Saturday, March 30, 2019

Old people are killing us ..

Look at this pic from a pro Brexit rally in London:

Look at the average age.  Not to mention the gender and ethnic mix.  How many of them share the same profile as your average climate change denialist?  (Answer: a lot.)

It feels very weird to be living at a time when the cries of the populist youth movement of the 1960's, about which I was cynical when I was young myself,  have actually come to be true. 

Until Rupert Murdoch goes to meet his Maker, hopefully by something ironic like Jerry Hall giving him a shove at the top of a flight of stairs after reading a false rumour from his own tabloid press, this is the world his lust for money and power has created. 

And strangely, whereas we used to get radicals threatening violence against the establishment, now they would prefer to get into a Twitter troll war. 

See, I have found a way to blame both sides. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

The further adventures of Pauline's Flakey Nuts.

If I had cartooning talent, and time, I'd be drawing up a cereal box called "Pauline's Flakey Nuts". 

But whatever.

Some further thoughts from watching Part 2 of Ashby and Dickson in Washington:

*  what an extraordinary, obnoxious, suck-up prat that Steve Dickson continued to show himself to be - the way he started up with the "Jesus" talk when he was with the gun loving Jesus lovers.   I'm suspecting that Ashby kept his sexuality on the quiet while he was playing the room, though.

* speaking of God talk - wasn't it nauseating in both episodes to see how much the NRA brings religion into their work:  the prayer at the start of the NRA electioneering for Trump;  the NRA telling Australians that gun ownership is not just a constitutional right in the US - it is fundamentally a God given right.  Honestly, the degree that a queasy brand of evangelical Christianity is tied into the political views of a large slab of the US Right feels like listening to a soft white bread Christian version of Sharia law, virtually.   It's creepy.

* you could also see how the NRA suggestions as to what lines to run to drum up support in Australia just sounded like complete duds that would not translate to our culture.   The "guns are a God given right" line, for example - will go over like a lead balloon here, but the NRA PR staff just don't appreciate that.   Same with the idea of everyone buying guns for self defence - the vast majority here know its good to have a high confidence that nearly no aggro nutter you pass on the street is likely to be carrying a concealed pistol.  That's better than needing a gun to use yourself.

* I would have loved to have known what the Koch operative said after Ashby explained that all donations would have to be fully disclosed on a website.  She pulled a face that indicated clearly "well, there's your problem right there; and I think I'm wasting my time", and I had the feeling the meeting wound up maybe 5 minutes later.

* The other overwhelming impression - how lazy Ashby and Dickson were.  "Let's ask fake gun rights guy to come up with policy for One Nation to run with.  Yeah, yeah, good idea."   I mean, sure, have expert advice on policy, but I had the feeling Ashby and Dickson just couldn't be bothered putting in the work on what guns policy changes they actually wanted.

Look at me! Look at me! - I'm not a conspiracy theorist

So, David Leyonhjelm denies he's a Port Arthur "truther" - he just thinks there are "questions to be answered":
Former senator and gun enthusiast David Leyonhjelm – now on the cusp of being elected to the NSW upper house – told the Herald and The Age on Thursday there were "legitimate" questions about Port Arthur, though he denied being a conspiracy theorist himself.

"People say 'well what is there to know about Port Arthur'. Well there's actually a lot," he said. "The solution is let's have an inquiry and let some of them at least go away.

"There are a lot of questions that would be resolved by an inquiry. It may well be that there are good answers to them. There are assertions – I'm not asserting these myself – but there are people who say there was more than one shooter.

"There are people who say that people were killed with head shots which would require substantial marksmanship which [Martin] Bryant didn't have.

"There's several other questions that keep coming up. I think they deserve to be answered."
 What a disingenuous, publicity seeking moron.  

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Oh look, another surgeon it took for-ever to get suspended

What the hell?   This report at the ABC about a surgeon whose competence and behaviour was doubted by others for over a decade raises pretty shocking questions about how the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons operates.

Why can't we all remember 20 different languages, then?

It seems it takes a surprisingly small amount of memory storage to know how to use English:
A pair of researchers, one with the University of Rochester the other the University of California has found that combining all the data necessary to store and use the English language in the brain adds up to approximately 1.5 megabytes. In their paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, Francis Mollica and Steven Piantadosi describe applying information theory to add up the amount of data needed to store the various parts of the English language.
If only the brain was flash memory chips instead of stupid wet cells, then...

The weird, weird, nonsense politics of Brexit

I love the way a bad deal to a bunch of Tories will become an acceptable deal to them provided the woman who put all the work into it promises to resign.  The resignation makes no change to the deal itself, of course:  it's all (I presume) a combination of "if you go, we will be free to immediately blame you for making a deal we don't really want to support", and "Hey!  I could be leader faster than I thought."

It just seems the most perversely mean spirited example of internal power politics due to lack of any relationship to improving a policy outcome.   

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Ha ha ha Sinclair Davidson

Sinclair thinks the findings of the Mueller investigation will fuel public distrust of media news.  Today, he's claiming public distrust of Fairfax led to its collapse, and it's "why the ABC needs a $1 billion dollar subsidy."

We'll let slip that ABC news, a mere part of the organisation's role, hardly costs a full billion dollars:  what's more un-forgiveable is that Sinclair lives in a fantasy land unsupported by research which continually shows that the ABC is more trusted by Australians than commercial news.

And honestly, when you see where "news" run purely for commercial profit leads you - the quasi State media relationship of Fox News and Trump, and the nuttiness of Sky News at night here - any person with a brain can see why the likes of the ABC and BBC are trusted and valued.

Not only that, but the US liberal broadsheets have done very well financially in the Trump era:   and the Mueller investigation have revealed enough that, regardless of whether it amounted to indictable offences against Trump personally, the campaign was full of politically disgraceful behaviour.  There is no way there will be a sudden burst of subscription cancellations over the Mueller results.

And would Sinclair like to explain the profitability of The Australian while he is at it?   How many decades has it been subsidised by other Murdoch papers?

It's not a good look to continue building a cage of stupidity one bar at a time, Sinclair.  Close down Catallaxy and give yourself credit for not running a hate site, at least.   It won't help your nonsense on every other issue from climate change to stagflation, but at least I would give you credit for improving political discourse.

Colbert does well

Stephen Colbert's lengthy reaction to the (apparent) outcome of the Mueller investigation was sharp, very funny, and passionate:

While I am at it - is it just me, or is the vibe of Trump himself not quite as jubilant as one might have expected?   Sure, he's been talking about exoneration and looking into those who made claims, etc:  but to my mind there is has been a whiff of exhaustion and resignation about it, rather than energy.  

This might be imagination, but is it possible he feels he will miss victimhood status?  Or even regret that a finding against him might have given him grounds to resign from a job he doesn't really like?   OK, maybe that's going too far, but the fact he fell silent on twitter before the Barr letter indicated something a bit odd - who had convinced him not to tweet?   The other funny thing I have seen speculated is that, feeling relieved, he will soon be making admissions that will throw doubt on the whole obstruction/collusion question again.

Making it up as we go along

Over at the TLS, Phillip Goff has a lengthy go at justifying the practice of religion without believing in it. 

It's an interesting argument, perhaps put better here than I have read previously.  Not sure I'm convinced.

