough to turn a profit even with a $200 million budget.  (Not much, though, given that I think the rule of thumb is still that most movies have to make more than 3 times budget cost before getting into clear profit.)    But there is still rental and streaming money to be made from it.

Every woman who has seen it thinks Bohemian Rhapsody was fantastic, and box office would indicate a lot of men have seen it too - $635 million and still making $4 million last weekend in the US alone.  All on a $52 million budget?   That's a hugely profitable hit.   I was never a big fan of Queen's music - I remember thinking when it came out that the titular movie song and video was kind of kitschy, but some other songs were OK.   I think Freddie's life was interesting and a bit sad, but I don't feel I need to see a movie about it. 

Speaking of movies big with females in particular:  A Star is Born has made nearly $200 million in the US, but only $177 million overseas.   With a $36 million budget, that's still a solid hit, and one I have no interest in.

I see the Dr Seuss movies are ridiculously popular in the US - $239 million just in the US for the latest Grinch movie. 

Anyway, I am slightly embarrassed to say, but the latest animated version of Spiderman has received such good reviews that I am now inclined to see it.   I am also toying with seeing Aquaman when it comes out - it would seem to have a fair bit of the humour I find essential for enjoying a superhero movie, and really, that Jason Momoa has such a ridiculous amount of charisma in any of his TV appearances, I sort of want the movie to succeed to reward his likeability. 

But we'll see... 

Dubai as the airconditioned city

This article from Business Insider, talking about what future cities may start looking like as temperatures continue to rise, gives Dubai as an example.   Apparently, a huge amount is already interconnected, airconditioned buildings and shopping malls, and it's going to get bigger:
Dubai is getting so good at simulating the outdoors inside that its next megaproject is dedicated to just that. Dubai Square, set to become the world’s largest mall, is built around a four-lane “boulevard” that mimics a wide city street, a piazza, and an entertainment center for concerts and theatre shows. It will even have the Middle East’s largest Chinatown.
This is what its supposed to look like:

Um, that looks ridiculously difficult to aircondition efficiently, even if the roof has got some heat reflective film on it.  (It must, surely?)   But even if it does, isn't there a risk of it frying some other buildings, or otherwise raising already hellish temperatures in the outside of the city?

Update:  this article, also at Business Insider, I visited outlandishly wealthy Dubai, known as the 'city of gold,' and was surprised by how much fun you can have even without billions,  makes Dubai sound like not a bad place for a tourist to visit at the moment.   Not sure I am entirely convinced...

Update 2:  this helps explain why I am still leery about visiting the place - Man arrested for bringing witchcraft items into UAE.   My rule of thumb is "Do not visit countries where the government  believes in black magic, witchcraft or sorcery.  It is too easy for anyone there who you look at the wrong way to claim you are a sorcerer and must be arrested." 

More Mary legends

At the risk of sounding like I am on anti-Catholic, anti-Marian binge this Christmas, given my recent cynical post about Mary's house being flown to Italy:  this article, from The Daily Beast of all places, actually seems pretty accurate.  

But it does come up with some legendary Marian stories which I had not heard of before, and some of it is surprising.  (Not the first part, about the rumour of a Roman soldier - that is pretty well known.  The last story though - wow.)
From the time of the early Church, there were those who questioned Mary’s virginity. Some rabbinic and ancient Roman sources suggest that Jesus was the son of a Roman soldier named Panthera. According to these early critics, Mary concocted the story of the virgin birth in order to conceal the fact that she cheated on her betrothed with a member of the oppressive military force that was subjugating her people. The particular explanation is actually pretty unlikely, if only because as a resident of Nazareth Mary would have rarely (if ever!) come into contact with Roman soldiers; nevertheless ancient Christian readers took it seriously.
A second-century story known as The Protoevangelium of James fills in a lot of the gaps in Mary’s biography. It tells us about Mary’s childhood, that she had special status as a dedicated virgin, and that she was 16 when she conceived Jesus. In this version of the nativity story Joseph doesn’t just accuse her of disgracing herself, he responds to Mary’s statement that she hasn’t “known” a man by asking her, “Where did this thing in your womb come from then?”
But Joseph is a believer in comparison to woman named Salome. Salome, who meets a midwife who examined Mary, declares, “As the Lord my God lives, unless I insert my finger and investigate her, I will not believe that a virgin has given birth." Mary prepares herself for the gynecological exam and Salome performs the test. Her hand literally catches on fire, and it takes the appearance of an angel (as well as some strong statements of contrition from Salome) before she is healed.

The rest of the article, about the idea of the Immaculate Conception, is pretty good too.

Update:  it just occurred to me, that story of Salome and her burning hand could form the basis of a very novel Christmas card illustration... 

Sensitive vegans

Nothing gets a vegan more uptight than being told that their diet runs a very real risk of malnutrition.  

Have a read of this article from The Conversation:  Vegan diets are adding to malnutrition in wealth countries, and the comments from upset vegans following.

