Thursday, September 19, 2019

Cancel culture

As explained by the Washington Post, "cancel culture" is in large part a result of the nature of social media:
Stand-up comedy, just like other art forms, has traditionally enjoyed an unspoken pact with the audience: Comedians can say pretty much whatever they want, and people in the crowd can feel however they want about the jokes. In live comedy, the power dynamics tend to favor the comedian who has the stage, spotlight and microphone. If a couple of people in the audience are deeply offended, the comic may never know about it.

But the Internet changed this relationship. The audience can do more than heckle a live performance; they can talk back, at length, and get a lot of people to listen.
I have also noticed some people on Twitter pointing out that people so upset with it tend to only think of the attacks run by those on the Left, not about those run by the wingnuts of the Right:



(I see someone in the thread says Chapelle mentioned Kaepernick in his special.  I wonder how briefly?)




Go Will

Everyone's favourite former Libertarian should be Will Wilkinson, who has a great column in the New York Times noting how the Right wing response to a mere proposal of an assault weapon buy back by a guy wildly unlikely to become President (to threaten violence against the police and civil war against the State) is the illiberal and undemocratic scream of an ageing minority fearful of losing control because of democracy:

Nearly every Republican policy priority lacks majority support. New restrictions on abortion are unpopular. Slashing legal immigration levels is unpopular. The president’s single major legislative achievement, tax cuts for corporations and high earners, is unpopular. 

Public support for enhanced background checks stands at an astonishing 90 percent, and 60 percent (and more) support a ban on assault weapon sales. Yet Republican legislatures block modest, popular gun control measures at every turn. The security of the minority’s self-ascribed right to make the rules has become their platform’s major plank, because unpopular rules don’t stand a chance without it. Float a rule that threatens their grip on power, no matter how popular, and it’s “my AR is waiting for you, Robert Francis.”

They’ll tell you their thinly veiled threats are really about defending their constitutional rights. Don’t believe it. The conservative Supreme Court majority’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller found an individual right to own guns for self-protection, but no civilian needs a weapon capable of shooting 26 people in 32 seconds to ward off burglars. The Second Amendment doesn’t grant the right to own one any more than it grants the right to own a surface-to-air missile.  

They’ll tell you their foreboding “predictions” of lethal resistance are really about preserving the means to protect the republic against an overweening, rights-stomping state. Don’t believe that, either. It’s really about the imagined peril of a multicultural majority running the show. Many countries that do more to protect their citizens against gun violence are more, not less, free than we are. According to the libertarian Cato Institute, 16 countries enjoy a higher level of overall freedom than the United States, and most of them ban or severely restrict ownership of assault weapons. The freedom to have your head blown off in an Applebee’s, to flee in terror from the bang of a backfiring engine, might not be freedom at all.

I’m not too proud to admit that in my misspent libertarian youth, I embraced the idea that a well-armed populace is a bulwark against tyranny. I imagined us a vast Switzerland, hived with rifles to defend our inviolable rights against … Michael Dukakis? What I slowly came to see is that freedom is inseparable from political disagreement and that holding to a trove of weapons as your last line of defense in a losing debate makes normal ideological opposition look like nascent tyranny and readies you to suppress it.

So it’s no surprise that the most authoritarian American president in living memory, elected by a paltry minority, is not threatened in the least by citizen militias bristling with military firepower. He knows they’re on his side.

Democrats don’t want to grind the rights of Republicans underfoot. They want to feel safe and think it should be harder for unhinged lunatics to turn Walmarts into abattoirs. But when minority-rule radicals hear determined talk of mandatory assault rifle buybacks, they start to feel surrounded. They hear the hammers clicking back, imagine themselves in the majority’s cross hairs.

That’s why they’re unmoved by the mounting heap of slaughtered innocents, by schoolkids missing recess to rehearse being hunted. It’s a sacrifice they’re willing to let other Americans make, because they think democracy’s coming for their power, and they’re right.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Put them in the military..or something

I watched last night's Foreign Correspondent on the issue of illicit drug testing at European music festivals, and it was a pretty good way to get me feeling old and cranky with youff of today.

Actually, the editorial line taken by the show was more moderate and balanced than I expected, especially given that it was done by someone from JJJ who has reported on music festival drug deaths for a few years.  Yes, while it generally did paint the testing services in a positive light, they did balance it with at least one guy who ran tests acknowledging that those who have concerns that it virtually endorses illicit drug use do have a point.

It was sort of funny, though, that it featured a recent English festival at which the organisation which had previously done the free on site testing pulled back their involvement this year to only giving drug counselling.   (There was one fake looking scene where a couple said "yeah, we'll still go get counselling at least", and afterwards the dissolute woman said she had learnt for the first time that she should not mix alcohol with her ketamine taking - seriously?  I thought.   She looked a very experienced user.)   Yet no one at the end of the festival had been too badly endangered by their drug use anyway.   Kind of makes you wonder about the efficacy of the testing part of it, then.

But the worst thing about it was the "so this is what decadent youth of today think is having a good time?   Standing in a field in the sun, drinking and using illicit drugs to dance stupidly for three days straight?"   The people on screen, especially the English youth, playing up to the camera, all looked so distinctly uninspiring to my "I must be getting old" eyes.   Sure, I guess most of them actually hold down jobs, but I just have trouble handling the idea that people want to be off their face for so long at these events.

I mean, at least people at Woodstock had something they felt they were legitimately rebelling against - and the free love bits were just all part and parcel of wanting the world to change to something non-violent and less materialist.

Today's music festival scene, on the other hand, just looks like so much self indulgent hedonism that has emerged from youth having too much money, spare time and no interest in changing the world at all - it's given them an ugly tattoo or ten and enough cheap drugs, as well as a free ambulance tent if they have taken too much unknown substance and have started hallucinating, after all.

In my parent's day, the response was all "they should do some national service, that would straighten them out."    I'm still not at the stage of wanting that - although I am getting awfully close!

PS:  I am not at all sure why, but I find (for want of a better description) young yobbo behaviour when done with an English accent particularly annoying.    Is it the sense that it is a sadly fallen culture, compared to the stoicism of only (say) 80 years ago?


Unbelievable, and good

I've watched the first two episodes of the well reviewed Netflix true crime series Unbelievable - and it is really good.

This review in The Guardian is accurate, I think.   I like the way it describes the second episode as being better than mere "competence porn" - because, yes, you cannot help but feel that the first two episodes are virtually written to be police training films.  (The first episode is the grating, but quite distressingly plausible, example of everything detectives could possibly do wrong in questioning a rape victim; the second episode shows a virtually perfect example of how it should be done.)

