Friday, May 31, 2019

The irrational Delingpole

Professional Right wing denier of climate change Delingpole says that a dubious sounding treatment (regular massage of the limbic system) for a dubious diagnosis ("chronic" Lyme disease) has been making him act nutty:
If I’ve been incredibly rude to you or snappy or tearful lately, if I’ve taken offence where none was intended, or I’ve wildly overreacted to something you said on social media, I do apologise. It wasn’t the real me you experienced in those moments: it was the mad brain that sometimes seizes control of me.

The reason I have these episodes — as I keep having to explain to my bemused victims, after the event — is that I’m currently undergoing intensive medical treatment which gives me these weird and powerful mood swings.
But then, he talks about he's been borderline insane many times over many years:
Now that I’m on the healing path I’ve finally been able to take stock of my life and understand what a huge toll my Lyme years have exerted on me physically and mentally. There was a period — still too raw and horrible to talk about in detail — when I wonder whether I shouldn’t have been sectioned. Only recently, when I learnt that Lyme can cause psychosis and I looked up the symptoms, did I realise that this was what I probably had. I was in a dark and terrible place; I certainly wasn’t fit to make important decisions. God, if only I’d known what was happening to me, that it wasn’t my fault and that I needed help.
And gullible conservatives have found this guy's view on climate change convincing....

Hydrogen planes, not battery?

There's a start up planning on making a small, boxy commuter "flying car" powered by hydrogen fuel cells.   The mock up doesn't look all that inspiring (looks like a slightly bigger version of a passenger drone):

but what's said in the article about the energy density of fuel cells is interesting:
The argument for fuel cells boils down to energy density: One pound of compressed hydrogen contains over 200 times more energy than one pound of battery, says Alaka’i founder Brian Morrison. That means the Skai can meet the speed, range, and payload requirements that Alaka’i thinks will make it competitive, while saving a lot of weight—a top line consideration for anything that flies. Though the company won’t reveal specifics surrounding the power system, it suggests that it and its fuel cell provider (also not disclosed) have made “breakthroughs” with the technology that enable this performance.

Hydrogen fuel cells are proving themselves able to significantly boost run times for vehicle systems, with certain small unmanned aircraft jumping from 30- to 45-minute run times with batteries to more than two to four hours with fuel cells, says Thomas Valdez, a chemical engineer with Teledyne Energy Systems. And they offer a safety benefit by eliminating the risk of thermal runaway. Even a punctured tank is no big deal: “Pressurized hydrogen would very quickly dissipate in the air, so it won’t pool or catch fire the way conventional fuels do,” Valdez says.
I would still think a pressured hydrogen tank would be the safest thing in a crash.   But nor is normal aviation fuel, of course.

Anyway, one way or another, it seems our future cities will look a bit Blade Runner-ish.

Excellent sarcasm, Ben

How to keep poor people from fleeing poverty - make them poorer

I haven't bothered yet looking at the twitter reaction to Trump's plan to put tariffs on Mexico that will rapidly rise to 25% unless Mexico stops illegal immigration.

But surely someone had already said it - isn't a bit perverse to seek to keep poor people in Mexico by helping ensure their country gets poorer via punitive trade tariffs?  

A blockchain fail

I trust the wonderful world of blockchain conferencing and waffle-ful papers is still being enjoyed by Sinclair Davidson and Chris Berg?   At least it gets them out of Australia and their other pet project of trying to drum up support within the Liberals for ending funding of the ABC, so I don't mind them wasting their time overseas, really.

Anyway, I post about it again because it seems that if the German banks have much say in it, blockchain technology doesn't have a bright looking future:
A trial project using blockchain to transfer and settle securities and cash proved more costly and less speedy than the traditional way, Germany’s central bank president said.

The experiment, launched by the Bundesbank together with Deutsche Boerse in 2016, concluded late last year that the prototype “in principle fulfilled all basic regulatory features for financial transactions.” Yet while advocates of distributed ledger technology say it has the potential to be cheaper and faster than current settlement mechanisms, Jens Weidmann said the Bundesbank project did not bear those out.

Still no cold fusion

So Google has been looking into cold fusion again since 2015, but come up with no good news. 

Nature notes, surprisingly, that it is not definitely the end of the line for the possibility of cold fusion:
Is that the final nail in the cold-fusion coffin? Not quite. The group was unable to attain the material conditions speculated to be most conducive to cold fusion. Indeed, it seems extremely difficult to do so using current experimental set-ups — although the team hasn’t excluded such a possibility. So the fusion trail, although cooling, is not yet cold, leaving a few straws for optimists to clutch on to.
It's pretty remarkable that it is proving so hard to write this field off entirely.

Trump's "friend" misbehaving, again

Well, can Trump find a way to forgive his "friend" for some more friendship challenging behaviour?  
North Korea has executed its special envoy to the United States as well as foreign ministry officials who carried out working-level negotiations for the second summit with Donald Trump in February, holding them responsible for its collapse, South Korean reports say.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

In which renewable energy saves the world (without that much storage)

If this latest idea is right, it suggests that renewables are more capable of saving the world than I had realised.  

An article at The Conversation argues that their modelling indicates that, rather than worry about building a lot of storage for renewables, just build with a big enough over-capacity instead, and don't use the excess when it's produced.   Sounds questionable, but then again, who knew that adding a metre to an equator-covering rope would raise it 13 cm around the whole world? Not me, so I'm not relying on intuition ever again, or at least, until it suits me.

I would have thought the overcapacity would have to be spread out a fair bit, but they don't even seem to be arguing that.  For example:
A legitimate question to ask is what would be the area required for a full deployment of oversized solar PV. For Minnesota, in the most extreme 100% PV generation scenario assuming oversizing by a factor of two – or doubling the solar needed to meet current demand – this area would amount to 435 square miles, assuming solar panels with state-of-the-art efficiency of 20%. This area represents less than 1% of the state’s cultivated crops and half of the high- and medium-density urbanized space.
Again - sounds a touch too good to be true, but, you know, that rope thing is starting to make me believe anything.

Anyway, let's go back to some of my earlier ideas about how to get along with more solar.  Because if you are going to build to overcapacity, you are going to be wanting to install a lot of extra solar compared to what we have now, and in some places, do you really want to cover up good land with panels?   So:

*  Remember my previous posts about floating solar on water?   Specifically, there seems to be no good reason not to cover large parts of water storage dams (such as Brisbane's Wivenhoe and Somerset dams) with solar panels on plastic floats.   I doubt that they represent any real pollution risk to drinking water, and plastic floats are surely pretty cheap.   Less evaporation from the dams too.

Why is no one in Australia listening to what is a patently good idea??

Remember - I also argued for Snowy 2 to use floating solar panels to pump storage water.  (Although maybe wind there is a better bet?)

* I also have posted before about compulsory State government building codes requiring a minimum amount of solar power and storage - why wouldn't that be a good idea in most of Australia?

In fact, I see that the Greens have adopted such a policy.

And it has now been adopted in California.

This could only help with the "build to overcapacity" idea too, surely?

* If you have to build large solar farms in the country side, I've also posted before (in 2015) about raising them above the ground and spreading them out enough to still be able to use the land underneath for farming or grazing.

* Not sure that I have ever posted about it before, but if you are going to spread out large solar power farms (say, in the middle of Australia where the land is not productive), then you need a good electricity network that is going to reduce losses over transmission distance.  High Voltage Direct Current cables have long been mooted as good for that, but their advance seems to be happening pretty slowly.