Actually, I didn't realise that Vitamin B12 was such an issue for vegans and vegetarians.   Or this problem with veganism:
Bone health is a concern for long-term vegans. Vegans are consistently reported to have lower intakes of calcium and vitamin D, with resultant lower blood levels of vitamin D and lower bone mineral density reported worldwide. Fracture rates are also nearly a third higher among vegans compared with the general population. 
I reckon that the most I could ever tolerate would be a pescetarian diet, and despite disliking aspects of the milk and egg industry, I couldn't give them up.   

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Brisbane more dangerous than I knew...

I would never have guessed that there are this many venomous snake bites around Brisbane:
Many people living in Queensland's capital may assume they're far away from a dangerous snake encounter, but the numbers suggest they're more likely than their country cousins to suffer a snakebite.
According to figures released by Queensland Ambulance, Brisbanites are more likely to be bitten by a snake than residents in the outback.
A total of 156 people were bitten by venomous snakes across the Metro North and Metro South areas, which make up the Brisbane region, in the 12 months to November 18 this year.
There were 96 on the Sunshine Coast, while outback areas such as the North West region had 11 cases, and the South West just four instances.
More people live in the south-east corner of the state than in other regions, but even as a proportion of population Brisbane is over-represented in snakebites.
University of Queensland snake expert Bryan Fry said in addition to more people, Brisbane and south-east Queensland have more semi-rural areas, which are perfect for brown snakes.
"Brown snakes thrive in disturbed habitat, so you can find more brown snakes around semi-rural habitation than you can in the wild," Professor Fry said.
I suppose it's (sort of) good news that you rarely read of anyone dying of venomous snakebite around here - but that is still a hell of a lot of people being bitten.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

An improbable, vaguely Christmas related miracle

An article at The Catholic Herald caught my eye:  Did angels really carry the Holy House of Mary to Loreto, Italy?  So did the photo accompanying it:

As you might expect, that's not the house itself, but an excessively ornate, um, housing for a house.

Inside, the "real thing" looks like this:

which, I dunno, looks a little more solid than I expected from a 2,000 something year old house from Israel.

The bright looking figure in the first interior is the Our Lady of Loreto statue, which is a bit more famous than I knew.  You can watch this rather pious video about the house, and the statue, here:

As to the matter of how the house got there, the Catholic Herald article (and the video) indicate that the house might have been by boat, not by Angel Air, by a family with an a name which contributed to the legend:
In 1900, the pope’s physician, Joseph Lapponi, discovered documents in the Vatican archive, stating that in the 13th century a noble Byzantine family, the Angeli family, rescued “materials” from “Our Lady’s House” from Muslim invaders and then had them transported to Italy for the building of a shrine.
The name Angeli means “angels” in both Greek and Latin.
I am suspicious: it sounds too much like a late rationalisation. 

As for the air borne house tradition, it has been depicted variously as looking like this:

or this:

I don't know the artists behind either depiction, but the second one puts me in mind of Dorothy's house crushing the Wicked Witch, because at first glance I assumed the guy underneath was a devil.  But on second thoughts, he looks like he's just helping out, except for some reason he's nude.  If he is an angel, I didn't realise Heaven was "clothing optional" for them.

Anyhow, this is the second time this week that I have been contemplating the rather idiosyncratic fervour European Catholics can hold towards Mary and statues representing her.   The first example was Mary Beard talking on Civilisations about the annual ceremony around a statue in Seville:

I'm interested in the matter of why some European countries, particularly those with the Romance languages, seemed to develop centres of intense Marian devotion, and often around statues which are treated as holy.  (It's also interesting to contemplate why it also spread readily to countries like Mexico and the Philippines, too.   Remember the photos of the crazily dangerous looking procession I posted earlier this year?  It was centred on a statue of Jesus, admittedly, but still a case of statue centred fervour.)    I always get the feeling there are sociological reasons for it which I don't know about.   My general impression is that England and Germany, pre-Reformation, were just not into it in that big a way.  Or was an uptick in Marian worship something of a reaction to the Reformation?

Anyway, the first video above says that the flying house story is the reason why Our Lady of Loreto is the patron saint of aviation:
Yes, she is the patron saint of pilots, airmen and flight attendants as per declaration of Pope Benedict XV on March 24, 1920. The pontiff approved a special blessing: "O merciful God, You have consecrated the house of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the mystery of the Word Incarnate and placed it in the midst of your children. Pour forth your blessing on this vehicle so that those who take an aerial trip in it may happily reach their destination and return safely home under Mary's protection."
That seems a pretty weak reason to get a "patron" job, if you ask me.  By now, hasn't there been any pilot or flight attendant who has attained sainthood after a career in, you know, actual flying? 

I've no handy way to end this post, except to note that, in English speaking countries, this type of worship seems increasingly odd and hard to understand, especially given the rapid decline in the importance of Marian worship in our version of Catholicism over the last 60 odd years. 