But look, the acting is really good, so far, and it is not sensationalist despite the weirdness of the crimes.

Well worth watching.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A scandal to come?

Heh.  I see that Helen Dale, who vapes to get her nicotine hit, has re-tweeted a tweet of reassurance from Public Health England that they are not backing down from their (unusually strong) support of vaping:



No situation?   I'm not at all sure that there are any cases of young people developing life threatening lung problems within a year of smoking, are there?  


I'm sure I have commented on this before:   England's health authorities seem to have been completely persuaded unusually quickly that vaping is a pretty good thing, at least for smokers.   They don't seem to have any of the concerns of the equivalent US bodies, which have always been much more dubious.  True, there may be regulatory differences that account for some of this - such as tighter regulation in the UK of vaping liquids, and far fewer English youth getting hooked on nicotine this way.  But I still have my strong suspicions about something being not quite right about how strongly PHE has decided to endorse this nicotine delivery method.

It has a whiff of - something: perhaps money buying influence, and/or one or two key strong personalities within a health bureaucracy deciding a line and pushing it onto others.

There are hints of academic resistance - earlier this year, before the current spate of problems in the US, there was this headline in The Sun (OK, I know, not my preferred journal of health news): 
A LEADING scientist has accused health bosses of purposely "ignoring" the dangers of vaping.

Professor Martin McKee from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says that he has "serious concerns" about the safety of e-cigs.
 And a couple of doctors writing to the BMJ in 2018 expressed similar scepticism about the PHE endorsement:
We understand that such conflict, existing as it does among tobacco experts, reflects a wider uncertainty surrounding the long term health risks of e-cigarettes. That PHE, whose purpose is “to protect and improve the nation’s health,”5 should sanction e-cigarette use citing an embryonic and inconclusive evidence base, is astonishing.
There was a whole article  in an American journal looking at how the American and English appraisals of vaping could come to such different conclusions:   The E-Cigarette Debate - What Counts as Evidence.

I reckon that all it will take for the UK media to leap into strenuous criticism of the PHE approach will be one or two British youth developing the sort of serious lung issues we have seen in the US.  The tabloids, which love that sort of story, will give it plenty of coverage.

Perhaps there will then be a proper and thorough political or journalistic investigation as to how the PHE came to its conclusions, and I would not be at all surprised if there is an element of scandal to be discovered.

Let's see.  I've made my prediction:  will I be vindicated?



Italians and their pets

I thought England would still be the European country most besotted with dogs, but according to this diary entry at the Catholic Herald, Italians now prefer pooches to bambini:
A growing number of Italians are now opting for pets rather than children. Back in 2014, Pope Francis was already sufficiently worried about this new trend, and warned Italians to keep their devotion for their children rather than pets. It looks like no one was listening. The passeggiata, the traditional evening walk which used to be a chance to show off babies in prams and toddlers on their new tricycles, is now given over to strutting dog owners, and pooches nestling like a baby in a kangaroo pouch.

The land that was once synonymous with a large brood now has one of the lowest birthrates in the world (1.35), but boasts a one-to-one ratio of pets per person – more than any other European country. Italians spent more than €2 billion (£1.8 billion, $2.2 billion) on pet food in 2017, and more than €72 million (£65 million, $80 million) on “accessories” in the same year. When I say “accessories”, I mean rhinestone-studded collars and sheepskin-lined miniature four-poster beds.

The African divide

Reversing the usual formula for Western people talking about how their family and friends took their "hey I'm gay" news, Time magazine notes this about the coming out of a famous gospel singer from Rwanda:
...the reaction he has received, from family and friends to strangers, has been mostly “horrible,” underscoring the intolerance faced by LGBT people in many parts of Africa.
The articles goes on to note that although Rwanda does not make gay sexual activity a crime, it is far from socially accepted:
Some of Nabonibo’s best friends who spoke to the AP said they were too embarrassed even to talk about him. They requested anonymity for their own privacy. “This is crazy. I don’t understand why he thinks this is normal,” said one friend, shaking his head.

Another friend, a man who attends the same church as Nabonibo, said he was in a state of “agony” since the rest of his family knows he used to hang out with Nabonibo. Now he has blocked Nabonibo from all phone contact, saying he wants to “keep safe.”

There has been a similar reaction on social media, with many Rwandans questioning Nabonibo’s intentions and others condemning him. One wondered on Twitter: “How can a gospel singer be gay?”
The article also notes that in many countries on that continent, legislation is in reverse from the Western, liberalising trend:
In 2017, Chad enacted legislation criminalizing same-sex relations for the first time in the country’s history. In May, a court in Kenya ruled against overturning a colonial-era law criminalizing homosexual acts between consenting adults. Activists there who had challenged the law in court said they faced discrimination and threats to their dignity.

And in neighboring Uganda, a government minister in charge of ethics is threatening to introduce another version of an anti-gay law passed in 2014, and subsequently voided by the country’s constitutional court, that provided for jail terms of up to life for those convicted of engaging in gay sex. The original version of that bill, first introduced in 2009, had included the death penalty for what it called aggravated acts of homosexuality.
It's pretty remarkable, really:  living in the West, it is easy to imagine that everyone around the globe is moving in same liberalising direction on such matters.

It also points to the huge problem it may be if the Catholic Church hopes to increasingly provide conservative African priests to Western parishes.   It's going to go over like a lead balloon.

Adam has thoughts

What's going on with Adam Creighton?   Is he hanging up his soft libertarian, capitalism-is-great-and-let's-leave-it-alone credentials for good with today's column "Maybe it is time we accepted greed was never good"?

He's never impressed me, as many posts here over the years will attest, so I'm not going to be one to welcome him into the centrist, capitalism-needs-good-regulation-as-all-reasonable-people-have-known-since-about-1850 fold.  He'll probably have another change of heart next week, anyway.

And didn't he write a whinge about our immigration program last week, that it was letting in too  many unskilled?

As with Jason, it seems, soft libertarian types are now lost and wandering around listening to anyone from Pauline Hanson via her acolyte Mark Latham (who, I see, has re-joined Twitter because he couldn't bear to be around without annoying people) to "I'm just being reasonable, having articles both anti immigration and anti urgent climate change action" Lehmann.

Sad.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Conan does Greenland

I enjoyed the clips of Conan O'Brien's recent trip to Nuuk, Greenland.   It's a one hotel,  two traffic light town, with what would appear to be no tourism infrastructure at all, but it's still interesting to see.