Gosh, look at the photo at that link for some real oversized gear.   I'll throw it in here because it reminds me of the ridiculous oversized equipment on Forbidden Planet:

And in conclusion:

With this latest idea, combined with what I've been suggesting over the last few years, it seems I've pretty much solved the world's renewable energy problems, if only people would listen to me!

Thank you.

PS:  I see that a Bill Gates clip from last year of him making a cranky sounding statement that people were kidding themselves if renewables and storage could power the world is doing the rounds.   I suspect he just has settled on nuclear as being essential and won't be budged.   And didn't he mention steel making?

Well, why doesn't he look harder into proposals to make steel either with no coal at all (see Sweden), or even the CSIRO's proposal to make it with biochar as a way to cut down the CO2 by a large amount.

I can envisage some places where renewables are difficult to use on large enough scale (that Russian city in the Arctic circle during winter, for one!).  But just because Bill Gates has what sounds like a sensible hunch, it doesn't always pan out.   Has his "condom of the future" competition had any dramatic effects, for example?  Not that I know of...

More health problems with e-cigarettes

Vox has a good summary about the health issues, although it doesn't mention the unusual one that I noted before but doesn't seem to have attracted much attention (about lead coming from the heating element of some brands):

Vaping may be more dangerous than we realized

Sinclair Davidson meanwhile is still posting pro-vaping stuff at Catallaxy.  I wonder if he vapes.  Could explain a lot.

If only Rupert Murdoch would take it up - I'd be all for that.  I'd also be happy for him to develop a late age interest in hiking Mount Everest.  

The dubious Ita

Look, Ita Buttrose had an affair with lumpy, married boss Kerry Packer - why should I trust her judgement on anything else after that?

Her comments about the ABC yesterday were somewhat worryingly vague, even muttering about unconscious bias and "more diversity of views".   (Show us the Right wing commentators with talent as broadcasters, Ita - if Sky News at Night and talk back radio are any guide, they don't exist.   Or if one wants to argue (ridiculously) that Alan Jones has obvious talent because look at his audience numbers - well, as if he is going to take a pay cut to work at the ABC.)

She was appointed by Morrison and a government that still had members who spend every waking moment unhappy that the ABC does not have hosts who agree with them.   And the Murdoch press is running a "must further defund the ABC/SBS" campaign in The Australian already, as if the motivation for that is not glaringly obvious.

I don't think Ita is going to be good in the job, somehow.

Another American peculiarity

Emotional support animals on airplanes, I mean.  Has any other country got suckered into this to anything like the Americans?   I mention them because of this remarkable story in the Washington Post:
An attack on a plane by a fellow passenger’s emotional-support dog left Marlin Jackson needing 28 stitches, according to a negligence lawsuit filed Friday against Delta Air Lines and the dog’s owner. In the suit, Jackson claims he bled so badly that a row of seats later had to be removed from the plane.

Jackson had just taken his window seat in the 31st row for a June 2017 flight from Atlanta to San Diego when the dog, sitting on the lap of the passenger next to him, lunged for his face, pinning him against the window of the plane so he couldn’t escape, the lawsuit alleges....

Before he took his seat, Jackson asked Mundy if the reportedly 50-pound dog — a “chocolate lab-pointer mix,” according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution — would bite, and the dog owner said Jackson would be safe.

“While Mr. Jackson was securing his seatbelt, the animal began to growl at Mr. Jackson and shift in Defendant Mundy’s lap,” the lawsuit reads. “Suddenly, the animal attacked Mr. Jackson’s face, biting Mr. Jackson several times. … The attack was briefly interrupted when the animal was pulled away from Mr. Jackson. However, the animal broke free and again mauled Mr. Jackson’s face.”

Massey said teeth punctured through Jackson’s gum, above his lip and beneath his nose. He has suffered permanent scarring, the complaint says, and his attorney said he still experiences numbness in the area, and has intermittent speech issues.
This has not been the only time one of these dogs has bitten, apparently: 
The alleged attack is one of numerous reports in the past few years of emotional-support animals causing trouble for airline passengers, incidents that have pushed airlines to crack down on which animals they allow on planes.

In the months following the attack, Delta tightened rules around emotional-support and service animals. The airline required passengers beginning in March 2018 to provide “confirmation of animal training,” proof of the animal’s immunization records as well as a letter from a doctor or licensed mental health professional regarding the request for the support animal.

When Delta announced the change, it cited an 84 percent spike in reported animal incidents since 2016 “including urination/defecation, biting” and the incident involving Jackson.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

No laughing matter

In one of their ongoing highlights of ridiculous American hospital charges, NPR has the story of a woman (a midwife, no less) who had a pretty normal birth, and got a charge on her hospital bill for nearly $5,000 for having used nitrous oxide (laughing gas) for pain relief during the birth.

All very ridiculous (and the charge was revised down, when challenged, to around $500), but I was more interested in the fact that the gas is only coming into common use in birthing in the US recently.

My wife used it when (trying to) give birth to our son, now 19 years ago.  It seemed simple, safe and helpful.  But here's the story from the US:
Part of that problem comes down to the recent resurgence of the practice in the United States. In 2011, two hospitals in the U.S. offered nitrous oxide for childbirth. Now an estimated 1,000 hospitals and 300 birthing centers provide it, said Michelle Collins, a professor and director of nurse midwifery at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.

The use of nitrous oxide has long been common during childbirth in the United Kingdom and Canada, in part because of its low cost. Many people in the U.S. have learned about the practice while watching the popular British period drama Call the Midwife, set in the 1950s. Epidural anesthesia largely displaced nitrous oxide in the U.S. in the 1970s.
Hmm.   Moved from a cheap, self administered, form of pain reduction to a highly medicalised one that removes all pain (if done properly) but also carries (I think) a very small risk of serious complication?

Is there something culture specific about the degree to which Americans seem to want to go to avoid even the hint of pain?   I mean, why hasn't the prescribed opioid problem been replicated in other countries?   Is it innate, or a result of what strong capitalism in medical practice pushes people to expect in their (the doctors') own self interest?   I mean, even the way medicines are advertised there just seems so odd to Australians.   (Mind you, I recently heard a breast enlargement ad here on FM radio recently - if I were able to ban that I would.)

I may have mentioned before, but I suspect Japan might be at the other extreme of expectation of tolerance of discomfort (or used to be, at least) as I was told by a specialist there some years ago that he did gastro-endoscopy, and without any form of anaesthesia at all.   But then again, I think Japanese women get to stay in hospital for days after birth.  Here, I just heard of a young woman who had a two hour labour, gave birth at 2am and was discharged at 9am (!)  (But there were midwife visits at home daily for the next week or so.)

Anyway, I still think Americans are a bit odd with the pain issue.

Straight talking from James Comey

I like the way James Comey speaks bluntly in his Washington Post column:
It is tempting for normal people to ignore our president when he starts ranting about treason and corruption at the FBI. I understand the temptation. I’m the object of many of his rants, and even I try to ignore him.

