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Society

Books that have been important to me #5 The California detective: Hammett, Chandler, Macdonald

By | Books, Education, History, Language, Society | One Comment

There is a time, when you are young and a reader, where you range widely, dipping into a genre here and another there. Long long ago I dipped into Agatha Christie, then saw The Mousetrap in London, and ranged over the English detective literature. I didn’t go back, really, but did so recently for one Agatha Christie, which I read in an hour or so and thought quite thin. C. P. Snow, about whose novels I wrote some time ago, did quite a good one, A Coat of Varnish (1978), where both the protagonist and the detective at the end know who…

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Social Justice

By | Education, History, Politics, Society | 74 Comments

‘Social justice’ is a term that trips easily from the mouths of politicians and of others on what would be seen as the Left in our society. It is one of those things, like motherhood, that you can’t be opposed to. More widely, it is a favourite term of those in the United Nations who see the disparities in wealth and development across the world as inherently unjust. It is generally agreed to be a term coined by a Catholic philosopher in the 1840s, and owed its growing popularity to the conditions for people in the expanding towns and cities…

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Gary Banks nails it

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Media, Politics, Society | 59 Comments

For years now I have puzzled at the whole mess of our energy policy. People keep telling us that soon (or now) solar-panelled electricity, or wind, or something, will be cheaper than coal, so we should be transferring, at once. Such oracles never tell us about the hidden subsidies that would make this really true, if it were apparently true. I’ve given up responding. It is plain to me that wind and solar cannot power an electricity grid without abundant base-level fossil-fuel energy. Well, along comes Gary Banks to tell it as it is. For those who don’t know of…

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Ending ‘the violence of prostitution’

By | Health, History, Media, Politics, Society | 19 Comments

A young woman (I’ve seen her photo) called Andrea Tokaji had a piece in one of our local newspapers, which I read quickly and then read more slowly and carefully. She is ‘a PhD candidate on gender-based violence’ and the Founding Director of Fighting for Justice Foundation. It’s an interesting website, and is largely about bringing and end to ‘human trafficking’, which includes sexual slavery, forced marriage, organ removal and forced labour. The International Labour Organization puts the current numbers at about 21 million, about two thirds in forced labour and a quarter in sexual exploitation of one kind or another. In…

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Mathematics, my father and me

By | ABC, Books, Education, History, Politics, Society | 47 Comments

(Robyn Williams, of the ABC’s Science program, read my piece in Quadrant about how my own world-view came to be formed, and asked could I do an Ockham’s razor broadcast about my father, mathematics and me. This is the outcome. It was broadcast on Sunday March 12th and interested readers can download the audio  here.)   If you grew up in New South Wales in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, there’s a good chance that you studied maths with the help of the textbooks written by two high school teachers, A. G. Aitkin and B. N. Farlow. I knew the…

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Books that have been important to me #4 Barbara and Allan Pease: Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps

By | ABC, Books, Education, Health, History, Humour, Media, Society | 160 Comments

In 1998, my wife and I were driving through northern New South Wales, and had the radio on. Margaret Throsby introduced her guest, Allan Pease, told us the name of his new book, and said something like, ‘Now I want to take issue with you at once about the title. I can read a map as well as any man!’ ‘How do you do it?’ he asked. ‘Well, I point it in the direction we are travelling and it’s straightforward.’ ‘That’s exactly the point of the title,’ he responded. ‘Most men can read a map however it is pointed, but most…

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Standing up against Nannies

By | Education, Humour, Media, Politics, Society | 113 Comments

I’ve written a few times (here, for example) about ‘the nanny State’, and the way in which well-meaning people want to protect ourselves from ourselves by making illegal things that we like to do. Of course, virtually all domestic law is about protecting us from us, but every now and then I want to cry ‘Enough!’ And I do so in this essay, which is about the efforts of a Green MLA in Canberra to protect us, or more specifically, her grand-daughter, from the wicked writing on Wicked camper vans. If you haven’t come across a Wicked camper van, then here…

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Mr Abbott as class bad boy

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 154 Comments

Mr Abbott launched a book the other day, and the speech, which you can read here, instantly led to what I now think has been a media beat-up. His short address has become a further indication, for some in the media, and of course for the Labor Party, of the growing destabilising of the Government and the fragility of the Prime Minister. In fact, I think that Mr Abbott’s speech and its content deserve much closer reading. I should probably qualify what follows by saying that I do not agree with some of what Mr Abbott says, but he is absolutely right in reminding…

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Where is the money to come from?

By | Books, Education, Health, History, Politics, Society | 88 Comments

Last week I went to Parliament for the launch of a major study called the Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia. It was commissioned by Alzheimer’s Australia, and carried out by NATSEM, the social and economic modelling group at the University of Canberra. Their work is always accurate and thoughtful, and the presentation was excellent. Since I have a couple of roles with Alzheimer’s, and am also a carer, I had an immediate interest in what was being put forward to us. I’ve read the report and have no major criticisms. I am always a bit suspicious of talk about ‘economic costs’, for example…

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Exit right, Cory Bernardi

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Humour, Media, Politics, Society | 165 Comments

I have not met Senator Bernardi, but I’ve read  some of his writing. From what I have read in the media and on line, it might surprise some people to learn that in fact he is a published author. His seven books include two for children, the rest being about politics, collections of his own opinion pieces, and a book that did well in the review sections, The Conservative Revolution. Thus far the talk has all been about how his defection from the Liberal Party is another destabilising factor for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Since Bernardi is unlikely to vote for anything…

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