I thought all of the locals were pretty attractive, amusing and likeable people, too:




Musician's death noted

Ric Ocasek's death gives me the opportunity to note that I enjoyed The Cars in the 1980's:  fun, catchy pop that I may still have on vinyl in a cupboard at home.    He was a bit of an odd looking dude, though; but then again, I suppose a lot of pop/rock stars of the era were not exactly handsome.

Not sure what difference Bolton leaving has made, really...

Yes, this is a ridiculous way for a President to act:

Update:  more Twitter commentary on the matter:


Sunday, September 15, 2019

"It belongs in a toilet"

Has this story flashed around the innerwebs yet?   I saw it via a Dave Roberts tweet this morning:  a link to this very important update to archaeological science:

Experimental replication shows knives manufactured from frozen human feces do not work

You can read the full article at the link.  A highlight or two:
Fecal samples were formed into knives using ceramic molds, “knife molds” (Figs. S1–S2), or molded by hand, “hand-shaped knives” (Fig. S3). All fecal samples were stored at −20 °C until the experiments began...

Neither the “knife mold” samples, nor the “hand-shaped knives” could cut through hide (Figs. S5–S6). Despite the hide being cold from refrigeration, instead of slicing through it the knife-edge simply melted upon contact, leaving streaks of fecal matter (Fig. S4).
I have even downloaded the supplementary material so you can see what a frozen human poo blade failing to cut looks like.  Here:



And now I have no idea how to end this post appropriately...

Explaining the Many Worlds, again

Sean Carroll has a new book out, promoting the Everett Many Worlds theory as being correct even if (to say the least) counter-intuitive, and so there is some good reading about it around the 'net.

First, Carroll's own essay at Aeon gives a nice, pretty clear account.  Well worth reading.

Secondly, the book must be pretty good, because fellow physicist Bee Hossenfelder gives it a good review at Backreaction.

And finally: another good review at NPR.

Update:   Peter Woit liked the book, but is very annoyed that Sean Carroll is participating in some nonsense descriptions about what Many Worlds means.

The Orwell failure

Oh look - a really long essay about Orwell and 1984 in particular, which I think gives plenty of ammunition to my unpopular but resolute position that the book is vastly over-rated and actually a failure on most levels.

My only regret is that I did not have stuff like this to bolster my dislike of the book in high school.

Living Dutch style

I have never been to the Netherlands, and didn't understand how some of their "let's live well below sea level" worked for much of the country until watching these interesting videos from Channel News Asia this morning:





What's that breed of cow in the second video, by the way?  They are very pretty looking, for cows.


Highly regarded movies I didn't much care for

I caught up with the 1995 Michael Mann film Heat for the first time last night.  (It was a cheap hire on Google.)   While it was sort of amusing watching Al Pacino play a cop who seemed potentially more dangerous (and nuttier) than criminal mastermind Robert De Niro, I don't think the film had all that much going for it.  One big shoot out on the streets of LA isn't enough.   That bank heist before it seemed way, way too easy.   A lot of the dialogue was hard to follow - you more or less just had to hope that it would become clearer in the next scene what they had been talking about in the one before. My son said it reminded him a lot of playing Grand Theft Auto, and I think he is right. 

Anyway, not the pits, but not that great either.

A few weeks ago, we watched Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)Technically well made, with the long, long single tracking shots; its basic theme of "you have to be nuts to want to be actor" is a tad self indulgent in just the right way to win critics' praise and Oscars, but is not of that much interest to the rest of us.   And does Edward Norton ever get to play a normal human?

Again, not the pits, but...etc.

I'm finding it a bit difficult, lately, to find streaming service movies which have I have missed and really like when I do get to watch them.

 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Friday, September 13, 2019

Happens to a lot of blokey blokes, it seems

Jack the Insider, the ever genial blokey writer, says today (in relation to the apparent suicide of that ex footy player) that he too has had periods of suffering from suicidal ideation.  He writes:
...for many years, suicide ideation was like an unwelcome houseguest I couldn’t get shot of. The demons of anxiety, panic and desolation mutter away. “I’ll never be any good.’’ “I’m letting everyone down.’’ Combine that dark mantra with a sleepless couple of nights and you’re in the danger zone, borderline psychotic, suffering silently from a pain that won’t go away.

Some people still cling to the atavistic notion that suicide is for the weak. It’s not. It can’t be. It is almost the hardest thing anyone can do, bearing in mind the hardest is to survive and live on.
Mental illness is, if not invisible, then something sufferers are adept at camouflaging. It hides in plain sight. There are no ugly blemishes or boils, no hacking coughs, no greying of complexions. It is almost impossible to see in others.

I’ve spoken on live television. I’ve spoken at venues where audiences that number from fifty to five thousand. I flick the switch to the wisecracking good bloke, that part of my personality that people expect to see. I do it easily and without any reservations. I like that part of me, but I know it is a disguise.
Well that's very clear, direct writing on the topic, if a little worrying in its warning that it can be impossible to tell if someone is suffering this way.   (On the other hand, I suppose, it could be seen as comforting for those who blame themselves after a suicide for not noticing.)

He also says this:
Beyond mental illness the one thing they shared with Frawley was a personality type. They are characters who everyone wants to be with. Larger than life, the lives of the party. I often wonder if there is some correlation between that personality type and frequency of mental health problems.
It could just be more my personality than any particular insight I have into other people, but it's fair to say that I have always felt that I do not want to be around "life of the party" types;  perhaps due to a sense I've instinctively had that brashness can too easily be a cover for inner dissatisfaction?

Either that, or I just dislike other people having too much fun. :)
 
Also on this topic, I noticed on Twitter this thread by some people complaining about RU OK day - many saying that they had suffered mental health issues and they did not enjoy the day at all, thinking it was shallow and a patronising take on a problem which lasts all year, not just one day, etc etc.

To be honest, even allowing for their problems, this annoys me.   Any "day" which intends to promote awareness or raise money for research can annoy people affected by the illness.   I'm sure I read once that parents who have lost a baby to SIDS can find the "red nose day" a distressing reminder of their loss.  I can understand that, at least for the first few years after their baby's death. 

But really, you have to allow for the greater good that such promotions may achieve, and the good intentions of the people who create such awareness of a health issue.  

Sure, have a whinge about the lack of readily accessible mental health services, if that is something you know about, but don't get upset at a program that can do some good.

From (old) cinema to reality (almost)

The internet makes it easy to remember things now.

This story:

 Cockpit coffee spill forces commercial jet to make emergency landing 

put me in mind of an old movie that I probably watched as a kid one Saturday afternoon on the black and white TV about a plane crash where it turned out to have been caused by spilt coffee.