Abu Dhabi: In 10 years, we’ll be able to learn French by swallowing a pill, claims Dr Nicholas Negroponte, chairman and co-founder of the MIT Media Lab.
“We are looking for ways to interact directly with the neurons, reaching the brain from within and not through the eyes, which have become outdated instruments,” the man who invented the touchscreen and predicted the most important technological revolutions of recent years, told the audience at the majlis of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on Wednesday.
The 75-year-old co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab and its director of over 20 years, said that over the next decade, we will increasingly see direct brain interaction. It will emerge in two and very different ways: from the outside and the inside of the head.

The climate changes

Hey, this is pretty good!:

When someone tells you, “The climate is always changing,” show them this cartoon

In praise of Micallef

I think that the latest season of Mad As Hell (it finished last night) was just about the funniest I can remember.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again - it's a really crack team of comedy actors (and writers) on the show at the moment.  

I always enjoy their jabs at the ABC itself too - their little parodies of ABC television drama always strike me as accurate and funny.   (Well, I rarely dip my toe into ABC drama, but I have found it pretty awful whenever I did.)  

Climate change in the age of the stoopid, populist Right

I know that articles about it do keep appearing in the media, but I really get the feeling that the current era of the Stupidest, Most Narcissistic President in History, and the Dumbest, Most Shoot-Itself-in-the-Foot Economic Idea Britain Ever Had (Brexit) keeps sucking the oxygen away from really serious public attention to climate change.   Here's Foreign Policy, for example:

Trump Has Officially Ruined Climate Change Diplomacy for Everyone

I mean, it is impossible for the media and the public to not get sucked into talking about Trump trying on reality TV meetings with Democrats; his never ending stream of idiotic tweets; his looking completely out of depth at international meetings;  leaks still confirming that he's impossible to brief properly; his campaign associates going to jail; the prospect of impeachment or at least post-Presidential term charges; even his wife thinking dark red Christmas trees look cool (and not like something out of The Shining.)   It's the most idiotic and chaotic trainwreck of an administration that anyone has ever seen or is likely to see again, I reckon.

And as for Brexit - a complete populist Right fantasia that, like Trump, barely got over the electoral line, but since it did, has been like a black hole sucking all interest away from the crucially important matter of climate change.

Of course, the populist Right is popping its head up elsewhere too - from Brazil to Eastern Europe - but I just don't see that there is any long term future in it as a movement.   All of the leading politicians are some sort of combination of buffoon and fascist lite; all tend to be culture war obsessives and interested in blaming as many problems as possible on immigration.  But it's at heart a reactionary movement, and not one with a credible long term intellectual or policy basis.

So, I predict it will all fizzle soon enough - but it's an incredible distraction that is, literally, endangering the planet.    

The big(foot) conspiracy

Vox has an interview with a journalist (Laura Krantz) who did a podcast episode this year about Bigfoot, and apparently it's pretty good.  (I am slow to get into listening to podcasts - I think it's because I can decide quicker visually if an article is of interest, and I don't like having to wait for 10 or 15 min before deciding if an audio presentation is really worth continuing with.)

Here's part of the interview:
I keep coming back to the eyewitness accounts, the firsthand accounts that people have had. A lot of the people that I ended up talking to about their experiences were pretty sober, upstanding citizens. They’d spent a lot of time in the woods. They’ve worked for Fish and Wildlife. They worked for the Bureau of Land Management.

These are people who are accustomed to being outside, and had a lot of experience and expertise with wildlife. And then they had this experience of being scared, shocked, just blown away by something they’d seen. Those were very, very hard for me to dismiss. I still can’t dismiss them, because it’s clear that they saw something that really rattled them. 

The thing that I’ve been most dismissive of — it’s hard to be completely dismissive because I wasn’t there, I didn’t see what was going on, but people talk about seeing Bigfoot “cloaking,” or vanishing into the ether. And those kinds of accounts I’m a little more like, “Erm... I don’t know about that.”
She explains later, she really can't give the spooky Bigfoot idea any credence:
 I did steer clear of the Bigfoot as magical, paranormal, supernatural stuff, because that was a lot harder for me to come at objectively. And my feeling was that if I couldn’t address it objectively, I shouldn’t do it.

Yeah, sounds like I should listen to the show.  Even though if there is no DNA evidence, the paranormal route is really the only one you can take, isn't it? 

But the other thing I learned from this article was the Bigfoot conspiracy, which I don't think I knew of before:
The flip-side of that is that there’s this conspiracy theory that the logging industry knows that Bigfoot is real, has seen Bigfoot, and goes out of its way to make sure bodies are disposed of, and that any knowledge of it is kept buried. Because if Bigfoot is seen to be real, it’s gonna make the stuff that happened with the spotted owl [in which logging in some areas was halted to preserve an endangered owl’s habitat], look like a picnic. 
 Sounds like there could be a fun movie plot in there somewhere!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Foreigners in Japan

The BBC talks about Japan's process of opening up to foreign workers. 