But we shouldn’t, because millions of good people believe what a president of the United States says. In normal times, that’s healthy. But not now, when the president is a liar who doesn’t care what damage he does to vital institutions. We must call out his lies that the FBI was corrupt and committed treason, that we spied on the Trump campaign and tried to defeat Donald Trump. We must constantly return to the stubborn facts.
The rest of his article explains, again, why it is absolute nonsense being peddled by the conspiracy loving Right (facilitated in large part by the massive propaganda campaign of Murdoch's Fox News) to be calling it a "treason" or a "coup".

Upper class twit spotted on Twitter

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

I think Gillette is just trolling conservatives now

Has Twitter exploded about this yet?:
A new ad campaign from Procter & Gamble-owned razor brand Gillette features a father teaching his transgender son how to shave for the first time.

The video shows Samson Bonkeabantu Brown, a Toronto-based artist, opening up about his first experience shaving with his father since his transition.

Wittgenstein's rope

I don't remember hearing of this before.   It's a very surprising bit of maths.  Apparently, Wittgenstein used it as an example of how wrong our intuition can be.

Add a metre to an Earth equator spanning rope and how high does it raise it off the ground?

Watch the 6 minute video to find out.

Update:  for those who can't watch a video, here is an explanation from a book footnote.  For a yard of extra rope, it's nearly 6 inches:

So for a metre, it's going to be something similar.  Enough to trip over for the entire length of the equator. 
I'm still having trouble getting my brain to accept this...

I don't think Tim will pay for a copy of this cartoon

In an article in The Australian, about Tim Wilson's (and David Sharma's) failure to get cabinet spots despite (in Timbo's case) his PR campaign on franking credits, is accompanied by this cartoon:

That's a really bad attempt at a likeness of Wilson.   It makes him look about 60 and super jowly while still missing the dark circles under his eyes.  Tim's probably ordering a copy to burn as I write.

China and greening

Not sure I find this article very convincing, but it's of interest nonetheless:

China succeeds in greening its economy not because, but in spite of, its authoritarian government 

There are some sceptical comments following it too: some pro-nuclear, some with a soft denier air about them.    

A credible figure

The Washington Post did a weird weekend profile of self-hyping George Papadopolous, who claims Alexander Downer recorded him on his phone and was acting not as a dipolmat but as a spy for the Deep State that was determined to sink Donald Trump's candidacy.  He looks a very believable character:

He's also only 31.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Yet more NYT reporting on those Navy UFOs

Look, it's a pretty intriguing read, and who doesn't love a good UFO mystery;  but to me there are aspects of this story that still have an air of "too good to be true" about them.

It sounds like the two ex Navy personnel invovled appear a new TV show about it, so I would like to see how they come across in interviews.

One of the problems I have is that these remarkable sightings were not leaked by anyone for about 4 years.

I would love to know more, though...

Glass overboard in the 1970's

First, a memory:   in about 1974 or 1975, I had my first weekend on the rather decrepit Navy Reserve training vessel TV Gayundah,  being a good little Navy Cadet on a first time experience of seeing Moreton Bay and pretending to be a sailor.   I remember it had anchored off Moreton Island, at night, and it was a pretty impressive sight getting up in the morning and seeing the blue, clear water and the long, pretty pristine looking island close by.  (It had not, at that time, yet been overrun by 4WD on the beach.)  The vessel itself was a converted "Motor Refrigeration Lighter", and the sleeping quarters were in what used to be the refrigerated hold.   It was pretty cramped, old and smelly, but it had a certain old world appeal.   I have found a photo on the 'net:

(Gosh, I must seem old for having been on that...)

That night, people were having soft drinks (or beers?) on deck, and at one point a kindly navy cadet officer (a school teacher in real life) called out to everyone that he had seen glass bottles floating in the water, apparently from our little ship, and he told us to be more considerate and don't throw bottles overboard.  True, this may have been because we were near the island and our bottles could easily have ended up there:  but still, I think that, in principle, he was sensible enough to feel throwing rubbish overboard was not appropriate.

Fast forward to 2019, and this is what twit Patrick Moore says he was doing, around the same time as my experience,  when he was doodling around the oceans with Greenpeace:

That sounds..really pathetic.

Interesting results

I wonder - would anyone who really preferred to remain have still voted Labour?  It did have a remain faction of politicians, didn't it? 

To really provide a definitive resolution as to what should happen according to public opinion, wouldn't you need a referendum with three choices (hard, soft, or no exit), and with some form of preferential voting? 

Australia is much more sensible this way.

Heatwave in May in Japan

Some extraordinarily high temperatures being experienced in Japan this May, particularly in the normally cooler Hokkaido:
Two die, nearly 600 taken to hospitals nationwide as heat wave hits parts of nation Unseasonably hot conditions gripped wide areas of Japan on Sunday, with the town of Saroma in Hokkaido setting the highest temperature ever recorded in the country for the month of May.

Two men — one in Shimizu, Hokkaido, and the other in Tome, Miyagi Prefecture — died and at least 575 people nationwide were taken to hospitals by ambulance suffering from symptoms that appeared to point to heatstroke, according to data compiled by Kyodo News.

The mercury hit 39.5 degrees in the northeastern coastal Hokkaido town at 2:07 p.m. Sunday — the hottest at any observation point in Japan for the month, according to the Meteorological Agency. The previous record, set on May 13, 1993, was 37.2 degrees in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture.
But Australian libertarians and tax haters just had a weekend conference with "star" Australian denier Jonova giving a talk.

Why are libertarians such numbskulls on this matter?

Hindu nationalism

This does seem a really good explanation about how Hindu nationalism has evolved (and why Modi is a worry.)  It starts:
The city of Varanasi is the holiest site in the Hindu faith. It is also, not coincidentally, the parliamentary constituency of Modi, who has just won a second five-year term. He did it, in large measure, by emphasizing Hindutva, an ideology that seeks to reformulate Hinduism into something that most practitioners’ grandparents would barely understand.

And then the key paragraphs:
The term Hindutva can be (sort of) translated as “Hindu-ness,” and that gets (sort of) at what it’s all about: Hinduism not a theology, but an identity. The movement’s intellectual father, Veer Savarkar, wrote its foundational text (helpfully titled Hindutva) a century ago. At the time, the notion of a unified faith or doctrine, let alone a shared identity, would have left most Hindus simply confused: Identity was determined by a person’s family, village, caste. The very term Hindu is merely a loanword (most likely from Persian), referring to “the people who live across the Indus River.” Until the 20th century, most Hindus had never felt the need to describe themselves in any comprehensive way.

It was the colonial experience that created Hindutva: Why, Savarkar and his comrades wondered, had India been dominated for centuries by a relatively small number of Muslim Mughals and Christian British? Was monotheism simply better suited for ruling? If so, what did that mean for a faith with more deities than days in the year? During the founding decades of the Hindutva movement, much effort revolved around making Hinduism more like its rivals: building a single shared identity to unite everyone for whom India was, in Savarkar’s words, “his Fatherland as well as his Holy-land.” This definition conveniently roped in Sikhs (a disproportionate number of whom served in the army), Buddhists (whose spiritual cachet helped give the movement credibility), and Jains (who tended, then and now, to be quite rich).

What it pointedly did not do was dictate what this newly lumped-together group of people should believe. Indeed, very few of Hindutva’s leading lights have been holy men, or even particularly devout; Savarkar and K. B. Hedgewar (the founder of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS—the primary vehicle for Hindutva mobilization) are both described as having been atheists or agnostics. The point wasn’t doctrine, but branding.
So, it's identity politics that have taken over. 