In the meantime, I'm developing my own religion based on some combination of the moral sensibilities of To Kill a Mockingbird, the sense of awe from the films of Steven Spielberg, and the all powerful, all seeing knowledge of Google as the forerunner of the Tiplerian/de Chardin-ian Omega Point.   That last bit explains why it will be crucial for my congregation to use Android, not Apple.

But what heresy is this, with Spielberg appearing in support of Apple yesterday?    My belief system is being tested already....

Quick One Nation takes

After watching the "Party for Sale to the Highest Gun Lobby Bidder" show last night I have some comments:

*  what a deeply obnoxious, redneck jerk that Steve Dickson is.   (Head of Queensland One Nation, apparently.)  And he was a Queensland Minister for something, getting high in his office on his power to make regulations about anything?  Shows the embarrassingly shallow pool that politicians, especially Queensland politicians, are drawn from.  [Update - Wikipedia says he was a minister under Campbell Newman, and is 56.  He he looks like he could easily pass for 70.]

* strangely, it seems the NRA actually recognises the difficulty of arguing against the relative success of the Australia gun buy back.

* plainly, they were telling the NRA they were not just there for tactical hints, but they needed money to get more power within Australia.

* will Mark Latham use this as a reason to leave the party?   As soon as he was elected, people have been asking "has he left the party yet?"[Update:  I am told Latham is defending the Party.  What a joke.]

* like Trump supporters, One Nation voters are too dumb to watch the ABC, will vaguely hear something about how One Nation wanted to relax gun laws, and say "sounds OK to me, I'm voting for Pauline anyway.  She's one of us."   The party base is, basically, too dumb to not support the party.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Malaysian problems

An interesting paper is at the Lowy Institute site talking about 4 key problems Malaysia has to deal with.

I didn't realise that 35% of the population was non-Muslim.   (That's a lot bigger figure than I expected.)   Sure doesn't feel that way when you are there these days.

I also see in the footnotes some examples of recent, shall we shall, stupid Muslim activism:
Ludicrous examples of such behaviour include attempts by a laundromat in Muar to ban non-Muslims from using its washing machines arguing that their clothing will contaminate Muslim washing (“Muslim-only Laundromat puts Malaysia in a Spin”, Today (Singapore), 27 September 2017), and complaints that a housing project was promoting Christianity because the roof-top air vents resembled crosses (“Stir over Langkawi Housing Project’s Cross-shaped Air Wells Prompts Developer to Repaint Them”, The Straits Times (Singapore), 29 December 2015).

I watch nutters so you don't have to

The reality distortion field caused by fear of an attractive, articulate and pretty sharp political opponent is absurdly powerful:

Geothermal woes

Gee - it turns out it's best not to play around with geothermal energy in earthquake prone places:
A South Korean government panel has concluded that a magnitude-5.4 earthquake that struck the city of Pohang on 15 November 2017 was probably caused by an experimental geothermal power plant. The panel was convened under presidential orders and released its findings on 20 March.

Unlike conventional geothermal plants, which extract energy directly from hot underground water or rock, the Pohang power plant injected fluid at high pressure into the ground to fracture the rock and release heat — a technology known as an enhanced geothermal system. This pressure caused small earthquakes that affected nearby faults, and eventually triggered the bigger 2017 quake, the panel found.

The quake was the nation’s second strongest and its most destructive on modern record — it injured 135 people and caused an estimated 300 billion won (US$290 million) in damage.

Russian collusion

Maybe no more posts about Mueller after this one.

At The Atlantic, an argument that the investigation was a stunning success in revealing corruption (which, of course, Republicans refuse to acknowledge):
The Mueller investigation has been an unmitigated success in exposing political corruption. In the case of Paul Manafort, the corruption was criminal. In the case of Trump, the corruption doesn’t seem to have transgressed any laws. As Michael Kinsley famously quipped, “The scandal isn’t what’s illegal; the scandal is what’s legal.” Lying to the electorate, adjusting foreign policy for the sake of personal lucre, and undermining an investigation seem to me pretty sound impeachable offenses—they might also happen to be technically legal.

Through his investigation, Mueller has also provided a plausible answer to the question that first bothered me. Trump’s motive for praising Putin appears to have been, in large part, commercial. With his relentless pursuit of Trump Tower Moscow, the Republican nominee for president had active commercial interests in Russia that he failed to disclose to the American people. In fact, he explicitly and shamelessly lied about them. As Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen implied in his congressional testimony, Trump ran his campaign as something of an infomercial, hoping to convince the Russians that he was a good partner. To enrich himself, Trump promised to realign American foreign policy.

 This is the very definition of corruption, and it provides the plot line that runs through the entirety of Trump’s political life. The president never chooses to distinguish—and indeed, may be temperamentally incapable of distinguishing—his personal interests from the national interest. Why has he failed so consistently to acknowledge Russian interference in the election? Because that interference was designed to benefit him. Why did he fire James Comey and, let’s use the word, obstruct the investigation into election interference? Because he wanted to protect himself from any investigation that might turn up material that reflected badly on him and his circle. (And whatever Mueller’s ultimate conclusion about collusion, his investigation has proved to be an unending source of damning revelations about the president and the men who constituted his closest advisers. )
 David Corn has written in much more detail along these lines.  I didn't even recall we knew this in detail:

Let’s start with Trump. Shortly after he leaped into the 2016 contest, Trump began pursuing a grand project in Moscow: a sky-high tower bearing his name. It could reap him hundreds of millions of dollars. His fixer,  Michael Cohen, was the Trump Organization’s point man in the negotiations.

Trump signed a letter of intent, and the talks went on for months through the fall of 2015 and the first half of 2016. At one point, Cohen spoke to an official in Putin’s office, seeking help for the venture. And throughout this period, Trump the candidate, when asked for his opinions on Russia and Putin, issued curiously positive remarks about the thuggish and autocratic Russian leader.

Trump also claimed throughout the campaign that he had nothing to do with Russia—no business there, nothing. And when he was asked whether he knew Felix Sater, a wheeling-dealing developer and one-time felon who was the middleman for the Moscow project negotiations, Trump claimed he was “not that familiar with him.”

That was a lie.

The Moscow deal did fizzle at some point, but Trump had engaged in the the most significant conflict of interest in modern American politics. He was making positive statements about Putin on the campaign trail, at the same time he needed support from the Russian government for his project. Yet he hid this conflict from American voters and lied to keep it secret. (After the election, Cohen lied to Congress about this project to protect Trump, and that’s one reason Cohen is soon heading to prison.)

  It’s deplorable that a presidential candidate would double-deal in this manner and deceive the public—insisting he was an America First candidate, while pursuing a secret agenda overseas to enrich himself. But Trump’s duplicity also compromised him.

Cult follower comfortable with jailing disbelievers, apparently

RMIT's worst walking advertisement in the history of their academia (Steve Kates) continues his cult longings at their second worst advertisement's hate blog: 

Trump added that if he has his way, those who investigated him will themselves be investigated.
“Those people will certainly be looked at. I’ve been looking at them for a long time and I’m saying why haven’t they been looked at? They lied to Congress. Many of them, you know who they are, they’ve done so many evil things,” he said.

Trump also said he wants to make sure that what he’s endured never happens to another president.
 “Lock her up” was the mantra during the election, and it might soon apply to a number of those who worked with and supported Mueller. As Emerson said: “When you strike at a king, you must kill him.” Same may go for Presidents.
That last paragraph is Kates's own words. 