Stand up I actually liked

I've complained earlier this year about how I generally don't care at all for modern stand up comedy.

Jason recommended a Malaysian comedian with a Netflix special - I forget his name now, but yes, he was OK-ish.  Certainly not positively off putting, as I tend to find most stand up.

But - Youtube has recently started recommending to me clips of Trevor Noah from his channel, and I have to say, I've found the few I've watched funny.  (He's also pretty talented with his accent mocking, which seems to feature quite a bit.)   Little swearing too, unlike the usual standard in the profession.

Here are two I thought were good:

You're welcome.

Harm reduction

As usual, Portugal is held up as a shining example, but at least the magazine explains a bit more than the usual shorthand of "yay, they legalised drugs" used by many drug liberalising proponents here:

At the height of the epidemic in the 1990s, authorities estimated that about 100,000 Portuguese, or 1% of the population, were heroin users. “It cut across all social classes. Nearly every family had someone,” says Dr João Goulão, head of sicad, the agency that directs Portugal’s addiction programmes. That generated the political will to take the fight against drugs out of the justice ministry and give it to the health ministry. Under the law of 2001, illegal drugs remain illegal and dealers are prosecuted. But possession for personal use is an administrative offence, not a criminal one. Anyone caught with a 10-day supply or less is ordered to visit the local Commission for Dissuasion of Drug Addiction. Rehabilitation programmes and opiate substitutes, such as methadone, are available to all users who want to quit.
Since then, the number of problem heroin users has fallen to about 33,000. The government can claim only partial credit; drug epidemics tend to fizzle. But decriminalisation and treatment helped cut Portugal’s overdose rate to one of the lowest in Europe. As for America, in 2016 it had 63,600 fatal overdoses. In Portugal there were 27.
Portugal’s policies are based on “harm reduction” approaches pioneered in countries such as Switzerland in the 1980s. The idea is to emphasise treatment and prevention more than punishment, says Brendan Hughes of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (emcdda). Most European countries now have some form of harm-reduction policy, though the east is more conservative.
Surprisingly, though, apparently Portugal doesn't have safe injecting rooms:
Américo Nave, head of crescer, criticises Portugal’s government for failing to create safe injection rooms and barring outreach workers from carrying the drug naloxone, which can save heroin users who have overdosed. Last December, Ms Correia says, she watched a man die, knowing that naloxone might have saved him. Still, that is one of just a few dozen such deaths in Portugal in the past year. In Sweden, there may be ten times as many.
As usual, it's odd the way different countries have different types of drug problems:
But lately Europe is facing different drugs. Cocaine use is up; in Barcelona, residues in wastewater suggest it more than doubled between 2011 and 2018. Most overdose deaths in the Netherlands are caused not by opiates but by party drugs like amphetamines or synthetic cannabinoids, or by ecstasy, which can cause dehydration. The drug ghb raises your libido, but can knock you out; it accounted for two-thirds of Dutch drug-related emergencies in 2016.
For stimulants like these, notes the emcdda’s Andrew Cunningham, “there are no substitute treatments like methadone”. The same goes for methamphetamines, rare in most of Europe but common in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. (They are still known there as “Pervitin”, a brand of amphetamines distributed to Nazi soldiers.) In the past few years Czech meth has spread across Germany, mainly in paste form. The more dangerous crystal variant has popped up as well, often sold at t-shirt stands along the German border. 
Which all brings us to the pill testing question in Australia.

I find it easy to be sympathetic to harm reduction strategies for opiates, because of how they are used and the difficulty of getting off them.   (I am reminded, however, how Theodore Dalrymple argued that thousands of US military members indulged in heroin while in Vietnam, and then dropped the habit without excessive drama when they had to return to their homes and families.  He thinks we are too indulgent even of heroin use:  a pretty uncommon view.)   It's harder to feel as much sympathy for the true party drug scene - harm reduction for many of them feels more like encouraging mere repeated self indulgence.

About Brexit

Climate scientist James Annan has hated Brexit from the start, and has written a lengthy complaint about (amongst other things) how the media has taken a ridiculously soft role in challenging politicians on the issue.  

I still don't understand how it is so hard to convince politicians that it should be the subject of second referendum.   There are now things that are obvious about the situation before the first referendum:  

a.  the pro-Brexit side made completely false and misleading claims about the alleged benefits;
b.  the public was completely unaware of the complexities of Brexit;
c.  the public had no idea of the costs and consequences.  

A second referendum would, I think, obviously need to be done because the first vote held was held in something like an information vacuum.   

So why are politicians acting as if holding a second one is some betrayal of democracy?   A single exercise of democracy made in the clear absence of proper information as to what their vote means is not worth defending.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


I see that someone at Slate has written an article about how coriander seeds are an under-rated spice.  (I don't know - I think my wife uses them a lot, and I have used them a fair bit too, so I don't think my household can be accused of unfamiliarity with them.)   

