All Posts By

Don Aitkin

The art of helpful communication

By | Climate Change, Language, Other, Politics | 5 Comments

Judith Curry published recently a short summary of a paper she admired, on scientific communication, and mentioned a longer version of it, which I went to, and found it equally useful. So here is my summary of the longer paper. It is important to me, because I try to follow the advice it contains. So much of what I read is biased in this way or that, and I fin I have to wade through the exaggeration to get to the point. And I don’t want to make the same mistakes in my own writing. Though the original paper is…

Read More

The sine wave in politics

By | History, Politics | 12 Comments

I’ve had another a spell in hospital, with ‘septic shock’, and this essay was written, ready to go, a week ago. No matter. It makes no less sense (or more) now than it did then. A few weeks ago I was chatting with my grandson Jesse about his next assignment in Politics which centred on the right/left divide, and I put to him the issue of the slow move of bodies politic from one side to the other, a sort of sine wave, a gentle smooth regular movement like an ocean swell. You could see it happen over time, and…

Read More

Why do scientists disagree about climate change?

By | Climate Change, Politics | 554 Comments

I promised a further essay on climate change, and this is it. It focuses on disagreement, the disagreement between scientists on various aspects of the issue. There is a belief, shared by climate activists, that all serious scientists are of one mind: that climate change is real, serious and potentially catastrophic unless we abandon the use of fossil fuels. If that were true, then the game would be over. There would be global agreement by governments, global action to phase out fossil fuels, and we would get used to much higher prices for electricity. What we would do for industries…

Read More

Meanwhile, back at climate change…

By | Climate Change, Politics | 124 Comments

I keep seeing suggestions that now we know how to deal with Covid-19 (do we?) it’s time to deal with the biggest threat of all, climate change. Greenpeace and other climate-action voices are arguing, for example, that since New Zealand’s Jacinta Ardern no longer needs populist support to govern, there are no more excuses for inaction on climate change in that nation. The same source alleges that New Zealand’s agricultural sector is its main source of greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), ‘as large sheep and cattle herds belch methane…’ I’ve visited the land of the long white cloud many times, but…

Read More

Final thoughts on the US elections

By | Politics | 87 Comments

This probably my last piece on the US elections, unless something quite extraordinary turns up. My focus here is on the issues, and my basis is some work done by the Pew Center in July and August, and published in August. Yes, it’s a while ago, but my own experience with election issues is that the real ones are pretty constant. What is also important is that there can be sharp partisan differences in the relative importance of particular issues. Issue X may be most important to Democrats, but not really important, or so important to Republicans. I’ll use some Pew…

Read More

How important is the Declaration of Human Rights?

By | Other | 7 Comments

In a few weeks will we pass the moment where, in 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations agreed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It had earlier been announced by Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his fourth term as President of the United States of America. No subsequent President has served for more than two terms, because a constitutional change limited later presidents to a maximum of two terms. Eleanor Roosevelt was an important woman of her time, and we have just passed the anniversary of the moment where she declared the Declaration…

Read More

The ACT elections

By | Other, Politics | 12 Comments

I thought I might leave the USA and its elections for a week or so, to allow something to happen there other than wonder at what might happen next with the President’s health, and give a brief account of what is happening on my own doorstop — the four-yearly elections for the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). To be able to do that properly, especially for those who live elsewhere, I need to say something about Proportional Representation (PR), because that is the system through which we in the ACT elect MLAs and thus a government. All…

Read More

The primary and the electoral college

By | Other, Politics | 7 Comments

This is the second piece on the coming US presidential election. As I explained in the last essay on this theme, November 3rdis not simply an election of the President, but the election of a host of other candidates for a host of other offices. The ‘primaries’ are gone, but I mention them now  because we in Australia don’t have them, and they are a good thing. The primary system is a device, organised a long time ago by progressives, to get the business of endorsement of party candidates out of the hands of the party machines and back to…

Read More

On television advertising

By | Other | 12 Comments

Over the past few months I have become more and more aware of, interested even, in what passes for advertising on our commercial TV channels, and on the SBS as well. I don’t watch the ABC much, and have nothing to offer there. I look after my wife in the afternoons, and she will watch TV if there’s nothing else happening, and she likes a set of programs that I am happy to watch as well. I need to declare an interest. Some of my family are involved in commercial TV, and point out to me that my criticisms of…

Read More

Elections, Australian and American

By | Other | 227 Comments

I was asked some months ago to write something about the US Presidential elections, coming in just a few weeks. This is the first instalment. For those who have lived in both countries, it is pretty basic stuff. But just as there are millions of Americans who simply don’t know that Australia exists, or think it is Austria, there are hundreds of thousands of Australians who think we are just like America. We’re not, and this essay gives some context. Yes, we have a common language, we borrowed their federal system from the US, and a few other things as…

Read More