The problems with mass migration to space

The Guardian has an opinion piece up expressing scepticism about the likes of Jeff Bezos's dreams of O'Neill style massive space colonies and colonisation of Mars.   It's not at all detailed, though, on the technical issues:  it more looks at the changing motivation for space colonisation, and notes that it is pretty much now advocated out of environmental concern.

I don't think the change in motivation makes much sense, though.

As I recall (and I am not going to bother searching for confirmation just at the moment), the issues that killed off O'Neill style colonies from popular consideration were:

a. more careful engineering consideration which indicated that the structural stresses on spinning such massive objects to get any decent form of artificial gravity were much higher than initially realised, and pretty much impractical using the initially assumed materials;

b. the number of rocket launches required to put so much equipment in orbit (even assuming using a slingshot on the moon to get raw materials into a processing facility) was going to put an awful lot of pollutants into the upper atmosphere, with possibly deleterioius atmospheric effects;

c. the new technology involved for orbital processing of lunar soil is completely untested and getting that alone to work is surely going to be a big enough task in itself.

As far as point b is concerned,  I seem to recall O'Neill addressed that himself when he was alive, and argued it wasn't that many launches.   But the Falcon Heavy rocket from Space X does use kerosene and liquid oxygen, and it will be putting a significant amount of CO2 into the atmosphere.  Not sure how much compared to other things, but it is ironic that in order to escape a greehouse Earth, some now propose adding to the problem on the way out.

I don't know if point a has been reconsidered - but I suspect that it is still a very real problem.  It might be able to be addressed by using strong materials you can make on Earth, but O'Neill colonies were supposed to be made from pretty basic materials and I find it hard to envisage making more than pretty basic metals in orbit from Moon dirt.  It's yet another technological hurtle that would be ridiculously hard to overcome without launching, in pieces, manufacturing equipment made on Earth.

I see that Bezos went to Princeton when O'Neill was there - hence he caught the O'Neill dream early on.

But really, I would have to hear how he thinks the problems I listed above are supposed to be addressed before I consider it as having any real credibility.

The thing is, the problem with greenhouse gases was barely a thing when O'Neill was writing his book in the mid-1970's.  More general concerns about industrial pollution were one of the motivations for talking about moving off planet.   But now that the AGW problem has been fully realised, dreams of a "let's just move into space" solution (apart from the possibility of microwave power from orbiting solar power satelittes) just seem a fanciful and wasteful idea compared to putting a lot of technological effort into clean energy on Earth.  

(Having said that, I still think having a smallish, permanent base on the moon to act as a "lifeboat" for Earth is a good idea.   And it is so much simpler to get stuff there and back than from Mars.  Once you learn how to run a viable colony there, then you might think about going to Mars.)

A handy reproduction chart

I don't think I can copy and paste it here, but Axios has a nice interactive graph showing the national reproduction rates around the world. 

Basically, poor African nations are still having babies at a very high rate - but China, the rest of East Asia, the US and Europe are not having enough to replace population.  India's rate is not so high now either.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

In which I quantify just how dumb Queenslanders are

I see (warning: link to a post by Steve Kates at Catallaxy - your brain will hurt if you stay there too long) that Right wing gnome-like commentator Terry McCrann has realised that, if you excluded all Queensland electorates, Labor would have won the election 61 to 55.   This is cause for dismay for him and Kates, because they think the rightful result should have been Labor 0, nationwide.

Perhaps I can seek comfort in my fellow Queenslanders not being as dumb as this election indicates by going back to the State election results of 2017.  Wikipedia shows that result:

I suppose that is a relatively comforting 45.43% of primary votes to Labor/Green.

LNP and One Nation jointly get 47.42% though.   (Although, yes, I know, some One Nation preferences go back to Labor.)

The Federal election seems to have One Nation in Queensland on 8.8%, but I reckon almost certainly Clive Palmer's vote would have stolen a lot from One Nation, and his vote was 3.5%.   Add it back in with One Nation and you would get 12.3% - close to the One Nation state vote in 2017 of 13.73%.

And remember, the country wide vote at the federal election for those parties combined was 6.4%

As voting for One Nation or Palmer was one of the dumbest things anyone could do, I think the conclusion is clear:  Queensland is at least twice as dumb as the rest of Australia.

Tech observations

*  Does anyone really like the clutterwall that is a key part of Windows 10?

*  On the other hand, I have recently upgraded from Office 2010 to Office 2019, and I do like the way it smooths out the typing (it sort of flows continuously and was not something I expected.)   It somehow makes me feel as I am typing faster, when I clearly am not.

*  I feel sorry for Huawei, and have a suspicion that the potential for Chinese interference using that company's technology is way overstated.  I could be wrong, but it's just a hunch.

Here's a report from Reuters saying that it was Australia that led the way in warning about security issues with the company:
The operatives – agents of the Australian Signals Directorate, the nation’s top-secret eavesdropping agency – had been given a challenge. With all the offensive cyber tools at their disposal, what harm could they inflict if they had access to equipment installed in the 5G network, the next-generation mobile communications technology, of a target nation?

What the team found, say current and former government officials, was sobering for Australian security and political leaders: The offensive potential of 5G was so great that if Australia were on the receiving end of such attacks, the country could be seriously exposed. The understanding of how 5G could be exploited for spying and to sabotage critical infrastructure changed everything for the Australians, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

Mike Burgess, the head of the signals directorate, recently explained why the security of fifth generation, or 5G, technology was so important: It will be integral to the communications at the heart of a country’s critical infrastructure - everything from electric power to water supplies to sewage, he said in a March speech at a Sydney research institute.
A few questions:  what does it mean "to have access to equipment installed in the 5G network, exactly?

Why is any country going to have to have to have key infrastructure tied up to a 5G network anyway?  What's wrong with the way we do things now?  What does 5G allow you to do with a power grid that current arrangements do not?

And here's a piece from the Lawfare blog which argues that the complexity of code means it's impossible to know if Huawei has included a "backdoor" at Chinese government insistence, but then goes onto to argue that G5 is being way overhyped anyway, and nations could just avoid the issue with Huawei by improving their 4G network.

If that's all true, then what sense does it make to try to destroy Huawei and its inroads into the 4G mobile phone market?  

I think my suspicions might be right.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

More odd election analysis

This is a peculiar thing about the Nationals (and I don't just mean Barnaby Joyce - I give New Englander's honorary dumbass Queensland status for their support of him):   the ABC has a piece up pointing out that the Nationals, while feeling very happy with their election outcome in most of Australia, now do exceedingly poorly in Western Australia.

There's one other thing I have been meaning to say:  there is still a lot of doubt around that the Adani mine is actually economically viable (see John Quiggin's long held view again expressed in early May, and this separate piece that appeared in Bloomberg a couple of days ago, as well as the news that a nearby proposed coal mine for the Chinese is on hold).    Wouldn't it be deeply annoying to Labor (and me!) if the project is granted all government approvals only to go on permanent hold for economic reasons anyway?

Get Occupied

I must have mentioned it once before, but I've nearly finished season 1 of the Norwegian/Euro TV series Occupied (on Netflix) and I have an urge to again commend it to readers. 