Some relevant tweets about the Mueller investigation

Monday, March 25, 2019

In the pre-Cult days of America...

....regardless of the question of whether it amounts to criminal conduct, it would have been non controversial that it should be terribly politically damaging for:

*  a Presidential candidate's family and campaign staff to be running off to meetings with sleazy Russian characters indicating that dirt on Hilary might be available to them;

* a Presidential candidate at a rally to invite Russia (or any foreign power) to help him by providing Hilary's emails;

* a Presidential candidate, and a President, to laugh and cajole supporter rallies in chants of locking up the candidate who lost to him at the election;  

* a President to fume openly about an investigation into the Russian assistance, and to publicly take the word of Putin over that of his intelligence community;

* a President to sack his FBI director for not toeing his line.

But we are living in the days of the weirdest political cult America has ever seen, so this behaviour is considered innocent by its members.

Some curious stuff about the Mueller report

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only person to be startled at how quickly Barr made his decision after receiving the report.  From The Atlantic:
In less than 48 hours, he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—who supervised Mueller for most of his investigation—“concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offence.” Though Barr emphasized that he and Rosenstein had been involved in evaluating the status of the investigation for months, and that they consulted the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department of Justice experts, this conclusion reflects startling and unseemly haste for such a historic matter.

Crucially, we don’t know whether Barr concluded that the president didn’t obstruct justice or that he couldn’t obstruct justice. Well before his appointment, Barr wrote an unsolicited memo to Rosenstein arguing that Mueller’s investigation was “fatally misconceived,” to the extent that it was premised on Trump firing former FBI Director James Comey or trying to persuade Comey to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national-security adviser. Barr’s memo was a forceful exposition of the legal argument that the president cannot obstruct justice by exercising certain core powers such as hiring or firing staff or directing the course of executive-branch investigations. So although Barr’s letter to Congress says that he and Rosenstein found no actions that constituted “obstructive conduct” undertaken with the requisite corrupt intent, we don’t know whether he means that Trump didn’t try to interfere with an investigation, or that even if he did, it wasn’t obstruction for a president to do so. Democrats in Congress will want to probe that distinction—as they should.
And elsewhere in the magazine, David Frum writes, with nice sarcasm:
Good news, America. Russia helped install your president. But although he owes his job in large part to that help, the president did not conspire or collude with his helpers. He was the beneficiary of a foreign intelligence operation, but not an active participant in that operation. He received the stolen goods, but he did not conspire with the thieves in advance.

This is what Donald Trump’s administration and its enablers in Congress and the media are already calling exoneration. But it offers no reassurance to Americans who cherish the independence and integrity of their political process.
Update:   another lawyer (who helped draw up Mueller's terms of reference) is directly critical of Barr's previous memo which apparently expresses a controversial take on the matter.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A look at Norilsk

BBC Culture has a gallery of remarkable photos and short videos about the Russian city of Norilsk - which is 400 km north of the Arctic circle.  That means no sun at all for 2 months, and a winter that lasts for 9 months.  

Humans really do live in stupid places.  

Paranoia unbound

I see Steve Kates having an outbreak of paranoia (again) about the fact that there was an investigation into Trump and his campaign's dealings with Russia, a country which we know intervened in the election in his favour.

These people should terrify you

Why are these lefty idiots so upset about Mueller not intending to indict the President? Why aren’t they relieved that there was no conspiracy to subvert their democracy? Because they are dishonest swine who care not a whit about truth, justice or the democratic order. Here’s the answer.
They stand for nothing other than power. No decency, no morality, nothing but the raw assertion of power. 
He's a deep believer in the Deep State conspiracy theory - everyone who wanted an investigation - doesn't matter if they were Republican figures or not - were just out to get his hero Trump. 

The Wingnut Right has become the new Manicheans - everything in politics has to fit into a dichotomy and battle between Good (them and - ha ha, I know - Trump) and Evil (Democrats - a.k.a. Socialists - who are as bad as Hitler because he was a socialist,  Muslims, Mexicans, Europeans and any foreigners who think that Trump's an idiot and embarrassment).

It's astounding, and will be written about by historians for centuries.

Anyway, Sinclair Davidson's sheltered workshop for the paranoid and obnoxious continues on its merry, nutty way. 

I think the Olympic Games are safe from this competition...

Headline of the year so far at NPR:

Headless Goat Polo Is A Top Sport At World Nomad Games
Two bare-chested men on horseback wrestle. The goal is to pull your opponent off the horse so a part of his body touches the ground.

Three dogs chase a dummy clad in a fox or hare skin to see who's fastest. Biting an opponent is grounds for disqualification.

And then there is this sport: "Each team seeks to throw as many goat carcasses as possible into the tai kazan (goal) of the opposing team."

They're definitely not Olympic sports but they are a part of another global competition: The World Nomad Games, held in Kyrgyzstan last September.
Some photos of the action at the link, too.

Wow, she's good

It seems Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appeared a couple of days ago on Seth Meyer's show, and this is probably the first time I've watched her in this format.   No wonder she scares Republicans and Fox News - she's incredibly relaxed, charming and polished as a media performer, and also appears as sharp as a tack.   

I particularly liked the part where she ridicules the Republican who asks the same stupid question at every committee hearing "Are you a capitalist or a socialist."

Is there lead in the water of the American Right at the moment?   I just don't understand how stupid it's become.

Disclaimer:  first impressions don't always count - I was impressed with the first big media appearance of  Sarah Palin, to my perpetual embarrassment now.  But AOC has actually been doing the work, asking good questions, and appearing astoundingly confident, but also quite modest.  I don't think I'm wrong this time, although of course all politicians will have mis-steps of one kind or another over time.

Apropos of nothing much - Gray on Hayek and Keynes

John Gray is usually interesting, if sometimes obviously wrong.   I just stumbled across a piece he wrote in 2015 which gives some brief but interesting biographical details and analysis about Hayek (what he got right and wrong.) 

Unpleasant twits

One of the participants at Catallaxy threads calls himself "Percy Popinjay": in the same tradition, I suppose, of others there who go under names like "Confused Old Misfit" or "Knuckeldragger":  the attempted ironic humour doesn't work as their comments show it's an accurate description.

I am continually gobsmacked at how so many people who comment there do not realise what deeply unpleasant, viciously intolerant and arrogant personalities they have on display.  Here's Percy, talking about his time at the voting booth in Sydney yesterday, handing out how to vote cards for Australian Conservatives:
People continually confused the AusCons HTV with that of the Gliberals. I ended up having to change my script to “Conservatives, they’re not the liberals”, or “Conservatives, the sensible alternative to the liberals”.

About the closest I came to being abused was when some ol’ smartarse had a good look at the HTV and then dramatically recoiled, stating, “I’m not a conservative”. Had to bite my tongue so as not to reply with “so, you’re an unthinking brainwashed imbecile”.

That smarmy ol’ mayor also made an appearance at the booth. The greenfilth HTV distributors were exactly what I expected – smug hypocritcal middle aged white boomer scumbags.
The name and the attitude puts me very much in mind of Monty Python dealing with "upper class twits".  Any of these could be our man Percy:

I think the Australian Conservatives only ran in the Upper House, and I don't think any figures are available for them yet.  (Nor for David Leyonhjelm's run either?)   I may well be amused when the voting numbers are out, to see if twit Percy's efforts counted for much. 

Update:  Percy himself has read the post and thinks I don't get that his name is his attempt at a "pisstake".  He's not very bright.  