But, this story reminds me:  I have been intending to write here for some time how I consider cardamon pods to be my favourite underrated spice.   I recently had an Indian family's chicken curry using fresh ones - delicious.   I like them, but rarely get around to using them. 

Fennel seeds are probably my favourite, more commonly used in my cooking, spice.

That is all. 

Feel free to entertain me with fascinating stories of your use of spices in comments.

Or don't. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

This and that

*   some Indian holy men are starving themselves to death to try to get the government to hurry up with cleaning up the Ganges river.   Good luck with that.   

*  I was hoping for a bit more referencing to other economists from this opinion piece in Foreign Policy which argues that recent Nobel price winning economist William Nordhaus is actually facing quite a lot of criticism from climate scientists and activists for always putting economic growth ahead of fast action on climate change.   (I am, of course, aware of Pindyck's criticism of the sort of models Nordhaus - I think - pioneered, but I really wanted to hear more from someone other than this writer.)   Anyway, some good points are made (assuming this is a correct account of Nordhaus' work):

So how do economists get away with believing that these extreme temperatures are somehow okay? Because the Nordhaus model tells us that even the worst catastrophes will not really hurt the global economy all that much. Maybe a percentage point or two at the most, by the end of the century—much less than the cost of immediate action.
How do they figure this? Because if climate breakdown ends up starving and displacing a few hundred million impoverished Africans and Asians, that will register as only a tiny blip in GDP.  After all, poor people don’t add much “value” to the global economy. The same goes for things like insects and birds and wildlife, so it doesn’t matter if global warming continues to accelerate mass extinction. From the perspective of capital, what most of us see as tremendous ethical and even existential problems literally don’t count.
What is more, Nordhaus reasons that the sectors most vulnerable to global warming—agricultural, forestry, and fishing—contribute relatively little to global GDP, only about 4 percent. So even if the entire global agricultural system were to collapse in the future, the costs, in terms of world GDP, would be minimal.
These arguments obviously offend common sense. And indeed, scientists have been quick to critique them. It’s absurd to believe that the global economy would just keep chugging along despite a collapse in the world’s food supply. And mass extinction of species poses a very real threat to the web of life itself, on which all of human civilization depends. Plus, Nordhaus doesn’t factor in the possibility of feedback loops that could kick in—Arctic methane release, ice-albedo feedback, and others we can’t yet predict—pushing us way beyond 3.5 degrees. No amount of wealth would be enough to help future generations navigate such a total system collapse.
The piece also argues:
The first step is to realize that high levels of GDP are in fact not necessary for high levels of human well-being. True, social indicators are generally correlated with GDP per capita, but it’s a saturation curve: Past a certain point, more GDP adds little to human well-being. Take the United States, for example. In 1975, America’s GDP per capita was only half its present levels, in real terms. And yet wages were higher, happiness levels were higher, and the poverty rate was lower.
Even more interestingly, some countries have high levels of human development with relatively low GDP per capita—and we the United States can learn a lot from them. Europe’s GDP per capita is 40 percent less than that of the United States, and yet it has better social indicators in virtually every category. Costa Rica has higher life expectancy than the United States and happiness levels that rival Scandinavia, with one-fifth of America’s GDP per capita.
How is this possible? It all comes down to distribution. In 1975, America gave a greater share of national income to workers than it does today. And Europe invests more in social goods like public health care and education than the United States does. This raises the question: If Europe can outperform the United States with significantly less income, then does the American economy really need to keep growing?

Sunday, December 09, 2018

A sophisticated hobbyist

I did enjoy this video, about a 25 year guy, without a particular science background, by the sounds, who spends all his (spare?) time building very sophisticated model rockets.  Clever, largely self taught, dude:

The "no, you're dumb" President

How can anyone not hear in their mind the lamest primary school age child attempted come back tactic  when reading the Trump tweet about Tillerson?  "Your lazy": "No, you're lazy". 

It's pretty remarkable how we're not needing to wait for the judgement of history on the Trump Presidency - it's being played out live.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

The problem with Gadsby

Usual disclaimer:  It's incredibly hard to write about Hannah Gadsby, because it's obvious she will be/ already is a hate figure for obnoxious males of the alt.right variety. I don't want to be seen to be aligned in any way with them, but this shouldn't make her immune from criticism.  So here goes.

Her "good men" speech was, I think, a complete mess.  I don't think she argues logically or consistently, and I am a bit puzzled as to why anyone would think she is compelling on the matter.  From reading the comments following the article in the WAPO at my link, I'm not alone in this view.  (And I don't think a lot of alt.righters read the Post and comment there.)

Remember what I said about her show Nanette - that I thought it refreshing when, early on, she complained about a lesbian fan telling her that she her shows were no longer lesbian enough in content?   Well, any impression from that one example that she was alert to the unfair pressure arising from identity politics is blown up by this latest speech, which is identity politics writ large - no man, non-black or heterosexual person ever has the right to talk about the behaviour of their own group toward women, whites or gays, apparently.