The thing that keeps coming to mind is that the scale of the production (for a political drama involving a more-or-less by stealth takeover of Norway by Russia) is relatively small - it doesn't look cheap but it still has a limited budget feel, meaning it doesn't have the largest cast and government meetings all look smaller than what you expect in reality, even in a small country - and that makes comparison with Australian TV  drama pretty easy.

But it is so much better than any similar attempt at a political intrigue show made here.

OK - it's not as if I am being all that fair, because I don't even attempt to watch Australian drama anymore.  (I had a look at half an hour of Harrow last Sunday - interested only because it is set in Brisbane and is in a second series, so someone must be watching it - and it was incredibly awful.)   But the cringe factor and amateurish nature of nearly all Australian TV drama writing (who is to blame for this?  Where do Australian drama writers learn their craft?) gives me an assured feeling that all Australian recent attempts at political intrigue shows are as bad as ever.

Anyway, the other good thing about Occupied is that it should appeal to a wide variety of biases -


the story is basically that a well meaning Green-ish Prime Minister with dubious actual political ability leads the country into a situation where it is virtually abandoned by the rest of Europe and America.   So you can hate the Greens and blame him, or blame the Russians for their duplicity, or the European Union for being more interested in gas than national sovereignty over gas and oil fields, or the Americans for suddenly becoming more interested in non-intervention and not stepping on Russian toes too much (shades of a Trump influence there).   Any viewer can watch it and find someone to blame in alignment with their pre-existing political biases.   How many shows about political intrigue manage to do that?   

It's well acted and well plotted - it has never really crossed any line into unbelievability.  (Now that I think back, the first episode is perhaps not as strong as later ones - it really does get better the more you watch it.)

And there is a second series (and a third coming it seems).

Not sure why it is not better known....

But is it a nicer city for it?

I didn't know that Alberta in Canada, by a combination of geography and some very active eradication programs, considers itself virtually Norway brown rat free.  

Truth in headlines

A Guardian bit of post election analysis starts:

It's easy to dismiss Queenslanders as coal-addicted bogans...

I'm still not yet in the mood to respond other than with "Because it's true".

The rest of the headline:

...but it's more complex than that 

 I reluctantly agree that the writer (who works in promotion of renewable energy) makes some nice conciliatory points, although I do have a residual feeling that for too long the Australian rural experience has been people moving out to areas to make a living in places which are only good for what they want to do for, on average, (maybe) every second or third year, and then whinging about how bad they have it.   As with agriculture, so it is with mining - both go through boom and bust cycles.

I've long speculated that there is no likely way to solve social problems in remote aboriginal settlements because if a place can't generate enough local economic activity to support itself, people do not have enough to do and are better off not living there.   I don't see why I should have a different view for people living in parts of Queensland who had hoped coal mining was their future.   Move and find work elsewhere.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The problems with economists

I meant to post Robert Samuelson's recent column on economists:   Economists often don't know what they're talking about.     Sounds accurate.

I read another critique of economics a couple of days ago, but I forget where.

No matter:  here's the BBC weighing in with What Have Economists Been Getting Wrong.   I would say it's pretty balanced and fair.

The problem with dust

Wired has a really long article up about moondust, and the very real problem that any future lunar inhabitants are likely to have in dealing with it.   (I had read about this many times before, but not in quite as much detail as here.)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Into the twilight

I've had quite a few procedures now involving twilight anaesthesia - the one where they don't have to put you deeply under.

Yesterday, I had it again, and while waiting I said to the anaesthetist that I like the seemingly instantaneous way it works - a bit of different feeling going up the hand after its injected, and you think "I'm not sleepy yet.. will I feel sleepy in a second?", and next thing you wake up outside in the recovery area as if only almost no time has passed.  I'm not sure that it looks like that to an outsider, because part of the way it works (so I believe) is to induce amnesia of things done to while under it.  So maybe I do blink a little before falling asleep?  Do they talk to me when they are repositioning me on the way out to recovery and do I respond?  I don't know.  

Anyway, the anaesthetist said "yeah, it is very strange, isn't it";  which was a nice response indicating she still has a bit of a sense of wonder about how it all works.

I see from Wikipedia that there are 4 different levels of  twilight anaesthesia, and I don't know what type I have had at different times.    It does take a little while to fully come out of its effects, but I had a good sleep in the afternoon and then again overnight, when lately I have been having some sleep disruption.  

Have they tried treating insomniacs with it, I wonder?   Does it help reset the sleep clock?  

Just wondering...

True, I reckon

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Mescaline in proper perspective

I've mentioned before, I read Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception as a teenager and thought it pretty exciting (or at least, intriguing).   I could understand how it was so influential in the 60's counterculture.

However, I gather from this review in Nature of a new book Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic, that Huxley was way over-selling the drug's positives.

For one thing, I didn't realise (or perhaps had forgotten?) that (like ayahuasca in South America) it makes the average user pretty sick at first:
The powers of endurance needed to take the drug became more widely known: it induces hours of nausea and often vomiting before the hallucinations begin. (In contrast to alcohol, Jay notes, mescaline gives you the hangover first.)
But more importantly, while I seem to recall that Huxley gave the impression that the use of mescaline (outside of Native American culture) and exploring its effects was something pretty new, the book tells a story of experimentation with it going back much further:

In traditional ceremonial use, the hallucination phase has been reported as consistently transporting. But outside these cultures, those eager to experiment have had disconcertingly unpredictable experiences. In 1887, Texan physician John Raleigh Briggs was the first to describe in a medical journal his own, rather violent, symptoms — including a racing heart and difficulties breathing — after eating a small part of a ‘button’, or dried crown, of a peyote cactus. The pharmaceutical company Parke–Davis in Detroit, Michigan, which had been investigating botanical sources of potential drugs from South America and elsewhere, took note. The company was seeking an alternative to cocaine, whose addictive properties had become apparent; it began offering peyote tincture as a respiratory stimulant and heart tonic in 1893. 

A flurry of scientific trials began. There was scant regard for ethics and safety — for the scientists, who frequently tested the mescaline themselves, or for test subjects. In 1895, two reports demonstrating the drug’s unpredictability came out of what is now the George Washington University in Washington DC. In one, a young, unnamed chemist chewed peyote buttons and then noted down his symptoms: nausea followed by pleasant visions over which he had some control, then depression and insomnia for 18 hours. In the other, two scientists observed the drug’s effects on a 24-year-old man, who became deluded and paranoid.

In New York City, pharmacologists Alwyn Knauer and William Maloney carried out a more extensive trial, including 23 people, in 1913. They hoped that mescaline, as a hallucinogen, might provide insight into the psychotic phenomena associated with schizophrenia. It didn’t. The pair diligently recorded participants’ running commentaries on their hallucinations, but found no common characteristics. (In later studies, people with schizophrenia could easily tell the difference between their own hallucinations and those induced by the drug.)

 The pace of trials picked up after synthetic mescaline became available. Chemist Ernst Späth at the University of Vienna was first to synthesize it, in 1919, and the German pharmaceutical company Merck marketed it the following year. Yet trial outcomes did not become more reliable or illuminating. Over the next couple of decades, theories that mescaline might reveal the biological basis of schizophrenia or help to cure other psychological disorders were serially dashed.
This really puts Huxley's praise of the drug in a different light, doesn't it?  Again, I am going by memory here, but I think he gave the impression that his personal investigation of the effects of the drug were somewhat  ground breaking, but it had been very well investigated before and known to be very unreliable in effect.  (I recall he did acknowledge once having a trip which at least verged towards turning into a hellish one.  Perhaps his book was influential in promoting the dangerous idea that, if you start out in the right frame of mind, you can be pretty sure your trip will  be good.)

