Category Archives: History

A good news story about Australia’s past

By | Books, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Society | 20 Comments

Regular readers will have noticed that the website was down for a few days. My lovely website host says that I shouldn’t take it personally. It wasn’t the Russians: … hackers just send out web crawlers to attempt to hack into any site they can — they run scripts over and over to find any kind of vulnerability and it is all automated. This is the second time it has happened, and it is a total bore to everyone, especially my website host, who has to fix it up. So much of our media news is dire that I thought it would be…

Read More

Truthiness and factiness

By | ABC, Climate Change, Education, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 278 Comments

Both of these terms were coined by an American satirist, Stephen Colbert, more than ten years ago. With respect to ‘truthiness’, he said We’re not talking about truth. ‘We’re talking about something that seems like truth — the truth we want to exist’. He thought that the ‘word police’ would object that ’truthiness’ was not a word, but in fact the next year Merriam-Webster pronounced ‘truthiness’ as its word of the year. I’ll leave ‘factiness’ for a moment. What did Colbert mean by truthiness? In an interview with The Onion he expanded on its meaning in this way: It used…

Read More

Two more books, on an important union, and on climate change

By | Books, Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 89 Comments

This essay is a discussion about two books, widely different in their story. Each was given to me by its author, a friend. They are both excellent accounts, and I recommend them to readers. The first, by Dr John O’Brien, is about a trade union, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU). O’Brien is an academic who was also an office-bearer in the NTEU. The second is about climate change, and was written by a geologist, Dr Howard Brady, who has some distinctions which flowed from his work, notably about the past climate history of Antarctica. O’Brien’s book, National Tertiary Education Union. A Most…

Read More

The real war on science

By | Books, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Research, Society | 144 Comments

A post in Judith Curry’s Climate etc pushed me to read a long essay from the City Journal Magazine by John Tierney. I hadn’t heard of either of them. The magazine is published by a right-wing think tank in New York, and focuses mostly on urban issues. John Tierney, according to Wikipedia, is a ‘contrarian’, which I see as a dismissive term. Forewarned, I went off to read the piece, and I think it is insightful. But then, I would probably be called a ‘contrarian’ too, by those who don’t like what I write, and believe they have the truth in them…

Read More

The message still hasn’t sunk in

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics | 129 Comments

Nearly a fortnight after Donald Trump became President-elect of the United States we are still reading commentary in the media that suggests the writers still can’t believe it. Something has gone badly wrong with the world, and that bad wrong must be put right. The day after the result Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club (for which outfit, climate change and the need to stop it are more important than anything else) put out this message: This hurts. There’s no way right now to ease the shock and dismay of what we’re facing this morning. The pain is real — and so much…

Read More

Globalism and globalisation (and internationalisation)

By | Books, Economy, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 50 Comments

A good deal of the Trump campaign focussed on ‘globalisation’, and the effects that process has had on, for example, the American car industry. I remember Detroit in the 1960s, a vigorous city, the home of the American car, and shortly to come, as Motown, the home of The Supremes. It had a fine civic sense and fine symphony orchestra. Today it is a civic shambles. The orchestra survives, but about half the city’s 138 square miles is unoccupied. I don’t think President-elect Trump will be able to restore Detroit to its former glory, but he will certainly be trying to…

Read More

The day of shock and horror

By | ABC, Climate Change, History, Media, Politics, Society | 150 Comments

For months now I have been asking various friends and people close to me, who say they can’t stand Donald Trump, whether they had read anything he has written or viewed any of his speeches. I wasn’t a Trump supporter, and I am too distant from the American period in my life and work to be able to judge him properly. But my question was usually waved away. The reason for asking was that all we saw of Trump in Australia was a succession of ten-second clips from speeches, usually showing the Republican contender saying something thought to be outrageous. On numerous occasions,…

Read More

Making sense of the ACT elections

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 69 Comments

I thought I would pass on the American presidential election, having no vote and disliking both candidates about equally. Instead I thought I would write about the recent ACT elections, which are now done and dusted. Unusually, given the complications of the voting system, it was all over by ten o’clock on polling day. The Liberal Leader conceded defeat and the Labor Leader claimed victory. Within a week it was plain Labor had twelve seats, the Greens two and the Liberals eleven. There will be another four years of Labor rule in the ACT, in a quasi Coalition with the Greens, and in…

Read More

Books, biographical stuff and uncertainty

By | Books, Climate Change, History, Media, Politics, Society | 52 Comments

Moving On I mentioned in a recent essay that my new novel, Moving On, was about to be launched. Well, launched it has been, and it is now on sale. You should be able to get it by going to your nearest good bookseller and asking them to order it for you, which they will do from me at Danbee Books, unless you live in Canberra, where most bookshops have my books (or in Sydney, at Gleebooks in Glebe and Dulwich Hill). The price is $29.95, which includes post and packing, for those ordering on line. I use PayPal, which…

Read More

The sort of prediction one should never make

By | ABC, Climate Change, Education, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 176 Comments

Apart from the banal exercise of predicting that the sun will rise tomorrow, or that I am 90 per cent likely to have a cappuccino in the next day or so, I do my best to eschew predictions. They so often fail spectacularly, and I wrote an essay about failed predictions about climate change some time ago. But I recently came across such a beauty of the kind that I thought it was worth following up. On August 1st 2008, more than eight years ago, someone called Andrew Simms wrote a piece in The Guardian which told an apprehensive readership that there were…

Read More