And the internet reminds me - the movie was Fate is the Hunter.   A very dramatic noir-ish title, for a plane crash movie, no?   About the only thing I remember about it is the coffee spill revelation at the end.   Obviously, modern pilots need to watch more old movies.

The ridiculous Right

Not a bad, short column here about the utterly ridiculous Tucker Carlson saying that he's glad John Bolton has gone, because he was a man of the Left:
"It is great news for America," as Fox News host Tucker Carlson said Tuesday evening, "especially for the large number of young people who would have been killed in pointless wars if Bolton had stayed on the job." Bolton was an inveterate hawk, perpetually undermining the president's better instincts on pursuing diplomacy and extricating America from her many misadventures in the Middle East. And anyway, as Carlson continued, Bolton "fundamentally was a man of the left," and — wait, what?

John Bolton, fundamentally a man of the left? Opposed to abortion and gun control, pro-private sector remedies to recession, unrelentingly aggressive on foreign policy John Bolton? Bomb Iran and invade North Korea John Bolton? Supporter of Barry Goldwater; member of the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump; Fox News commentator John Bolton? That John Bolton?
As she explains:
Some conservatives are putting in the difficult but necessary work of constructive criticism of their own movement. But Carlson and others like him have chosen the easier and more damaging method of handling disagreement via a constant game of "no true Scotsman." Instead of admitting fault, error, or even simple differences of opinion within their own camp — and different policy preferences unquestionably can develop from a set of ideological underpinnings unified enough to fund a single movement — they relabel anything objectionable as the property of their political enemies.

For this crowd, to have a bad position is to have a liberal position. If you're not with us, you're against us. To err is to be a Democrat. For Carlson, if Bolton is a disaster on foreign policy, that proves Bolton is a left-winger.

Yet more "what climate change looks like"

From The Guardian:
Parts of eastern Spain received what in some places was the heaviest rainfall on record on Thursday, as storms wreaked widespread destruction and killed at least two people.

The regional emergency service said a 51-year-old woman and her 61-year-old brother had been found dead in an overturned car that floodwaters had washed away in Caudete, about 60 miles (100km) south of Valencia, the private Spanish news agency Europa Press reported.


While on the topic of increased floods from climate change, a recent study at Nature confirmed that climate change is both increasing floods in parts of Europe, and decreasing them in other parts:
Our results—arising from the most complete database of European flooding so far—suggest that: increasing autumn and winter rainfall has resulted in increasing floods in northwestern Europe; decreasing precipitation and increasing evaporation have led to decreasing floods in medium and large catchments in southern Europe; and decreasing snow cover and snowmelt, resulting from warmer temperatures, have led to decreasing floods in eastern Europe. Regional flood discharge trends in Europe range from an increase of about 11 per cent per decade to a decrease of 23 per cent. Notwithstanding the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of the observational record, the flood changes identified here are broadly consistent with climate model projections for the next century4,5, suggesting that climate-driven changes are already happening and supporting calls for the consideration of climate change in flood risk management.
Of course, this will cause simple minded, dumb people, like Bolt, Blair and anyone at Catallaxy, to have a headache, because they cannot conceive that climate change is not exactly the same in every part of the world.

Vaping taking the big hit

I wonder if vaping JC from Catallaxy invested in some vaping company's shares?   Or if he is still vaping himself.  Because businesses involved in this activity must be taking a severe hit in sales, one would imagine.  From People magazine:

A student athlete still has difficulty climbing up stairs after being hospitalized with “severe lung damage” caused by e-cigarettes.

“My lungs were that of a 70-year-old’s,” Illinois teen Adam Hergenreder, who started vaping when he was 16, was told by the doctors, according to CNN.

Following days of persistent nausea and vomiting, the teenager was hospitalized in late August, where doctors were able to realize the full extent of the damage....

“If I had known what it was doing to my body, I would have never even touched it, but I didn’t know,” the teen said, adding that “it was scary to think about” the damage “that little device” did to his lungs.

After being released from the hospital, Hergenreder still finds it “difficult to even do normal activities, like going up stairs,” which leaves him winded. His future with sports is also in jeopardy.

“I was a varsity wrestler before this and I might not ever be able to wrestle because that’s a very physical sport and my lungs might not be able to hold that exertion,” he told CNN. “It’s sad.”
I did try to warn you, JC.   

Playing with rats for a living

It's been a while since I had a rat post, but this story in The Atlantic about researchers who taught rats to play hide and seek (with the only reward being to tickle them) is quite charming:

All six rats learned to seek, and five also learned to hide. They clearly understood the rules of the game, and played strategically. When seeking, they searched systematically, beginning with past hiding locations. When hiding, they chose opaque boxes instead of transparent ones and kept quieter. They also seamlessly switched between the two roles, taking their cue from whether the starting box was closed (indicating “seek”) or open (indicating “hide”).

The rats learned the game in only a couple of weeks, which is “impressive in neuroscience,” says Juan Ignacio Sanguinetti-Scheck, who also took part in the study. “Animals can take months to learn tasks, even monkeys, but we’re generally trying to teach them to use joysticks or things they’d never do in normal life.” Hide-and-seek, by contrast, draws on behaviors such as concealing, finding peers, and switching roles, which aren’t just natural parts of rat life, but also frequent parts of rat play. In retrospect, it was the perfect game for uniting two different species. “It’s a clever and innovative approach,” says Gordon Burghardt of the University of Tennessee. “Many animals play with other species and engage in peekaboo, tug of war, or tag, but this example does seem unexpectedly complex.”

Why did the rats play along? It’s possible that they were going after tickles and other social rewards. After all, for two decades researchers have known that rats enjoy being tickled and react by producing ultrasonic chirps that can be compared to laughter. But Reinhold found that once discovered, the rats would often run away and re-hide, delaying their reward and prolonging the game itself. “It seemed really playful,” she says.

She and her colleagues believe that rather than pursuing rewards, the rats were playing for the sake of it. They played because they had fun. For a start, and this is an unusual but welcome line to see in a scientific paper, “the animals looked like they are having fun,” the team writes. When they reunited with Reinhold, they frantically jumped on the spot—a behavior delightfully known as freudensprung, or “joy jumps.” They also teased Reinhold by repeatedly getting close and running away.

Wall Street not what it was

I hadn't read of this before (thanks, ABC):  Wall Street is not what it was, with investment banks moving out into other parts of New York and their former building converted into apartments:
When you walk down Wall Street today, it's all condos", says Brian Barnier, director at ValueBridge Advisors.

"JP Morgan's office building — that's condos.