She makes a point of saying "men aren't creepy", as if she is against unfair generalisations (again, like the one that a lesbian comedian has to base every show around lesbian experience), but then she goes on to insist that all men (and women) think they are good, and to imply (or outright declare - she is such an all-over-the-shop polemicist that its hard to kept track) that all men have double or triple standards as to what they will say about women.   I think most men can say they know that is not true.  Even appallingly sexist men who spend every day mentally sexually rating every woman who crosses their line of sight would surely say that they have met men who don't join in with them doing that.   And she comes up with a collective name "Jimmys" for those late night hosts who have annoyed her. As others have said, how would it go over if a male was criticising a group of women as, say,  "Brendas". 

I wondered whether she might dislike Jimmy Kimmel in particular.   He has undergone something of a transformation from the days of the very politically incorrect The Man Show, which must have dismayed feminists no end, to his current incarnation as a Trump hating liberal.   (Incidentally, and I think I have said this before - I saw more than one episode of The Man Show, and didn't take great offence because it was often ironically about how dumb men's behaviour about sex and women could be.  Still, it was hardly an example of comedy that would help improve the world.)  I don't know that Kimmel has been very prominent on the MeToo issue anyway, but I like his aggressive anti-Trump line, and while not all of his humour works, a lot does.

Anyway, back to Gadsby:   there is still too much of an impression coming from her appearances that she is a woman on the edge, with suppressed anger and depression still bubbling away just under the surface due to past mistreatment at the hands of men (and yes, that mistreatment could be quite serious for all I know.) 

But putting it on display makes me feel it is not helping her - just in the way so many stand up comics make jokes about their life and you would hope that maybe it is cathartic, but then they end up in suicide or addiction anyway.   

And what's more, as I argue here, it's not like her points are doing a public service, because she does not argue clearly and well on these issues anyway.   She is changing no one's mind, I reckon.  I think she needs to get another way to make a living, for her own sake if not everyone else's.  Identity politics fans will find another hero soon enough.

PS:   I just learned a bit more about Gadsby's unsettled young life at this Guardian article of her talking to Roxanne Gay - who I don't exactly "get" either.   Gay says she was "completely insane" in her early twenties:  Gadsby apparently lived in a tent illegally on someone's farm near Byron Bay for 4 months in her mid twenties.

Maybe I only like comedians if they haven't been obviously mentally unwell?  

Friday, December 07, 2018

When the oceans died

There's a good article at The Atlantic talking about the end-Permian great extinction, and the implications for the future planet under climate change.   Long story short: 
“This study suggests we should be worrying much more about hypoxia than about ocean acidification,” Deutsch says. “There’s vastly more resources being put into [studying] organisms’ responses to pH in seawater than there is into understanding temperature-dependent hypoxia. I think that the field has basically allocated those resources in exactly the wrong way.”
The modern oceans have already lost 2 percent of their oxygen since 1960, a remarkable loss driven mostly by coastal nutrient pollution and global warming. It’s an environmental problem that promises to worsen in the warmer world of the coming centuries, just like it did in the end-Permian. And if Earth’s past is any indication of its future, this asphyxiation could be truly world changing. The prospect has led dozens of paleoclimatologists, geochemists, and oceanographers to sign the Kiel Declaration on Ocean Deoxygenation, developed this September to raise global awareness of a problem with increasingly worrying geological precedent.
“This study shows that we’re on that same road toward extinction, and the question is how far down it we go,” Penn says.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Let's talk pornography...

There's much discussion going on about Tumblr suddenly banning all pornography.   

I think it was a couple of years ago that I first looked at Tumblr.   I didn't understand it then, and still don't.   It seems to promote itself as a simple blogging site, but it seems hard to find any non-porn site on it that is anything other than self indulgent photos or pictures (often of an arty variety) with very few words accompanying them.   What's more - I don't recall any advertising (unlike Blogger, which allows users - like me -  to go advertising free, but encourages its placement.)

How was it ever meant to work?

Anyway, I don't really understand anything about the commercial world of pornography since the internet.   Sure, at first, the net might have helped with commercial porn promoting itself via advertising and free samples of their wares.  But when the amount of free, routinely pirated, porn (usually taken from commercially produced porn) flooded the place, why would anyone ever pay for the original material anymore? 

I also read some thread on Reddit recently about pornography generally, and there seemed to be a very strong sentiment that "amateur" category is now very popular.  Lots of people said it's less fake with less ridiculous vocal performances.   No surprise there.   But again, if this is now "big", how does the old school pornography industry survive at all?  Yet you do still get these cringey and anachronistic (to my mind) "Sexpo" events around Australia once a year or so, in which (from what limited reporting about them I have read) old school style porn stars are still featured to some degree.   But really, the names of current stars are not widely known like in the late 70's or 80's when the industry was probably at its peak.   Boogie Nights made the industry look pathetic - I can't help but feel that getting into the industry now smacks of more desperation than ever, given that even the commercial side of it doesn't seem to make any sense. 