Earth instruction manual sent to the Moon

What a neat idea.  Having a lunar lifeboat repository in case the planet gets smashed or nukes itself into near oblivion has always appealed.  Now, we have the start of one:

A 30-million page library is heading to the moon to help preserve human civilization.

The massive archive is aboard Israel's Beresheet spacecraft. 

From the article itself:
Included in the Lunar Library’s more than 200 gigabytes of data are the entire English-language version of Wikipedia; tens of thousands of fiction and nonfiction books; a collection of textbooks; and a guide to 5,000 languages along with 1.5 billion sample translations between them.

All of that information is etched onto 25 stacked nickel disks, each just 40 microns (about 1/600th of an inch) thick.

Since people of the far future will presumably not have a DVD player handy, and might not speak any language now in use, the top of the Lunar Library’s disc is engraved with tiny images of books and other documents explaining human linguistics, along with instructions about how to read the library beneath. The introductory layers can easily be viewed when magnified 100 times under a simple microscope. Then it’s up to our crafty descendants to build the player so they can read the rest of the Library....

The Lunar Library is shielded by a protective layer and insulation, as well as the structure of the Beresheet lander itself. All of that should help safeguard it from micrometeorites that strike the moon on a regular basis. Even so, it may not have anything like the 6-billion-year lifetime that Spivack is targeting. “These objects will not survive for a billion years un-degraded, but they might be intact and unburied after 10 million years, maybe 50 million years,” Davies said.

Me and podcasts; and a movie genesis

My flu-y type sickness made me rest all day Friday, and yesterday, but I am starting to feel better, thanks for asking.

Lying around the house led to me dropping back into Podbean, a podcast app that sees as good as any other.   I had used it to listen to some podcasts on the flight to Singapore and back at Christmas, given that Scoot has absolutely no in-flight entertainment system.  Ah, who needs it on an 8 hour flight if you have a phone with a battery that lasts that long? 

Even though there are so many podcasts available, on lots of topics which I find potentially interesting, I think I have mentioned before that I have trouble getting into this internet phenomena.  Not doing anything other than listening to one feels wrong, and I'm not sure why.   I guess it's like listening to talk radio - I never sit down to just listen to it live, but it's perfectly fine while shaving and ironing and getting ready for work;  or driving.  Yes, a lot of my Radio National listening has happened while driving.  

So, lying in bed and trying to listen to one just doesn't work for me.  I also don't much enjoy ones where there are too many people interjecting - I tried listening to How Did This Get Made, in which a room full of people, including the quite funny Jason Mantzoukas, take apart movies which raise the titular question.   It was too much, for too long.  (It did convince me, though, that the 2018 movie Skyscraper is a real dud in all respects.)  

But then, I had to go pick up my daughter last night and was listening to The Good Place podcast, episode one (it's hosted by the actor who plays the devil Sean in the series) and it quite enjoyable.  It was more just a protracted one on one interview, and it was fine, especially as I was driving at the time.

I also tried the Scriptnotes podcast, by two genuine Hollywood screenwriters with significant credits to their name.   The content seems very directed towards fellow writers, and it sounded like their industry advice was practical and likely very helpful for those trying to get a foot in the door in that business. Not sure that I am going to listen to them that much, but I did listen to an old one they did in which they analysed Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Which led to me to the transcripts of the meeting between Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan in which the ideas for the movie were fleshed out from an outline created by Lucas.

Maybe I had read before, in 2013, that the transcripts were available online - it did attract some attention that year.  But I don't recall going and reading them before.

It's all very satisfying, listening in, as it were, as to who came up with what idea.   It's clear that an awful lot of what ended up in Temple of Doom came from those sessions too.  (Essentially, they had too many ideas for one movie.)   

Some of it sounds kind of racist by today's standards, and some a bit weird.  George suggesting that Marion was only 12 when she fell in love with Indy, for example:

Lucas: He could have known this little girl when she was just a kid. Had an affair with her when she was eleven.
Kasdan: And he was forty-two.
Lucas: He hasn’t seen her in twelve years. Now she’s twenty-two. It’s a real strange relationship.
Spielberg: She had better be older.
 Anyway, the full transcripts go for many, many pages, and I didn't read them all.

Still, it's nice to know they are there.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Is there a mild flu going around?

..because if there is, it sure feels like I have it.   Light headed; feet and calves a bit achy even though I have done no special exercise; nose not blocked but some drip in the back of the throat; and tired.  Stomach not feeling great either.

Not just a cold, I think.  I am going to bed.

What a country...

Sometimes, you have to wonder why there isn't an immigration crisis involving people wanting to get out of the USA, when you read stories like this:

Antivaxxers used to mainly be hippies, but put a dumb Wingnut President in charge, and you get governors happy to announce they gave their kids chickenpox:
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) turned heads this week after saying on a radio show that he had intentionally tried to get his children infected with chickenpox and that he did not support the state’s mandatory chickenpox vaccine.

Bevin, appearing on a radio station in the state, Talk 104.1, said that every one of his nine children had come down with chickenpox — on purpose.

“We found a neighbor that had it,” the first-term governor said. “And I went and made sure every one of my kids was exposed to it and they got it. And they had it as children, they were miserable for a few days, and they all turned out fine.”
As many in comments say, his kids will really thank him when they come down with shingles later in life.  

Then guns.   The figures here for the number of kids killed by them are just extraordinary:
Results of the study, just published in the American Journal of Medicine, show that from 1999 to 2017, 38,942 firearm-related deaths occurred in 5 to 18 year olds. These included 6,464 deaths in children between the ages of 5 to 14 years old (average of 340 deaths per year), and 32,478 deaths in children between the ages of 15 to 18 years old (average of 2,050 deaths per year).

"It is sobering that in 2017, there were 144 police officers who died in the line of duty and about 1,000 active duty military throughout the world who died, whereas 2,462 school-age children were killed by firearms," said Charles H. Hennekens, M.D., senior author, first Sir Richard Doll Professor, and senior academic advisor in FAU's Schmidt College of Medicine.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The whining Right doesn't want to own its past commentary

Big God theory

At The Conversation, a discussion of the historical evolution of the idea of a "Big God":
When you think of religion, you probably think of a god who rewards the good and punishes the wicked. But the idea of morally concerned gods is by no means universal. Social scientists have long known that small-scale traditional societies – the kind missionaries used to dismiss as “pagan” – envisaged a spirit world that cared little about the morality of human behaviour. Their concern was less about whether humans behaved nicely towards one another and more about whether they carried out their obligations to the spirits and displayed suitable deference to them.

Nevertheless, the world religions we know today, and their myriad variants, either demand belief in all-seeing punitive deities or at least postulate some kind of broader mechanism – such as karma – for rewarding the virtuous and punishing the wicked. In recent years, researchers have debated how and why these moralising religions came into being....

One popular theory has argued that moralising gods were necessary for the rise of large-scale societies. Small societies, so the argument goes, were like fish bowls. It was almost impossible to engage in antisocial behaviour without being caught and punished – whether by acts of collective violence, retaliation or long-term reputational damage and risk of ostracism. But as societies grew larger and interactions between relative strangers became more commonplace, would-be transgressors could hope to evade detection under the cloak of anonymity. For cooperation to be possible under such conditions, some system of surveillance was required.