"Somebody's got a bathroom where JP Morgan's [John Pierpont "Jack" Morgan] office was."

Wall Street real estate agent Julia Hoagland is selling rentals on the strip.

"Wall Street and the financial district have changed dramatically in the nearly two decades since September 11," she says.

"A healthy housing market and tax incentives motivated developers to convert commercial buildings to the more valuable residential product."

The former AIG tower across the street from the NYSE and JP Morgan was made into rental apartments.

The owners of 60 Wall Street, which housed Deutsche Bank, have reportedly commissioned CBRE to market the tower's 1.7 million square feet of office space to apartment developers.

It also discusses changes in the whole investment banking line of business:
Mr Barnier, who has first-hand experience working in investment banking as an independent consultant, says the industry has traditionally leaned on three main sources of revenue.

Buying and selling companies, which was a major theme of the movie Wall Street, is one source of revenue. Much of this business has dried up.

Another huge revenue stream for investment banks has been their corporate advisory services.

"And they're now getting more competition from the consultancy firms." Think the big four accounting firms: EY, PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG and Deloitte.

"They're shedding traders right and left, going more to algorithmic models [where computer-driven mathematical models buy and sell shares based on stocks meeting certain criteria]."

"Each one of those business lines is under a lot of pressure."

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Heh, again


From the Onion.

But what does it all mean?

At the New Daily, there's a story about the increase in government debt, and the uncertainty as to where it all stops.

Take this illustration from it:


As far as Australia is concerned, our debt government debt level is apparently at 41% of GDP, which (assuming debt is not a good thing) sounds pretty healthy. 

And what about this chart:


As for us:
Australia is a notch ahead of the US, with a corporate debt-to-GDP ratio of 74.7%.
As far as I can tell, the problem is that no one really understands the economics of debt on a global scale.

The thing Australia is "bad" at is household debt to GDP:   we rank near the top at about 120%, whereas the US is about 75% and China 52%.  But having a really low level is not a sign of a country you would like to live in:


So, all rather confusing as to what it means, really...

A victim of the culture wars

The Catholic Herald has an article entitled The Church used to have a powerful economic voice. What went wrong? and that is a pretty good question.

It starts:

One hundred years ago, the National Catholic War Council, the predecessor of today’s US Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a “Program for Social Reconstruction”. Drawing on American progressive thought and the encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891), it argued for a living wage, urban housing, trust-busting, worker-run cooperatives, and employee ownership of industry.

Unlike most documents issued by America’s Catholic bishops, this one gained widespread notice. It was denounced by some as socialistic, though it in fact condemned socialism in unsparing terms. Leo XIII had done the same in Rerum Novarum. Then as now, a great deal of confusion arose from the fact that the Catholic Church condemns socialism while advancing ideas many people falsely regard as socialist. Some Catholics (including this author) who reject what the Church rejects have even called themselves socialist in this colloquial sense, with more exuberance than accuracy.

The statement’s ideas, some more practical than others, were not immediately implemented. But they helped shape the arguments and activism that would later result in the New Deal and the Great Society. The priest who drafted the statement, Fr John A Ryan, became an influential supporter of Franklin Roosevelt. The Program remains the most important intervention the American bishops have made in economic debates.

Given the document’s importance, the American bishops have marked its centenary rather tepidly.
These paragraphs offer an explanation: 
 Looking back on the document now, a right-wing observer is likely to view it as too economically progressive, and a leftwing observer is likely to view it as culturally retrograde. For example, the bishops state that women should receive equal pay for equal work, but that only adult men are to be guaranteed a living wage (the idea being that the man is responsible for supporting the family). They ask that women be treated fairly – in the name of justice and chivalry. Yet they insist that “the proportion of women in industry ought to be kept within the smallest practical limits.”
Not all these statements necessarily follow from Catholic premises. But simply glossing over them (as many left-wing admirers of the Program do) obscures something important about the document, however questionable some of its conclusions may be. Its signatories felt it was natural to argue simultaneously for economic justice and for healthy families (as they understood those things). They did so in a way that offends liberal economic and cultural pieties. Their statement showed an unabashed confidence in Catholic thought, economic and moral, that has since been lost.

This loss of confidence has much to do with developments in post-war politics. The Left focused on cultural deregulation and the Right on deregulation of the economy. It is hard for the Church to support unions when unions support abortion. It is hard to endorse the pro-life party when its members deny the universal destination of goods.

It is no secret that both political parties have become alienated from the working class. Hillary Clinton’s denunciation of “deplorables” and Mitt Romney’s misleading dismissal of “people who pay no income tax” were of a piece. Though it has generally avoided such crude rhetoric, the Church has suffered the same fate. Poorer and wealthier Catholics used to attend Mass at roughly equal rates. But there has been a large drop in attendance among working-class Catholics born after 1960. It should not surprise us that the Church has lost its economic voice at the same time it has lost the attachment of the working class.
One of the most appalling features of conservative Catholics is their adoption of  selfish, small government economic policies of the libertarian Right, and pretending that this has always been true Catholic thought.   And a large part of the reason for this is because they don't want to catch culture war cooties by being seen to be aligned in any way with the Left on the matters of abortion and sexuality. 


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Yet more reason not to vegan

An article at The Conversation talks about a recent UK study indicating that vegetarian/vegan diets are associated with a higher risk of stroke (but a lower risk of heart disease.)

The article seems very reasonable, and it notes that some researchers think a lack of vitamin B12 might be behind this:

They cite a number of Japanese studies which have shown links between a very low intake of animal products and an increased risk of stroke.

One nutrient they mention is vitamin B12, as it’s found only in animal products (meat, fish, dairy products and eggs). Vegan sources are limited, though some mushroom varieties and fermented beans may contain vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anaemia and neurological issues, including numbness and tingling, and cognitive difficulties.

The authors suggest a lack of vitamin B12 may be linked to the increased risk of stroke among the vegetarian group. This deficiency could be present in vegetarians, and even more pronounced in vegans.

But this is largely speculative, and any associations between a low intake of animal products and an increased risk of stroke remain to be founded in a strong body of evidence.

A veganism worry

As I have said recently, the apparent triumph of veganism over vegetarianism bothers me, because you read so very often how certain key nutrients are hard to get from plants only. 

Here's another one to add to the list:
The momentum behind a move to plant-based and vegan diets for the good of the planet is commendable, but risks worsening an already low intake of an essential nutrient involved in brain health, warns a nutritionist in the online journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health.

To make matters worse, the UK government has failed to recommend or monitor dietary levels of this nutrient -- choline -- found predominantly in animal foods, says Dr Emma Derbyshire, of Nutritional Insight, a consultancy specialising in nutrition and biomedical science.