As for the effect of explosion of free pornographic images on the public psyche - I get the impression that everyone thinks this is an interesting question, but it's not something that attracts much academic research.   Mostly, commentary on it seems to be more at an anecdotal level - especially its relationship to apparently declining levels of actual sex between young people in some countries, and also the matter of their unrealistic expectations regarding the act and body image.

I don't doubt that the internet has de-sensitised the public to extreme and ridiculous pornography in much the same way that I complain about the rapid desensitisation of the public to gory gun shot wounds to the head. I tend towards the view that there is likely not much social harm in "vanilla" nudity and sexual imagery, and videos of your average sexual activity, being relatively easily available.  It has, after all, been available in one form or another for millennia, and children seeing animal (and indeed human) sex in real life was probably much more common in poorer centuries when farm animals were everywhere and families slept all in one big room.   But the normalisation of fetishistic and extreme porn is problematic, for reasons I won't bother trying to elaborate here.

So I find it hard to feel concerned about any site like Tumblr giving up and just wanting to ban it all due to the impossibility of drawing lines as to what is acceptable or not in terms of nudity and sex. 

Which leads me to the most interesting thing, and a large part of the reason for this post:   I heard on ABC radio recently a bit about a documentary about how there are businesses based in the Philippines (and doubtless elsewhere) which do provide a human monitoring service for imagery and videos on social media such as Facebook.   A lot of what they are trying to catch is, of course, child pornography or extreme porn of other varieties (bestiality I guess), as well as grotesque violence material:
Finding the moderators at all was a challenge.
Content moderation is a mostly secretive and hidden industry, often outsourced to labour hire companies in corners of the world far removed from northern California.   
The specific psychological hurt caused by dealing with a constant stream of traumatising imagery is clearly shown in the documentary.
The filmmakers collaborated with psychologists, and Block said it was not just the act of sitting in front of a screen, clicking through the worst humans can offer, that was damaging for moderators.
It was also the silence: Non-disclosure agreements with their employers and social pressure also kept them from talking about what they were seeing and feeling.
"You're not allowed to verbalise the horrible experience you had," Block said.
"While we were filming the documentary … we both had time to talk about what we are filming, time to have a break and to stop watching and to take our time to recover from what we saw.
"The workers in Manila don't have the time. They don't have the ability to talk to someone."
It is also clear in the film that many of the content moderators consider that, all told, their job is a good one.
"When they are hired, a lot of them are really proud about getting a job in a clean environment and in one of the best parts of the city," Riesewieck explained.
"What is highly underestimated is the psychological consequence of it … they just notice it when friends … tell them, 'you have changed'.
"Or they notice that they have developed phobias … or when they notice that they're not able to have a sexual relationship anymore."
This is when, the filmmakers said, they return to those necessary narratives — the story of Christian sacrifice or the need for social cleansing.
There's another site talking about it that says there have been suicides - and the work conditions are such that they have to view tens of thousands of images a day - something like 15 - 20,000 I think.

I just can't imagine that viewing such a rapid rate of changing images can be healthy, even if the images are just of puppies or something harmless!

Anyway, I thought the documentary sounded very interesting.  And I feel very sorry for the people who live in the Philippines and for whom this counts as a "good" job.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Leave Kant alone!

This is upsetting:  the Russians have it in for Kant -
The 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant has stirred surprising tensions in his Russian hometown over the prospect of naming the airport after him, with officials branding him a "traitor" and vandals throwing paint at his tomb.
Kant was born and spent most of his life in Prussian Königsberg, which was renamed Kaliningrad after coming under the control of the Soviet Union in the wake of World War II. Now it is Russia's westernmost city and hosted World Cup matches this year.
Until recently the philosopher (1724-1804) was in the lead in an online poll to choose a name for the city's airport, currently called Khrabrovo after the nearby village.This sparked a furious row with officials blasting Kant as a "Russophobe", even though there is no historical evidence that the philosopher harboured strong feelings toward the Russian Empire.
In a video on regional media, a senior Russian naval officer urges servicemen to vote against Kant in the poll, saying he "betrayed his motherland."
The philosopher, a central figure in Western thought, has now sharply dropped in the rankings below Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, whose army captured the city in 1758 but abandoned it five years later.
Kant, during the brief period of Russian rule, asked the empress to let him teach at the local university, but his letter was never delivered.
"He demeaned himself to get a department in the university, so that he could teach and write some strange books that none of those present here today have read," says the naval officer in the video, identified by local media as Vice-Admiral Igor Mukhametshin, head of the Baltic Fleet staff. 
In an op-ed for pro-Kremlin website Vzglyad, Kaliningrad regional lawmaker Andrei Kolesnik called the philosopher a "Russophobe", adding that it would be unpatriotic to "Germanize" the airport.
"The author of the 'Critique of Pure Reason' cannot be one of the main symbols of a Russian region," Kolesnik said.
Why not?  Russians are weirdos.
A student at the local state university Mikhail Shipilov was questioned by police after proposing a rally in support of the philosopher on his social networking page, local news website New Kaliningrad said.
He told AFP he has since spent several days trying to get the authorities' permission for the event, calling the experience "Kafkaesque".
He said he thinks the Kant controversy stems from a "dislike of everything German" harboured by some Russians: "Kant is a German, therefore he's an enemy."
Vadim Chaly, head of the philosophy department at the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University in Kaliningrad, said that if Russians objecting to Kant actually read his works, they would find that his values are the "normal values of any modern society, including Russian".