What better than to come up with a supernatural “eye in the sky” – a god who can see inside people’s minds and issue punishments and rewards accordingly. Believing in such a god might make people think twice about stealing or reneging on deals, even in relatively anonymous interactions. Maybe it would also increase trust among traders.

So, looking at a big data base, their conclusions thus far:
One of the earliest questions we’re testing is whether morally concerned deities drove the rise of complex societies. We analysed data on 414 societies from 30 world regions, using 51 measures of social complexity and four measures of supernatural enforcement of moral norms to get to the bottom of the matter. New research we’ve just published in the journal Nature reveals that moralising gods come later than many people thought, well after the sharpest rises in social complexity in world history. In other words, gods who care about whether we are good or bad did not drive the initial rise of civilisations – but came later.  

I'm not sure how Jewish belief fits into that - I didn't think their society was all complicated at the relevant time.

Taking it into the future:   seems to me there's a good case to be made for Google being the new Big God - certainly it's all seeing.   If only it had a way of punishing people, we'd have the Real Thing.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Back to cannabis and psychosis

A new study that found that daily use of cannabis (or use of high potency cannabis) greatly increased risk of "first time" psychosis.   Hardly seems surprising, really, but it's another reminder of how medical understanding can take a long time to catch up with lay persons' real life observations:
Dr. Robin Murray, senior author of the study and a professor of psychiatric research at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King's College London, said that "15 years ago nobody thought cannabis increased the risk for psychosis." 
Only gradually has evidence come out and shown that to be true, he said. Gradually, too, other explanations have been chipped away, he said: For example, some people might say that perhaps a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia led some people to use cannabis and this is the reason for higher rates of psychosis. But a study from Finland rules this out, said Murray: "There may be some genetic component but it's not the major reason."
Not for the first time, I wonder out loud:  if governments are going to legalise it, why can't they also regulate for potency too?  If you can't (for good reason) hold a liquor licence and pour spirits into the open mouths of customers due to it being a dangerous way to consume alcohol, why can't you legislate for the potency and likely dosage of cannabis too?

The big picture on population

From Club Troppo, a fascinating review of a new book arguing that the rate of population growth is peaking much sooner than expected, with large implications both good and bad:
Even before the arrival of Bricker and Ibbitson’s new work, the population pessimists were overstating their claims. The UN forecasts that population will peak at around 11 billion in 2100 then settle into gentle decline.

But Bricker and Ibbitson assert that the UN has got it wrong. Their investigations suggest that fertility rates are falling much more rapidly around the globe than the UN thinks.

They point out that populations are already declining in two dozen countries – by 2050 it will be three dozen. Japan’s population is expected to fall from 127 million to 95 million by 2053! They say that global population will peak at about 9 billion or less between 2040 and 2060 – a lower and earlier peak than the UN predicts. They also say population post-peak will decline much more quickly that conventionally thought.

Their conclusions are based on published statistics and a series of interviews on every continent supplemented by recent survey data about planned family size.

It has long been known that increasing per capita incomes, economic development and urbanisation led to declining fertility. But in developing countries, fertility rate declines appear to be running well ahead of what could be expected on the basis of their stage of economic development. Why? The answer is female education and information technology. Female school enrolment is rising rapidly and access to information is exploding. Women are being better educated younger, both formally and informally, than ever before. As a result, they are choosing to have fewer babies.
 As for the (rather topical) question of Muslims out-populating the West:
The authors dismiss claims that religion and culture dominate other drivers of fertility rates. Claims that, for example, Muslim countries, have higher fertility rates than elsewhere due to religious factors can’t be sustained. The 2010-15 fertility rates for Iran, UAE, Qatar, Turkey, Bahrain and Kuwait are all at replacement (2.1) or below and are probably continuing the fall. Developed Muslim countries have low fertility rates just like non-Muslim developed countries. They also argue that immigrates adopt their new homes’ birth rates in one or, at most, two generations.
 The best thing about a reduced population peak?   It's environmental, of course:
Bricker and Ibbitson point out that “if the UN’s low variant [population growth] model played out, relative emissions would decline by 10 percent by 2055 and 35 percent by 2100.”
 The not-so-great aspect is the unclear economic and geopolitical effect:
Population decline is likely to lead to geopolitical instability. Bricker and Ibbitson says that, following its disastrous one child policy and its prohibition of immigration, China’s population could be, astonishingly, as low as 650 million by 2100 if its fertility rates fall in line with those in Hong Kong and Singapore at 1.0 or lower. The associated changes in economic and military power will redefine strategic priorities.

Economic growth will be slower. AI, rather than being a threat to jobs, may come just in time to complement a shrinking workforce. The economic and social consequences are too complex to predict.
 The reviewer makes some comments following the post which are helpful too:
1. This new book is not an example of ‘apocryphal thinking’. The authors, at no point, argue that this is an end-of-the-world scenario. If one had to reduce the book to one sentence it is: ‘fertility rates are lower than is widely thought, are falling faster and will get much lower sooner than the vast majority think – including politicians, economics, bureaucrats, environmentalists and even, apparently, the majority of demographers – to nominate a few key groups’.

2. Yes, it’s ‘old news’ that fertility rates are below replacement in many countries. The new news is that: that club is growing more rapidly than thought; the falls, after below replacement levels are reached, are continuing, and; falls in developing countries are suddenly getting ahead of the economic development curve. Again, to reduce the book’s story to one short sentence: ‘fertility rates are lower than you think’ – to which some big say ‘big deal’ and they’re right but in the non-sarcastic sense.
This seems an important book, and it was only published in February this year.  I wonder why I haven't noticed it reviewed elsewhere...

Control confusion

That Seattle Times article on the problems with Boeing's certification of the 737 Max reads as a classic of investigative reporting.

If I am understanding it correctly, however, what remains unclear s why the MCAS system was triggered at all during both flights, shortly after takeoff.  (The report says it is only meant to be activated "in extreme circumstances far outside the normal flight envelope".)   Was the single sensor it relied on faulty on both planes? 

The whole rush to get the plane certified, and the FAA's delegation of a large part of that task back to Boeing, all paints self regulation in a poor light, yet again.  

Finishing up on The Alienist

My final impressions after watching the last two episodes of The Alienist last night.

Strangely, the second last episode was really good (with a very unpleasant sense of what it would be like to be hiding while a gory murder goes on next to you) and hinted at a thrilling final episode - but it was not to be.   The last instalment was somewhat confusing, poorly explained and no where near the highlight of the series - did something get lost in the editing?

That said, I never got tired of the expensive, high quality production values:  from costumes to extras, it was about as far as you can get from the underpopulated, cheap feel of any Australian movie or series, whether it be set in modern or historic period.  I also think it fair to say that I grew to like all of the characters in the crime fighting team.  Dakota Fanning (the screaming girl in Spielberg's War of the Worlds) was good, but so were all of the men, really.

It wasn't perfect, as I have explained in past posts, but enjoyable nonetheless.  I'm pleased to see a sequel is being made with the same cast.

Update:  I agree with a lot of what is said in this review of the last episode, or series, and particularly with the comment that lists all of the unexplained things that happened the episode.  I'm glad it wasn't just me - it genuinely was a case of a terrible lack of explanation of what was going on.  Nonetheless, I still feel more generous towards the show than perhaps it deserves.

So, how's Sinclair Davidson's ship of fools going?

Same old, same old.   No care, no responsibility.