Choline is an essential dietary nutrient, but the amount produced by the liver is not enough to meet the requirements of the human body.

Choline is critical to brain health, particularly during fetal development. It also influences liver function, with shortfalls linked to irregularities in blood fat metabolism as well as excess free radical cellular damage, writes Dr Derbyshire.

The primary sources of dietary choline are found in beef, eggs, dairy products, fish, and chicken, with much lower levels found in nuts, beans, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli.
It doesn't say how it affects "brain health" - but it's a worry that it is important for fetal development in particular.   I hope there is no risk that more widespread veganism will end up dumbing down the population overall.


Cursing in Japan

Not swearing, but literal cursing, is discussed in this fascinating article in Japan Times.

Everyone who has been to Japan has seen the votive plaques with wishes for good fortune hanging around temples and shrines.   But at some shrines, the wishes are not happy ones:

...at Kadota Inari Shrine, located in the suburbs of Ashikaga, a city in Tochigi Prefecture some 90 minutes by train from Tokyo, visitors won’t find plaques with light-hearted wishes asking for good luck and rosy relationships.

“I’m completely exhausted dealing with K.S., the selfish devil in disguise who looks down on me, shouts at me and complains about each and everything I do. I hate you … I hate you … I hate you from the bottom of my heart, and I pray that you disappear from this world as soon as possible,” one of the plaques reads.

“I pray that my relationship with Hitomi, who betrayed me and wasted a year of my life, is completely severed” reads another. “She must be distanced from all paths leading to happiness. I will never let you become happy. May you suffer for the rest of your life to atone for my tears and agony. Mariko.”

Some wishes are more direct: “I pray that Okabe dies in an accident.”

Others are desperate pleas for help: “I pray that my family’s ties with depression and bipolar disorder come to an end.”

These are fervent, even violent expressions of raw, personal emotions rarely shown in public, and physical evidence of how traditional rituals associated with cursing are well and alive in 21st-century Japan.

Gosh.  It continues:
Kadota Inari Shrine is considered one of Japan’s three major enkiri, or “tie-cutting” shrines, in addition to Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Taisha and Enkiri Enoki in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward. However, occult writer Yuki Yoshida says Kadota Inari Shrine stands out in terms of the sheer number of plaques being offered and the level of animosity on display.

“A normal person may become sick of reading so many negative messages left on the plaques, but it’s an opportunity to observe the dark side of the human mind,” Yoshida says. “In fact, a number of dedicated fans visit Kadota Inari Shrine routinely to check the plaques hanging there. While Japan is often considered a secular society, it’s worth learning how there are still many people who seriously indulge in the act of cursing others.”

That said, Yoshida says regardless of how cruel wishes may be, revealing one’s darkest secrets in such fashion and letting off some steam is a healthier alternative to taking physical action.
Yet more details:
According to a book published more than a century ago by U.S. orientalist and lecturer William Elliot Griffis titled “The Religions of Japan From the Dawn of History to the Era of Meiji,” women betrayed by their lovers typically performed this religious act of vengeance at the hour of the ox, which is between 1 and 3 a.m.

“First making an image or manikin of straw, she set out on her errand of revenge, with nails held in her mouth and with hammer in one hand and straw figure in the other, sometimes also having on her head a reversed tripod in which were stuck three lighted candles,” he wrote. “Arriving at the shrine she selected a tree dedicated to a god, and then nailed the straw simulacrum of her betrayer to the trunk, invoking the kami (god) to curse and annihilate the destroyer of her peace.”
Griffis wrote that he had seen rusted nails and pieces of straw struck on trees on multiple occasions.
But cursing is now available commercially, on line:

For those looking to curse someone but remain wary of going through complicated rituals, there are online services that conduct curses on the client’s behalf.

Nihon Jujutsu Kenkyu Jukikai is one such service. Founded around three decades ago, the organization now staff around 30 people who undertake ushi no koku mairi and other rituals ranging in price from ¥20,000 to ¥300,000 depending on the skill set of the practitioner and the level of curse being administered, according to a spokesperson for the group.
I had no idea...

US military not doing so well...

There is an article at the New York Times about suicide in the US Air Force in general, and talking about one case the writer knew about in detail.  I was surprised by this:
Today, I accept that I can’t change the actions that led up to Neil’s suicide, but I can control actions I take in the future. The Air Force is facing an alarming increase in suicides, with 2019 seeing a rise of about 50 percent compared to last year, and I want to do whatever I can to help do something about it. For instance, I recorded a podcast for the Air Force about losing Neil, as part of a push to teach people that it is normal and healthy to talk about stressors and to seek help. I’ve also had an active hand in the messaging for the recent Resilience Tactical Pause, the Air Force initiative that requires all airmen to stand down for a day to focus on mental well-being, resiliency and suicide prevention.
I wonder why the Air Force, in particular, would be having such an increase?  I thought - maybe the base rate is actually low, and this is just a reversion to more "normal" rate?   But no - it seems that the USAF is expecting perhaps 150 suicides this year, and has about 320,000 active members.   The general rate of suicide in the US is about 13 per 100,000

So yeah, the USAF really is running at a high suicide rate.  Odd.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Still waiting for the brillance of Boris to emerge

Can't say that I have detected any obvious sign of Boris Johnson "winning" at anything yet.

His performance has generally looked embarrassing:  another living example of the Peter Principle.  (His level of competence peaked out at being Mayor of London, it seems.)


Netflix and cultural export

I recently wrote that I liked the way Netflix lets us view a lot of good quality shows from other cultures, and I see that Axios has an article saying that investing in other countries productions is a specific strategy of the company.

This is a good thing, I think.

I think I'm in...

I've been watching various Youtubes of (parts of) the Ring Cycle, and I have to say, the music from Die Walkure (even before it hits the Ride of the Valkyries) is more exciting than I realised.   

As for versions to watch, I've been pretty impressed by the (very different) Copenhagen Ring.  

I'm pretty sure I'm now going to see it in Brisbane - and the only issue is whether I buy restricted view seats close to the action, or a nosebleed seat on the second balcony.   (There are not that many seats left in any category, by the way.)  


Don't see that every day

This story about a flipped cargo ship that transports cars seems not to have attracted much attention on the Australian news:


Four crew were rescued from the propeller shaft room by a hole being cut in the hull.

They got their "morning after", then.  :)

The dire state of water in Jordan

A report in Nature about how Jordan is caught in a real water supply mess:  depleting ground water; climate change affecting rainfall patterns; population increase and the refugee problem; and desalination solution complicated and involves Israel.  