It's another lesson in not taking pretty sensationalist claims all that seriously until you know more of the background of the topic.   

Even the Washington Post disses San Francisco

Everyone, even the Washington Post, agrees that San Francisco has become a ridiculous, wildly over-priced city with serious problems.   According to WAPO, it's that being the hub of Tech and new money has caused hyper-gentrification and a white/asian, virtually childless, mono-culture, which nonetheless hasn't worked out how to deal with the homeless.

What's interesting, I think, is that this is a liberal take on the problems in the city;  Republicans hate it for completely different reasons, thinking it an example of how liberal loving voters just can't run a city properly.

But, apart from a likely valid point that a city deserves better regulation of poor street behaviour, don't Republicans ever think that the city sets an example of how (contrary to general Right wing expectations) money fixes everything?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Russian influence?

Given what's happened in (according to his site) 27 countries since 2004 where Russia has sought to influence elections in favour of Right wing parties, has anyone asked the question yet whether Russian disinformation interference happened in the Australian election? 

Just asking....

Monday, May 20, 2019

Looks completely normal

Even The Australian, it would seem, can't resist choosing a photo of Malcolm which makes him look  a tad less than sane:

Speaking of Twitter, this made me laugh:

But back to the Senate:  I'm not sure the headline is all that accurate - the article says it's likely the government will need the support of 5 out of 6 "conservative" Senator.  Not sure who counts in that group (Malcolm Roberts, and Cory Bernardi, sure) but it still sounds rubbery to me.

What a tosser

Mark Latham's feeling all culture war invigorated by the Morrison (narrow) win:

What exactly is he complaining about?  The performance of Sabra Lane at the debate drew no complaints from anyone - I don't think I even saw one at Catallaxy!   I similarly thought any interviews by Leigh Sales were quite OK.  Does he think the ABC shouldn't have shown footage of his Dear Leader's obnoxious party hacks promising the NRA that in exchange for financial support, they could change our voting system?   (I think that's what Dickson said in the meeting?)

The thing is, Morrison running a one man show where policies were pretty much limited to "don't trust Shorten, he'll tax you, I won't:  and how good is [insert location X]?" did not set up any mandate for the big culture war fight that is Latham's sole obsession these days.

What a sad, bitter, bag of bile he has become.

Something for the pro-nuclear techno optimists to read

I'm sure he's written a similar piece before (or maybe it was a review of his book on the topic?)  but I don't think I have posted about it.  

Gregory Jaczko headed the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for 5 years under Obama, and now considers nuclear power is too dangerous to be deployed against climate change.

His views were changed, it seems, by a combination of witnessing the Fukushima nuclear accident and the extent of the problems it caused, together with fights with nuclear companies that resisted revision to nuclear safety.

True, he now works in clean energy, but he certainly show that smart, well qualified people with very direct knowledge of the nuclear industry can form the view that it is simply not practical from an economic and safety point of view to deal with climate change via expansion of nuclear power.

Go easy on the Lefty urban elites

A lot of Right wing commentators are ridiculing the catastrophism and "Australians are dumb and nasty and I am ashamed of them" style Tweets coming from some high profile Lefty commentators (like Philip Adams, Jane Caro, etc.)

I say this in response:

a.   I agree that dogged ideological Left wingers have always tended to complain this way, and it used to bother me a lot that it showed ill will and intellectual snobbery to those who do not share their views.

b.  However, let's be honest about what has happened to the Right over the last few decades - a significant section has itself become more ideological and abandoned evidence on matters both economic and scientific.  This has led to pretty much exactly the same condescension by many of the prominent commenters of the Right towards those who do not agree with them - you only have to read the bitchiness of Judith Sloan towards other economists; the "any company director who believes in climate change is an idiot" commentary of Maurice Newman and Andrew Bolt; and (at a lower level) the catastrophism of someone like Steve Kates, who sees a "the public just doesn't understand" global catastrophe to Western Civilisation around every corner; as well as the rest of those who comment in threads at Catallaxy with their extreme views about what a disaster it would be if Labor won, as well as their disdain of Labor or Green voters.   

c.  The short point:  ideological driven political catastrophism (and "the other side are two dumb to understand" finger pointing) has pretty much spread just as much into what passes for mainstream Right wing commentary (if you can call The Australian that!) as it exists (and has always existed) on the Left wing. 

d. For this reason, it's more than a tad hypocritical of Right wingers to be finger pointing at the Left and ignoring the same thing that happens on their side.

e.  Besides, come on:  you have to be a culture war, ideological twit to think populism is always right.   No - it's a reaction to perceptions, and perceptions are more easily led astray by deliberate mischief and misinformation campaigns when you have less education.    

Update:  or, as Jason Wilson puts it:

The other good thing about the election...

How's the senate vote for the LDP going?   NSW is their strongest state, with 1.8%:  just barely above Fred Nile's Christian Democrats on 1.7%.

In every other state, they haven't even cracked 1%!

So, off into electoral oblivion for you, LDP.   Good.

By the way, I liked the new Senate voting system - seemed a good balance of not too simple versus way too complicated.

Go Arthur

Yes, Arthur Sinodinos was on Radio National this morning sounding very (for a Liberal) pro climate change action - talking a lot about the inevitability of  the electricity generation system making a big transition, and how the Coalition will have to deal with that and take up opportunities it presents, etc.

Is it possible that the moderates have truly got the upper hand in the party all due to the symbolism of the defeat of Abbott?   It's a little hard to believe.

I think the problem might simply shift from "we don't know if it's real or not" to "of course it's real but we have to be economically sensible about this" (which was the other half of the Abbott formulation for relative inaction.) 

But we shall see.   

Frank Jotzo says similar things to Arthur in The Guardian this morning.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

In another important question for Australians...

What is this guy wearing on his head in this photo of "All Purpose Sauce", from the Philippines:

Update:  further research tells me that it's a salakot - a round hat (sometimes decorated) from The Philippines  of which I was previously unaware.  Also: the sauce also contains crushed pig liver.  Not sure about that...

In other election watching news

*  I was trying to work out why the election coverage seemed so dull on the ABC, but also the other networks I sometimes flicked over to.  Sure, Wong and Sinodinos are smart and therefore a tad too reserved for lively commentary, but it seemed more than that.

The answer, I think, is the lack of the sound of background activity and the live audience that used to be around the broadcasts when they were from the tally room in Canberra.  Has any station tried running an election broadcast with a mixed audience that could clap, cheer or boo results as they deem fit (rather than just the boring cuts to electorate settings when you get some of that noise)?  Is that such a silly idea?  Maybe it has happened and I have forgotten...

*  I know the national Labor primary vote is way down - 33.3% as I write this - and you can paint the Greens (whose vote has held pretty solid at this election at 10.3%, despite their own internal ructions over the last couple of years) as hurting the Labor brand.   But I'm not sure the Left leaning side of the population sees it as a fundamental problem - preferences would surely flow tightly between the two parties and I don't know that all that many people would consider not voting for Labor for fear of Greens influence.   It's like an informal coalition that Labor has to deny in the interests of wanting to formulate its own policy, but I can't really see the embarrassment potential has that much effect in much the same way that moderate urban Liberal voters know they are also empowering a regional embarrassing hick like Barnaby Joyce.  Perhaps this is just taking a naive view of the importance of swing voters, but I can't get too excited by it. 

