Why write a thriller?

By | Books, Language, Society | 17 Comments

First, the bad news. I’ve written briefly about this before, but the fuller news is worse. Over the past six weeks I have had increasing pain in my back, not low down (L5) which has been my companion for 35 years, but quite a lot higher. At about the same time, but perhaps a month earlier, I noticed another pain in my left thigh, a pain which worsened and eventually stopped my playing tennis. My chiropractor (35 years in attendance) could not find anything to stop the pains, and proposed an X-Ray. The observed result was a fracture at T8….

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The July Off-Topic Thread

By | Other | 129 Comments

As attentive readers will know, I am not well — specifically, a compression fracture of the spine at T8. These ailments will generally cure themselves  in time (six to eight weeks), but they are extraordinarily painful, and there are powerful painkiller to reduce the pain. Unfortunately, they have powerful side-effects, too, and one of them is a general dopeyness that is frightening. Moreover, they affect fine motor control too, and I can’t stand for long (I stand to use the computer). For all these reasons, I am finding it difficult to keep the website running. We’ll see how well I…

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Understanding Donald Trump

By | Other | 15 Comments

I have written about President Donald J. Trump before (here and here, for example). This essay was prompted by the Singapore meeting between him and the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. I may be wrong, but the media treatment of the whole meeting process seemed to begin with Trump’s refusal to meet’s being seen as provocative, risking a historic possibility. Then when the meeting occurred, he was being damned with the faintest of praise — previous North Korean leaders had given similar promises, where were the inspection guarantees, the statement was long on rhetoric and short on detail, and so…

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At least, a real debate on climate change (I hope)

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 136 Comments

Slowly the Western world is facing up to the real possibility that the catastrophe that was supposed to lie in wait for us, as a result of our use of fossil fuels, might have been over-egged, and that climate change may not even be accessible to human action, let alone caused by it. Germany is having trouble with its push to make alternative sources the core of its electricity production. China has stopped subsidizing solar panels. A newly elected provincial government in Ontario is set to wipe out carbon-pricing rules. The UK has seen two weeks of nil power from…

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Is Western Civilisation worth studying?

By | Books, Education, History, Language, Media, Politics, Research, Society | 45 Comments

The back-story to this essay is the bequest of Paul Ramsay, businessman and philanthropist, to ensure that what he saw as the true gifts of what we commonly call Western civilisation were taught and appreciated. He felt that they were being forgotten, ignored — worse, ignorantly rejected, and by those who should above all recognise and respect them. So he put some $3 billion into a Trust some of which was to establish teachers and scholarships in Australian universities to ensure that what he wanted happened. He had in mind, I think, the ‘Great Books’ curriculum famous at Chicago. It…

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Aboriginal politics gains a new supporter

By | History, Indigenous, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 16 Comments

The newly elected President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Tony Bartone, has stated that the AMA will push for Aboriginal recognition in the Constitution, after the AMA endorsed the Uluru Statement. This might mean that materials supporting Aboriginal recognition in the Constitution might appear in doctors’ surgeries. Why is the AMA doing this? According to the ABC, Dr Bartone said that ‘we can’t really seek to close the gap when it comes to health outcomes until we address the fundamental building blocks… [The Uluru plan could improve] the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.’…

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The June Off-Topic Thread

By | Climate Change, History, Other, Politics, Research, Society | 57 Comments

(1) I’ll start this one with a reference to a new paper and a flashback to one of my own essays. The IPCC developed a concept for its last report called ‘Representative Concentration Pathways’ (RCP), which are scenarios  about what might happen given certain assumptions about the control of carbon dioxide. The scariest of these is RCP 8.5, which is, not coincidentally, the most favoured pathway if you are an alarmist writer. I wrote about it here. RCP 8.5 is not, as often claimed, a ‘business as usual’ scenario, but a highly unlikely scenario requiring people like businessmen to behave…

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Reasonableness and citizenship

By | History, Language, Politics, Society | 26 Comments

Last year, when some Coalition and cross-bench politicians were saying ‘Oops!’ about the nature of their citizenship, Mr Shorten declared, proudly and authoritatively, that Labor had strict and rigorous procedures, and he was satisfied that all his people were safe from the High Court’s frown. As it happened, he and his team seem not to have been strict and rigorous enough. Senator Katy Gallagher, former Labor Chief Minister in the ACT, was found to have been a dual citizen (Australian and UK) at the time she was elected. That decision pushed three Labor MPs, Ms Keay (Braddon, Tas,) Ms Lamb…

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The unfolding saga of Peter Ridd

By | Climate Change, Education, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Research, Society | 61 Comments

I have written a couple of times about Peter Ridd, here and here. Professor Ridd, a well-published academic whose fields of research include coastal oceanography, reef systems and peer review, has been for ten years the Head of the School of Physics at James Cook University (JCU). When he drew attention to what he saw as exaggerations in the way fellow academics at his university were describing the condition of the Great Barrier Reef he was ‘disciplined’ by JCU, told that he was being uncollegial, and that if he did it again he would be charged with serious misconduct. He subsequently…

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Three cheers for Pollyanna

By | Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Media, Politics, Society | 85 Comments

One commenter to my last essay thought that I had ‘a Pollyanna view of the world’. I didn’t think it was a compliment, but it gave me the focus for another essay, which follows naturally from the last two. What has been most interesting in the Comments to these two essays about progress has been the determination on the part of some readers to continue to see the world as bad, dangerous, awful, unequal, unfair, what you will, in the face of good global data that don’t say the opposite, exactly, but make the point that for the great majority out…

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