Monday, September 09, 2019

The joke continues

Oh look, Sinclair Davidson has returned to the topic of climate change and carbon taxes, under a post referencing "climate hysteria".   He ends with his longstanding line that, if done right (that is, according to his value judgement that governments must have as little tax income as possible) maybe a carbon tax could be OK:
How did such a modest and potentially beneficial adjustment to the tax code become virtually undiscussable?

Simple answer: because that is not what actually gets implemented. When the carbon tax was implemented in Australia, for example, the revenue was used to expand the welfare state – not reduce the tax burden. Worse – income tax rates to lower income individuals were increased.


Now there is an argument to having a carbon tax where that tax is considered as part of the overall tax system. Then we would have to consider the dead weight losses associated with a carbon tax and the dead weight losses associated with the taxes that it replaces. This would involve an honest debate and evaluation of the technical merits and demerits of a carbon tax.  I have zero confidence given on what we have seen to date that such a debate could or would be possible.
That last line is so disingenuous as to be a complete joke.

How can a person who runs a blog that for years and years and years has been absolutely full of "climate change is not a serious issue, if it exists at all" content complain that it's impossible to have a "proper" debate on a carbon tax?

Does he think people don't notice his hand on the tiptruck pouring bullshit into the well of public discourse while simultaneously claiming that it's impossible to reason with people who want him to stop doing that but won't taste the water?


Looking at 9/11 again

I didn't plan to, but I ended up watching the documentary 9/11: 102 Minutes that Changed America on SBS last night.   (It's available on SBS on Demand.)   I hadn't seen it before, and found it very powerful and affecting. 

If you haven't seen it, it's a documentary made up of mostly amateur footage of what was going on that day, with no voiceover, and only the occasional break away from the chronology of the events.  (It runs for the same 102 minutes from the time of the first impact to the collapse of the second tower.)   It's a strong reminder of the sense of disbelief and anxiety that it induced (at one point, someone on the street says they've heard that there was a threat that a new building would be blown up every 30 minutes.)    It showed people in the World Trade Towers perched outside of windows, but has the good taste to not show people jumping or falling, although they did have some reaction from people who saw it happening.

A few reactions I had:

*  watching it unfold, it feels pretty surprising that the death toll was not substantially higher.   Like people watching in the street, it feels like it wouldn't be surprising if 10,000 had died instead of a few thousand.

*  it's hard to credit how people can possibly believe anything about "controlled demolition" when you watch the buildings burn with great intensity in "real time" before the collapse.  

*  I know people were saying "but they didn't come from Iraq" before the Iraqi invasion, but it's hard to avoid the felling that an invasion of somewhere was going to be inevitable outcome of the event, and Iraq was just the unlucky country.   (Who wants to try to control Saudi Arabia, anyway.)


PS:   Graeme - don't bother commenting your conspiracy stuff - it won't get through.

When things feel climate change-y

I think most South East Queenslanders will be sharing the feeling that when bushfires start burning down 90 year old timber lodges in a subtropical rainforest area not known, in our lifetimes, as being prone to fire at all, this feels like climate change.

I have only ever camped at Binna Burra; most memorably during a Christmas holiday period when a teenager in Navy Cadets, and it poured rain during the couple of days we were there.  With nothing else to do, we still trudged through the rainforest, finding interesting things coming out with the water and sitting in the middle of the path, such as the large, bright blue crayfish that normally stay in the creeks up there.  Also, an enormous variety of earthworm, about a metre long and more than a centimetre wide, if memory serves correct.   Of course, the leeches were out in force, and it was almost impossible to avoid at least one or two.   Some kids, not being as careful as they should, looked like their legs had been shot up when they returned and went to the shower block, as the blood flowed profusely (with the leech bite anti-coagulant effect) from multiple bites up and down their limbs.

Fun.   Feels very sad that the old lodge has gone, as I would have liked to stay there at least once.

Update:  an article at the ABC about how the rainforest in the area does not have a history of burning.


Saturday, September 07, 2019

Heh


(Truth be told, I am not as down on George W as most observers, but this call was still obviously wrong.)

Fast takes

*  This Jackie Trad so-called scandal has always seemed to me to be a storm in a teacup.   Politics in Queensland has always been stupid, and there are no signs of it letting up.

* Isn't there something off with the claim that Labor is now the dregs of the middle class who shoot themselves in the foot by being too Green when the Unions that are pro-coal represent mine workers who probably all earn well over $100,000 a year?   In other words, it's not the middle class lording it over the working class - it's a fight within the middle class.

* Anti-coal protesters, if they were serious, would be making plans to superglue themselves to certain central Queensland rail lines, rather than to Brisbane streets.   Superglue 10 people at 200 m intervals to a coal train line, and see how long it takes to remove them would be an interesting start.

* Peter Dutton is now disturbingly weird looking.  Buy a hairpiece, for God's sake.  Some guys' heads can carry off bald:  yours doesn't.

* Donald Trump and the hurricane:  this is so weird, I don't think it is any exaggeration now to say he is mentally unwell.   And to anyone who doubts that - wait until he is gone and we get the true story from people within the White House as to his behaviour.     

* Speaking of which, this piece in Slate a few days ago was good, and accurate:

Governing by Owning the Libs:  When a president’s entire motivation is to antagonize the people who didn’t vote for him.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has just about topped out at making about $132 million in the US - not that big a hit, I would have thought, even allowing for another $150 million overseas.  For a (apparently) $90 million budget, it's barely making much money for the studio (if the rule of thumb that you have to make 3 times the budget to start turning a profit still applies.)   He's a director whose attraction to critics is not much reflected in actual bucks at the box office anymore.   (Interestingly, I see that Pulp Fiction made about $213 million, but on a claimed $8 million budget.)

Yet more Saturday pics

For someone suffering (what I think was) a bad episode of hayfever this week, Brisbane's weather is not helping.  It's under a dust cloud following a windy change last night: 


Well, you've probably seen worse, but we are used to pretty clear skies here.  The pool is the one on Gregory Terrace, quite liked for the modernist design of the building around it.

I went for a walk around Spring Hill, taking pics of old buildings. 


An old Masonic Temple that's been taken over by the equally mysterious Embroiderers Guild.   Or do the Masons still use the heavily curtained upstairs, I wonder.


A block of old flats (I wonder if strata titled now?) that is in good nick and I have always liked the look of.


Not sure if this is flats, but I only took the pic for the lions on top, as well as the mini flag pole, which makes it look a tad ship like.  