*  Apart from my favourite explanation that the heat affects Queenslanders in weird ways, I suppose the more likely explanation is just that they (I am excusing myself from membership of the group at the moment) are ridiculously parochial - look at the popularity of Pauline Hanson and Kevin Rudd as examples.   The latter is the type of nerdy swat politician who it would have been hard imagining being all that popular in Queensland, except he was from Nambour. And Hanson's party is showing 8.7% primary vote in Queensland at the moment, with the next closest state Tasmania at 2.7%.  NSW and Victoria are 1.3% and 1% respectively.   It's extremely likely, I think, that the "she's one of us and speaks like us" explains her success here, and it just doesn't translate to other States despite the ridiculous opportunity David Koch and Sunrise have given her over the years to try to build national appeal.

*  As for polling and its accuracy - it seems the advent of the mobile phone is behind it, and no one seems sure how to get around it.  At the same time, perhaps there is exaggeration about the inaccuracy - if you take into account margin of error, will they only be 1 to 2% out, and is that such a big deal?  It's not as if the end result is an electoral wipeout, after all, in terms of composition of the House.  I think its true that newpapers and parties should stop with the fixation on frequent polling outside of election periods.   That is in large part media generated, and a bad thing for many years.


Election like its 1993 (with added flim flam)

In 1993,  John Hewson should have won against a Labor government that had done a lot but run out of steam, just promising more of the same (which wasn't reflecting all that well in the economy) and having wasted too much time on a messy leadership transition.  But Paul Keating won by a negative campaign based entirely on fear of tax changes.  Of course it was disingenuous - a GST was never going to be a disaster in the tax mix, and a smart man like Keating would have known it - but such is the appeal of retaining government that we got another Labor term which no one thinks accomplished much, and bumbled along in  un-satisfactory fashion.

The parallels with 2019 are pretty clear - the tax changes of Shorten would not have killed the economy or done much other than force some superannuation retirees to cut back on government funded cruise holidays - except the Keating figure has been replaced by a shallower, flim flam of a politician whose government hasn't achieved anything of importance at all.    Keating's win came off a very low personal approval rating and was more the remarkable (even though not more admirable) for it.   With Morrison, though he is nominally more popular,  I just can't see that it is based on anything substantial. And politicians who win on negative campaigning do not get any lasting regard for having done so - Keating is remembered well for all of his reforming work pre 1993.  Morrison has no such pre-existing high regard for his former ministerial roles.

There is every reason to expect a Morrison government to be a bumbling one - on my favourite topic, it is still going to be beset by internal conflict between climate change denying twits (less the key one of Abbott, thank God) and the moderates who have enough sense to not deny science but are caught in a bind as to how to pretend to be taking adequate action.

Arthur Sinodinos on the ABC election coverage made a telling point to this effect last night.  While he continues to impress me as one of the sharper Liberal politicians, on climate change he appears to embody the attitude of the likely moderate majority of Liberals who know enough that climate change cannot be denied, but are prepared to not show convincing leadership on the issue while waiting for further public pressure to force them into more meaningful action. 

With electorates as dumb as those in Queensland (I certainly predicted correctly that Adani would cost Labor votes here) that is a deeply uninspiring attitude. 

Having said that, the conservatives such as those who live at Catallaxy are not going to be satisfied either - with the loss of Abbott as a key figure around whom denialism within the party can coalesce, it is hard to see how Morrison or his moderates could ever flip to the type of outright denialism that they want.  I mean, to do so will be to show them siding with nutter Malcolm Roberts who (thanks, stupid Queenslanders) will resume a Senate seat;  he at least serves the purpose of showing how old and eccentric you have to be to continue denying a clear scientific consensus.  (Almost certainly, I would say, he gets in by virtue of recognition of Hanson's name on the "above the line" section of the Senate ballet paper; not due to his negative level charisma.)

On the other  bright side - Clive Palmer's failure was pleasing enough.   He is a deeply weird man.

So, overall, it's a Coalition win, but hardly a convincing one for any mandate for a strong, comprehensive conservative agenda, because Morrison simply didn't run on one.  (I had to read an article this morning to remind me what they had promised, since it was so easy to miss it during the campaign.)

As for Labor:   Shorten's concession and immediate resignation had a lot of dignity about it.  For whatever reason, the Coalition voters who work around me all think highly of Anthony Albonese (and, as you would expect, given their treatment of Gillard) dislike Tanya Plibersek quite intensely.   I don't have strong feelings either way - but I can see Plibersek facing an uphill battle given her somewhat Keating-like air of condescension in interviews.   (I think she is smart and likely a very good operator when in power, though.)

I think that Albonese could do well against a bumbling Morrison government,  so let's see if he gets the job.  
Update:   I read Peter Brent after writing this post:
All those comparisons with 1993 are apt. A government widely expected to meet its maker, possibly in a landslide, instead lifts its vote and increases its seat tally. The opposition, laden with a big policy agenda and a leader with presentational problems — who snubs the traditional final-week National Press Club event and opts instead for direct engagement with voters at rallies — is nonetheless expected to prevail.

Why? Because the opinion polls say he will. The polls, published and internal, were even more spectacularly wrong this time than back then. Right up to election day, Labor was confident of a number in at least the high seventies. Liberals were sharing their pessimism with journos.

The lashings of eggs-on-face for the commentariat come from the polls....

During the campaign I spent a fair bit of time in this column obsessing about likely preference flows making the difference, but it turned out that what the pollsters got horribly wrong were the primary votes.
Queensland not only repeated its proud tradition of underperforming for Labor relative to survey-generated expectations, it also swung to the government by (on current figures) around 2 per cent. The big difference between surveyed and actual numbers in that fifth of the country alone would account for the pollsters’ national misfire.

Labor won two-party-preferred majorities in Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria and the two territories.
I think he's right on his take on over-analysis of Labor's failings, too:
The good news is that conservative commentators who were only days ago whingeing about the greed and irresponsibility of the voters have had their faith in humanity restored. But for the rest of us, now is the time to turn off the telly and newspapers and rediscover the joy of books, because the unending prognoses of Labor doom will be too much to bear.

The reheated stories of the blue-collar base, battlers, values, a moribund party structure, estrangement from the silent majority, and how the next Labor prime minister is not even in parliament. If you’re old enough, you’ve read and heard it — and its equivalent applied to the conservative side — a thousand times before.

The next polls should  register jumps in the prime minister’s and the Coalition’s fortunes, but in the longer term there is no reason to believe this government will be any more liked by the public than it was in the past.
 Update 2:  Samantha Maiden thinks Arthur Sinodinos was hinting at moderate Liberals getting a better go on climate change as a result of the election - 
Senator Sinodinos observed that “Morrison can’t sit still”.

“He wants to do things. And, in fact, if anything, one of the challenges when he was Treasurer, and Malcolm [Turnbull] was Prime Minister, is there was this debate about, you know, how quickly we do certain things because Scott was very keen to get on with certain things and Malcolm was more cautious and wanted to weigh them up more.

“Now, I think there’s still a case for being cautious when you’re doing big things, but my point is that he is a leader who will want to get on and do things. In fact, one of the things, I think, he will have to do is take some of the elements of the Labor campaign and look at them and say, ‘Well, where were the issues that motivated some people to vote Labor, and what can I do to and ameliorate – assuage those concerns?’.”