After not personally saying anything about the collectivist hatred of Muslims for months (or years) on the blog where he can block or ban people, but chooses not to in 99% of cases, it seems Sinclair gets motivated to make a "hey folks, your take on Islam is over the top" post when the content of his threads might get more attention due to current events.   And, of course, he gets told by 99% of people who comment there that he's being a Left wing idiot for saying so.

I can't be bothered spending the time collecting examples of the support for Fraser Anning's "well, Muslims getting shot up by nutters is what you get when you allow them to migrate here" line that are on Catallaxy.   Let's just say, the collectivist derision and panic attacks over the religion are there just as much as it was before - with the  addition by most that of course, they don't want individual Muslims shot up by a nutter, that's really bad.  Huh.

Would be good if the Human Rights Commission were reading the blog though, and asking for a "please explain".   I half suspect, though, that Sinclair wants to be a martyr for free speech.   Good, let him be.

Anyway, on its other favourite theme, climate change denial, we get this inane piece by an economist sacked by the IPA for being too extreme in his take on Islam:

Apart from the ridiculous take on the status of the science, what this with the "Forces of Evil"?    The version of this in The Spectator doesn't share the same headline.  Who came up with it at Catallaxy?

Sinclair Davidson seems to be very comfortable with the general wingnut vibe of Catallaxy now - in which (following the wingnut Right in America),  anything to the Centre or Left of them policy wise is beaten up into some grand, fake, crisis that will bring down the very continued existence of capitalism and the West.   It's Socialism!   It's Venezuela just around the corner!  It's..pathetic.

This demonisation of even vaguely progressive policies is a dangerous and ridiculous phenomena - and Sinclair Davidson should be pilloried for running a blog where the likes of his pals Kates and Moran get to act like the fact free hysterics that they are.

Nick Cohen on Brexit, and other stuff

Nick Cohen has a "pox on all their houses" column about Brexit and the deeply weird state of British politics.

And did you see what Steve Bannon (expert on everything, obviously) said?: Theresa May is ‘not terribly sophisticated’.

Which reminds me, there was this statement in the presence of Bannon too:
Trump supporter: "Never in my life did I think I'd like to see a dictator, but if there's going to be one, I want it to be trump"
 All completely normal...for a European proto-fascist state, circa 1930's.

Getting to the root of mental illness

The Atlantic has a review of a book Mind Fixers: Psychiatry's Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illnes, (by Anne Harrington) and it's well worth reading. Let's take some extracts:

It follows that psychiatrists also cannot precisely predict for whom and under what conditions their treatments will work. That is why antipsychotic drugs are routinely prescribed to depressed people, for example, and antidepressants to people with anxiety disorders. Psychiatry remains an empirical discipline, its practitioners as dependent on their (and their colleagues’) experience to figure out what will be effective as Pliny Earle and his colleagues were. Little wonder that the history of such a field—reliant on the authority of scientific medicine even in the absence of scientific findings—is a record not only of promise and setback, but of hubris....

As Harrington ably documents, a series of fiascoes highlighted the profession’s continued inability to answer Clark Bell’s question. Among them was the 1973 vote by the American Psychiatric Association declaring that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness. The obvious question—how scientific is a discipline that settles so momentous a problem at the ballot box?—was raised by the usual critics. This time, insurers and government bureaucrats joined in, wondering, often out loud, whether psychiatry warranted their confidence, and the money that went along with it.

The association’s response was to purge its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the Freudian theory that had led it to include homosexuality in the first place. When the third edition of the DSM came out, in 1980, its authors claimed that they had come up with an accurate list of mental illnesses: Shedding the preconceptions that had dominated previous taxonomies, they relied instead on atheoretical descriptions of symptoms. But as Harrington points out, they did have a theory—that mental illness was no more or less than a pathology of the brain. In claiming not to, she argues,
they were being disingenuous. They believed that biological … markers and causes would eventually be discovered for all the true mental disorders. They intended the new descriptive categories to be a prelude to the research that would discover them.
The DSM-3’s gesture at science proved sufficient to restore the reputation of the profession, but those discoveries never followed. Indeed, even as the DSM (now in its fifth edition) remains the backbone of clinical psychiatry—and becomes the everyday glossary of our psychic suffering—knowledge about the biology of the disorders it lists has proved so elusive that the head of the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2013, announced that it would be “re-orienting its research away from DSM categories.”
I wonder if this review (and the book), is exaggerating a bit?   This part, for example:

The need to dispel widespread public doubt haunts another debacle that Harrington chronicles: the rise of the “chemical imbalance” theory of mental illness, especially depression. The idea was first advanced in the early 1950s, after scientists demonstrated the principles of chemical neurotransmission; it was supported by the discovery that consciousness-altering drugs such as LSD targeted serotonin and other neurotransmitters. The idea exploded into public view in the 1990s with the advent of direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs, antidepressants in particular. Harrington documents ad campaigns for Prozac and Zoloft that assured wary customers the new medications were not simply treating patients’ symptoms by altering their consciousness, as recreational drugs might. Instead, the medications were billed as repairing an underlying biological problem.

The strategy worked brilliantly in the marketplace. But there was a catch. “Ironically, just as the public was embracing the ‘serotonin imbalance’ theory of depression,” Harrington writes, “researchers were forming a new consensus” about the idea behind that theory: It was “deeply flawed and probably outright wrong.” Stymied, drug companies have for now abandoned attempts to find new treatments for mental illness, continuing to peddle the old ones with the same claims. And the news has yet to reach, or at any rate affect, consumers. At last count, more than 12 percent of Americans ages 12 and older were taking antidepressants. The chemical-imbalance theory, like the revamped DSM, may fail as science, but as rhetoric it has turned out to be a wild success.
I would have thought that the "chemical imbalance" theory still has significant, experimental support, even if flawed;  but I am not expert, just someone who finds the topic interesting.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The history of the Fourth Reich

From the New Statesman:  a rather fascinating review of a book that deals with the history of the Nazi idea of a Third (and now Fourth) Reich:  and it's fairly complicated.

First surprise:
...the concept of the “Third Reich” is more strange than it at first appears. For one thing, the term itself was effectively banned by Hitler in the lead-up to the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939.

The reason is hard to pin down. Rosenfeld suggests that Hitler found its Christological associations unattractive and, moreover, misleading. The Führer did not want to make false promises about delivering any kind of regime associated with peace and world brotherhood when he was planning to realise it through war, conquest, extermination and sacrifice. Hitler instructed the German press to use other formulations such as the “Germanic Empire of the German Nation” (Germanisches Reich Deutscher Nation) and the “Greater German Empire” (Grossgermanisches Reich).

Second surprise:
A more intriguing explanation for the Nazis’ retirement of the “Third Reich” was that they were already contending with a barrage of counter-propaganda about a coming “Fourth Reich” by the anti-Nazi resistance. This is where Rosenfeld’s book becomes truly revelatory, for it seems perplexing that anti-Nazis would latch on to the concept of a “Reich” at all. But this is what many German Social Democrats in exile did. The former member of the German parliament Georg Bernhard and fellow SPD intellectuals went so far as to write a “Draft of a Constitution for the Fourth Reich” that would come about after the fall of Hitler. The Fourth Reich, its constitution declared, would be dedicated to global democracy and the equality of peoples.  