Next:


There are lots of these old workers cottage style houses in Spring Hill, and the latticed in porch is a common feature.  This one is rather extreme:  I get the feeling a Boo Radley character could be observing the passing children from in there, with no risk of being seen.  I always think that any lattice like this must make the house interior very dark.

I was surprised to walk down a side street to find a row of particularly old looking houses:


Maybe it was the open porches that made them look more attractive.  All seem occupied, and it reminded me a bit of some streets around Potts Point or Woolloomooloo in Sydney.

And finally, to ruin the ambiance, possibly the ugliest block of units in Brisbane:


The unit for sale, according to the sign, had "sophistication".  That's real estate talk for you.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Good one, Malaysia

Why would Mahatir be soft on this guy?  Makes little sense to me:
Zakir Naik is an Indian preacher of Islam who currently calls Malaysia home. Described by the Washington Post as a “rock star of tele-evangelism”, he is also a fugitive, having evaded law enforcement in his home country of India since July 2016, when he fled the country within hours of bombers from neighbouring Bangladesh allegedly citing ideological influence from his YouTube videos.

A proponent of austere Salafi Islam, Naik has a long history of provocative rhetoric, including claims that “every Muslim should be a terrorist” and that suicide bombings are a legitimate weapon in war. He has expressed support for the death penalty for apostasy and the belief that Muslim-majority countries shouldn’t allow other religions to build houses of worship.

His television channel, named “Peace TV”, has been banned in India, Bangladesh, and (soon after the 2019 Easter bombings) Sri Lanka. Zahran Hashim, the alleged mastermind of the Sri Lanka attacks, once posted a video for his YouTube followers asking Sri Lankan Muslims what they could do for the celebrity preacher. Naik’s so-called Islamic Research Foundation was banned in 2016 under India’s anti-terror laws for “extolling Osama Bin Laden’s views”. He was charged in absentia in May this year for money laundering, accused of acquiring US$28 million worth of criminal assets.

While many governments in Asia treat Naik with suspicion, Malaysia has given him the red-carpet treatment. Naik has been granted permanent residency status and has attracted crowds of tens of thousands on speaking tours around the Muslim-majority country.

During a sermon to a large audience in the ultraconservative state of Kelantan in early August, Naik questioned the loyalty of Malaysia’s ethnic and religious minorities. He referred to ethnic Chinese Malaysians – many of whose ancestors have lived in Malaya since the early 19th century and constitute around a quarter of the country’s population – as “guests”....

Asked about his opinion on Naik’s remarks, Mahathir claimed that the preacher faces being “killed” if returned to India. “So he is here today, but if any country wants to have him, they are welcome to do so,” the PM said....

 Many see the PM’s tacit support of Naik’s presence in Malaysia as undermining his “Pact of Hope” government’s commitment to progressive values and pluralism, upon which they were elected. It also provides a clear picture of the enduring strength of far-right political Islam and the Malay-dominated status quo – even in the renewed democracy of “new Malaysia”.
 

A dream recorded

Last night, I saw a photo of a tree full of flying foxes, which no doubt then contributed to a dream which involved one of these critters wanting to know what was written on a piece of paper I was carrying.  Yeah, it was talking to me, and flew down to the ground where it showed me a trick whereby it could hold its body in such a way that it resembled, kind of, a cat.  (It was a weird looking transformation.)  I was very surprised, but the flying fox said that they had always been able to do this.  I grabbed my phone to take photos, because I thought this had never been recorded before.  The conversation then moved onto the piece of paper, which had marks on it, but they weren't words.  It sort of petered out from there...

I think it amusing, or odd, that in such a dream it wasn't the animal talking that was the surprise, but what it could do to transform its body.   Dreams are weird...

Goose goes high

Well, I would never have thought this was possible:  
In 1953, a mountain climber reported seeing a bar-headed goose (Anser indicus) soar over the peak of Mount Everest. The nearly 9-kilometer feat—2 kilometers higher than any other animal has been known to fly—was thought physiologically impossible. Now, researchers who raised 19 of the geese—named for the black stripes on the backs of their heads—have shown the birds really do have what it takes to fly so high.
 What bothers me a bit about this is that even at a height just short of most cruising altitudes, aircraft engines could still accidentally suck in a goose...

The ongoing effects of Christianity

Tom Holland, writing in New Statesman:
Repeatedly, throughout Christian history, the communism practised by the earliest Church had given radicals their inspiration. Marx, when he dismissed questions of morality and justice as epiphenomena, was veiling the true germ of his revolt against capitalism behind jargon. The revulsion that Marx so patently felt at the miseries of artisans evicted on to the streets by their landlords to starve, of children aged before their years by toiling night and day in factories, of labourers worked to death in distant colonies so that the bourgeoisie might have sugar with their tea, made a mockery of his claims to have outgrown moral judgements. As with Marx, so with Corbyn: his interpretation of the world appears fuelled by certainties that have no obvious source in his model of economics. It rises instead from profounder depths. If it offers a liberation from Christianity, then it is one that seems eerily like a recalibration of it.

Let's see how the appeal goes

Don't think I ever commented on the Peter Ridd dismissal case.

I see that Anthony Watts and the IPA are all excited that he got a big damages award from Judge Vasta, who was the subject of an article "Could Salvatore Vasta be Australia's Worse Judge" in February this year, before the Ridd case.

Given Vasta's somewhat hyperbolic sounding words reported today...:
Outlining his final declarations and penalties, Judge Salvatore Vasta suggested the university's conduct bordered on "paranoia and hysteria fuelled by systemic vindictiveness" and Dr Ridd must have felt he was being persecuted. He found the academic's intellectual freedom had been undermined by the "myopic and unjustified actions of his lifelong employer"....

Judge Vasta ordered a payment of $1.09 million in damages and compensation for lost wages and superannuation. Another $125,000 is to be paid to Dr Ridd as a penalty to "deter both this university and any other employer from dismissing an employee for exercising basic workplace rights".
...I suspect that the IPA should not be popping the champagne until the appeal is finished.


Stupid Shapiro

Yes, Ben Shapiro is a twit.  I liked these tweet responses to his whiny Right wing complaint when a company makes a perfectly reasonable decision as to how it wants to run its business:










Thursday, September 05, 2019

Some clean up

Two of the worst looking hurricane damage photos I have seen from the Bahamas (found at an Axios post):



Boris not so hot in Parliament

Before Boris Johnson got the top job, I was saying to his sympathisers here that it seemed to me that most observers long thought he was not a particularly good parliamentary performer.

Most journalists commenting on the situation now seem to agree that Corbyn has been sounding surprisingly good, and Johnson is continuing his underperformance.  

Good.