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

On France

Reading this piece in The Guardian by a journalist who has long worked in France, you get the distinct impression that part of the problem is that the country has so many people who share a fondness for public demonstration as a political tool that once they start, no one really has any clear idea how unified the demonstrators are.  Hence there always ends up being a multitude of possible mixed motivations, which makes calming it down all the more difficult.

Of course, people say that about demonstrations in other countries too (you know, the matter of whether demonstrations are being "hijacked" by a radical group), but it seems a really chronic problem when you're in a country where anyone will demonstrate at the drop of a political hat.   As Lichfield says:
I’ve lived in France for 22 years and have witnessed street protests by workers, farmers, wine producers, truck drivers, railway employees, university students, sixth-formers, teachers, youths in the multiracial suburbs, chefs, lawyers, doctors and police officers. Yes, even police officers. 
Anyway,  another article in The Guardian looks at the question of whether petrol prices in France are really that expensive, and they apparently aren't.   But Macron being a strange political fish, who believes in climate change, is pro-EU, leery of populist sentiment against immigration, but also wants to de-regulate work conditions, has the problem of thereby not being able to have solid support from either arm of politics. 

I don't know enough about France to have really solid opinions about it or him, but naturally I gravitate towards centrism and moderation, and (of course) view the populist Right as a real danger.  It's a pity that the Macron brand of centrism seems not to be working.  But whether that's because he's too far "dry" on economics or too "wet" on environmentalism - or a bit of both - I don't really know.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Silly economic prediction

I didn't post about the Fourth National Climate Assessment because of the immediate criticism I noticed about the "economic effect" part that suggested that even under a high emissions path, the effect on the US economy may only be 10% of GDP.

While its seems most media unthinkingly reported the figure as if it was high, lots of people on Twitter with a clue immediately thought that was just ridiculously low.   We're talking an 8 degree temperature rise - that would be a huge change in global conditions (bearing in mind a drop of only 4 to 5 degrees is all it takes to put the planet into an ice age.) 

I don't know that there has been as much discussion about the obvious problems with that figure in the report as there should have been, but And Then There's Physics had a decent post about it, in which the comments are well worth reading.

It would seem there is some hedging in the Report itself about the figure, but in a way it's a wonder that the skeptics have not done more to grab onto this figure to argue that climate change is not a problem.

The lazy JC at Catallaxy has done so - but then he believes the last skeptical thing he ever reads and has now been convinced by Scott Adams, the cartoonist who does videos from up Trump's rectum, that climate models are a fraud.   So gullible:  believes anything that fits the theory "there is no problem."

But it would seem that the professional climate change skeptics have decided to ignore this point and criticise the report in other ways - their familiar refrain of "the science is all too uncertain". 

I don't think the problematic economic prediction is one from an Integrated Assessment Model - but in any event, it is well worth remembering Robert Pindyck's long standing work pointing out that economic forecasts for climate change are a bit of a crock.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Summing up Godless

So, we got to the end of Netflix's Godless on Friday night.  [Spoilers ahead].

It had everything:   lesbians and downtrodden black folk taking on the oppressive white man in a massive shootout in which it seemed 200 people died, even though there were only 80 there.

Actually, I'm being facetious and pretending to be a Wingnut.   It was, in fact, very satisfying.   (Oh, and the black folk take much part in the final shootout - they're mostly eliminated before then.)

The production values and acting again came to the fore:   this was really the best looking Western I can remember since, well, I don't really know.  It's not as if I follow the genre closely, and at the cinema there are so few examples now I don't remember the last one I would have seen there.   The acting was also very uniformly good throughout the series:  Jeff Daniels was the most surprising as a very convincingly menacing and nutty bad guy.   

I was pleased that most of the "good guys" survived, and the cemetery speech was actually touching.

Sure, the series isn't perfect:  a bit too horsey sometimes; I was waiting for the origin story of bad guy Frank's dedicated band of followers but it never came;  and I can't say the whole scenario of the town soldiering on with widowed women felt particularly likely, even though it made for an innovate setting.   (In fact, I have been meaning to check if the writer/director based it on any historical example that sparked the idea.  I'll come back and update if I turn up anything interesting.)  But the thing is, we all know that Westerns take liberties with history and we can enjoy them nonetheless for their imagery and sentiment.

So, I'm glad I watched it, and puzzle once again over the matter of why Netflix can make some very enjoyable mini series, but seems pretty woeful at producing their own films.