Third surprise (and perhaps the biggest, since I have never been to Indonesia):
The Fourth Reich is the latest in a grand series of works that Rosenfeld has devoted to the afterlife of Nazism. But towards the end of the book he makes one small assumption that strikes me as opening up the possibility of a further volume, about the Nazi afterlife in Asia. “Germany’s popularity”, he writes, “did not last” after the financial crisis of 2008. This may be true for Europe, but it is hardly the case globally, where, especially in south and south-east Asia, Germany is regularly ranked as the favourite country.

What is disconcerting for any European traveller to Indonesia, for instance, is not merely that people equate Germany with perfection – automobiles, appliances and football – but that Nazi prowess is also admired as an example of German excellence. That there was a genocide is not particularly notable for people who have lived through one of their own, but German nationalism coupled with industrialism and the apparent bounty of its socialism draws admirers. The news-stands of Jakarta are full of magazines devoted to U-boats alone. At the Soldatenkaffee in Bandung, couples order “Nazi goreng”, below the German heraldic eagle and a wall decorated with a slogan that reads: “We are Socialists, we are enemies of the capitalist economic system…” In a country where to be on the left is still forbidden, it’s at least cool to quote to Hitler.
So the wingnuts who have convinced themselves that the Nazis were always and in every sense socialists can go take comfort in some nutjob's cafe in Jakarta.   If only they would go and stay there.

Sums it up well

Some Christchurch commentary of note

At the Washington Post:   The Racist Theory that Underlies Terrorism in New Zealand and the Trump Presidency.

An extract:
Trump is not to blame for the tragedy in Christchurch. But, as an editorial in The Washington Post noted, there isn’t much daylight between the “garden-variety racism” of Tarrant’s manifesto and the far-right nativism at times espoused by Trump and his advisers.

My colleagues pointed to the particular emphasis Tarrant seemed to place on the “great replacement” theory, a belief popular among the West’s far right that white populations face “genocide” as a result of declining birthrates and mass immigration. In his manifesto, Tarrant pointed to the formative impact of a trip to France in 2017, where he was disturbed by the number of Muslims he saw in a midsize French town.

“As I sat there in the parking lot, in my rental car, I watched a stream of the invaders walk through the shopping centre’s front doors,” Tarrant wrote. “For every French man or woman there was double the number of invaders. I had seen enough, and in anger, drove out of the town, refusing to stay any longer in the cursed place and headed on to the next town.”

Though immigration levels have dropped significantly in Europe since 2015 — and though Muslims are a small minority in virtually every European country — this belief remains a virulent mobilizer of the European far right and has spread in various forms both across the Atlantic and to the Antipodes.

Renaud Camus, the polemicist whose thesis in his 2012 book “The Great Replacement” almost certainly influenced Tarrant, decried the gunman’s actions in an interview with The Washington Post. But he felt little concern over how his ideas were being interpreted by far-right politicians and proliferated in the online echo chambers where Tarrant stewed in his hatred.

“To the fact that people take notice of the ethnic substitution that is in progress in my country?” he ventured to my colleague James McAuley. “No. To the contrary.”

Camus is hardly an outlier. Former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon has invoked the writings of Jean Raspail, whose deeply racist 1973 novel “The Camp of the Saints” conjured an epochal influx of swarthy migrants subsuming France. In 2015, French far-right leader Marine Le Pen urged her supporters to read the book.

And this:

As the Atlantic’s Adam Serwer wrote in a lengthy essay on American nativism, white nationalist angst over migration — whether it’s Latino arrivals at the border or the Muslims next door — hinges on tacit mainstream acceptance of the “replacement” theory: “The most benignly intentioned mainstream-media coverage of demographic change in the U.S. has a tendency to portray as justified the fear and anger of white Americans who believe their political power is threatened by immigration — as though the political views of today’s newcomers were determined by genetic inheritance rather than persuasion,” Serwer wrote.

A central contention of the Trumpist view on immigration, Serwer added, contends “that intrinsic human worth is rooted in national origin, and that a certain ethnic group has a legitimate claim to permanent political hegemony in the United States.”

That is, in essence, white supremacy. Trump “ought to state unambiguously that the New Zealand suspect’s ‘replacement’ ideology is an unacceptable trope in civilized discourse,” declared The Post’s editorial.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Blog becomes immortal

OK, that heading may be a slight exaggeration, but I just noticed at The Conversation that the National Library of Australia has:
....just launched its Australian Web Archive – a massive, freely accessible collection of content that provides a historical record of the development of world wide web content in Australia over more than two decades.

The new archive is a momentous achievement. Containing annual captures of all accessible pages on .au domains and dating back to 1996, it dwarfs even the the Library’s own PANDORA Web archive – a curated collection of Australian web content deemed to be of national significance by the librarians.
I believe it's the Pandora archive that chose to archive all of Catallaxy - back in the day when it still had a semblance of intellectual credibility.   

But yay, by searching the Australian Web Archive, I see that Opinion Dominion has been snapshotted quite a few times by this new archive of which I was unaware.

Immortality is mine.  (Insert Bwahahahahaha style laughter.) 

The biggest cop out

Here are the simple facts of the matter:

a. Sinclair Davidson will not ban people who comment at his blog who have been busy routinely vilifying Muslims collectively for many years.

b.  If you want to see some examples I have complained about before, use the site search bar at the side of this blog and search "Muslim Catallaxy". 

c.  The reason for his refusal to ban such comments or people is unknown.  I presume he thinks that banning them will look "un-libertarian".   This is kind of ironic, given that most of his followers, if threads are anything to go by, are actually reactionary Right wing  Conservatives who think libertarianism is a fatally flawed philosophy.   (Oh, they do like the idea that they can make rarely moderated and anonymous comments that are blatantly racist, sexist, misogynistic or just downright nutty.  That's the one aspect of libertarianism they're signed up for.  That and guns, lovely guns.)

d.  It's not as if he can't and doesn't ban people when it suits him - he has banned people in the past just for insulting him personally.  He has basically banned people for being too annoying to other commentators.

e. To state the obvious:  given the nature of the internet, there is nothing about being aggressively for free speech  that means you must personally host a site which routinely allows views you personally find "ugly"to repeatedly appear.

f.  It's no justification that he will, sometimes, personally post or comment that he thinks the anti-Muslim views on his site are going too far.

h.  He in fact maintains a forum in which the extremist views on Muslims are "normalised" by their constant repetition and frequent lack of challenge, despite them often representing extremism of the kind that appears in manifestos like that of the Christchurch killer.    

That he will not ban them shows he will take no responsibility for facilitating the promotion of those views.    He should never appear on media without being attacked for why he facilitates them.

To shrug his shoulders and say he is "not his brother's keeper", as he did in a recent comment here,  is a pathetic cop out.   

Update:  I meant to link to monty's post in 2014: Alan Moran sacked from IPA over anti-Islam tweets, in which I contributed comments puzzling over what justification a person of moderate views on Islam (like Davidson) can have for continuing to host a site like Catallaxy with threads full of  rabid anti Islamic views the IPA won't tolerate on its staff.  

Friday, March 15, 2019

Ergas and the elephant in the room

First, I am posting this after the horrible events in Christchurch today, a topic which will no doubt deserve some comment later.

But I just wanted to note Henry Ergas's column in The Australian this morning, purportedly looking at the "broader forces at work" behind the almost certain defeat of the Coalition at the coming election.  (It is very, very hard to imagine how Shorten could possibly blow an election where it seems half of the government has already resigned in disgust at its own internal divisions.)

