Sport, academia, climate change and health, with a bit of humour thrown in

By | Climate Change, History, Humour, Society, Sport | 32 Comments

I was going to write an essay on Australia’s fate at the Olympic Games, perhaps in the hope that the Rio Games might mercifully be the last ever, but as I thought it over I began to worry that I had actually written such a piece four years ago, at the time of the last Games in London. Well, it wasn’t quite the case, but I did write about the Games then, and made similar points in another later essay. The truth is, I think, is that we’re not as good as we think we are in anything, but some of our…

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Love, sex and Cosi fan tutte

By | Books, History, Music, Society, Theatre | 34 Comments

For those who don’t know much about the work, Cosi fan tutte is an opera with music by Mozart, for a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, who also worked with Mozart in creating Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro. Indeed da Ponte wrote 28 libretti for eleven composers, and had a most interesting life. The opera has a sub-title The School for Lovers, but it is rarely used. Cosi fan tutte means ‘They all do it’, and ‘they’ means women. If both men and women had been meant, the third word in the title would have been tutti. This little exercise in language is important,…

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Arguing at cross purposes

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 233 Comments

I have something else to write about for next Monday, but in the last few days I have been involved in someone else’s website, that of John Quiggin, a respected economist. He has taken a pro-orthodox position on ‘climate change’ for a long time, and is a member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority. I remember his dismissing me and my Planning Institute of Australia speech in 2008, but otherwise I have not encountered him in the blogosphere, apart from my offering him space here a couple of weeks ago to put forward his own views on ‘climate change’ and…

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Left and Right in Australian politics

By | Climate Change, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 48 Comments

The last two essays have looked at the various meanings of  ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ as the terms are used in politics. In this essay I look at their application in our own country. I have spent some years in the UK and the USA,, and visited other parts of the world on a regular basis. In Britain it was clear to me at once that their politics, despite the apparent similarity of parties called ‘Labour’ and ‘Labor’, was not the same as ours, and the longer I was there the more I saw the differences rather than the similarities. Britain…

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The moral basis of the Right

By | Books, Economy, Education, History, Politics | 38 Comments

This is the sister essay to last week’s on the moral basis of the Left, and the subject is more difficult, because the words we use here are both more numerous and more ambiguous. Along with ‘the Right’ we can use ‘Liberal’, ‘conservative’, ‘reactionary’, ‘establishment’, ‘Tory’, ‘laissez-faire’, ‘neo-con’, and others. They all come with baggage, both linguistic and historical. ‘Right’ refers to those who sat on the right of the President of the National Assembly in Paris in 1789, who wanted less change than those on the left of the President. ‘Liberal’, again, has to do with freedom, and in this…

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The moral basis of the Left

By | Books, Economy, Education, History, Politics, Religion, Society | 89 Comments

This essay is a response to a commenter who wanted me to write on something like the topic as set out above. I’m not quite happy with ‘the Left’ as the all-inclusive term. It seems to me that we all use a series of equivalents, that really aren’t equivalents, in trying to describe intellectual and moral world-views — how we see things. So I could have used, in addition to ‘Left’, or alongside it, words like progressive, radical, liberal and reformist. The words means slightly different things, and mean different things to different people, and in different countries. The terms ‘Left’…

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The role of the citizen scientist

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 109 Comments

In a recent post I mentioned a fine book by Aaron Wildavsky, and said I would return to it in due course. I knew Wildavsky’s name once I started postgraduate study, because with another young graduate student Wildavsky had written a little book on Australian politics in the 1920s. In those days nothing very much had been published on Australian politics so of course I read Wildavsky’s small piece on the 1926 referendum. He’d gone back to the US by the time I was ready to talk with him, and I didn’t finally meet him until I gave dinner in his honour…

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Extraordinary numbers, and new words — a miscellany

By | Climate Change | 35 Comments

Alan Moran writes well, and I was impressed by a recent article of his in Catallaxy files on the absurd electricity-generation situation in South Australia. One number took me by surprise: the spot price for electricity moved from the usual range of $50-100 per megawatt hour to thousands, just like that. I believe the highest point was around $14,000. To put the rise in domestic terms, where you would normally pay five to ten cents to run a thousand-watt radiator for an hour, now you would be charged $14. What had caused this extraordinary rise? Alan Moran explains it: Last…

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#16 A Summary

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Education, Environment, History, Language, Media, My Perspective, Politics, Religion, Research | 65 Comments

Introduction: This is the last essay in this series, an attempt on my part to set out what I think about the ‘climate change’ issue. It is based on the fifteen previous essays in the series, each linked in the text with (#x), which are in turn based on ten years of reading and thinking about the matter, plus half a working lifetime in the research policy and funding domain. I do not claim to be right about all of this, or indeed of any of it. ‘Climate change’ is an incredibly complicated business, involving the areas of study of the…

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Books that have been important to me #2 Biggles, by W. E. Johns

By | Books, Education, History, Politics | 32 Comments

At about age nine I came across my first Biggles book. I’m pretty sure it was The Camels are Coming, and those Camels were not the ships of the desert but the Sopwith Camel fighters of the Royal Flying Corps in the Great War. I was hooked at once. The book came from the small collection of a new friend who had arrived from England (he also had Dinky toys, and was thus a really important friend). Before long I had read all of his scant Biggles library, and eventually enrolled in the National Library, then in Kings Avenue, Canberra in order…

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