That is code for the Liberals doing more about climate change and energy policy.
The thing that he might want to do about climate policy, though, is support coal power stations. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Election predictions

Surely the chances of Tony Abbott going off into the sunset of voluntary firefighting and lifeguarding at this local beach have increased significantly after last night?   (Honestly, what company would think he is an asset to their board?)   There will be a great shout of joy across the land (even from the conservatives I know who hate Bill Shorten) if this comes to pass.

The betting markets are confident of a Labor win;  the polling indicates it will may be closer than they expect, but the main likely losses to Labor may be in Queensland seats above Noosa where the heat addles brains and they think mining coal is going to provide long term jobs, instead of very temporary ones.

I strongly suspect this will be more than compensated for by convincing Labor wins in other states.   Victoria, being the former Liberal stronghold, apparently looks like the disaster to watch for the Coalition.

It promises to be one of the more entertaining and engaging election nights to be watching the coverage.

Bob Hawke and the Abbott non-legacy

While I cannot say that I ever especially warmed to Bob Hawke as a personality ("larrikinism" is hardly something I feel drawn to, and let's not mention my dislike of cricket and horse racing), there is no doubting the importance of his reforming government, and the attitude of principled and intelligent compromise which he brought to politics.   And he did show regret and a conscience regarding his failings in his personal life - Catholics especially have to give him credit for that, too.

Tony Abbott, by contrast, who is being thoroughly and rightly ridiculed and criticised for rushing in with comments demonstrating his complete and utter emotional tone deafness (shorter version:  "Bob was a great PM because, when you think about it, he was a lot like me") will go down in history as a completely unprincipled, opportunistic, empty vessel of a political operative whose only achievement will be a convincing demonstration of the truth of the Peter Principle:  the country is never likely to ever see a clearer example of a PM raised above their level of political and intellectual competence.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Tongue bathe your way to pardon

Conrad Black has been busy writing the most obsequious commentary possible of Trump and his presidency - right up there with Steve Kates material - for the last few years.  

So what a surprise that Trump should pardon him. 

The narcissism of Trump is so transparent that it is obvious to the world how he works.   All anyone has to do (Putin, Xi, Jong-un) is to be extremely complimentary to his face, and then go away from the meeting and continue doing what they want.   Trump's vanity will ensure he is unable to attack seriously someone who told him he's a terrific fellow.

Disney grandchild quite upset with the excesses of wealth and American capitalism

Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Walt and but no direct involvement with the Disney company, delivers quite a spray against wealth and salary inequality in America.

She makes many good points, although she seems to have it in for bidet toilets too, which is odd.  (Unless there is another form of rich persons' toilet that does more than a water spray?)  

The wage and work conditions within Disney itself have been pretty dismaying.  Mickey ought to be leading a socialist revolution.

Religion, eternity and socialism

There's a lot to unpack, as they say, in this lengthy New Yorker review of a book by Martin Hagglund.  The subheading to the article:
Martin Hägglund argues that rigorous secularism leads to socialism. 

I don't have time to finish reading it carefully enough right now, but Jason if you don't find it interesting, I'd be surprised. 

Increased rainfall intensity, as predicted

Heavy rainfall is in the news a lot recently.   A headline in the Washington Post: 

California is already drenched. Now three ‘atmospheric rivers’ may unload two months’ worth of rain.

The midwest is very wet too, and Texas.

And here's a new study on rainfall intensity spotted on twitter:

I see from comments following this Tweet that the denialists take the line "yeah, but it's not that big a problem."

As it's a topic I've been interested in some time, I think common sense suggests that it's in fact a problem for which it is extremely difficult to forecast the economic effects:   I would be very surprised if there is any accurate way to forecast the cost of engineering solutions to landslides, road washouts, and flash flood mitigation generally, both in advanced economies and less advanced ones.  (And some effects are just not going to be capable of being addressed.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Swedenborg noted

Somewhat amusingly, the Catholic Herald has a column every week entitled "Heretic of the Week", in which they get to more-or-less ridicule various heretical folk from history, both distant and recent. 

One recent interesting one was Bishop James Pike - an American Episcopalian bishop in the 1960's who was on TV a fair bit and was an early advocate for the sort of church reforms which now don't sound so controversial, but were extremely so in his day.  (Ordination of women, abortion, acceptance of gays fully into the church, etc.)    I knew a little about him from his book The Other Side in which he claimed to have got in contact with his dead son via spiritualism.   I probably read that in the paranormal-loving 1970's, and remember thinking that it sounded quite convincing.   Little did I know, however, that the Bishop's personal life was a complete mess:  alcoholism, affairs, and he died in a strange way in the Israeli desert.  I'm pretty sure that he was fictionalised in a Philip K Dick novel too, but I forget which one.

Anyhow, I see that this week's heretic is Emanuel Swedenborg, another character I would have first read about in the 1970's, but one rarely mentioned these days.  As the brief account of his life in the article notes, he was a pretty smart man in his day who went deeply off the planet into visions of angels, the afterlife and alien planets, writing at great length about his experiences and theology. 

He was famous and influential in his day - Wikipedia has a lengthy article about him,  including how he came to Kant's critical attention.

The Catholic Herald notes that the Churches established in his name still have about 7,000 members:
Swedenborg’s vivid writings attracted much interest, providing one strand of the 19th-century occult revival. But in 1817 a denomination was founded on them: the Swedenborgian Church of North America – which suffered a schism in 1890, forming the General Church of the New Jerusalem. Although together the two bodies today have only about 7,000 members, two American folk heroes were Swedenborgians: Johnny Appleseed and Helen Keller.
 I am surprised that it would even have that many members.   Spiritualist and esoteric churches based on generic mysticism have never had longevity in the West - they seem too dependent on charismatic leaders holding it all together.   In a way, I find that a bit sad - it's a bit of a fun fantasy to imagine that there is one small group out there that has actually Worked it All Out with complete accuracy, and it's only a matter of tracking them down.  

Hot in Russia

The Washington Post notes:
Saturday’s steamy 84-degree reading was posted in Arkhangelsk, Russia, where the average high temperature is around 54 this time of year. The city of 350,000 people sits next to the White Sea, which feeds into the Arctic Ocean’s Barents Sea.

In Koynas, a rural area to the east of Arkhangelsk, it was even hotter on Sunday, soaring to 87 degrees (31 Celsius). Many locations in Russia, from the Kazakhstan border to the White Sea, set record-high temperatures over the weekend, some 30 to 40 degrees (around 20 Celsius) above average. The warmth also bled west into Finland, which hit 77 degrees (25 Celsius) Saturday, the country’s warmest temperature of the season so far.

The abnormally warm conditions in this region stemmed from a bulging zone of high pressure centered over western Russia. This particular heat wave, while a manifestation of the arrangement of weather systems and fluctuations in the jet stream, fits into what has been an unusually warm year across the Arctic and most of the mid-latitudes.

In Greenland, for example, the ice sheet’s melt season began about a month early. In Alaska, several rivers saw winter ice break up on their earliest dates on record.
Meanwhile, we have small political parties running here on either a denial of climate change, or a "it's too uncertain to bother doing anything" line.  And one of the major parties still with a large rump of similar folk.