Ergas notes how the Coalition came into power with Abbott having low approval rating, just that Rudd/Gillards was even lower due to their own shambolic internal divisions (true.)

But the rest of the column is about how the Australian electorate has moved Left, and how that's a long term problem for the Liberals.

What he doesn't seem to get into that noggin of his is that Australian's might have good reason for moving Left - because the Right's policies haven't exactly come out with the glorious results that would keep the voters happy.  

In fact, his treatment of policies is trite:
Yes, the Coalition has made more than its fair share of mistakes; nonetheless, one might have expected the prospect of a Shorten Labor government to induce more concern than it has.

Labor is, after all, committed to the largest peacetime tax rises since Federation, its energy policy threatens to convert a disaster into a catastrophe and its industrial ­relations policy risks replicating, albeit in a more benign macro­economic environment, the worst ­errors of the Whitlam years.

Each of those could have sent shivers down voters’ spines. ­Instead, they have been greeted with remarkable insouciance, even among their likely victims.

If the Coalition wants to make a comeback, it needs to rid itself of climate change denialism.  My biggest regret about Turnbull's departure is that he did not call on the party to actually split to resolve that conflict once and for all.

Secondly, it needs to be centrist and not doggedly ideological about tax and economic policy, taking good ideas from where ever they may come; and in particular, not follow the poisonous populist corruption of the Right wing seen in the US which has become simply an intellectual embarrassment.  

So, yeah,  count me underwhelmed by his analysis, again.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

In your own world

There's a MIT Technology Review article about this quantum experiment, but it sometimes throws up a paywall now, which is annoying.

So I'll go with this article instead:

A Wild New Quantum Physics Experiment Suggests That Objective Reality May Not Exist After All

It's all to do with the Wigner's friend thought experiment (now turned into an actual experiment). 

The actual arXiv paper is available at this link.  The abstract:
The scientific method relies on facts, established through repeated measurements and agreed upon universally, independently of who observed them. In quantum mechanics, the objectivity of observations is not so clear, most dramatically exposed in Eugene Wigner's eponymous thought experiment where two observers can experience fundamentally different realities. While observer-independence has long remained inaccessible to empirical investigation, recent no-go-theorems construct an extended Wigner's friend scenario with four entangled observers that allows us to put it to the test. In a state-of-the-art 6-photon experiment, we here realise this extended Wigner's friend scenario, experimentally violating the associated Bell-type inequality by 5 standard deviations. This result lends considerable strength to interpretations of quantum theory already set in an observer-dependent framework and demands for revision of those which are not.
Actually, it's worth downloading the paper and reading the discussion at the end.
Modulo the potential loopholes and accepting the pho-tons’ status as observers, the violation of inequality (2)implies that at least one of the three assumptions of freechoice, locality, and observer-independent facts must fail.Since abandoning free choice and locality might not re-solve the contradiction [5], one way to accommodate ourresult is by proclaiming that “facts of the world” canonly be established by a privileged observer—e.g., onethat would have access to the “global wavefunction” inthe many worlds interpretation [17] or Bohmian mechan-ics [18]. Another option is to give up observer indepen-dence completely by considering facts only relative toobservers [19], or by adopting an interpretation such asQBism, where quantum mechanics is just a a tool thatcaptures an agent’s subjective prediction of future mea-surement outcomes [20]. This choice, however, requiresus to embrace the possibility that different observers ir-reconcilably disagree about what happened in an exper-iment.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

No nudes Buddha

Just one of those things one stumbles across on the internet:  an explanation as to why, despite India even back then having a tradition of asceticism involving nudity and little care for personal hygiene, Buddhism is not associated with such practices:
The Buddha mentioned that before his enlightenment he went naked which have led some to speculate that he was a follower of Jainism for at least some time (M.I,77). The âjãvakas and several other sects went naked and the Ekasàñaka ascetics only wore a small cloth over their genitals. Nakedness together with tearing the hair out, never cutting the hair and nails, allowing the hair become matted and never washing, were all believed to show an admirable detachment from the world.....

The Buddha made it a rule that monks should never go naked, even within their private quarters (Vin.II,121). He said: `Nakedness is unbecoming, unsuitable, improper, unworthy of an ascetic, not allowable and not to be done'(Vin.I,305). He objected to it on two grounds. The first was because like all austerities or surface changes, nudity does not lead to significant inner change. He said: `Not nakedness nor matted hair, not mud nor fasting, not lying on the ground, being unwashed or squatting on the heels will purify one who has not passed beyond doubt' (Dhp.141). He also objected to nudity because it contravened the norms of polite society for no good reason. Lady Visàkhà once saw some nuns bathing naked and commented: `Nakedness in women is ugly, abhorrent and objectionable'(Vin.I,293), which seems to have been the general opinion at that time. The Buddha wanted his monks and nuns to abide by the normal standards of decorum and good manners, the better to be able to communicate the Dhamma to others. He was also anxious that his monks and nuns should be distinct from those of other sects, inwardly but also outwardly. Because many of these other ascetics were either completely or partly naked or wore whatever they liked, the Buddha stipulated that his ordained disciples should wear a distinct and easily identifiable robe. 
 Sounds kind of sensible to me.  

Late summers

Brisbane did not have a terribly hot summer during December and January, but I had been commenting to people that my recollection seemed to be that high temperatures have in recent years been coming in late summer - February.

This year, it seems later still - record setting 41 degree days just west of Brisbane in mid March. 

Combined with the record breaking warm winter days in parts of Europe in February, this feels somewhat climate change-y to me.

Design issues

Slate writes that this may well be the cause of the Boeing 737 Max problem:
To maintain its lead, Boeing had to counter Airbus’ move. It had two options: either clear off the drafting tables and start working on a clean-sheet design, or keep the legacy 737 and polish it. The former would cost a vast amount—its last brand-new design, the 787, cost $32 billion to develop—and it would require airlines to retrain flight crews and maintenance personnel. 

Instead, it took the second and more economical route and upgraded the previous iteration. Boeing swapped out the engines for new models, which, together with airframe tweaks, promised a 20 percent increase in fuel efficiency. In order to accommodate the engine’s larger diameter, Boeing engineers had to move the point where the plane attaches to the wing. This, in turn, affected the way the plane handled. Most alarmingly, it left the plane with a tendency to pitch up, which could result in a dangerous aerodynamic stall. To prevent this, Boeing added a new autopilot system that would pitch the nose down if it looked like it was getting too high. According to a preliminary report, it was this system that apparently led to the Lion Air crash. 

If Boeing had designed a new plane from scratch, it wouldn’t have had to resort to this kind of kludge. It could have designed the airframe for the engines so that the pitch-up tendency did not exist. As it was, its engineers used automation to paper over the aircraft’s flaws. Automated systems can go a long way toward preventing the sorts of accidents that arise from human fecklessness or inattention, but they inherently add to a system’s complexity. When they go wrong, they can act in ways that are surprising to an unprepared pilot. That can be dangerous, especially in high-stress, novel situations. Air France 447 was lost in 2009 after pilots overreacted to minor malfunctions and became confused about what to expect from the autopilot.
The article notes that Boeing and Airbus basically split the commerical aircraft market between them.   Yet there was talk over the last few years of China trying to become a player too.  I wonder how that's going?   Oh - not so well:

Why China is no closer to rivalling Boeing or Airbus